Incumbent Johnson faces challenge by Rotta in Ludington’s 3rd Ward.

November 1, 2016

rotta_johnsonIncumbent Johnson faces challenge by Rotta in Ludington’s 3rd Ward. 


Ludington city council and mayoral election stories are brought to you by Ludington Yacht Sales, www.ludingtonyachtsales.com888- 231-1698.

There are three seats being challenged on Nov. 8: Mayor, councilor-at-large, and the Third Ward. The Third Ward covers an area from Haight Street west to Lakeshore Drive, east to Rowe Street (between Danaher and Melendy streets, the area extends east to Delia Street), then south to the Buttersville Peninsula (Crosswinds Condominiums). See map below. 

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — Incumbent Les Johnson is being challenged by Tom Rotta for the third ward councilor position, a four year term.

Johnson is 64-years-old and has lived in the city for 15 years, but has lived in Mason County his entire life. He is a 1970 graduate of Ludington High School and attended West Shore Community College, studying business courses. He has worked in sales for Ludington Beverage Company and Gordon Food Service. He also has worked in real estate and then operated his own business, A.J.’s Party Port, until he retired three years ago.

“My wife taught for Baldwin Schools for 40-plus years and retired last year,” he said. “We raised our twin boys in Ludington and we currently have six grandchildren who are the light of our lives.”

In addition to serving on city council, Johnson serves on the downtown development committee. He also served on the city’s board of review, has been on the Mason County Fair Board, and has been involved with the Mason County Sports Hall of Fame, Ludington Pickle Ball, has been an elementary sports booster, youth league coach, and was a registered high school sports official for almost 20 years.

“My experience is 2.5 years. I feel I have a pretty good understanding of what’s going on in the city. I feel I am still learning but I am excited about the fact that I continue to learn something new every day. At times it can be frustrating too because you feel like you’re doing a good job and you’re doing what you think is best for the city and you get blasted for voting a certain way. I do want people to know that I am more than willing to talk about any issues and listen to others’ views.”

Rotta is 52-years-old and has lived in Mason County most of his life, growing up in Victory Township and Scottville. He has lived in Ludington in 1994. He is a 1982 graduate of Mason County Central High School and has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University, along with a master’s degree in mathematics from Michigan State University.

He describes himself as a manager for “very low rent housing.” He has operated an ad-free website called The Ludington Torch since 2009, which he says is how he volunteers his time and resources to the community.

“I continue volunteering my time and limited resources to those in need on an individual, case-by-case basis.  In my fight against corruption, I have successfully sued the City of Ludington for violating the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act, yet have seen them violate these acts on many other occasions, not learning their lesson on transparency and accountability. I hope to make these two government ideals more real in Ludington, a city suffering from the serious lack of them for so long.”

Rotta was a member of the Ludington Fire Department for eight years and “resigned when it became clear I could not discuss or fight the corruption I noticed within the city government as a firefighter.  Since that point I have started up a website that covers and investigates local issues. I have a better attendance rate at city council meetings than any councilor since 2012, and usually spend five minutes commenting on public policy or officials not following their duties or the city charter.”

MCP asked each candidate the following questions:

MCP: Why do you want to be on city council?

Johnson: I got interested in city government when my wife and I bought a business in town on South James Street. I wanted to give back to the community and learn more about how the city operates. I also had an uncle who was mayor and my father, uncle, and grandfather worked for the city so I did have some knowledge of the City.

Rotta: Four basic reasons:

1. City hall officers and current council is made up of progressives and ‘team players’ following those paths, yet our area is very conservative; witness that all county commissioners are Republican, their races are decided in the primary.  In 2012, while Obama carried Michigan by 10%, he lost in Mason County by 5%. I offer a conservative/libertarian philosophy of trying to preserve the civil and property rights of everybody, by keeping taxes low and government small.  Most people in Ludington and Mason County agree.

2. City hall has undeniably been doing many things corruptly, unaccountably, or non-transparently.  I hope to more closely investigate those problems and ultimately fix them as a councilor, to restore the citizen’s faith in their city hall by getting to the bottom of the problem.

3. I hope to refocus city hall’s commitments to the basics, and use resources to properly maintain the public infrastructure and city services.  Too much time of officials and money of taxpayers is going into special events, special projects, progressive folly, and appeasement of favored private groups and individuals.

4. The environment has been despoiled by the city, mostly because of neglected infrastructure over time, and the city refuses to acknowledge or help correct their ongoing ecological damage. For the public health and safety, I will insist on mitigating them appropriately and quickly.

MCP: What is your vision for Ludington?

Johnson:   I would like to see more jobs created to keep our young people in our area. We have so much talent that comes out of here but we don’t have the jobs to keep them here. Ludington is a beautiful place to live and raise a family. It is also very attractive for drawing tourists and I would like to see this continue but the job situation is a huge issue.

Rotta: My vision statement would be that “Ludington will nurture independent but interconnected individuals who will create a flourishing economy and efficient, accountable self-government, who shall all maintain a safe, pristine environment, where all people understand and exercise their rights while respecting the rights of others and have equitable opportunities for success, healthiness, and happiness”.

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

Johnson: Revenue; city streets; development of waste treatment plant, water treatment plant, and new fire station.


1. The city has an affordable rental housing crisis, which has been exacerbated by city hall with the rental inspection ordinance (RIO), which has eliminated many of the most affordable rental properties, and tacked on large rental increases to others. Subsidized apartments in the downtown will only hurt the market further if they come.

2. The city has had for years an ethics crisis at the top, City Manager John Shay has a long history of doing unethical and unlawful activities.  I listed ten specific instances at a council meeting, I could easily double that.  Since then, his criminal action of bypass-pumping raw sewage into the PM Lake without any authority in 2012 has came to light.

3. Complicity among city government, selected business leaders, and the local media to support and pass legislation and promote ideas which do not reflect what the majority of the public want or agree with.  There seems to be little diversity of thought among our councilors, who appear at times to suppress alternative viewpoints.  They all are proud to claim themselves team players,but their team does not appear to include their constituents, only their fellow officials.

MCP: As city councilor, how would you plan on addressing these obstacles?

Johnson: We need to address our revenue situation because of the special projects that are coming before the council. Groups are willing to raise the money for these projects but then turn them over to the city to take care of. Right now it’s money we don’t have. It has been an on going problem for a while so it is something as a council we need to discuss and come up with some ideas on what we may be able to do.

Once the increase on the gas tax goes into effect we should start receiving more money from the state so we can start repairing our streets. They are long overdue but there has been no money for them. If the state doesn’t come through it comes back to what can we do as a council to raise our revenue.

We have started on our projects for waste water plant and water plant and should be starting soon on a new fire station. The next three years will be very challenging for us. We need to make sure that everything goes according to plans and our services will not be disrupted while these projects are under construction. I feel very confident that our city manager, John Shay, and all of our department superintendents who are involved are more than capable of making this happen.


1. I will work to repeal the RIO, and relax restrictions on transient rentals.  Rather than totally ignore the landlords and landlord groups as happened in the construction of the RIO, I would seek advisement of these small businesses in developing a solution to the affordable housing problem.

2. I will work on the removal of John Shay and the equally crooked City Attorney Richard Wilson. This is unlikely to be achieved with the current councilors marching in lockstep with him, so beginning on day one, using the powers of my office, I will be conducting official investigations into past alleged criminal actions by both and make the case clear to the people and eventually my peers.

3. I will offer a different perspective when needed, cognizant of the people that will be affected most by the changes envisioned.  Admittedly, I will be on the losing side of many 6-1 votes, but at least another side will get representation and a voice when I do.  Hopefully, I can convince enough of my colleagues to vote with me when I lay out my case, for I will always try to work for the often overlooked constituents of the city.

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

Johnson: We have two beautiful marinas in the city. We have a beautiful beach and several parks in the city that are used not only by our local residents but by many tourists as well.

The new development that will be going up will be providing much needed housing in the downtown area.


1. Stearns Park/Lake Michigan shoreline – Who could argue this is one of the top assets?  Current city leadership, who have an eight phase plan to radically alter the natural splendor.  Any significant changes to this park should be voted on by the people of Ludington as the city charter states, not by city councilors.

2. The SS Badger/marinas – whether it’s pleasure boating, charter fishing, or just crossing the lake on a coal-fired ship, the city offers boats and waterways for all occasions to be enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

3. The people. The locals have small town sensibilities and conservative, family-oriented values.


Eats & Drinks

Eats & Drinks

Area Churches