Council, commission, board seats up for grabs

By J. PATRICK PEPPER
Times-Herald Newspapers

In addition to a broad slate of legislative races at the state and federal levels, area voters Tuesday will have some decisions to make on their representation at the county and local levels.

Dearborn and Dearborn Heights residents on Nov. 2 will be tasked with electing a Wayne County Commissioner, as well as picking a candidate in a local race. In Dearborn, the local race is for a seat on the Dearborn Public Schools Board of Trustees, while Heights voters will pick a new City Council member.

Running for 13th District Wayne County Commissioner is incumbent Gary Woronchak (D-Dearborn) and his GOP challenger, J. Scott Saionz of Dearborn. The district they seek to represent includes Dearborn, as well as Allen Park and Melvindale. The part-time position comes with a two-year term and a base salary of about $69,000.

For the past dozen years Woronchak has been the consummate politician, running for office six times – three for 15th District state representative and three as a commissioner – and winning every time. Depending on who’s asked, his politics are either in the middle or undefined, as illustrated by his switch in 2006 from the Republican to the Democratic party. Re-election would mean a fourth term on the commission for the former newspaper journalist.

Saionz is running for what would be his first elective public office should he win. In 2008 he made an unsuccessful bid to unseat state Rep. Gino Polidori (D-Dearborn). Saionz is an engineer who holds positions in a number of local civic and business organizations, including a board seat on the East Dearborn Downtown Development Authority. Ideologically, he is a dyed-in-the-cloth conservative, and on the campaign trail frequently has attacked Woronchak as a flip-flopper for his 2006 party switch.

Dearborn Heights voters have two choices for 9th District County Commissioner. Incumbent Diane Webb (D-Garden City) is looking to win a second term, while her Republican challenger, Mark Cochran, is entering politics for the first time. Webb, a former City Council member in her hometown, touts as one of her best attributes her availability to constituents and has been a fixture at community events and municipal government meetings in her district.

Redford Township native Cochran said he decided to run because of the dearth of jobs in the area, and what he described as a need to break up the “echo chamber” of the commission, which features 14 Democrats and only one Republican. Employed as a service representative for an industrial repair company, Cochran is a precinct delegate in his city.

On the local level, Heights voters also will pick a new councilperson with the departure of interim council member Roy Pilot – who decided not to run – leaving an open seat on the seven-member body.

The candidates in this race should be familiar to residents, as both Ned Apigian and Kathleen Abdel-Hak have run, albeit unsuccessfully, in previous council elections. If August’s primary election offers any indication of how the balloting will go, it should be close. Of the more than 5,500 primary ballots cast, only 40 votes separated top vote-getter Apigian, at 1,868, and Abdel-Hak, who finished with 1,828, which was just one vote more than the contest’s loser, Robert Yahrmatter.

The other local election features incumbent DPS board member James Schoolmaster and his would-be usurper, Roxanne McDonald. For Schoolmaster, an attorney, winning would mean a fourth four-year term on the seven-member board. McDonald, an active member of the district’s Parent Teacher Student Association, is looking to win her first term on the board after previous unsuccessful attempts.