The recent Dexter Forum was all about the upcoming general election.
Held on Oct. 20, the forum was again a standing room affair with community members, who are typically gathered at the Dexter Wellness Center to discuss local topics, happenings and news, listening to five candidates who will be on voting ballots on Nov. 6.
However, the attendees weren’t all quiet. They did get to ask questions and this article will feature some of those questions.
“It’s an all-stump Saturday,” forum co-moderator John Hansen said looking around the conference room.
Dexter Board of Education candidates Mara Greatorex, Rob Mitzel and Dick Lundy were joined by Lana Theis, who is running for the State Senate, and Judge J. Cedric Simpson, whose is running for re-election.
Greatorex stepped up first onto the forum’s stump. The Sun Times News has another recent story featuring the school board candidates. Greatorex is a first-time candidate for school board and has two children in the district.
One question she took do you have any ideas on how you might change the financial management of the school system?
She said it’s hard for an outsider to have a complete understanding of the district’s budget situation, but she said she does know the district got a boost in funding this year from the state.
“To me, I think that we should put that money towards support staff…so that our teachers can give more attention to our students,” she said of the additional money.
Simpson was up next. He was originally appointed to the position in 1999 and is the incumbent 14A District Court Judge running for re-election to a six-year term. He faces attorney, Thomas Bourque, in the Nov. 6 general election.
He was asked about the impact the proposal on legalizing marijuana, which will be on the Nov. 6 ballot. The question was, will its passage make your job harder or easier, and is it good for the citizens of the state? Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton was also in attendance, so the resident asking the question referenced him in asking it.
Simpson said as a judge there are certain things he’s not allowed to comment on and as to whether or not it should be allowed he wouldn’t say. However, he said the complexity of the medical marijuana law has actually caused a lot of problems for law enforcement and the court.
“And that’s because trying to figure out whether somebody has an exception or not,” Simpson said.
He said, showing some frustration, “The other thing is, is that with medical marijuana cards it almost seems as if anyone can get one, and there are sometimes that I’m sitting on the bench and I’m saying, just give everybody a card. It would be easier for me to deal with.”
“But some of the problems that can come along with any of type of substance use, we begin to see in our courts, and so my focus is when dealing with anything along those lines is when you put, my opinion, when you put a substance on an undeveloped brain you’re going to have consequences for that,” Simpson said.
Mitzel is also running for the first time for Dexter school board, as he was appointed to it to fill a vacancy in 2016. He has six children in the district.
He was asked about mental health challenges and what roles the school district can or should play in addressing these issues.
Mitzel said the district has noticed more emotional and social stresses come into the schools. He said schools need to first make sure each student has the options to find the pathways they want to take to help them succeed, and make sure there is the proper support staff, such as counseling, to act as resources for the students.
He also said teachers and staff should get the right training to help them recognize any issues.
Theis, a Republican from Brighton Township in Livingston County, currently represents District 42 in the Michigan House of Representatives. She is running for the District 22 Senate seat that’s currently held by Republican Joe Hune, who is term-limited. She is running against Democrat Adam Dreherin on Nov. 6.
District 22 includes parts of western Washtenaw County, such as Dexter, Chelsea, Scio, Sylvan and Manchester Townships.
She was asked about how she could fit into the process of seeing education and roads improved.
Theis said she believes there are three things the state government is primarily responsible for and they are is public education, infrastructure and safety.
“I think part of the problem that we’ve had historically is what government has chosen to do is fund other things, and then come back and ask you for more money in order to fund those things,” Theis said.
Up last was Lundy, who has served on the school board for 39 years and has had generations of his family in the district.
One question he was asked about was the state of the district’s facilities, which he responded to by saying they are in excellent shape.
“We’ve been very blessed that the community has supported bond issues, so every 8-10 years we’ve had the opportunity to go through and upgrade basic infrastructure along with building new buildings,” Lundy said.
He said the community has been the reason why the district’s buildings are in such good condition.