Longtime politician seeks election in District 7

October 21 – TRAVERSE CITY – A Democratic candidate for District 7 in Grand Traverse County faces a high-profile candidate.

TJ Andrews takes on State Senator Wayne A. Schmidt, R-Traverse City, for the district that includes Peninsula Township and part of Traverse City.

Schmidt served as state representative from 2009 to 2014 and is now in his second term in the Senate, which means he is time-limited. He also served as County Commissioner for 10 years.

District 7 is currently represented by Board Chairman Rob Hentschel, who is now running for office in District 5 where he bought a house.

Andrews says she is engaged and invested in the community. As a lawyer, she regularly deals with complex disputes that she has helped to resolve for more than 20 years. It’s a process of sitting down, determining both sides of an issue and finding a way forward, she said.

“This ties directly to what our county commission is facing – an evolving set of challenges that we are tasked with considering, thoroughly assessing, developing a plan and implementing,” Andrews said.

Schmidt says his experience includes serving in the majority and the minority party in a legislative body, serving under governors of both parties and working across the aisle.

“I’ve worked with various stakeholders, both as a county commissioner and a state legislator,” Schmidt said. “Relationships and experience are key to governing successfully.”

Regarding mental health services in the county, Andrews said she was not convinced it was the best idea to leave the six-county Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Authority, a move that would disband the authority. . It’s a decision she doesn’t think was well thought out before being made by the county council in May.

“They made the decision – then looked at it,” Andrews said, adding that mental health services are essential in the region.

The council has since decided to rewrite an enabling agreement that established Northern Lakes about 20 years ago. Leaders from the six counties meet regularly to discuss how services can be improved.

Andrews said she was glad the commissioners are now taking a step back, which may have been caused by a public outcry against the move, particularly from those concerned that services could be disrupted.

Schmidt is not in favor of the county leaving Northern Lakes and said it was unfortunate he had to come to this vote to make the necessary changes.

“The answer is to rewrite the service agreement and put in place a more updated form of mental health services,” he said.

As a state legislator, Schmidt worked to secure $3.5 million in funding that will be used by Munson Healthcare and Northern Lakes to bring a small crisis center to downtown Traverse City. . The center is seen as a first step towards a larger facility that would serve as a diversion center with short-term residential beds for children and adults.

As commissioner, Schmidt said he would use his connections to bring in more funding for these types of services. “Going out alone probably wouldn’t be the right decision since we have so many partnerships with Northern Lakes,” he said.

Andrews said when it comes to affordable housing, Grand Traverse County should look at what its neighbors are doing. “We don’t need to invent new wheels here.”

Leelanau County is part of the non-profit organization Housing North which focuses on addressing issues related to zoning laws, development finance and public-private partnerships. She said she believed GTC should also join Housing North.

Andrews said the county needs a strategic plan that specifically addresses housing. It also needs a planning department – ​​as opposed to a planning commission – because there is no internal infrastructure in place to push the goals forward, she said.

There should also be a county housing commission, in addition to the Traverse City housing commission, which could provide grants and leverage state and federal funding, Andrews said.

Andrews participated in a housing task force following the 2008 Great Vision which identified housing as a public need. The task force was dropped as board policy changed, she said.

“We haven’t seen any demonstrated willingness from the county commission to get this back,” Andrews said.

Schmidt said he thinks the county should expand use of the Land Bank and the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority. He is also expected to add a portion of the $18 million American Rescue Plan Act funds to a home rehabilitation fund available to the county and rename it the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to be used for housing development. and site acquisition.

Finally, he says, he thinks the county should create a community development director position to work on housing issues.

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