Local Leaders and Candidates Gather in Chelsea, Listening to Residents’ Concerns


Chelsea residents and beyond gathered at Chelsea’s Historic Train Depot to hear what their representatives had to say on areas of concern.

By Doug Marrin

U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell headlined a group of local leaders and candidates gathered in Chelsea’s Historic Train Depot on Tuesday, August 30, to hear what area residents had on their minds.

State Representative Donna Lasinski moderated the intimate event for the approximately 35 attendees. Panelists for the listening session were Rep. Dingell, Washtenaw Co Commissioners Sue Shink and Shannon Beeman, Lyndon Twp Supervisor Pam Byrnes, Chelsea Mayor Jane Pacheco, and candidate Jennifer Conlin running for State Rep for District 48.

“We’re here because we want to know what’s on your mind,” said Rep. Dingell in opening. “And we want to talk about the issues you care about. We want to make sure we’re fighting for you.”

(L-R) Jennifer Conlin, Jane Pacheco, Pam Byrnes, Shannon Beeman, Sue Shink, Debbie Dingell, and Donna Lasinski.

As Lasinski explained, there was no agenda for the 90-minute meeting. Attendees could ask their questions, and the panel would respond. The panelists pointed out several times throughout the session that they were all Democrats. It was a friendly crowd for the panelists. At times the meeting felt more like a political rally as the audience frequently punctuated emphatic statements with applause.

The audience presented a wide variety of topics to the panel. Attendees asked about women’s rights, healthcare policies, the recent Huron River contamination, no-fault car insurance, the teacher and bus driver shortage, and racial justice.

Rep. Dingell is running for re-election to represent the newly drawn U.S. Congressional District 6, which includes all of Washtenaw County.

Regarding women’s rights, Dingell said, “I do not believe that anybody has the right to tell a woman what she can do, and I think people are beginning to understand the number of complications by this decision.”

When asked about creating safe places for women in light of transgender equality, Dingell responded, “I think we’re all trying to figure out what’s the right thing to do. I think everybody’s trying to be treated with equality. I know totally how I feel, which is that we need to continue making progress moving forward.”

Sue Shink currently serves as Chair for the Washtenaw Co Board of Commissioners. She is running for Michigan’s State Senate, 14th
District, which includes the northern half of Washtenaw County.

Responding to a question about public health care, Shink said, “With State and Federal support, Washtenaw County has been working very hard to address social determinants of health. What can we do when somebody gets sick? Do they have access to health care, access to insurance through what we call Washtenaw Health Plan? So, if you know anybody who is struggling with access to healthcare, we’re doing our best to reach out. And if you call Washtenaw County, we can probably do more.”

Washtenaw Co Commission Board Chair Sue Shink explains what the county is doing to help with public healthcare.

Jennifer Conlin is running for the Michigan House, District 48, which includes northern Washtenaw County. Responding to an audience statement on the teacher shortage, Conlin said, “I was just talking this afternoon with teachers in Livingston County about a lot of issues around finding more people to teach. And there’s a feeling that there should be a teacher retention bill out there, something that actually helps keep teachers in the profession and maybe a minimal salary level that everybody comes in on.”

Throughout the listening session, attendees asked questions, voiced concerns, and even conversed with the panelists, who in turn emphasized their resolve to represent their constituents appropriately and equitably. When the session finished, attendees had the chance to speak further with the candidates and representatives in person.

Photos by Doug Marrin

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