Leelanau County Voters Choose New Commissioner

Voters Recall District 3 Commissioner Will Bunek

Leelanau BallotWith a recall effort on the ballot in Leelanau County, voters decided the fate of one of their county commissioners. Voters in two precincts were given the choice whether to remove the Chair of the County Commission.

It wasn’t a typical November election: County board seats normally change hands at the first of the year.  Clerk Michelle Crocker says that, usually, “We do this in January. So this will be a little different, electing a commissioner or a new chairman with about 7 months to go left in the term. So that will be new.”

Board Chair and District 3 Commissioner Will Bunek was up for recall – he was at the center of some controversy last year, including a proposal to cut the county’s childcare millage rate. Bunek argued the early childhood programs were overfunded – for years into the future. The board voted to save taxpayer dollars by reducing the millage rate, but didn’t cut it completely. Leel Board Ss

Tuesday, with about 55% of vote, Lois Bahle was chosen to replace Bunek. It becomes effective almost immediately.  Crocker says, “We will begin the canvassing process, which is done by two Republicans and two Democrats. And once we certify the election results … yes, then she’ll be considered the county commissioner.”

Crocker adds the board will have work to do at its first meeting with Bahle at the table. “Commissioner Bunek was the chairman. We will be having a special session to choose a new chairman for the Board of Commissioners.”

Will Bunek ChairBahle will take over Bunek’s seat for the remainder of his term – which expires at the end of this year. But she says she was planning to run again in the fall regardless. Bahle is no stranger to Leelanau County, as a lifelong resident who’s been active in the community. “I’ve been involved in committees for a long time, I’ve been the chair of the Housing Action Committee for a while. I started back on that committee back in 2017.”

Bahle says she also sits on the Solid Waste Council and has expressed concerns since 1994 about the need for inspections of septic tanks and drain fields. “It’s time for us to have some sort of inspections with the density of our construction along the waterfront, and the high water issues of the big lake. It certainly should be an issue that we should look at.”Leelanau Community

The vote was exactly a tie in Bingham Township, with 234 votes for each candidate. But add in Suttons Bay Township, and more than 700 absentee voters (480 for Bahle to Bunek’s 290), and that swung the election in favor of Lois Bahle. Crocker says voter turnout was pretty high for a May election. “We appreciate them coming out. It was a pretty good turnout for a May election.  It was just shy of 50%.” She adds, “Leelanau County voters vote. They show up… no different this time.”

Bahle SignThe results also swing the board to a democratic majority for what may be the first time in history. Bahle says, “I’ll be there, and add my voice as things come up… come up with a different, creative idea, and make life better for all of my constituents and all of Leelanau County.”

For the Clerk, the busy election cycle comes to an end. “We’ll get back to business next week. Hopefully this is one distraction we can put behind us and move forward.”

Categories: Election 2022