3 running for Ludington mayor: Castonia, Holman, Stibitz-Rozell.

November 4, 2016

mayor_castonia_holman_stibitz-rozell3 running for Ludington mayor: Castonia, Holman, Stibitz-Rozell.

#MasonCountyElection

Ludington city council and mayoral election stories are brought to you by Ludington Yacht Sales, www.ludingtonyachtsales.com, 888- 231-1698.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — Three people are running for the seat of mayor, left vacant by Ryan Cox who resigned last spring due to a change of residency. The winner will serve the remainder of the current four-year term which ends Dec. 31, 2018.

Gary Castonia, 68, has lived in the city for 47 years and has lived in Mason County his entire life, growing up in Pere Marquette Township.

He is a 1966 graduate of Ludington High School and served three years in the U.S. Army, including a one-year tour in Vietnam from August 1967 to August 1968. After being honorably discharged from the Army, he returned home and was hired by the Ludington Police Department, where he worked until retiring in December 1994. He attended West Shore Community College and served three years in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves. Following his retirement from LPD, he worked as a driver for Ludington Mass Transit Authority for 18 years.

Gary and his wife, Karolyn (Kay) have been married for 46 years. They have two sons, Mark (Trisha) and Timothy (Brooke), five grandchildren, and one great-grandson.

Gary now works as a sports commentator for WMOM radio, covering Ludington High School basketball and football. He is a member of the Mason County Sports Hall of Fame board of directors and helps his wife at her daycare, KK’s Day Care. He is also a member of the American Legion.

Prior to being elected Sixth Ward Councilor in 2006, Gary served on the city planning commission. On the city council, he serves as chairman of the public utilities and safety committee, and serves on the finance committee. He has also served on the Downtown Ludington (downtown development authority) board. He has represented the city as a member of the West Shore Regional Development Committee and the Michigan Works Board as an elected official.

“I feel I should be the next mayor because I have the time to devote to the job, and it is a job,” Ferguson said. “I didn’t put out signs because I don’t feel I needed to. My wife says I’m cheap, I think I’m frugal, just like I would be with the city’s finances.  There is no “I” in team and I’m a team player.”

Castonia’s term as city councilor expires Dec. 31, 2018. If he were not to win the mayor seat, he will continue to serve on the council

Kaye Holman, 75, was born and raised in Ludington. She is a 1958 graduate of Ludington High School and attended Alma College in Grand Rapids. After college, she returned to Ludington, got married, and raised three children, she said.

Holman is currently serving her third four year term as councilor-at-large, which expires in December; term limits only allow a person to serve three terms consecutively. Holman has served and serves on several committees including planning commission from 1999 to 2013 (four years as vice chair), zoning board of appeals, Council on Aging, Waterfront Park sculpture committee, West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission, city marina board, American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life for eight years (five years as chair). She has also volunteered for the Ludington New Year’s Eve ball drop, Friday Night Live, and Movies in the Park.

As mayor pro-tem, a position that is served simultaneously as a councilor, Holman is the current acting mayor of the city in absence of an elected mayor. 

Cheri Stibitz-Rozell, 37, was also born and raised in Ludington. She is a 1997 graduate of Ludington High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, with an emphasis in social studies and language arts,  from Hope College.

I have participated in many Ludington/Scottville chamber events including the Mason County Central Education Foundation community auction, and small business professional sessions.  I was a volunteer planner for the annual Scottville Harvest Festival helping with staffing at the entertainment tent, organizing and aiding in parade set up, and chair and mistress of ceremony for the Harvest Festival Queen Coordination.”

Stibitz-Rozell has been married to her husband, Jeffrey, for 1.5 years.

“At Hope I was very involved in the college community working with the freshman orientation team as the assistant director, and the assistant director of Dance Marathon, a 24 hour dance marathon sponsored by the Student Activities Council where I was also  a member helping my school raise over 13,000 for Helen Devos Children’s Hospital through the Children’s Miracle Network.  I was selected out of my graduating class of over 3,000 students to be the 2001 Nykerk Song Coach, as well as the mistress of ceremonies and planner of my senior banquet. I was the principle clarinetist in the Hope College Wind symphony, and also symphony orchestra and had the honor of playing on state at Devos Hall in Grand Rapids. 

“After College I held my first teaching job as a long term substitute for a semester at Ludington High School teaching the art of public speaking.  After substitute teaching for many years, working at House of Flavors, and Sportsmans Bar, I had the honor of teaching full time in Scottville where I have been teaching there for going on 10 years.  I currently teach  third grade at Mason County Central’s Upper Elementary and coach competitive cheerleading (I started the program going on seven years ago) and girls soccer at the varsity level.

“Although I have no experience with municipal government I believe that the mayor is a great place to start.  It is a non partisan, non voting (unless there is a tie) position that encourages participation, professionalism, and faith in the success of our city.  I am a quick motivated learner that can and will work for my city in any way that I can.”

MCP: Why do you want to be mayor? 

Castonia: The City Council needs good leadership and I feel I can provide that.  I am retired and able to devote my time to the city.  Would be able to attend meetings and obligations the city needs the mayor to attend.

Holman: My wish to be mayor stems from the fact that our city charter limits an elected council member to three four year terms, which means I’m termed out this year, and I want to remain involved. I’ve got 13 years experience to share with the city and its residents; I know how the city works.

Stibitz-Rozell: My grandfather, Ralph Christensen was an active member of the city of Ludington Department of Public Works, and also superintendent of the waste water treatment plant in the ’70s. My family has also been involved in working, volunteering, and advocating for the city of Ludington for many years.  My uncle, aunt, and grandfather all played important parts in molding the city in what it is today.  I want to be mayor so that I can give back to my community the way my family has in years past.  We hold a sense of pride living in this community and I want to continue to support it for years to come.  The mayor is a very important position and I believe that I would be a great asset to the city of Ludington. I will bring outstanding professionalism, kindness, and wiliness to provide opportunity and assistance to residence that live here.  I have excellent communication skills and will put forth a grand effort in making this community something we can proud of.  A lot of great things are happening for the city of Ludington and I want to lead our community to continue its greatness by building on traditions to create a better future of Ludington. Our Ludington. 

MCP: What is your vision for Ludington?   

Castonia: I see the city growing with the improvement of South James Street and the “bowling alley” block (area between Ludington, Rath, Loomis, and Robert streets).  Also our beautiful beach.  I would love to see the city become more of a destination point for new residents and vacationers.

Holman: My vision for Ludington is to add more jobs and residences for young people to help them remain in Ludington. I also feel we have to address the homeless problem in town and the lack of mid-paying jobs. We are an aging community and we must take care of that generation also.

Stibitz-Rozell: Ludington is an intricate community that thrives on tourism, and a grand sense of community pride.  When I tell people that I’m from Ludington I can hold my head high and tell them the many things Ludington has to offer.  My vision for Ludington is to embrace the tourism, keep with times, and continue to implement ideas and organizations that support community pride.  I believe Ludington is an excellent community to raise a family, grow old, and be a forever home for many.  I want to keep with traditions to build a better future for our city. 

MCP: What are the top three major obstacles the city faces? 

Castonia: Pere Marquette lagoon, roads, and getting younger people involved in the community and committees.

Holman: I believe the major obstacle in Ludington is money. Revenues are down. Lack of revenue sharing is a constant problem. Our infrastructure is aging and we must develop both our waste water treatment plant and our water plant. All of this is very expensive.

Stibitz-Rozell: I think the major issues are noninvolvement, communication, and housing and space.

MCP As mayor, how would you plan on addressing these obstacles?

Castonia:

PM lagoon: Getting all the taxpayers surrounding the lagoon area and chipping in to get it treated and not expecting the city to foot the bill.

Roads: That’s a hard one. It takes money and our money we get from the state is getting less each year in gas tax money which hurts us.  We can only do the  worst of the worst roads.  We get some done with other sewer and water projects, but not enough.

Younger people: I think it starts with high school and the kids being involved there and wanting to stay involved.  Maybe having the mayor and councilors talking to classes on the importance of staying involved.

Holman: Ludington is a city manager form of government, and as such the mayor does not have a vote, except in the case of a tie vote. But, the mayor does have input on all questions. The mayor has leadership. Unlike councilors, who are limited to two or three committees, the mayor may attend all committee meetings. My plan as mayor is to do exactly that. I intend to be a sounding/suggestion person with all city meetings.

Stibitz-Rozell:

  1. Noninvolvement. Citizens need to step up and take an active role in helping city council, and others make important decisions for the city.  Ludington especially needs more people to step up from my generation because people in our age group will be looked to, to be leaders in the near future.  I believe that we could fix this by making people feel more comfortable and confident in attending city meetings, communicating more with the public, and encourage more participation across the board. 
  2. Communication.  I believe some people often feel that they are left in the dark.  We as a city need to resort to other types of media besides the newspaper especially for those that do not get the newspaper delivered.   There are so many ways to get information now and we need to educate our citizens on how to gather information on issues, and go through the right channels if they have an opinion or a thought on an issue at hand.  We as a city need to make it easy for people to get information passed to them.  When people feel uninformed they tend to “guess” what is going on and that can cause issues.  Being straight forward and to the point on the issues that the city is facing will change that. 
  3. Housing and space.  I am always reading ads and posts regarding looking for a place to live that is reasonably affordable, close to working environments, and convenient for the renter.  I think this is a problem most cities face as there will always be people that can’t afford a place to live within their needs.  I believe that the city needs to look deeper into finding the “just right” space for a housing development that will address the needs of people looking whether it be low income, three to four bedrooms, location, or other needs the renter might have.  More research and investigating will be key in solving this issue. 

MCP: What are the top three major assets of the city?

Castonia: I think our beaches and parks (sculptures) has to be at the top,  our dedicated works for the city are the best, and our top notch marinas.

Holman: The major assets of Ludington include the beach all the way to the best state park in the state, the friendliness of its people, a vibrant downtown, and citizens who take pride in this beautiful city.

Stibitz-Rozell:

  1. The water treatment plant, the waste water treatment plant and all the organizations that actually make our city run and function so people can live here.  The city is  in the process of revamping the water treatment plant so it can catch up to meet the demands and needs of the city. They have put a lot of work into researching possible situations and making sure they are cost effective but also efficient for years to come to meet our needs. 
  2. Our city focuses on tourism.  Without spring, summer, winter, and fall tourism downtown business, and its surrounding areas would not flourish, would not be able to stay open, etc.  The beach, downtown area, and the carferry bring a lot of guests to our city and without them most natives would not be able to survive.  People come from all over the world to see our beach and the beauty that surrounds it.  It brings a lot of people both native to Ludington and tourists alike. 
  3. The city also is privy to available resources that most like to enjoy.  Our city has several beautiful marinas that not only provide jobs for our community but also recreation, and a since of pride for those that use them.  The fishing industry brings a lot of people to our downtown and surrounding marinas and people find the marinas to be another place to gather, enjoy, and call home.  Thousands of people utilize these marinas for not only work, but entertainment, and recreation. Our marinas have proven to be some of the busiest and best in the state of Michigan.

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