LAPEER COUNTY — Come 2021, someone new will represent the Almont and Imlay City areas on the Lapeer County Board of Commissioners. That someone will be chosen by voters on August 4 in the primary election since candidates from only one party filed for the District Seven seat.
Looking to succeed Ian Kempf are fellow Republicans Walter Bargen and Bryan Zender. Kempf is looking to move on to another title at the county level–drain commissioner–and opted to not seek reelection to the county board. District Seven includes the townships of Almont and Imlay, the village of Almont and city of Imlay City.
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Walter Bargen is a resident of Imlay City and works as a Business Development Officer/Government and School District for ChoiceOne Bank.
Bargen said he desires to serve on the county board because he views it as the next step in his progression of public service and giving back to the community, having recently served as Imlay City’s mayor.
“I feel that the next few years are going to be financially critical to America, the State of Michigan and Lapeer County, and each of its municipalities. We as citizens need to do our part in so that we don’t need a larger government,” he said.
Looking ahead, Bargen said it will be crucial for the county commission to be prepared for changes in state revenue sharing and asking what they’re capable of doing to balance the county’s budget.
“Since I have been in the banking field for 42 years, and also served on the Imlay City Commission for total of 14 years, I have seen and been involved in many budgets from ‘mom and pop’ businesses to corporations and municipalities,” he said.
He also believes it’s important for the county to continue budget forecasting. “There are many projects that each department would love to do that can enhance the way that they service citizens. Every department would like to have an enhanced computer system for file servers in the recording and access areas of their department,” he said.
“It’s a need, but where it measures on the scale of affordability is yet to be determined.”
As for experience, Bargen believe he’d bring a lot of it to the job. He served 14 years on the Imlay City Commission, including more than five years as mayor; co-chaired the Imlay City Blueberry Festival for many years and was chairman of the Lapeer County Republican Party. Currently, he’s a member of the Imlay City Rotary Club, Imlay City Chamber of Commerce and serves as president of the Metamora Chamber of Commerce and Lapeer Area Citizens Against Domestic Assault (LACADA).
Coupling all that with his 42 years in banking, Bargen believes he is “very capable of being the County Commissioner for District 7 of Lapeer County.”
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Bryan Zender is a resident of Almont Township who’s owned and operated B&B Classy Cars for 32 years.
He believes his experience as a small-business owner has prepared him for public service “because self-employment forces you to be responsible for the livelihood of your employees and family. It’s years of working late nights, weekends, and holidays because if I don’t, I can’t expect anyone else to,” Zender said.
If elected, Zender said he would focus his efforts as commissioner on keeping taxes low; ensuring emergency services are properly funded and improving communication between departments.
“I think that our economy is already facing significant loss and change because of the COVID pandemic. As a business owner, I can help prioritize budgeting to keep taxes low,” he said.
Zender noted that his daughter works as an Animal Control officer for the county and he believes she’s put into dangerous situations without the proper equipment. “First responders should never have to worry about how they can get the job done because they lack equipment,” he said.
As for improving lines of communication within county government, Zender says, “Government doesn’t always have to be such a slow process with hoops to jump through and unanswered questions. I promise to be the guy always asking questions on your behalf. We can improve and be better.”
As for experience he could bring to the job, Zender points out he’s served on the Almont Township Planning Commission for 13 years, served on the Eastern Michigan State Fair Board for 12 years as a board member and vice president and volunteered his time with Lapeer County 4-H, Lapeer County FFA and the Imlay City Lions Club.
“When I get involved in something, I stick with it. I can do an excellent job and my record is proof of that,” Zender said.