Clerk challengers line up for county post in primary

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published July 17, 2020

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MACOMB COUNTY — In the upcoming Aug. 4 primary, four Republicans are vying for the opportunity to face current Macomb County Clerk/Register of Deeds Fred Miller in November.

Anthony Forlini, Daniel Joseph Russell, Jackie Ryan and Julie Williams face off in the primary, with the top vote-getter advancing. Miller, a Democrat, was elected for a partial two-year term in November 2018 following the ousting of former Clerk Karen Spranger.

Forlini, of Harrison Township, is a lifelong Macomb County resident and has been a business owner for 35 years. He is a certified financial planner. He served as Harrison Township supervisor from 2004 to 2011. He won multiple terms as state representative of District 24, serving from 2011 to 2016.

From January 2017 to October 2018, Forlini was brought in by Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller to serve as operations manager in the department. Currently, he serves as district director for Congressman Paul Mitchell.

“I’ve run things, and I’ve run them very efficiently,” Forlini said.

He said when he was a state representative, he “saw some things that were not right with clerks across the state” in terms of the “sanctity of the ballot” — which led to successful legislation in which clerks could not display their names inside or outside polling locations.

Forlini said he is running because of election integrity, because people “have to have confidence in elections” and clerks must be above politics.

“I like things done right, and there are people on both sides of the aisle who spoke to me and said, ‘Tony, you’d be great at this,’” he said. “Everything I’ve done had something to do with the integrity of public office of some sort. This is the one position that should transcend politics. It’s the one position that should not be political at all. It should be open, fair, accountable and keeping good record keeping. It needs to be running efficiently.”

His website is www.forlini forus.com. His Facebook page has the same title.

Russell, a Clinton Township resident running for political office for the first time, has been retired for three years after working in international marketing. He conducted business in six different countries and wants to use his knowledge of logistics and experience in international business relations to advance the office.

Compassion is a large part of his message, saying that former Clerk Karen Spranger and former County Prosecutor Eric Smith left office “in disgrace.”

“I said, ‘get involved, make a difference!’ … I want to see what I can do of the existing staff of professionals that have been there for years, and look at the COVID deaths and rates and people who would not have had wills or trusts,” Russell said. “These types of things take time to go through the system, the clerk’s office as well as the deeds’ office. How can we be as compassionate as we can to make a difference?”

A believer “in capitalism and smaller government,” Russell said he is opposed to mail-in ballots but acknowledged that some aspects of government still need to exist — such as up-to-date computerization to monitor residents’ needs and concerns.

Ryan, a former deputy of the office during Spranger’s tenure, has lived in Sterling Heights for over 22 years. She possesses an accounting and business background.

“I’m very, very familiar with the clerk’s office and have been in all the different areas. I helped organize and did the whole renovation move,” Ryan said. “I was basically the go-to person for that. … I’m the most qualified of all the candidates because I’ve done the job and done it well.”

She referred to herself as an educator who wants things to be easy for residents. She is an election inspector in Sterling Heights and has been a precinct chair.

A common-sense approach in running and managing the office involves reliable and trustworthy services, she said, alluding to equipment and technology.

When asked about her removal from the office in March 2018, which occurred following the removal of Spranger, she called it “fake news” and said she had no “hidden agenda.”

“I think we can make Macomb County great just like we can make America great,” Ryan said.

Williams, of Utica, was born and raised in St. Clair Shores and has an associate’s degree in legal assisting. Williams is currently a small business owner who provides mortgage closings to local and national title companies, and offers notary public services to home-bound individuals.

From 1986 to 1994, she worked in the Register of Deeds office, and from 1994 to 1996 in the purchasing department — where she learned about writing bid specifications and contract negotiations. She later served as an election inspector in Macomb Township.

She ran for this same position in the 2016 primary, losing by less than 1% to Spranger. Williams called it a “lifelong dream” to run the office.

“I thought it could be run a little better,” Williams said. “I thought some of the officials at that time neglected to look at what was happening in the real estate market.”

She said that, between the courts, public records and birth and death records, she wants the public to know that “there is a clerk that will have a tight watch on election law.” That includes aiding seniors who “want to be off the grid” but still need to access records, or addressing backlogged records.

“I really believe the workers are very good and the municipal clerks are very good. … Real estate is crucial for our economy, and we need to keep that going.”

Her website is www.williams4clerk.com. She also has a Facebook page, “Julie A. Williams for Macomb County Clerk.”

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