Two incumbent members of the Clinton County Board of Commissioners, a Democrat and a Republican, are fighting for another two-year term in next month’s primary election. Republican Val Vail-Shirey is taking on incumbent Adam C. Stacey in Clinton County’s 7th District. Democrat Cindy Cronk is challenging incumbent Dwight Washington in the 6th District. Cronk, who currently serves as a Bath Township trustee, didn’t return several calls from City Pulse.
Dwight Washington, 50, who said he has lived “on and off” in Bath Township for the last decade, is seeking a third term as a Clinton County commissioner. He has a bachelor’s in psychology and a Ph.D. degree in natural resources from Michigan State University as well as a master’s degree in education from Harvard University. Natural resources are his passion, he explained.
Washington said he works for Metapeace Team, a Lansing-area nonprofit dedicated to nonviolence and “respect for the sacred interconnectedness of all life,” according to its website, as well as a consultant in various fields like natural resources, water policy and crisis response.
He also serves on the board for Tri-County Community Mental Health, the Tri-County Aging Consortium Administrative Board and several other community-based organizations.
“I come into government with a passionate background of sustainability and I really tried to put sustainability at the forefront in how we problem-solve and approach issues,” Washington explained. “Part of that is about an opportunity to network and connect various county services.”
In addition to sustainability and environmentalism with a focus on curbing climate change, Washington’s other priorities include economic growth and finding financial efficiencies.
“We have an opportunity to network and connect services in a way that I think is lacking,” Washington added. “Out of this COVID-19 pandemic, I’m finding that we can bring essential services together, examine their relationships to the community and build on those programs.”
Washington said that community leadership also needs to be reflective of the diverse communities they serve to strive toward racial justice and social equity.
“I think our law enforcement officers in Clinton County are not able to do everything, and we need to have some better coordination with local social service agencies,” Washington added.
Washington views the job of county commissioner as one that requires relationships to be built within the community in order to work collaboratively with others to reach a solution. He describes his leadership style as forthright, focused and open with a problem-solving approach.
He also told City Pulse that he plans to vote for Joe Biden, contends that Line 5 needs to be shut down beneath the Straits of Mackinac and declined to comment when asked whether he thinks police disproportionately target Black people or whether he views immigrants as a threat.
“I wish there would’ve been more questions about climate change,” Washington added. “I feel that it’s an important issue that needs to be addressed now, and whether that’s making education a priority or changing behaviors, those are questions that need to be addressed.”
Adam Stacey, 45, has lived in Bath Township for the last 17 years and has been involved in politics for more than 20 years — working as a communications analyst, policy advisor and chief of staff for a state senator from Oakland County. He’s a state Senate research director.
Stacey, whose family has owned a local farm for more than 160 years, is vying for a seventh term as a commissioner. He has also earned his master’s degree in public administration from Michigan State University and is the proud father of three children.
“I’ve had a passion for government since I was a younger child,” Stacey said. “I was honestly just looking for a way to be a help in the community. I think we’ve put a lot of good, solid reforms in place, especially in light of the coronavirus, and I’d like to see that work is continued through.”
Stacey’s top priorities include a continued focus on a balanced county budget, continuing to make improvements to county services (like 911 dispatch) and additional regional partnerships. Clinton County is a “model of financial solvency,” Stacey added. He wants to keep it that way.
“I want to continue to maintain our strong financial leadership and make sure we don’t accumulate debts or other large expenses,” Stacey said, noting that additional efficiencies can be found through collaborations with Ingham and Eaton counties and Michigan State University.
“Small businesses in Clinton County know they’re not going to be saddled with new regulations and new taxes. They know exactly what they’re going to get,” Stacey added. “We’re fine with Lansing being the center of economic activity in our region, but we also want to make sure Clinton County remains a good place to live and play — even as the work continues to grow.”
Stacey has received endorsements from political action committees affiliated with the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce and Right to Life of Michigan. He also said Clinton County has a “good” reputation in terms of racial justice and social equity, but he contended that local cops can always make improvements geared toward de-escalating violence and better serving the public.
“My style is just making sure we have good, open communications to make informed decisions,” Stacey added. “I’m always one to take substantial input during any conversation. That’s a good thing about Clinton: We’re not so big to where we get lost in the formalities and bureaucracy.”
Stacey also said he’s a Trump supporter and doesn’t believe police officers disproportionately target Black people in the United States. He doesn’t see climate change as a threat that requires immediate action and is more likely to say “All Lives Matter” over “Black Lives Matter.”
Val Vail-Shirey, 58, is in close political alignment with Stacey (and Trump) in her quick dismissal of ongoing national problems like climate change and systematic racism among police officers. She’s a farmer, a lifelong resident of Bath and for nearly 30 years worked in both chambers of the state Legislature. Vail-Shirey started her own political consulting firm but recently returned to a job at the House of Representatives as a legislative director, where she’s currently employed.
“One of the big things in my township is this change from more of a rural setting to a more suburban setting,” Vail-Shirey said. “I want to be a voice for all of the residents, to be an active commissioner and make sure I hear all of the different voices across my district during my term.”
Her top priorities: Representing constituents over special interests, making sure roadways are improved and maintained and finding ways to save cash across all layers of county government.
“It’s hard to explain, but I’ll be looking outside of the box to see where the county can share services with either townships or neighboring counties,” Vail-Shirey added. “We can all avoid those duplicating resources while expanding services for our residents at the same time.”
Vail-Shirey also wants to promote policies that encourage and incentivize employers to grow their businesses within Clinton County in hopes of attracting more residents and creating jobs. And while she said she promotes racial equity, she doesn’t want to craft any policies that benefit one community of people — like Black residents — over other specific ethnicities in the county.
“I want to be very hands-on,” Vail-Shirey added. “My style is one of listening, researching, professionalism and decision making. It’ll be my job to learn, educate, listen, research and investigate so that I have a broad picture and can understand all implications of a decision.”