Porter fills vacant Montcalm County board District 5 seat

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 11:37 am on Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Thomas Porter

STANTON — A retired plant engineering manager is the newest member of the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners.

Commissioners voted 5-3 at a special meeting Monday to appoint Thomas Porter, 66, of Coral, to the District 5 seat vacated by Carl Paepke, who died April 18.

Commissioners Ron Baker of Howard City, Betty Kellenberger of Carson City, John Johansen of Montcalm Township, Tom Lindeman of Greenville and Lloyd Walker of Greenville voted in favor of appointing Porter.

Commissioners Roger Caris of Vestaburg, Patrick Q. Carr of Lakeview and Ron Retzloff of Crystal voted “no.”

The vote took place after commissioners interviewed six applicants for the position. They included:
• Steven DeWitt of Coral, the police chief of the village of Howard City.
• Jeffrey Rebman of Pierson, a school bus driver and self-employed blueberry farmer.
• Carole Petersen of Trufant, a retired banker and current Maple Valley Township Board trustee.
• Patricia Hinrichs of Trufant, a retired community health worker.
• Brenda Hatch of Stanton, a self-employed hair stylist.

Carr, who is chairman of the board of commissioners, said his “no” vote was nothing against Porter — he just didn’t care for the way the nominating process took place. Carr said his fellow commissioners made a motion for the nominations to be closed and to unanimously nominate Porter without any further discussion.

“I thought he did fine and I’m sure he’ll make a fine commissioner,” said Carr of Porter. “I thought there were other candidates worthy of being considered and I would have liked to have had their nominations out there. I just didn’t like the process that we used. I would to like to have seen us vote on all of them, but obviously there were five people who were content to make it unanimous for Porter so maybe it would have been the same result anyway.”

Carr said he was pleased with the number of people who applied for the position.

“It’s a good problem to have,” he said. “I was happy with the candidates in general. I think they all had the intention to give back and serve.”

According to his resume, he served as chairman of the Maple Valley Township Planning Commission for 12 years and the Maple Valley Township Tax Review Board for 15 years. He participated in and graduated from Leadership Montcalm program. He was previously in the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1968. Porter and his wife have a small farm, where they raise horses. They also farm an Asian pear orchard for retail and wholesale markets.

“Now that I’m fully retired I’ve got the time to devote to representing the people,” Porter said. “I think the district is in need of a fresh approach and I hope to do that. Carl Paepke was a great commissioner and did a lot of good things. I just want to continue that.”

According to his resume, Porter is concerned about high unemployment locally and he wants to help small businesses. He wants to bring “new leadership” and “a fresh approach and new ideas” to District 5, which encompasses Maple Valley, Pierson and Pine townships.

Porter is filing to run as Republican candidate in this November’s county election, when the District 5 seat will be up for grabs again. He previously ran for District 5 commissioner in 2008 and came in second to Paepke.

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