Meet the candidates for the Grand Haven Board of Light and Power
GRAND HAVEN, MI – Two new members of Light and Power’s Grand Haven board of directors will be elected by voters in this year’s general election.
Grand Haven voters will choose from four candidates running for two seats for six years.
The four candidates, chosen from the five candidates for the August primary, are Andy Cawthon, Andrea Hendrick, Geri McCaleb and Michael J. Westbrook.
Incumbents Jack R. Smant, Chairman of the Board of Directors, and John F. Naser are not standing for re-election.
The election is Tuesday, November 2, and postal ballots are currently available.
To help readers learn about the candidates, MLive sent everyone a questionnaire asking for information about their background and application.
General information is provided below in alphabetical order. Westbrook did not respond to MLive’s requests for information.
Andy Cawthon, 72, is retired after a 35-year career selling computer hardware, software and services. He served for 11 years on the Grand Haven Main Street Promotion Committee, including five as chairman; 13 years on the Grand Haven Coast Guard Festival Committee, including two as Chair; and six years on the Grand Haven Musical Fountain Committee, including five as Chair. Cawthon holds a bachelor’s degree in zoology from the University of California at Santa Barbara and a master’s degree in life sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle. His family includes his wife Joyce and three step-sons.
Andrea Hendrick, 37, works as a Senior Planner and GIS Analyst for I Site Consulting Group. She previously served on the Grand Haven Planning Commission. Hendrick holds a bachelor’s degree in geography from Grand Valley State University and certificates in geographic information systems technology and sustainable and regional planning. She has four children.
Geri McCaleb, 74, was Mayor of Grand Haven from 2011-19 and a member of Grand Haven City Council from 2001 to 2009. She is Secretary of the Board of the Ottawa North Recreation Authority. She holds a bachelor’s degree in earth sciences from Grand Valley State University. McCaleb is married and has two children.
Here’s how applicants answered questions about their application. Their answers were not modified by MLive.
Why should voters elect you?
Cawthon: I have followed and participated in discussions and decisions regarding the withdrawal of the SIMS plant and subsequent site remediation for over 6 years. I am familiar with the main issues facing the BLP including remediation of Harbor Island, economics of power generation versus grid purchase, renewable energy sources / types, and storage issues. Based on years of volunteer service in the community, I have an important working relationship with the BLP Board of Directors and staff, Grand Haven City Council, the Mayor and staff and many merchants. and manufacturers who are major taxpayers and stakeholders of BLP.
Hendrick: I am presenting myself because I believe that the energy choice we make today will have a profound impact on our children, our businesses and our community for generations to come. Ensuring that we have affordable and sustainable energy is essential for our economy and our environment. As we know, in Grand Haven the environment and the economy go hand in hand. As a mother of four, I want to make sure Grand Haven remains a great place to live, work and raise a family. I pledge to engage this community in a serious and comprehensive conversation about how we are building our energy future in the most practical and data-driven way possible.
McCaleb: During my years as Mayor of Grand Haven, I have gained a first-hand understanding of many of the issues facing the BLP and the city. I am in a good position to join the BLP Board of Directors with a basic understanding of the issues and challenges of today’s energy market. I have had the privilege of working with BLP board members, management and staff as well as with the Grand Haven City Council. All of life is education and the greatest satisfaction is gained by working together to overcome challenges, solve problems and find workable solutions.
If you are elected, what will be your three priorities?
Cawthon: 1) Conclude Harbor Island remediation negotiations with EGLE and US EPA as they will determine the scope and final price of this activity 2) Obtain more and more information on taxpayer willingness to fund a state-of-the-art Harbor Island plant 3) Better educate stakeholders on the flexibility of proposed RICE (Diesel) engines, including their ability to run on fuel blends including fuels such as hydrogen if they become economically available over the next few years
Hendrick: 1) Protect taxpayers from unnecessary spending and tariff increases 2) Ensure community leads decisions made by the Board of Light & Power 3) Promote energy sustainability
McCaleb: The top priority is to be part of the team that meets the power needs of BLP customers, large and small, to keep our customers’ electricity reliable and affordable. Environmental issues on Harbor Island need to be assessed and addressed. Factors contributing to environmental problems span Grand Haven’s history from the logging era; the use of the land as a municipal dumping ground; as well as becoming home to the Sims Powerhouse. The natural consequences of the various uses of the island make us see today the intermingling of pollutants. This will be a complicated and costly issue to deal with and will have an impact on the future use of the island. Snowmelt is a major part of downtown Grand Haven, and partnering with BLP to provide heat to the snowmelt system, via Sims, made the initial project possible. Now that the city has invested in snowmelt, it is important to meet the needs of the snowmelt system for the financial health of the city center and the protection of this investment. It is important for anyone who uses the sidewalks and open streets for shopping as well as for safe walking or running during the winter months.
Do you believe that more public input is needed to determine how best to meet Grand Haven’s future electricity needs? If so, how would you collect it?
Cawthon: More public input is certainly needed. I would first make the results of the annual BLP client surveys available on the BLP website and make their availability known through press releases to the Tribune, mlive, WGHN / WMPA and WLAV. I would explore more presentations to community groups such as the Chamber, Rotary and groups in retirement homes and assisted living facilities. Additional stakeholder groups could be meetings of political parties and religious groups.
Hendrick: Absoutely. That’s why I’m running. The Grand Haven BLP completely missed the opportunity to grow and learn from the collective knowledge of the citizens of Grand Haven. Specifically, if I were elected, I would ask for a full inventory of the city’s current assets before making ANY decisions about our future energy needs. In addition, the technology and innovation occurring in the energy industry is changing rapidly. Without a full understanding of our current assets and future advancements in energy production and delivery, Grand Haven taxpayers will never get the best value for their money.
McCaleb: I am aware of a variety of studies already carried out by the BLP Board of Directors over the past few years with a number of consultants. The findings of the studies have brought us to the point where we are today the best solution to the future needs of BLP customers. There were many public meetings and the opportunity for the public to express themselves and there is a wealth of information on the BLP website which addresses the issues that were raised. There comes a time when questions have been answered and a decision needs to be made. It is time to move forward.
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