Candidates in Aug. 6 primary election share views

Winners head to November general election.

Laketown Township wants residents to have some background and insights into the reasons candidates are seeking office in the Aug. 6, 2024, primary election.

Candidates are:

Supervisor (Choose 1) – Steven Ringelberg, Tara Toner
Clerk (Choose 1) – Amber Davis, Jim Delaney
Treasurer (Choose 1) – Jim Johnson
Trustee (Choose 2) – Patrick Dietrich, Michael Koeman, Mark S. Timmerman
Parks Commissioner (Choose 5) – Richard (Dick) Becker, Mary Jo Bertolino, Thomas Evan Hoekman, Brad Laninga, Sherry Sirko, Michael Teekamp

Each candidate for office in the primary election was sent a questionnaire, each form with the same questions, and asked to respond by June 25. Of the 14 people seeking positions, 11 returned their questionnaires.

All candidates are Republican.

Winners in the primary go to the November general election where they may face Democrats, independents and/or write-ins.

The election

Voters head to the polls on Aug. 6 for a primary election to choose candidates for local, state and federal offices.

Laketown Township also has a millage renewal request on the ballot to fund the fire department, roads, bike paths and drains.

Early voting is July 27 through Aug. 4 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Laketown Township Hall, 4338 Beeline Road.

On Aug. 6, voting is 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Precinct 1: Laketown Township Hall, 4338 Beeline Road.
  • Precinct 2: Graafschap Fire Department, 4534 60th St.
  • Precinct 3: Laketown Township Hall, 4338 Beeline Road.

You may also vote through an absentee ballot.

For more details, visit https://laketowntwp.org/elections/ or call (616) 335-3050.

About the questionnaires

Questionnaires have been formatted to look the same with the same font, color and style but the text has not been edited or corrected. Each answer was limited to 150 words and, if the answer exceeded that limit, that answer was truncated, so some answers below end in mid-sentence followed by an ellipsis (…).

If a candidate did not return a questionnaire, the words “Did not respond” appear under their name.

Here are the candidate responses:

Supervisor (Choose 1)

Steven Ringelberg

Why did you choose to run for a position in Laketown Township government?
Answer: Residents and families in Laketown Township are blessed to call Laketown Township “home.” Our rural and peaceful setting provides a local oasis from the confrontations and controversies occurring at the state and national level.

This did not happen by accident. It took excellent leadership through the years.

Previous township officials such Gary Dewey, Terry Hoffmeyer, Wendy Elms (formerly Van Huis), Chuck Reed – along with current Board members including Supervisor Linda Howell (retiring), Jim Johnson, Amber Davis, and Patrick Dietrich – worked thoughtfully and diligently with Laketown’s professional staff and citizen groups to ensure the future sustainability of our township’s unique character.

I share this vision. If elected, I will continue the good work to maintain our township’s rural and peaceful setting along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Tell us about yourself.
Answer: I grew up in the Virginia Park neighborhood just west of Harrington School. I attended Harrington School, E.E. Fell Junior High, and graduated from Holland High in 1977.

I’ve been a Laketown resident since 1987, and my wife Lisa VanderHill and I were married in our Laketown home in 1991. Professionally, I’ve served as an-house legal counsel for technology companies, with a focus on intellectual property, cybersecurity law, privacy law, and commercial contracts. I’ve served on advisory boards concerning cybersecurity for the DHS and the FBI.

From 1999 to 2005, my entrepreneur juices kicked in and I designed, built, and operated Hilltop Conference and Reception Center on Blue Star Highway (now Third Coast Church). I’ve been a long-time supporter of Laketown Parks and our Graafschap Fire Department.

Clarifying issues and working respectfully and collaboratively with others to address them are skills I’d bring to the role of Supervisor.  

Have you served on a Laketown Township board or commission before? If so, which ones?
Answer: No. I have volunteered for the Parks Commission and contributed to the Graafschap Fire Department.

Please consider the responsibilities of Township Supervisor:

• promote / strengthen responsive, cost-effective local government
• promote / strengthen quality roads
• promote / strengthen public safety and first-responder services
• promote / strengthen our township drains
• promote / strengthen how we manage zoning & permits
• promote / strengthen recreational opportunities and parks

I would approach these responsibilities with a solid background in legal and organizational management.

More importantly, I would approach these responsibilities by welcoming meaningful collaboration, being willing to listening to others, and possessing a deep affection for maintaining our township’s quality of life.

When it comes to working together as residents, I believe a positive path is better for our future.

We don’t need the negative path offered by angry and agenda-driven candidates.

Your vote will help all of us keep our township on course.

What experience do you have that you feel makes you the best candidate for this position?
Answer: I believe we should fight for the principles, policies, and services that efficiently and effectively serve you and every in Laketown Township.

We shouldn’t be fighting with each other, as fueled by the “gotcha” mentality by the handful of agenda-driven candidates on the ballot.

With the rural, peaceful, and family-oriented character of our township at stake, we don’t need to be grinding axes and casting accusations.

As an attorney, I have spent my entire professional career solving problems, all of which first required listening to and understanding all points of view.

With additional service on various non-profit and for-profit boards through the years, I know the benefits we receive when we invite collaboration and respectfully work with others.

This is the best way to build trusted, competent, and responsive local government.

If elected, how would you improve Laketown Township government?
Answer:

Candidate Concepts.

I will listen to what residents have to say about the kind or communication they want (and expect) in the future from our Township Board and commissions.

I will invite and welcome discussions about what we could do to maintain our township’s rural and peaceful character and improve its future sustainability.

By fully listening to the ideas and suggestions of others – and collaboratively giving them the necessary due diligence – we will make good decisions and good things will continue to happen in Laketown Township.

What do you think are the top two issues facing the township in 2025 and what would you do to address them?
Answer: The leadership approach we select on August 6 is more critical than any specific issue.

Choosing angry, blame-casting, and agenda-driven candidates will not maintain and strengthen the township we love, far from it.

This is issue #1 – Leadership Approach

We must choose reasoned, experienced, and collaborative leaders to help us tackle our township’s future issues.

Issue #2 for me centers on maintaining our township’s rural and peaceful character.

Once again, this will require us to invite all hands on-deck and make sure our work is grounded in the transparent analysis of the costs and benefits.

Choosing leaders with integrity and competence ensures this will happen.

Every issue we will face in our township is influenced by Issues #1 and #2 above.

These include securing excellent professional management for our township when Al Meshkin retires, addressing short-term rental regulations, supporting our fire department to attract needed staff, maintaining our beautiful …

Tara Toner

Why did you choose to run for a position in Laketown Township government?
Answer: My engagement in the Laketown community has grown over the past few years and felt there was no better time than now to give back to the community. Coupled with shared resident’s concerns regarding transparency and fiscal responsibility needing attention, I felt an opportunity to contribute toward their resolution. My aim is to leverage my talents and expertise to have a positive and meaningful impact within our community.

Tell us about yourself.
Answer: I am a graduate of Clemson University with a degree in Chemical Engineering. I have just over 15 years of experience in chemical manufacturing. I have held roles in process, project, and productivity engineering and obtained a Six Sigma Master Black Belt. My professional journey has built a solid foundation in teamwork, problem-solving and analytical thinking. More recently, my husband and I made the decision for me to leave the workforce to homeschool our three children. While it feels like not too long ago, its was twelve years ago that my husband and I chose Laketown to be our home where we would build and grow our family. We chose Laketown because of its beauty and the tranquility we felt here.  My desire would always be to preserve and protect the elements and character that have drawn and kept generations of families in Laketown.

Have you served on a Laketown Township board or commission before? If so, which ones?
Answer: I have not yet had the privilege of serving on a municipal board. However, I have spent over 15 years in the private sector where each day is spent leading or serving a team to achieve a desired result. As an engineer, I have been trained in many types of team collaboration and investigative methods. Outsiders have always strengthened our teams by promoting objectivity, thoroughness and credibility.  I hope the residents of Laketown will allow me the honor and opportunity to serve them. 

What experience do you have that you feel makes you the best candidate for this position?
Answer: I have been committed to civic duty and active participation in the democratic process. I have volunteered to observe recounts of elections proposals and worked to aid in Michigan voter registration cleanup efforts.  February 2024, I attended training on the use of Robert’s Rules of Order, to lay the groundwork for principled and orderly decision-making. To understand the importance of the Township Supervisor role as the Chief Assessing Officer, I am dedicated to enhancing my skills and qualifications. I plan to pursue Michigan Certified Assessing Technician (MCAT) training and certification, ensuring that I can fulfill this crucial responsibility with competence and diligence.

If elected, how would you improve Laketown Township government?
Answer: I strongly believe that the success of any township board hinges on how well residents feel informed and heard. This begins with ensuring all residents receive detailed updates on community affairs, multiple perspectives on issues, and prompt attention to their concerns. In today’s world, it is essential to provide comprehensive meeting minutes and access to recorded Zoom meetings. All meeting materials essential for decision-making should be easily accessible through the Township website. As an outsider, I am committed to asking the questions that everyday residents, like myself, want answered. Effective governance begins with transparent and candid communication.

What do you think are the top two issues facing the township in 2025 and what would you do to address them?
Answer: Fiscal transparency and responsibility are critical issues. Laketown Township’s fiscal health stands out when compared to similar townships nearby. Gaps identified by our Fire Department must be addressed to prioritize residents’ needs. Township tax revenue has increased by over $1,000,000 in the four-year tenure of this board. Felt Mansion also generates over $760,000 annually, yet none of this revenue supports Laketown residents. Proposing a millage or bond should be a last resort, given current pressures from inflated property values and everyday inflation. Preserving Laketown’s unique character as it grows is also a top concern.

Clerk (Choose 1)

Amber Davis

Why did you choose to run for a position in Laketown Township government?
Answer: Democracy and election integrity matter to me. I have been the Laketown township clerk since October of 2022. I possess election experience and knowledge of our election law, and the changes which amended Michigan’s constitution to add provisions regarding elections, including: nine days of early voting, permanent mail ballot lists, drop box access and requirements, military or overseas ballots count if postmarked by election day, drop box access and requirements, the permitted use of a photo ID or a signed affidavit to verify voter identity, new provisions regarding the tabulation of absent voter ballots, prepaid ballot postage and a state-funded ballot tracking notification system. In my tenure as clerk, I have run four successful elections. It’s been a privilege to be your clerk.

I will continue to fulfill my statutory duties and responsibilities with integrity. I represent every resident, and make my decisions based on what is best for Laketown.

Tell us about yourself.
Answer:  I was born and raised in the northeast Indiana countryside. I am the third oldest of eleven children, and would describe my childhood as humble, hardworking and magical. I grew up in a very loving, faithful and tight-knit family, with plenty of chaos, jokes and laughter. It teaches one patience, tolerance, acceptance, resilience and compromise to grow up in such a household.

I married an Army Officer, so our early life together was that of a military family. We moved seven times in fourteen years for the Army, and later for my husband’s career. In 2010 we settled here in beautiful west Michigan, so Laketown Twp. is where we planted our roots. We have five children, four sons and one daughter, all of whom attended Saugatuck High School. I feel very blessed to live along the charming lakeshore. My hobbies include swimming, biking, camping, reading and quilting.

Have you served on a Laketown Township board or commission before? If so, which ones?
Answer: I currently serve as Clerk on the Laketown Township Board.

What experience do you have that you feel makes you the best candidate for this position?
Answer: I have fully utilized training opportunities to learn and understand complex Michigan Election laws and Proposal 22-2. I have attended the Michigan Townships Association conference, the Proposal 22-2 Presentation with Secretary of State, and am active in the Allegan County Clerks Association, as well as their Mentoring Group. I have attended several Election Inspector Training sessions, and recently the 2024 Election Cycle Training put on by the Bureau of Elections.

As a board member, I am cognizant of Michigan Compiled Laws and their authority over General law townships. I also have a weekly obligation to review receipts and proper supporting documentation of all authorized payments and expenditures. I have institutional knowledge, and that experience provides a streamlined process which ensures continuity and stabilization moving forward. It is also more cost effective for a township to retain someone trained and experienced.

If elected, how would you improve Laketown Township government?
Answer: Laketown Township government runs very smoothly. For the Clerk position, running accurate and secure elections is the most important duty. I will continue to ensure Laketown’s election process is fair and smooth, operating efficiently and correctly under Michigan election laws. Election law and software is constantly changing and evolving, often on a rapid and frequent basis. The capability and desire to learn and adapt is paramount, as is the capacity to be calm amidst chaos. Election day is a long and arduous one, that can well exceed an 18-hour window. This long day is now preceded by nine days of early voting. Much is expected of the position of clerk. Experience lends us the ability to complete tasks with greater accuracy, efficiency and confidence.

As your clerk, I will also continue to work with my fellow board members to make fiscally responsible decisions for the benefit and betterment of Laketown.

What do you think are the top two issues facing the township in 2025 and what would you do to address them?
Answer: An important issue we are facing in 2025 is the retirement of our township manager, and the loss of the vast wealth of knowledge he possesses from decades of experience. We need to build upon our strong foundation to propel us forward in our search. By casting a wide net with a large search firm, our goal is a qualified list of candidates, from which we can find a fiscally conservative, yet innovative manager with vision and grit.

Equally important is a properly staffed Fire Department, with adequate and reliable equipment. The public safety of Laketown (and Filmore) residents is dependent upon our investment in the Graafschap Fire Department.

These two issues are intertwined, in that in moving forward, we need both a manager and a township board who understand the urgency and importance of a properly funded F.D.

Thank you for taking the time to read my questionnaire!

Jim Delaney

Why did you choose to run for a position in Laketown Township government?  
Answer: Love our Laketown Community and want to be involved in its governance.

Tell us about yourself.
Answer: My Family moved to Laketown 24 years ago. I am an Army Veteran. In the community, I coached Holland High School Varsity Baseball and Varsity Football at Holland Christian High School.

Have you served on a Laketown Township board or commission before? If so, which ones?
Answer: Laketown Board of Trustees (Trustee) and the Zoning Board of  Appeals As a certified member.

What experience do you have that you feel makes you the best candidate for this position? 
Answer: With over 40 years of experience in management, specializing in supply chain, inventory control, and records management in the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and at Hope College, as the Audio Visual/setup manager I offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. As a Board of Trustees member and a certified Zoning Board of Appeals member, I am eager to continue serving Laketown Township and its residents.  Therefore, I am running for the Township Clerk.

If elected, how would you improve Laketown Township government?
Answer: I would continue to advocate for hearing our residents’ voices, greater transparency, and fiscal responsibility.

What do you think are the top two issues facing the township in 2025 and what would you do to address them?
Answer: Fiscal Responsibility and Transparency.

Promote better communication between residents and township governance.

Treasurer (Choose 1)

Jim Johnson

Why did you choose to run for a position in Laketown Township government?
Answer:  I’m running as the current Treasurer of the Township.    I was elected as a Trustee to the Township Board in 2020 and then appointed to the Treasurer role from a pool of candidates on Aug. 1st of 2023 to fill the vacancy created by Gary Dewey’s retirement.   I enjoy serving the people of Laketown Township and would like to continue in the Treasurer role to help keep Laketown the terrific place it is.    I’ve lived in Laketown for 24 years, raised my family here and love the rural character of the Township and all of the awesome Parks (7) we have for our residents to enjoy.  It’s also important to me that we don’t raise our property tax rate above where it currently is.  Our property tax millage rate is among the lowest in the area – in many cases significantly lower than our neighboring communities.   

Tell us about yourself.
Answer:  I’m a long-time Laketown Township resident  and have thoroughly enjoyed this very special place in West Michigan.   I own my home and an additional lot in Laketown so I pay taxes here as well.  I graduated from Oakland University with a BSc in Management with a Concentration in Finance.   My wife and I raised 3 daughters here and we’re blessed that they all turned out great. (We believe living in this area played a part in how they turned out).   We have 2 grandchildren – soon to be 3.   I’ve worked in sales and sales leadership for over 40 years.  I consider myself quite good with numbers and I’m a frugal person who does not like to waste money.   I’ve also been the Treasurer for a Holland condo association for several years and have been able to lower our dues and build significant reserves through careful fiscal management. 

Have you served on a Laketown Township board or commission before? If so, which ones?
Answer:  Yes, I’ve been continuously serving in a variety of Laketown Township roles since April of 2015 which has given me a thorough, and valuable level of knowledge as to how things work in Laketown Township.   Here are the various positions I’ve served starting with most current:

Township Treasurer and Board member – 8/1/23 – now

Laketown Fire Board member – 12/13/23 – now

Township Trustee and Board member – Appointed 4/17/19, elected 11/3/20 – 8/1/23

Laketown Planning Commissioner – 5/8/19 – now

Laketown Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA)– Appointed 4/9/15 – 4/17/19

Laketown Parks Commissioner – Appointed 4/9/15, elected 11/8/16 – 12/31/19

*Also a member of the MMTA (Michigan Municipal Treasurer’s Association) and have attended multiple MTA (Michigan Township Association) seminars for Board members and Treasurers 

What experience do you have that you feel makes you the best candidate for this position?
Answer: The significant Township experience I have, (listed in the previous question) makes me uniquely qualified for this role and is a distinct advantage for me as candidate for Treasurer.  Additionally, I’ve served as the Laketown Treasurer for almost a year now.  There would be no learning curve if I’m elected Treasurer since I’m in the role now.    Additionally, this role will involve the selection of the next Township Manager, (first time we’ve done this in 35 years!) as well as negotiating a contract for whoever we select.   I’ve had significant experience interviewing and hiring professionals over many years and I believe that experience also makes me very well qualified for this position.   With the pending retirements of our most experienced and knowledgeable people, I believe it has never been more important to keep good, Laketown Township experienced people on the Board.  

If elected, how would you improve Laketown Township government?
Answer: First of all, Laketown Township is running well.  We just received our ‘23-‘24 independent audit, and it was a nice, clean audit.  Quoting our Manager: “we are in our best financial position ever”.  Our property tax rates are among the lowest around. Laketown’s total Mills (primary residences) are 28.7023 (Saugatuck schools) 28.8523 (Hamilton Schools) and 32.3847 (Holland Schools)  *those in Laketown’s Holland School district pay approximately 3 ½ more Mills due to almost 2 Mills for voted-in Aquatic Center taxes plus Holland Schools debt. 

For comparison, some other local communities and their total tax rates:  Holland City:  41.2645 and 41.1090 (Holland Schools) Almost 30% higher than Laketown!!  Holland Twp: 32.0998 to 33.1476; Saugatuck City: 41.0344;  Zeeland City: 37.7179; Allegan Twp: 32.8764 and 35.0232; Saugatuck Twp:  30.7426 to 32.4329; Allegan City: 44.5970; Village of Douglas: 40.1360; Fennville: 41.4664  (*State of MI 2023 stats – latest available) 

Improvement opportunity: Better transparency – (will happen …

What do you think are the top two issues facing the township in 2025 and what would you do to address them?
Answer: I strongly believe the 2 top issues facing Laketown are: 1) dealing with the replacement of our 35-year Manager, (Al Meshkin) and:  2) the pending retirements of two of our most experienced and knowledgeable long-time key employees: Charlene Fields (Deputy Treasurer) and Jennifer French (Deputy Clerk).   Al, Charlene and Jennifer are “walking encyclopedia’s” of everything Laketown Township.   Their combined knowledge and experience can’t be overstated.   We’ve hired 2 sharp young ladies that are now working with Charlene and Jenny as future replacements but replacing those numerous years of knowledge & skills is a huge task.   A formal process is starting soon to find a new Township Manager to replace Al who will be retiring early next year.  I’d like to be part of that selection process as I believe it’s extremely important we get the right individual to take us forward and keep Laketown Township awesome.

Trustee (Choose 2)

Patrick Dietrich

Why did you choose to run for a position in Laketown Township government?
Answer: Almost all my immediate family lives in Laketown Township, so I have a personal stake in preserving and enhancing the exceptional quality of life, recreational areas and natural beauty the area has to offer. After a career of working with organizations at the national and international level, I wanted the opportunity to contribute to my local community by participating in the Township government. As a Coast Guard officer, I was trained to be diligent, task oriented, and give straight, honest answers.  As a consultant, I learned how to investigate all sides of an issue and make recommendations that were in the best interest of my clients.  I believe these qualities will be an asset to the Board of the Laketown Township government.

Tell us about yourself.
Answer: My wife, Cheryl, and I have lived in Laketown since 2006.  Cheryl is a native of Holland, MI; I am from Buffalo, NY. I am a retired Coast Guard officer, having served for 21 years. After retiring from the Coast Guard, I entered into consulting, conducting mostly Homeland security related projects for the next 15 years.  More recently, I have been working for my son-in-law as a contractor, building production machines for various manufacturing firms in the area. I am now retired. I have a master’s degree in education and served as the Chairperson for the Holland chapter of SCORE, a national level volunteer organization that provides free mentoring services to local businesses. My wife and I have three adult children and eleven grandchildren, all living in Laketown.

Have you served on a Laketown Township board or commission before? If so, which ones?
Answer: I am currently serving as a Township Trustee. I was appointed by the Township Board in September of 2023, when the position came open due to retirement. This will be my first election.

What experience do you have that you feel makes you the best candidate for this position?
Answer: During my tenure as an appointed Trustee, I have significantly elevated the level of discussion and engagement with residents during Board meetings. I do the research necessary to intelligently address Township matters, and I take the time to respond to resident questions and concerns. I also learned that there are “a lot of moving parts” when it comes to managing the Township and that many of the decisions we make as a Board are far more complicated than they initially appear. I keep an open mind on all issues that come before the Board. I listen to all sides of contentious issues and look for solutions that are best for the Township. As for my background, I have decades of experience as a leader, personnel manager, and project planner gained during my career as a senior officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and in industry.

If elected, how would you improve Laketown Township government?
Answer: If elected, I will continue to strive for transparency and accountability regarding Board decisions and financial matters. I will improve our local government by ensuring my votes on Township matters are based on resident input, extensive research into applicable Michigan laws or regulations, and the best interests of the Township.  I have no hidden agenda; I have no desire to implement significant or impactful changes to the Township. Development is necessary and inevitable, but I will work with the Township staff and other governing boards to make sure development is controlled and appropriate for the Township. I think it is also important to note that with the departure of our current manager and the pending retirement of key staff members, oversite of Township affairs will be crucial during the transition.  Experience will matter.

What do you think are the top two issues facing the township in 2025 and what would you do to address them?
Answer: With the retirement of our current manager after 30 years of service, the Board will face two significant challenges, the first being the selection of a new manager, and second, ensuring a smooth transition while the new manager comes up to speed. The Board will need to ensure that we select a manager who has the experience, knowledge, and skills necessary to guide the future of Laketown. Another important qualification will be that the selected individual has a full appreciation for the unique qualities that make Laketown special. During the transition, it will be incumbent upon the Board and the township staff to step up and keep the Township running smoothly during the transition. This will mean paying extra attention to the Township budget, reviewing expenditures, and ensuring there are no interruptions to Township services.

Michael Koeman

Why did you choose to run for a position in Laketown Township government?
Answer: In recent years, I have noticed a disconnect in how the Board is functioning as it relates directly to the Township.   Lack of available information, lack of communication, and lack of recognizing the pulse of the community and its concerns.  I felt the need to step up and do my part.  Laketown Township is just not just a place on a map, it is my home.

Tell us about yourself:
Answer: I was raised and attended school in Hamilton.   My wife, Laura and I decided that Laketown was the perfect place to settle down in and raise a family.  It was a great decision!  Our wonderful children are now 18 and 16 years old.   I am also a proud owner of a small local construction company.

Have you served on a Laketown Township board or commission before? If so, which ones?
Answer:  No. However, I do not feel that is an issue.  The basic concept is not too different than with my job or other situation that requires decisions made for the greater good.  Actively listening, working with a team, and respecting the process and the structural rules of meeting will allow me to be a successful Trustee.

What experience do you have that you feel makes you the best candidate for this position?
Answer: I have been actively following issues and direction of the Boards’ decisions for years.  With a resident’s perspective of awareness, I would bring a fresh voice and energy to the Board. My desire to actively listen to all involved especially the residents, gather information, discuss and help the make the best decisions for our Township and residents is why I would be the best candidate for Trustee.  As a property and small business owner, I understand the responsibility of being fiscally responsible and respectful of others and their finances.

If elected, how would you improve Laketown Township government?
Answer: As a Trustee, I want to bring the resident’s in with me. I want to ensure the citizens have the chance to have their voices heard and respected.  It would be my responsibility to stay on top of ongoing issues and engage in healthy discussion.  I would also improve the Township by offering more transparency and easier access to information when questioned.

What do you think are the top two issues facing the township in 2025 and what would you do to address them?
Answer: Besides the larger commitment of ensuring our Fire Department is fully staffed and funded, the two pressing challenges facing Laketown are the replacement of the retiring Manager and finding a way to resolve the cell phone tower issue that is becoming more of a problem with more people moving into our community.

With limitations on how many words in responses are allowed, I would summarize what I would do for all is, review what has been done in the past and currently being done. I would seek out and refresh opinions including residents, staff and other communities- clearly defining issue, what is it that is needed, what are all our options, how much it is going to cost, can we afford it, and do we have resident support or not. Then, as part of the legislating Board, make a decision. 

Mark S. Timmerman

Why did you choose to run for a position in Laketown Township government?
Answer: First and foremost – to serve and represent the residents of Laketown. I firmly believe the resident’s views, concerns and needs should be at the forefront of decisions. As a father of three young children, to actively create, support and maintain a healthy, safe and thriving environment for our children to grow up in; as well as ensure the same applies to those who choose to live their retirement years in the beautiful rural community of Laketown.  To advance the sustainability of our Township based on the virtues of real fiscal responsibility, real transparency, and the true responsibilities of leadership.

Tell us about yourself.
Answer: I’m a co-owner of a small business, GreenMark Equipment (John Deere); which supports and enhances the lives of the farmers, small businesses and residential communities across Southwestern Michigan & Northern Indiana. I recognize and am aware of the positive and negative attributes of accelerated growth and change in our rural communities.

Have you served on a Laketown Township board or commission before? If so, which ones?
Answer: Although I have not served on any Laketown Board or Commissions to date – I am humbly and actively involved in our local church (Graafschap Christian Reformed Church) serving as a Deacon, a member of the Finance Committee and Chair of Benevolence. I don’t believe this to be a disadvantage, because these committees and groups require the same functional order, communication and shared respect to ensure productive advancements and accomplishments are executed.

What experience do you have that you feel makes you the best candidate for this position?
Answer: Besides what has already been identified above. I am a resident of Laketown Township. My strongest and most important secondary qualifications to serve as a Laketown Trustee is my lifelong commitment to honesty, integrity and respect toward my fellow residents.

If elected, how would you improve Laketown Township government?
Answer: As answered above, to actively listen, participate and take into serious consideration the needs of Laketown including what is required by law and what is needed to represent our residents to ensure that Laketown continues to be a place to call home.

What do you think are the top two issues facing the township in 2025 and what would you do to address them?
Answer: Open communication and active transparency between residents and the Township. Increased and clear fiscal responsibility with an eye always towards finding ways to effectively reduce costs, which could potentially provide beneficial tax relief to residents.

Parks Commission (Choose 5)

Richard (Dick) Becker

Why did you choose to run for a position in Laketown Township government?
Answer: As residents of our township, we must have the passion to take responsibility for maintaining and continually evaluating the strength of our parks system.

Tell us about yourself.
Answer: Michigan State graduate 1965; Married for 60 years this September; 34 years in U.S. Navy (3 active duty and 31 reserve), retired as a Rear Admiral; West Michigan office furniture industry 28 years and retired; 1 daughter, 2 sons, 10 grandchildren.

Have you served on a Laketown Township board or commission before? If so, which ones?
Answer: Served on Laketown Township Planning Commission for 3 ½ years. Currently serving on Laketown Township Parks Commission since May 2019.

What experience do you have that you feel makes you the best candidate for this position?
Answer: Developed strong leadership and people skills while serving in the U.S. Navy.

If elected, how would you improve Laketown Township government?
Answer: By increasing transparency in all areas and issues involving Laketown Township government. 

What do you think are the top two issues facing the township in 2025 and what would you do to address them?
Answer: Budget preparation. Openness of budget preparation prior to the approval of Laketown Township commission vote in March 2025 and live within that budget during 2025.

Improvement process.  By ongoing measuring, comparing and evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency at all levels of the Laketown Township government.

Mary Jo Bertolino

Why did you choose to run for a position in Laketown Township government?
Answer: I have always felt that in order to be a part of a community, one should be an active participant. I have the time and energy to do what is necessary for the position on the Parks Board.

Tell us about yourself.
Answer: I am a retired registered nurse who grew up in horse country in Maryland, met my husband in Baltimore, and spent many years in New York, New Jersey, Ohio and finally in Michigan.  My early years molded my love of the outdoors and when looking for a place to retire, we chose the peaceful, natural area of Western Michigan.

Have you served on a Laketown Township board or commission before? If so, which ones?
Answer: I have worked as Treasurer and Director of our previous 100 home Homeowners Association in Northville for six years, but I have not served on any Laketown Township boards.

What experience do you have that you feel makes you the best candidate for this position?
Answer:  My past has brought me to live in Switzerland for over 3 years and I had the chance to observe and question how other countries care for their natural resources.  My husband and I care for our own property along the same lines and believe that without the proper care of the woods, the invasive plants will take over and destroy it.

If elected, how would you improve Laketown Township government?
Answer: I have ideas to improve the use of our parks for all with programs for the residents and  to keep ahead of the invasive species that inhabit our lands. I would also like to see a resident volunteer day to address some of the issues in the parks, such as pulling garlic mustard, and dune grass planting. I have presented a proposal for a morning walking group in the parks and in September, I plan to assist the Parks Board with an invasive species grant from the State. 

What do you think are the top two issues facing the township in 2025 and what would you do to address them?
Answer: Regarding the Parks, the main items that I believe need to be addressed are the invasive plant species and the Laketown Beach.  The Beach task force, is addressing access and parking at the current time and I have volunteered my time for this. Hopefully, the Laketown Beach issues will be in the past for the next Parks Commissioners terms.

Thomas Evan Hoekman

Why did you choose to run for a position in Laketown Township government?
Answer: I was going to meetings and making comments for the board, so I decided to play a bigger part and run for a vacated spot and was appointed.

Tell us about yourself. 
Answer: I have lived in Laketown for 22 years. I also work in the township. My wife and I raised our 2 boys here and we love the open space. I love to be outdoors and work hard to maintain our property for upcoming generations.

Have you served on a Laketown Township board or commission before? If so, which ones?
Answer: I served on the Huyser house commitee, and currently the Parks Commission.

What experience do you have that you feel makes you the best candidate for this position?
Answer: I have decades of maintenance experience. I have an ability to listen and reason things out. I have an understanding of plants and invasives. Willing to research and learn more.

If elected, how would you improve Laketown Township government?
Answer: I believe we need to be fiscally responsible and listen to the citizens input on parks issues.

What do you think are the top two issues facing the township in 2025 and what would you do to address them?
Answer: Beach issues. Parking and stairs. Invasive species and maintenance of the parks in general.

Brad Laninga
Did not respond

Sherry Sirko
Did not respond

Michael Teekamp
Did not respond