Election 2020: Candidates for Eaton County Board of Commissioners, in their own words

Lansing State Journal

Across Greater Lansing, voters have begun to cast ballots for the 2020 general election – absentee ballots are being sent out, with in-person voting to follow on Tuesday, November 3.

LSJ asked area candidates running for office to share their backgrounds, and answer a few questions on major topics to aid voters in their decision. Read excerpts from their answers below, in their own words.

District 1

Rob Piercefield | Democrat (Incumbent)

No response submitted.

Tim Barnes | Republican

No response submitted.

District 2

TJ Bucholz |Democrat

TJ Bucholz

I am a lifelong Michigander. I grew up in Frankenmuth, Michigan, received my undergraduate degree from Central Michigan University, and my graduate degree from Western Michigan University. I have been a resident of Eaton County for 21 years, living most of that time in the city of Grand Ledge. My wife is a Grand Ledge educator and I have two college-aged students who attended Grand Ledge Public Schools. I am a former City of Grand Ledge planning commissioner and currently serve on several boards and commissions across the region, including the Central Michigan Public Relations Society of America Executive Board, the Downtown Lansing Inc. board as a mayoral appointee and the Michigan Political Leadership Program Advisory Board.

I am the founder and owner of Vanguard Public Affairs, a Lansing-based consulting firm that works in the public education, environmental reform, health care, social justice, and government spaces. I currently advise more than 20 clients in three states on government best practices and strategic planning. I worked for 10 years as a senior official in state government and hold a Masters Degree in Public Adminstration (M.P.A.)

Another facet of my business is political consulting, I have advised and am advising many serving politicians on their public affairs and engagement strategies, at the local, state and national levels. Among other campaigns, I’m proud to have helped elect three Michigan Supreme Court Justices to the bench and have served two Governors (a Republican and a Democrat) as a public servant. My favorite political work, however, has been advising local municipalities as they work to pass local bonds and millages - currently, we have been successful in more than 20 public school, transportation, and higher education elections.

Blake Mulder | Republican (Incumbent)

Blake Mulder

My political experience includes serving as the incumbent Commissioner since 2008 as well as the previous County Board Chair. In addition I have extensive public service experience.

District 3

Terrance Augustine | Democrat (Incumbent)

Terrance Augustine

I grew up in rural Eaton County and now live with my wife and three children in the City of Grand Ledge, where we also own a local bakery.  I currently serve on the Downtown Development Authority and previously was the Grand Ledge Rotary President and Grand Ledge Farmer’s Market President.  My wife and I continue to reinvest in our community whenever we can.  We have leveraged the success of our business to help support important causes both locally and globally and have always supported progress in the City of Grand Ledge.

I currently own and operate Flour Child Bakery with my wife and also work with a local heating and cooling company as the Chief Financial Officer.  Prior to that I worked in the community banking industry for over 15 years, including my most recent position as an Executive at a local community bank. I have a vast financial background in both the public and private sector as well as a history of leadership that uniquely qualifies me to serve as County Commissioner and represent the residents of Grand Ledge.

I am currently the Eaton County Board Chairman as elected by 14 of 15 of my peers and colleagues in 2019. I have served on the Board since being elected in 2012 and have been involved in many committees and work groups including the work group that established the local road millage and spearheaded the long-term financial work group while in the minority on the board. For the past two years I have served on the Capitol Council of County Governments (CAPCOG) along with my colleagues from Ingham and Clinton Counties in conjunction with the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce. I believe in working with our partners across the region to improve the lives of all of our residents.

Ten years ago, I plead guilty to driving while impaired.  This was a stumbling block in my life that taught me a very valuable lesson that I carry with me today.

While I have been endorsed by several groups or organizations including the local UAW Region 1D and the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce, I have made no pledges to support or oppose any specific public policy positions and commit to represent the residents in my district.

Darren C. Musolff | Republican

Darren C. Musolff

I am a 14 year resident of Grand Ledge, Army veteran and member of the American Legion Post 048 in Grand Ledge. My family attends and supports New Life Assembly of God. I am a small business owner. I've been politically active as a volunteer for 35+ years and currently serve as the Eaton County Co-Chair for John James for U. S. Senate.

District 4

Brandon Haskell | Democrat (Incumbent)

Brandon Haskell
  • From Grand Ledge 
  • Lives in Delta Twp
  • Married with 2 Children
  • Former Eaton County Dem Party Chair
  • Participates in AHA fundraisers, The Great Cycle Challenge, and more

My professional experience includes:

  • Five years in the Michigan House of Representatives serving as an Intern, Page, Legislative Assistant, and as a Legislative Director.
  • Five Years as a Team and Project Leader for a Detroit based Prototype Engine Lab
  • BA for U of M - Flint in Political Science

My political experience includes:

  • Intern for Rep. Mike Simpson (Deceased)
  • Intern for Congressman Mark Schauer
  • Campaign Staff for Congressman Mark Schauer
  • Campaign Manager Rep. Theresa Abed
  • Legislative Assistant and then Legislative Director for Rep. Theresa Abed
  • Legislative Assistant for Rep. Leslie Love
  • Former Chair of the Eaton County Dem Party.
  • Currently Elected Commissioner for Eaton’s 4th District

Rick Olivarez | Republican

Rick Olivarez

I lived in Delta Township for over 25 years. I have lived within the greater Lansing community for over 40 years. I am a member of Knights of Columbus local #788, former board member of Cristo Rey Community Center for over 12 years, am a blood donor to the Red Cross giving over 2 gallons of blood and delivered Meals on Wheels for Eaton County residents for over 10 years. I am a current member of Capital Area United Way board starting in July, 2020.

I have created jobs for over 20 years for communities within Michigan. I created a statewide community relations program reducing statewide bullying in Flint, Detroit, Muskegon and Jackson by over 70%.

My political experience includes serving as a Former Eaton County Republican Chairman.

District 5

Jeanne Pearl-Wright | Democrat (Incumbent)

Jeanne Pearl-Wright

I grew up in Grand Ledge, graduated from Lansing Community with a Business Management Associate degree. I hold  a B.A. from Western Michigan University in secondary education, history major and minors in political science and psychology. I am a Mother of three grown children and have one grandson. I also volunteer time with Caring Neighbor Foundation, Blessings in a Back Pack fundraising, Tri-County Bike Association, Kids Repair Program and Delta Township Senior Council.  Past Delta Township Rotary Club member.

I am a retired teacher, and the current director of the Kids Repair Program.

My political experience includes 10 years of combined service as Eaton County Commissioner.

District 6 

Jane M. Whitacre | Democrat (Incumbent)

No response submitted.

District 7

Mark J. Mudry | Democrat

No response submitted.

District 8

Joseph Brehler | Democrat (Incumbent)

No response submitted.

District 9

Brian Droscha | Republican (Incumbent)

No response submitted.

District 10 

Matthew S. Bowen | Democrat (Incumbent)

Eaton County Commissioner Matthew S. Bowen

I grew up outside Charlotte and now reside in Dimondale Michigan. I’ve been married for 10 years and have three wonderful children. I have been a Volunteer Firefighter for 23 years and an EMT for 18 serving the last 10 years with the Windsor Township Fire Department. I am also a proud 20-year member of the UAW Local 652 out of Lansing and have worked for General Motors for 20 years at the Lansing Grand River plant. I have been an elected Union representative for UAW Local 652 for the last 5 years. Volunteer Firefighter for 23 years and an EMT for 18 serving the last 10 years in my current community. I have been the elected Eaton County Commissioner in District 10 for the last 2 years.

Dairus Reynnet | Republican

Dairus Reynnet

District 11

Wayne Ridge | Republican (Incumbent)

No response submitted.

District 12

Tim Lewis | Democrat

Tim Lewis

I live in Charlotte. I have a M.A. Degree from Eastern Michigan University. I just celebrated my 47th wedding anniversary with my wife, Nancy.

Brian Lautzenheiser | Republican (Incumbent)

Eaton County Board Member Brian Lautzenheiser

Born and raised in Charlotte. Our family of eight live in Charlotte. I am a member of the Charlotte Rotary Club, and help with youth athletics within the community.

Professional experience: 

Co-Owner of Charlotte Insurance Agency

Political experience: 

3 Terms of Eaton County Board of Commissioners District 12.

District 13

Jim Mott | Republican (Incumbent)

County Commissioner Jim Mott

I am a resident of and sixth-generation farmer in Walton Township (Olivet, MI) where I was born and raised. I am also a home-builder/remodeler and current Eaton County Commissioner. My volunteer civic activities include organizing and overseeing two Michigan Habitat for Humanity Homes; building wheelchair ramps for the elderly and for children with disabilities; building homes in Jamaica for families with disabilities; teaching elementary and adult Sunday school classes; and assisting in Hurricane Katrina re-build/relief efforts in Mississippi.

My political experience includes: 71st House race campaign volunteer, Gov. John Engler campaign staff and Republican Michigan House of Representatives staff.

District 14

Lisa A. Deavers | Democrat (Incumbent)

No response submitted.

Jeremy Whittum | Republican

Jeremy Whittum, candidate for Eaton County Board

I am a life long resident of Eaton County.  I have one daughter, Brittany, who is 24 living in Charlotte. I have served as a member of Eaton County Hospice/Palliative Care for five years. I hold life time memberships to the VFW, American Legion and AmVets.

My political experience includes:

  • Hamlin Township Supervisor 1992-1996
  • City of Eaton Rapids Planning Commission 1999-2005
  • Constituent Services Representative Congressman Joe Schwarz, MI-07, 2005-2006
  • Legislative Assistant State Representative Rick Jones 2008-2009
  • Eaton County Commissioner District 14 2010-2016
  • Eaton County Zoning Board of Appeals, alternate member 2018-Present

District 15

Barbara Ann Rogers | Republican (Incumbent)

No response submitted.

Questionnaire section

Candidates answer questions on major topics 

What makes you more qualified than other candidates for this office? What would you do in your first month in office?

Augustine: My experience both in government (serving my fourth term, currently as Chairman of the Board) and the private sector as a small business owner and former community banker as well as my commitment to our community makes me the most qualified candidate to represent District Three. During my first month in office I would continue the progress we’ve made in the last two years under my leadership as Chairman.  I will continue working with the workgroups I have established focused on sustainability and our county recycling program as well as with our regional partners in Ingham and Clinton to improve public transportation and internet access for the region.

Musolff: I believe in personal responsibility over reliance on government; financially, morally and how we treat each other. Actions should have reasonable yet fair consequences. 

Deavers: No response.

Whittum: I served as Hamlin Township Supervisor. I was appointed to the Eaton Rapids Planning commission serving six years culminating as Chair. I worked with Congressman Joe Schwarz during his term representing Michigan's 7th district.  Prior to my service in Iraq I worked with State Representative Rick Jones. Educationally I have an associate's degree, bachelors and Masters Degree. Post Iraq I have worked as an Economics Professor at Kellogg Community College. In total I served 21 years as a member of our Michigan Army National Guard.  My Iraq campaign service was 2008-2009.

Piercefield: No response.

Barnes: No response.

Bucholz: I believe my background as a founder and owner of a Lansing-based small business, coupled with my experience in state government and advising leaders in both the private and public sectors, make me ideally equipped to serve as an Eaton County Commissioner. During my first month in office, I intend to listen and learn from my fellow commissioners while advocating for prioritizing our county’s budget so we first fund the items most important to vulnerable county residents in the midst of revenue shortfalls. I also want to continue the work to make our county government more transparent for all.

Mulder: I have been the elected commissioner for District 2 for a dozen years. My experience with the issues and understanding complex workings of Eaton County government are essential for these unprecedented times. Economic and cultural challenges lie ahead, I am the appropriate person for the task. I am a board member of the Barry Eaton Health Dept, the TriCounty Office on Aging, the Planning Commission and numerous other committees. My first months of service would be a continuance of faithful engagement and commitment to the hard-working families of Eaton County.

Haskell: Before being elected for this same seat last cycle, I spent over two years serving the folks of Eaton County as a Legislative Aide before moving on to managing a team and projects for a Detroit based engine lab. My public and private experience has put me in touch with the needs and desires of the constituents. Both careers have been about consensus building and planning for the future. I would seek to continue my work towards increased transparency and public involvement.

Olivarez: My 20 years in creating jobs for the state of Michigan with Economic Development and the Michigan Labor Department makes me the best qualified candidate. Also, my experience in protecting our water, air and soil as an analyst with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy gives me the needed experience in protecting our county from any water, air and soil pollution. My experience with working in the Michigan Department of Civil Rights gives me the experience with community relations statewide. Along with my education with a masters in General administration and a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration from Central Michigan University. With my education and job experience makes me the overall best candidate for the Eaton County Commissioner, District 4 position.

Pearl-Wright: I am completing my tenth year as District 5 Eaton County Commissioner and have extensive experience serving on Ways and Means committee as well as the yearly Budgets. I served January 2005 to December 2010 and returned again to the Board January 2017 to current. The County had difficult times due to the Great Recession and now the County will be facing additional challenges due to the Covid-19 disease that will affect the county’s revenues and decision making process until into 2022 at least. Starting January 2021 there will have to be some tough decisions made in spending and that will depend on the County’s Revenue Sharing that comes from the State of Michigan.

Whitacre: No response.

Mudry: No response.

Brehler: No response.

Droscha: No response.

Bowen: Before I had the privilege of being the elected commissioner from the 10th District, I served, and continue to serve my community as a volunteer firefighter. Both positions have put me uniquely in touch with my community.

Reynnet: As a reliable and conscientious candidate, I will serve with the best interests of county residents without regard to party.  In my first month in office I will conduct a review of the budget, financial statements, and audits.

Ridge: No response.

Lewis: I have served in the following positions. Grand Ledge City Councilman, Eaton County Commissioner, Charlotte City Councilman and just finished 4 years as Mayor of Charlotte. I would begin looking into how we can begin to significantly move development of our new County Park (Crandell Park). I would also begin a Tim Talks Eaton County (Facebook Live) to improve our communication with our people. I did this as Mayor, and the program was well received. I would also begin to look into how other counties set up their countywide recycling centers.

Lautzenheiser: I have served on the Board of Commissioners for 3 terms and I have learned a great deal about what makes Eaton County unique. I have learned how to communicate effectively with all levels of leadership within the County administration. I have worked in bi-partisan efforts on many issues for what is best for the county. My opponent comes from many years of public service. I however have been doing the job for District 12 and I need no learning curve. I am ready to continue working for Eaton County. In my first month of office I will continue to help the citizens of Eaton County have the services they deserve and find ways for our future budgets to work.

Mott: As a current Eaton County Commissioner, I have spent my entire life living, forming and maintaining relationships within the district I proudly represent. My farming, building and general business experiences have given me the insight needed to represent this community well. I see the need for the county’s current budget shortfall to be continuously and seriously addressed. Due to the impact of COVID-19, there will be even less funds available to the county.

Rogers: No response.

Systemic racism and police brutality are major concerns of mid-Michigan residents. As an elected official, what do you pledge to do to address problems in the community you want to serve?

Augustine: I will continue the work we have begun to make diversity, inclusion and ending systemic racism focuses of our policy making decisions. We recently passed a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis by a 13-1 vote. This is a first step that lays the foundation for us to ensure that county policies do not negatively impact the black community. I have begun conversations with both local police and the Sheriff to ensure they too are reviewing their policies and procedures to make sure policing in our community is equitable, fair and focused on improving society not on punishment.

Musolff: As prefaced in number one; I emphasize we all do our best to avoid certain situations. If we find ourselves in one, don't compound / escalate it. Try to civilly work it out through mutual cooperation. All parties need to exhibit personal self-control & restraint.

Deavers: No response.

Whittum: We're Michiganders and need to stop compartmentalizing everything by identity. When a complaint of systemic racism is levied in Eaton County evidence immediately needs to be introduced. Evidence will be subject to strong analytical rigor. Racism and brutality will be addressed and confronted on an individual basis. Accusations against an officer will be addressed with through established legal and administrative processes.  If guilty, the offender's judicial verdict will be addressed in compliance with State statues. Constitutionally the burden of proof is on the accuser. I believe in constitutional protections and equality before the law for both the complainant and defendant.

Piercefield: No response.

Barnes: No response.

Bucholz: I want to help spearhead an initiative to change the way we use our resources to fund our police agencies - the true thought behind the notion of “defunding” the police is to reprioritize our spending - traditional policing procedures are antiquated at best and unfairly target people of color. We need to invest in more of the mental health aspects of law enforcement, and that means spending more resources on counselors, de-escalation strategies and unarmed crisis assistance. While I am not a proponent of de-arming police officers, I also am a strong believer in agencies across the country outlawing chokeholds and tear gas.

Mulder: As the legislative body of Eaton County our duty is to set policy, monitor actions and appropriate funding to county departments. Friction points between marginalized persons and the County are concentrated in the Sheriff’s dept, corrections, and the courts. Our ongoing development of a new Public Defenders office is one response to these issues. Generally a commitment to the County core values of service, respect, dignity and honesty will be expected. We will not tolerate discrimination of any kind, whether against people of color, LBGTQ, or religious minorities.

Haskell: The Eaton County Commission is not a law making body but that does not mean that we do not have a voice. Just recently we joined with Ingham County Commission in passing a resolution declaring racism a Mental Health Crisis in the United States. I believe this should only be the start. Eaton and surrounding Govt. units need to continue to unite and advocate against the militarization of police (refuse to fund military type equipment), advocate for a new public safety model, and seek opportunities to reverse decades of discrimination.

Olivarez:  As I did for a previous governor, I will implement a solid community relations program to reduce the racism and police brutality in Eaton County. I created a statewide anti-bullying program for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and was successful in reducing bullying in our hard to serve school districts such as Flint, Muskegon Heights, Detroit and Jackson cities within Michigan, reducing the bullying incidents in these school districts by over 70%.

Pearl-Wright: At the Board of Commissioners June 17, 2020 full Board meeting a 14-1 vote supported a resolution stating that Racism is a Public Health Crisis.  I also spoke in the value of additional social justice trainings. I had attended some “lunch time learning” sessions when I first served provided by the Barry-Eaton District Health Department that I felt it was very powerful and recommended additional sensitivity training.  I will follow through to work with the Eaton portion of the Health Department to again offer such type trainings to all in the county not just county employees.

Whitacre: No response.

Mudry: No response.

Brehler: No response.

Droscha: No response.

Bowen: The Eaton County Board took the first step in using our collective voice to recognize and address systematic racism by declaring it a public health emergency. My pledge is to help make sure that we continue down a path of healing and to make sure that there is no tolerance for racism in any fashion towards anyone. 

Reynnet: I pledge to support initiatives to build positive relationships between the police and the community leading to mutual respect and trust.

Ridge: No response.

Lewis: I pledge that racism, discrimination, and police brutality will not be tolerated in Eaton County departments, county committees or by our county employees. The County Board sets the standard for what we expect from those who serve the county in different capacities. It will important for the Board to work with the department heads in making the workplace a positive place to work. The Board can get behind efforts by the departments to continue to educate their staff to work on displaying positive relationships.

Lautzenheiser: These are the major talking points right now. I trust our Sheriff and all Eaton County Leadership to make sure our Law Enforcement units are doing the best job they can. I expect all citizens to be treated equally regardless of race, religion, or gender.

Mott: As a strong supporter of law enforcement, I will continue my commitment to foster efforts to peacefully unite local officers and community members. I also support enhanced training and procedural reforms where necessary. Open, trusting dialogue can benefit everyone concerned with the direction in which our society should head.

Rogers: No response.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit Michigan hard.  What are the next steps for the county as it relates to COVID-19, its health ramifications and the rebuilding of the state’s economy?

Augustine: Under this crisis I have worked closely with our Health Officer and county staff to continue to provide important services to the residents of the county without sacrificing their health. We made decisions based on public health and will continue to do so.  As we begin to see cases start to increase again, it will be important that we remain vigilant in addressing this deadly virus with all the tools we have.  It will also be important to work with our State Legislature and Federal Government to ensure Eaton County receives as much funding as possible to help pay for the cost of this crisis

Musolff: Be fiscally responsible in funding research for vaccines, testing methods and ideally, a cure. Continue accurate monitoring and data collection as we work to reopen and continue on. Help individuals and businesses in a "hand up; not hand out" manner.

Deavers: No response.

Whittum: Implement lessons-learned to help stop the virus. The balancing act is measures to combat the spread versus the impact to the economy. Shuttering the economy equals less tax receipts. Don’t expect a bailout as the state and federal government have their own budget and debt issues. I’d encourage people to act like responsible adults by wearing the mask when asked, social distance, and avoiding larger enclosed gatherings. Conduct ourselves in a responsible manner. Citizens with other comorbidities will need to be especially careful. Help out by donating to a local charity or food bank.

Piercefield: No response.

Barnes: No response.

Bucholz: The pandemic hasn’t gone away and won’t disappear any time soon. It will take significant time and resources to restore our economy and put Eaton County at the forefront of a growth path. We have to review our budgets and find ways to innovate and improve the services most important to county residents. We also include funding a robust COVID-19 response team through our health department that includes funding for increased testing and continued partnerships with other governmental partners to beat this disease. I’d also like to see more communications from the County on using masks in all public venues to help to restrict the spread of COVID-19 broadly.

Mulder: As a board member of the Barry Eaton District Health Department, I have been involved in most aspects of this particular issue. As a frontline public agency we have been at the center of the response, monitoring and advising through-out the crisis. We have been the trustworthy voice of communication. Recently, using federal and state dollars we have added more nurses and scientists to our staff, more depth allows us to reach out to more citizens. Public health and safety is our mandate and passion.

Haskell: It is time for the Federal Government to stand up for local governments, everyday citizens, and small businesses with the passion that it has for big corporations and the wealthy. Our priorities in budgeting will need to change but I refuse to believe that households and small businesses cannot receive some relief after 1.9 trillion dollars was given away in frivolous tax cuts. We need major investments in public health and assurances from the Fed that no more homes or businesses will be lost over a pandemic the public couldn’t control.

Olivarez: Continue our social distancing, wearing masks and hand washing and avoiding touching our eyes and mouth with unclean hands. Look at a solid tracing program for COVID-19 to minimize the spread of this virus. Continue to work or research for a vaccine. Look at Federal dollars to help with kick starting the economy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I will fight for healthcare and economic development grant dollars at a federal level. I have experience in grant writing and will work with the Eaton County to apply for stimulus dollars for our economic and healthcare industries.

Pearl-Wright: I believe that in Eaton we have a good House Representative, Angela Witwer that understands the needs of our county and the ramifications of the economic issues related to our residents. As a commissioner I do stay in constant contact with her to advocate for funds to come to our county for needed services and County operating funds. As a Board member and chair of Health and Human Services I see the needs and the increase in food for our residents. As a Board, the county voted $10,000 already to Greater Lansing Food Bank to supply our local Eaton County food pantries with food supplies. The County treasurer, Bob Robinson has also set aside tax foreclosures in 2020. The health department is working hard on “contract tracing” and will continue to in the future to keep the spread of the virus contained. All over Delta Township and in other areas of the County, there continues to be commercial and residential building which will help with the economy. In the Building Department, the County Board just approved a building inspector to go from a part time employee to a full time employee to better meet the needs of the builders.

Whitacre: No response.

Mudry: No response.

Brehler: No response.

Droscha: No response.

Bowen: Our board should join with other local government to advocate for funding to small businesses and households impacted the most by COVID-19.

Reynnet: The next steps in reopening should be based on taking reasonable precautions based on sound scientific evidence and avoid a one sizes fits all approach.

Ridge: No response.

Lewis: The County Board can take the lead as the pandemic continues to impact our people. Working with the Health Department, there can be a comprehensive educational plan developed to aid our local city officials in helping their people on dealing with the virus. Making the people aware of the county, state and city resources can prove helpful for people looking for specific virus answers.

Lautzenheiser: At the Eaton County level, I am afraid we are going to play the waiting game and be at the mercy of the State budgetary decisions. Bottom line we need to get businesses back to work and remove any unnecessary restrictions. We need to trust the individual business to get back to work and do so safely.

In regard to health I applaud the Eaton Barry Health Department for their work during the pandemic. I trust that we will comply with whatever guidelines needed but we need to help find a way through this.

Mott: Keeping people safe is a top priority; continuing to follow the CDC guidelines will remain on focus. The county needs revenue, which means getting people back to work. Because counties rely heavily on cost-sharing from the state, the county is unsure of what funds will be available to us, complicating the budget process. Deep cuts may need to be made and operating procedures may need to be changed to get us back on track.

Rogers: No response.

Aside from the above, what are the three other most important issues facing the county and how would you address them?


  • Budgets – For years Eaton County has been facing long-term budget projections that indicate an unsustainable budget, now with Covid 19 likely reducing our state revenue sharing as well as other reduced revenues, there will likely be more short-term pressures on our budget that must be addressed.
  • Public Health / Social Programs – As this pandemic continues on in some form for the next year, it will be critical that we do what we can with the resources we have to focus on keeping our residents healthy, both physically and mentally.  We will also need to work with our partner agencies to ensure adequate safety nets for those who continue to suffer economic hardships due to the pandemic.
  • Public Transportation – Our county continues to deal with a lack of adequate public transportation in many areas.  I have begun regional discussions in an attempt to find a solution that will help improve the system regionally to allow unimpeded public transit between the three counties in the Greater Lansing Region.


  • Mental Health
  • Infrastructure
  • Keeping tax revenue local

       Like mentioned before: fiscal responsibility; I believe there is enough revenue generated from all sources to properly fund all community needs.

Deavers: No response.

Whittum: Restoring public trust in elected officials, infrastructure maintenance, and giving citizens the best service return for your tax investment. Responsible financial management is paramount to expand the economy post pandemic

Public trust took a serious hit during the pandemic. Officials have been accused of applying rules to citizens but not to themselves. Leaders must be consistent and lead by example not explanation. Leaders lead form the front enduring the same hardships as everyone. Ordering some businesses to close and allowing others to remain open suggests favoritism not equality before the law and equal opportunity in business.

Piercefield: No response.

Barnes: No response.


  • Public Transit - this is a critical issue - a robust public transit system would improve traffic, help Eaton County commuters get to work in the Greater Lansing area safely, and be a better solution for bolstering a clean environment.
  • Job Creation - the county needs to do more to support small businesses, especially now more than ever. Local entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of our county’s economy. County government must restructure its tax system to favor those small businesses so they can grow and create better jobs across the region.
  • Innovation - we can no longer afford to be complacent in Eaton County. We need new solutions from our leaders so we thrive together. Our county has to become more competitive and that means investing in the things that matter most - our infrastructure.

Mulder: The most important issue we face at Eaton County is budgetary. We are required to have a balanced budget, but all indications are that revenues will be substantially reduced in the next cycle, it will be impossible to continue all existing county services without corresponding revenues. Hard decisions will be required, some pain is inevitable. As the legislative body of the County budgetary issues are preeminent and will be the top three issues.


  • Healthcare- For the first time since the inception of the Affordable Care Act more Americans have lost healthcare coverage than have gained coverage. A public option, in one fashion or another, is needed to provide a greed free competition to the healthcare market.
  •  Government Accountability and Transparency- Tax documents should be made public for all elected officials and candidates who make over 75k a year. FOIA fees and processing times need to be made reasonable. Dark Money PACS should be well regulated and brought to the light.
  • Infrastructure- Whether it is paid for by eliminating tax breaks, destroying tax loopholes, or finding new revenues, prioritizing and addressing infrastructure needs to be a top priority.


  • Healthcare- Look for affordable healthcare for all citizens in Eaton County. Look at healthcare programs and how we can coordinate healthcare for all economic levels within the county.
  • Environment issues- Look at reducing the amount of PFAS within our drinking water in Eaton County and continue to have the testing of our water, air and soil for carcinogens that could destroy an individual’s health and the entire Eaton County Community. Eaton County, to my knowledge has not been had the water, air and soil tested for all individual households within Eaton county and I plan on implementing county wide testing of our water, air and soil.
  • Jobs- Unemployment has skyrocketed in Eaton County, with my 20 years in working with Communities and small and large businesses. I will implement a new career jobs program to reduce the unemployment within Eaton County to less than 2% of an unemployment rate.


  • Creating a balanced budget and we will not know the pathways until the Board is told of the state revenue sharing rate. 
  • Providing mental health services to those who are in need whether through jail services or outpatient services at Community Mental Health. This entails proper funding and that is acquired through the budget process and hearing from the concerns of CMH and the County’s Sheriff and Undersheriff.
  • Providing Community Corrections division funding for optimal operations to ensure that those involved with the court system are able to remain on work release or come from the jail to do community or job activities.

Whitacre: No response.

Mudry: No response.

Brehler: No response.

Droscha: No response.

Bowen: The ramifications of COVID-19 make it hard to foresee exactly what tomorrow's biggest issues will be. For that reason, we need to remain focused and flexible at the unprecedented issues at hand.

Reynnet: Addressing our roads and flooding problems. Delivering courteous, timely, and professional services to county residents. Finding solutions to budget problems that do not unduly impact employees while continuing to deliver the best possible services.

Ridge: No response.

Lewis: First, there is need for more communication between the county and the people, People have heard of the Commission but often don’t realize what it does. I mentioned Tim Talks Eaton County and that would be a start. I would work to get the local shopping guides involved in reporting the activities and positions the county is undertaking. Challenge two would be to become the champion on the Board for the Crandell County Park. I would aggressively work with staff to investigate all sources of federal and state revenue and make it a constant discussion item at the meetings. Recycling is number three and we need to look at how other counties have set up their programs and see if it could work in Eaton County.

Lautzenheiser: 1. Roads continue to be a concern and the road millage program that is on the books is doing what it was designed to do. We need to hope the State of Michigan gas tax funds can continue to be a part of the solution repairing our roads.

2. We have programs that are failing because of funding / usage problems, ie the county recycling programs. We need to find a way to offer our citizens the ability to recycle that works for the entirety of Eaton County.

3. Continue to find ways to help the citizens of Eaton County. I pushed in a bi-partisan effort to improve our building code department, we need to keep looking for ways to improve the Sherriff’s office, and the jail. How can we help the court system and improve their services? It is our job as elected officials to make sure the people can use the services they are paying for. The people of Eaton County deserve the best customer service no matter what the reason they are reaching out to us.

Mott: A primary task of the county commission is to establish and maintain the county budget. As stated previously, addressing many of the concerns within the county will be determined upon monies available from the local, state and federal levels of government. Without a sound budget many of the county’s programs could face shortfalls, which is why the budget should remain a top priority.

Rogers: No response.

What is your position on the taxation level for services in your County? Which millages would you propose eliminating? Would you support new millages, and if so, for what services?

Augustine: While I am open to discussing potential millages to fund programs that our residents may want or need, I do not believe that now is the time to add further tax burdens on our residents due to the current economic situation.  As a small business owner, I understand that sometimes investment is required to generate a higher return and will continue to be open to discussions on how we can invest in the future of all Eaton County Residents, while not creating too heavy of a tax burden on our families and small businesses.

Musolff: Again it's about the money. I would not vote to eliminate any current millages as long as the money allotted goes to them; not other projects. I would consider new millages if for the community good and not for "pet projects" for a relative few.

Deavers: No response.

Whittum: I served as a member of the ad hoc committee that designed the secondary road rehabilitation repair millage program. I supported the secondary road millage. The secondary road millage is the primary revenue source supporting Eaton County's secondary road repair program. Eaton County levies less than 5 mills for general operating revenue.  The remaining allocated millages supporting Eaton County operations have been voter approved. I do not anticipate supporting further millages. Property taxes must remain low and affordable.

Piercefield: No response.

Barnes: No response.

Bucholz: I am not an advocate for reducing our current millage rates at this time. The pandemic crisis has made it clear that making cuts to government during times of challenge is not the way to make positive progress. Millages are a useful tool to address our priorities and gives citizens the opportunity to approve our actions. I believe we should review the county budget together, educate our citizens on what they pay for, ask for input and make adjustments as necessary, and then propose modest solutions as needed that fund our collective priorities.

Mulder: Eaton County has relatively low millage rates and a limited number of current millages. We have some of the best funded local roads in Mid-Michigan because of the local road millage I helped initiate. Taxpayers deserve value from there property taxes, I believe I have always defended the hardworking taxpayer and kept an appropriate balance between taxes and services.

Haskell: I am mostly satisfied with the taxation levels in Eaton County for the moment. One millage I do see as suspect and in possible need of replacement is the EATRAN [Eaton County Transportation Authority] millage. Our residents have paid the same rate for over a decade now, maybe more and have yet to receive a mass transit service that gets them where they need to go. This is a prime opportunity for a regional transit system that would improve the entire regional economy.

Pearl-Wright: In Eaton County from the County level there is very few additional millages. The county bus dial a ride type bus service is up for renewal in November.  That .25 mills hasn’t been increased since before 1995 and residents will find that 5 year renewal again this time in 2020. The jail expansion millage and the medical care facility expansion millage will both run out in less than a decade now. Many of the additional millages around Eaton County are for schools such as a local school district, RESA and LCC depending on where people reside. I reside in the Grand Ledge School district. These are not county millages and are placed on ballots by the local districts.

Whitacre: No response.

Mudry: No response.

Brehler: No response.

Droscha: No response.

Bowen: Eaton county residents previously approved a roads mileage that is addressing a dire need on local infrastructure. I was also happy to vote to modestly lower taxes on cell phone services this year. Outside of these two issues I am comfortable with taxation levels.

Ridge: No response.

Lewis: The current monies coming into the county appear sufficient for an effective operation. At this time, I would not suggest any additional millages.

Lautzenheiser: With funding problems in every corner I unfortunately can’t see any particular tax or millage that could be removed. I would indicate that for those who favor a development of Crandell Lake or expansion of the Sherriff’s office it would need to come by way of millage.

Mott: My frame of reference does not encompass services in Ingham County, as I serve in Eaton County. I am very hesitant of new millages and putting even more financial burden on already strapped families.

Rogers: No response.

The above information was compiled from questionnaires emailed to each candidate. If you have questions about our process, email opinions@lsj.com. To support work like this, consider subscribing. For more information, visit LSJ.com/subscribe.