There are two people running in the general election on November 8th to become Antrim County Commissioner in the newly drawn District #2, which includes Torch Lake, Central Lake and Banks townships.
Jarris Rubingh, Republican incumbent, will be challenged by Democrat Raymond Kuiper.
Unfortunately, Kuiper decided not to reply to the voter questionnaire. He wrote me back in July telling me that he did not have the time since he is running unopposed in August. I invited him to fill out the responses for the November election, but never received any reply.
The answers for Rubingh are below. NOTE: I did not edit any of these responses for grammar, accuracy, etc. I cut and pasted exact words from the candidates’ responses.
1. Please tell us about yourself, i.e. your family, work experience, etc.
Jarris Rubingh: I am the fifth generation to live and work on a dairy farm in Banks township. Through the past years my family has been able to provide many of our neighbors with employment. Taking care of the people, land, cattle, and resources we have been blessed with is a wonderful responsibility. My wife and I have been married for almost 13 years and God has blessed us with six children. As a small business owner, I have personally seen how many rules and regulations adversely impact the ability to provide good paying jobs and grow our economy.
2. Are you an official member of either the Democrat or Republican party? If you are not a member, what made you choose to run as a Democrat or Republican?
Jarris Rubingh: My wife and I are both members of the Antrim County Republican Party and we have met many hardworking people at the meetings who desire to make our country and county a better place.
3. Do you agree with cutting county taxes? If so, should the Commissioners have an overall long-term financial plan, or should they take every opportunity possible to help taxpayers pay less? Please explain.
Jarris Rubingh: Yes, taxes should be kept low and government should operate as efficiently and effectively as possible. I helped to pass the first meaningful tax cut for the citizens of Antrim County in over a decade. Inflation is forcing our citizens to do with less, and I believe that government should also become more efficient so we can allow citizens to keep more of their hard earned money. If people can keep more of their money they are more likely to work harder which produces more goods and services for all of our residents. I like good plans, but we can have really good plans that quickly become obsolete, Covid would be a good example. The best plans use taxpayers money more responsibly; the commissioners recently witnessed this when our maintenance director renegotiated an elevator contract with significant savings.
4. What ideas do you have to keep the Administrative Staff accountable? There have been examples of negligence that have cost the taxpayers, such as the housing department fiasco five years ago, and the bank building having no plan for maintenance. Please explain.
Jarris Rubingh: It is always hard to be as responsible with someone else’s money as you are with your own. Encouraging communication and collaboration between staff, commissioners, and taxpayers should be encouraged and practiced frequently.
5. Have you experienced any issues or heard any citizen concerns with the county building department? If so, do you have any ideas to address those concerns?
Jarris Rubingh: Yes, I have. I have also seen the department address concerns. Again, communication and trying to understand the nature of the problem is very helpful.
6. Do you think the County Commissioners should spend time and vote on political resolutions that are not related to county business? Please explain.
Jarris Rubingh: It depends. First, resolutions do matter. Legislators, officials, and citizens do pay attention to resolutions that are passed. For example, a resolution encouraging the federal government to expand the production and refining of oil and gas may not directly relate to county business, however, lower gas prices would have a definite positive impact on all of our department head budgets because all of them drive and pay shipping on items purchased for Antrim county. Most resolutions impact people, some people that we know, and some that we don’t, so they need to be evaluated on a case by case basis.
7. Do you believe that the citizens should be able to vote on a building project? Should the project be funded with fund balance, a millage vote, or bonding our children’s future? Please explain.
Jarris Rubingh: Absolutely, I would like the taxpayers to have a direct vote on large expenditures.
8. Should the county build a new jail? If so, should it be big enough to take in prisoners from other counties? Please explain.
Jarris Rubingh: The jail is old, however, my house is old too. I would like to see the sheriff put together a detailed list of pros and cons regarding a new jail. I am not in favor of holding prisoners from other counties. Inmate expenses are high and even if we get reimbursed for those, hiring and training additional people is hard and not worth the effort and legal issues that go along with it. People who have made mistakes should hear the message of Jesus who came to earth to live a perfect life and die for sinners. Seeing people learning to forgive and love their neighbors is such a blessing to observe.
9. Do you support the Stepping Up Program to reduce jail population? Do you feel that the Sheriff should make this one of his priorities? Please explain.
Jarris Rubingh: I believe that the goal of this program is to keep people who have mental health problems out of jail. If we can use a program like this to help people become job holding, contributing members of our community then I am all for it. I would like to see former prisoners connected with a local pastor and a local church. People need support and encouragement to do the right things, and understanding sin and the price that was paid for it can totally renew a person.
10. The board also approved a work at home plan during the pandemic. Do you have creative ideas to offer more online services for the county residents? How do you think this would impact the need for new county buildings?
Jarris Rubingh: I think the building department is setting a good example in this regard by allowing permits and payments to be made online. I would like to encourage other department heads to offer online services too, but we need a balance, if someone needs to have a document notarized they should be able to walk in and have it done. I think that there are opportunities for more employees to work from home, and if some of them do this it will open up spaces in our existing buildings without the need to build more buildings.
11. The county recently had a consultant report that the primary space needs in the county were for storage. Do you have any ideas to address that? Please consider building inexpensive storage units versus building all new expensive buildings just because we need storage.
Jarris Rubingh: think that a pole barn or a storage unit would be a lot cheaper than a large new county complex. I think that the county has the property to be able to build a secure shed to store items when not in use.
12. Do you have anything else to say about why people should vote for you?
Jarris Rubingh: I have learned a lot about Antrim County government during the past two years. I have made mistakes, and I have said some things that I would like to say differently. I have tried to make Antrim county a better place to live, work, and raise a family. If people vote for me I will continue to apply myself to learn and make the best decisions that I can. The townships and village that I represent know that I make every effort to communicate and collaborate with local governments. I believe that I have attended over 90% of the township meetings in my district.
13. Do you support Randy Bishop’s lawsuit against the county?
Jarris Rubingh: No, I do not support this ridiculous lawsuit. I think our society as a whole is way too quick to pursue litigation. Why would someone sue every elected official in Antrim County? It looks like a publicity stunt, and lawsuits take a lot of time and effort that could be used in other areas to improve things for people.