5 candidates face off for 4 trustee seats in DeWitt Township

Two newcomers challenge three incumbent Republicans

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Five Republicans, including three incumbents, are vying for four seats on the Dewitt Township Board of Trustees as Trustee Stephen Musselman prepares to leave the post later this year. Trustees Brian Ross, David Seeger and David Fedewa are running for another term. Newcomer Republicans Stephen Smith and Thomas Hamp have also entered the fray. Seeger didn’t return calls to City Pulse. The others agreed to interviews to discuss their campaigns.

Ross, 62, of DeWitt Township, is seeking a second term as trustee. His career in drinking-water and wastewater operations spans decades at local treatment plants across Greater Lansing. Ross is the senior assistant director for the Genesee County drain commissioner.

He has also served on several boards and commissions, including on the DeWitt Township Planning Commission and as the president of the Michigan Water Environment Association.

“I still feel I’ve got fire in my belly and I have time left to serve and give back to the community. I’m giving it one more go,” Ross said. “I do want to retire, but there’s also a lot of stuff left to do.”

Ross’ top priorities include bolstering funding for public safety, including for police and fire services and to “continue the current practices of being fiscally responsible.” He also wants to have deeper conversations with the public to make more collaborative township decisions.

“Public safety is our highest priority,” Ross emphasized. “We want to have a strong police and fire presence in this township. I think our residents have made that very clear. We want safety.”

Ross’ campaign is also centered on finding new regional approaches to sharing resources, he said. He said he also wants to build more sidewalks and pathways that could bolster foot traffic for local businesses and improve services and local facilities for senior citizens in the township.

“My style is similar to work,” Ross added. “Rather than sit behind a desk, I think it’s more important to govern by walking around, while also always remembering you’re a servant leader.”

Fedewa, 58, has lived in DeWitt Township since 1989 — the same year he became a dentist after earning his doctorate degree from Washington State University. He’s also a longtime member of the DeWitt Township Fire Department and is seeking his second term as trustee. Fedewa also said this term, if elected, would be his last as DeWitt Township trustee.

“We have five great people running for four positions and the people of DeWitt Township cannot go wrong with choosing any of the people that are running,” Fedewa added. “It’s a very cohesive board. Nobody has an agenda. We all get along and work to better this township.”

Fedewa’s top priorities in his second term: bolster funding for additional staffing and equipment at the fire department and increase walkability by building more non-motorized pathways. Like his challengers, he also wants to make strides toward more cohesive regional cooperation.

“We have the busiest fire department in all of Clinton County and we really need to be moving toward more full-time people to be able to cover this massive amount of calls,” Fedewa said.

“I also know there is room for improvement on how we can cooperate with other agencies,” he added. “More sharing of government resources, the more benefit to everybody that lives here.”

Fedewa said DeWitt Township doesn’t share the same problems with police discrimination that larger metropolitan areas have faced. Like everyone else running for trustee, he’s a Donald Trump voter who questions whether police disproportionately target Black people.

“If I’m elected, I’d like to do this four-year term and then move on to something new,” he added.

Smith, 49, who has lived in DeWitt Township for a decade, retired last year as a sergeant at the DeWitt Township Police Department. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps, including a tour in the Persian Gulf War. He owns a small lawn care and snow removal business in DeWitt.

He said he decided to run for trustee because of his passion for community service. After working for DeWitt Township for 20 years, during which time he was legally unable to run for elected office, he said it’s time to give back to the community.

“I think the township does a great job, and I don’t have any problems with anyone on the board. I think they do a great job with handling finances and allocating those resources to the community,” Smith added. “Really, I’d just like to maintain everything as it is. With Steve Musselman leaving, I decided I’d put my hat in the ring just to see if I could get the position.”

Smith said law enforcement and public safety in the township, given his background, is important to maintain. But he also wants to expand his municipal government horizons.

“Wherever I can help out, I’m willing to,” Smith said. “I’m not afraid to speak my mind and I also like to listen to all aspects of whatever particular problem we’re facing. I think being an elected person, you represent the people, work for the people and you do what the majority wants.”

Hamp, 56, has lived in DeWitt Township for 21 years, has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Oakland University and has worked in the imaging industry for decades. He owns his own business coaching firm and served as president of the Rotary Club in DeWitt.

Like Smith, he isn’t running for trustee out of a desire to change the status quo. He said he decided to run because he felt prepared for the job and wanted to give back to the community. His top priorities include making consistently sound decisions and supporting small businesses.

“I like to take in as much information as I can before stepping out and giving my opinion,” Hamp said. “I will make decisions on the best information that I can, and I’m willing to stand my ground. But on that token, I understand that I’ll have some other board members to work with.”

Smith said DeWitt Township is a “well-rounded” community, and he intends to keep it that way. He’s also willing to be open-minded and entertain discussions about what types of businesses — including marijuana-related enterprises — are allowed into the township. He’s not opposed.

“We have to be open-minded when we’re looking at the different industries out there and what might be able to work in DeWitt,” Smith said. “We should at least be giving everyone a voice and not just turn our back on the possibility of continued growth. We can always find compromise.”

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