WHITEHALL, MI — Eight candidates are vying for seats on the Whitehall City Council in a revamped election cycle for the city this November.
The candidates are vying for three four-year seats on the seven-member council that includes the mayor who will be elected for the first time this year. The election is Nov. 2, and absentee ballots currently are available.
Incumbent council members Elle Dennis and Virginia DeMumbrum are not seeking re-election. Debra Hillebrand also is not seeking re-election to the council because she chose instead to run for mayor.
Hillebrand is facing off against council member Steve Salter who has two years remaining in his council term. If he does not win the mayoral race, Salter will retain his council seat. If he loses, the council will appoint someone to fill his remaining term.
This year marks the first year that the city’s mayor will be elected by popular vote rather than appointed by the council. The change is the result of an amendment to the city charter that voters approved in 2019. Electors also in 2019 changed the election cycle, meaning after this election, three council members will run every four years.
To help readers learn about the candidates, MLive sent them a questionnaire about their candidacy, including their background information.
Background information is provided here in alphabetical order:
Rand Barfoot, 67, declined MLive’s invitation to provide information.
Scott Brown, 67, is an incumbent who has served on the council since 2018. He is retired, and did not provide information about his profession. He also has served on the Whitehall Marina Advisory Committee. Brown is married and has five children, 10 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Christopher Cross, 34, is a church administrator and after school program director. He also is director of the Living Word Senior Services Lawncare and Snow Removal. Cross attended college and bible school. He is married and has three children.
Keith Heidelberg, 39, works for the White Lake Fire Authority and has been a firefighter and EMT for 20 years. He has his paramedic certification from Baker College and is a certified fire code official and EMT. He has served on the White Lake Community Center millage committee. Heidelberg is married and has three children.
Jeffrey Holmstrom, 57, is a deputy sheriff for the Muskegon County Sheriff’s Office. He is a graduate of Whitehall High School and attended Muskegon Community College, West Shore Community College and Lake Superior State University and has received training through The National Fire Academy, The Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michigan Firefighters Training Council, Michigan State Police – Emergency Management Division and The Michigan Sheriff’s Association. Holmstrom represents Whitehall on the White Lake Fire Authority Board, is a member of the Whitehall Marina Advisory Committee and served on the Whitehall City Council from 2003-17. He has two children and one grandchild.
William (Billy) Mann, 38, is a senior media specialist for CatchMark Technologies, producing streams of Whitehall and Montague school sporting events. He also assisted with recording of performances at the Playhouse at White Lake Community during the COVID shutdown. He is married and has two children.
Stephen Sikkenga, 67, is employed by Northern A1 Environmental Services. He previously served on the Whitehall City Council for 14 years and on the Whitehall Planning Commission for three years. He is married and has three children and 12 grandchildren.
Barry Ziebarth, 54, is a sales manager for Americas – MIC Customs Soutions. He has a master’s degree in business administration from Western Michigan University and a bachelor’s degree in computer systems engineering from WMU.
Below is how the candidates responded to questions. Candidates were asked to keep responses to 250 words and those that were longer were cut from the end. Otherwise, responses have not been edited by MLive.
Why voters should elect you?
Brown: I am one of the only present council members that questions staff decisions and recommendations and question what the taxpayers dollars are being spent on. Making sure that the taxpayers dollars are being spent responsibly and in there best interests are my priority. I hate politics, even at this low level, but feel I still can make a difference in life in a small town, so I bite my tongue alot, and fight the battles I think I can get support for. I have no pet projects I am trying to get approved, just wanting to make sure we are all getting as much as possible out of the taxes we are paying.
Cross: I am a fiscally conservative man who puts his faith and family first. If elected I will exercise my influence to ensure citizens and business owners are not burdened by fine and regulations. I will ensure the city of Whitehall works to keep a balanced budget, only spending what comes in.
Heidelberg: The issues that our city face are personal to me, my roots are in this community and I plan to live in the City of Whitehall long term. I will listen to concerns, suggestions and opinions of community members and will work hard to ensure that I represent residents and their values. I feel I bring a younger vision to this office along with a drive to get things done. I look forward to utilizing my experience and skills to help improve our beautiful city. I’ve had the honor of serving this community for two decades with White Lake Fire Authority, I would be proud to serve further as a councilperson.
Holmstrom: I have been a public servant for decades through my previous employment as a Paramedic with The White Lake Ambulance Authority, as a Captain with The White Lake Fire Authority and a former member of The Whitehall City Council. My life has been about service to my community and its citizens. I base my decisions on what’s best for the community as a whole, not the whim of a few. I get involved, listen well, participate in discussions and don’t sit back and let the world pass me by. I am a good steward of and for The City of Whitehall.
Mann: I am original from big cities Miami and Los Angeles my wife is from Michigan. I have now lived in Whitehall for 5 years my son was born in West Michigan and is a from birth local. I have fallen in love with this town. I will bring a fresh take to the council to ensure I help get the best things done for the area and its residence. I have a big city knowledge base to help incorporate new ideas into the town. I will strongly believe in working very closely with Montague as the towns that make up the White Lake area.
Sikkenga: Experience plus a real disire to see Whitehall grow into more of a destination for tourists and a town the local people can be proud of.
Ziebarth: Strong will to keep Whitehall and Muskegon county moving away from the crazy left-wing liberal policies that are ruining our City, County, State, and Country. We need moderate republicans, moderate democrats, and independents alike to step up and work closely together to develop and support a community that brings us all together and supports our local businesses to thrive and create jobs in our county
If elected, what will be your top three priorities?
Brown: 1 Making sure tax dollars are being spent wisely 2 Keeping our city moving in a positive direction 3 Listen to the public to know what they want
Cross: Fiscal responsibility, community support and keeping fines and taxes low.
Heidelberg: Infrastructure and proactive repairs. City beautification – protecting and developing our green spaces, destination areas and family amenities. Promote our area to attract business and young families. Actively seek to fill the industrial park, as well as drawing storefronts to the downtown area.
Holmstrom: There are always many priorities when running a community. They are often fluid and changing. Currently my three priorities are: 1. Making The City of Whitehall a destination. A destination for people to visit, a place for people to live and raise a family, a place for people to recreate/gather and a place for people to work and make a living. There are multiple components needed to make this a success. Whitehall has many assets already in place with a good school system, parks and recreation, a new gathering place and various manufacturing and businesses. My priority would be to work towards adding the lacking components and building up the current ones that are in need some assistance. i.e. more retail and improved hours of operation in the downtown, improvement grants, professional assistance etc. 2. The term “infrastructure” has been tossed around at the state and federal level for some time now. This is always been a priority of mine at the local level. We have to have good infrastructure to make the city the destination described in priority #1 above. The problem with infrastructure is that it costs a lot of money and with inflation it costs more every year. With that said the citizens and business owners are going to have to decide through their council representatives what infrastructure improvements they want to make a priority. The question that will have to be asked is are you willing to pay for it, at what cost to you
Mann: As I myself am raising a family the first issue will be doing whatever I can to make sure Whitehall is known as an amazing place to live and raise a family. The second would be making sure Whitehall is known as the place to be in the summer months. And Finally doing what I can to make sure we are having more events in town. I will use my connections and knowledge in video production to make sure we have great social media presents.
Sikkenga: Road repair, taxpayer values, and improve business district.
Ziebarth: 1. Deal with public Safety and Pollution in responsible manner 2. Provide job opportunities for those that are less fortunate in our county 3. Develop and support policies that help grow our community in a healthy and robust fashion that have a true positive impact on our way of life and remove the evil divisiveness and false information that our national main stream media and Washington DC have let get out of hand over the past two decades
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