STANTON — Thomas Porter has been appointed to the Montcalm County Board of Commissioners … again.
Porter, a retired farmer from Coral, was first appointed to fill a vacant position on the county board in May 2012 after then-commissioner Carl Paepke died. Porter ran for election in November 2012, but lost to Steve DeWitt.
However, DeWitt resigned as county commissioner on Jan. 22, leaving the District 8 position vacant. District 8 encompasses Maple Valley, Pierson and Pine townships.
DeWitt, who is police chief of the Howard City Police Department, told The Daily News he resigned when it became apparent the Board of Commissioners was going to vote on a proposed merger of the Howard City Police Department with the Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office. The merger means DeWitt will become a county sheriff’s deputy and therefore he cannot also serve as a county commissioner.
On Tuesday, the Board of Commissioners unanimously voted at a special meeting to appoint Porter to the position after interviewing Porter and the only other applicant for the job, Dennis Dombkowski of Trufant.
Porter served with the U.S. Army from 1965 to 1968. He graduated from Davenport University with a degree in sales management, as well as from Penn State University with a degree in engineering and design. He previously worked as a facilities engineering manager at Hitachi in Edmore and a plant engineering manager at United Technologies in Holland, Mich.
Besides having previously served on the Board of Commissioners, Porter’s local government experience includes his current stints as chairman of the both the property tax review board and the planning and zoning board in Maple Valley Township. He also serves on Montcalm County’s Solid Waste Planning Committee, Parks & Recreation Committee and Planning Commission and the West Michigan Regional Planning Commission. He is also chairman of the Timberland Resource, Conservation & Development (RC&D) Council and director of the Montcalm Conservation District, a position he will now relinquish due to his new appointment as county commissioner.
“I think that when Tom was unseated (in November 2012), I think it’s pretty impressive that he continued to serve where he could,” noted Commissioner John Johansen of Montcalm Township.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Patrick Q. Carr of Lakeview questioned Porter on whether he would run for election once the remainder of the District 8 term was up.
“Yes, absolutely,” Porter replied. “I fully plan on running and I hope that I can run a better campaign than I did last time so I can come out a winner.”
The sole other application for the position was Dombkowski, who is employed as a community living service and employment coach with the non-profit Mid Michigan Industries, which is headquartered in Grand Rapids, but has an office in Stanton.
Dombkowski served with the U.S. Army from 1976 to 1979, the Michigan National Guard 1073rd Maintenance Company in Greenville from 1979 to 1985 and the U.S. Coast Guard from 1985 to 2007. He earned a history and political science degree from Aquinas College and has taught as a substitute teacher at a number of local schools. He was employed as the supervisor of quality control at Electrolux in Greenville and has also worked as Maple Valley Township constable, Sand Lake police chief, an emergency medical technician and firefighter in Trufant and a deputy with the Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office. He has served on the Trufant Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and has coached a variety of local sports.
Dombkowski said he decided to apply for the District 8 position because he thinks there’s too much apathy in today’s society when it comes to caring about local government.
“I think we have two very qualified candidates,” noted Carr of Dombkowski and Porter. “Either one, I’m sure, could do the job. Tom had been here before and will know what he’s up against, but Mr. Dombkowski I’m sure would have made a suitable candidate as well.”
Carr then welcomed Porter back to the county commission.
“It’s a pleasure to be back on the board,” Porter said.