Clinton Township Board of Trustees share thoughts on new member Kress

By: Dean Vaglia | Fraser-Clinton Chronicle | Published March 18, 2024

 Dan Kress, a newly elected Clinton Township trustee, watches the March 4 Board of Trustees meeting at the Clinton Township Civic Center. Kress was elected on Feb. 27, but county officials had not finished certifying the election.

Dan Kress, a newly elected Clinton Township trustee, watches the March 4 Board of Trustees meeting at the Clinton Township Civic Center. Kress was elected on Feb. 27, but county officials had not finished certifying the election.

Photo by Dean Vaglia


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Republican Dan Kress won the Feb. 27 election for the open Clinton Township Board of Trustees seat for a partial term which will be up for election again this August.

Kress won with a 51.9% majority and 9,906 votes, besting Democratic candidate Iona Means’ 8,267 votes and Libertarian candidate Mike Saliba’s 913 votes. Kress’ term lasts until Nov. 20, meaning he will have to run again in order to serve a full term on the board.

The trustee seat Kress won was originally held by Democrat Joie West, whose resignation in August 2023 kicked off a six-month political battle. Board Democrats were able to pass a rules amendment outlining the process to appoint a replacement board member, but a failure to reach a quorum among the remaining trustees before the appointment deadline left it to be decided by special election. Candidates in the election were selected by local political parties.

The election of Kress now leaves the board with three Republicans and four Democrats, though Democratic trustee Tammy Patton has voted along with board Republicans on items that were otherwise party-line votes. Assuming this trend holds, board Republicans will be the controlling faction through the summer of 2024.

In the weeks following Feb. 27, trustees have shared their thoughts about the election, their prior knowledge of Kress and how they imagine the board will look with him on it. Kress and Democratic trustee Mike Keys were unable to be reached prior to press time.

Kress was unknown to just about every member of the board — including to fellow Republicans.

“I never met him or seen (him) until such time as the local Republican Party made him our candidate,” said Bob Cannon, township supervisor. “We had no choice in the matter.”

Not only did the board’s two Republicans not have a choice in who the party selected, Kress was not their first choice among the original applicants.

“There were 16 applicants prior, and one of those applicants was Vicki Wolber, who was a really good candidate we were looking at,” said Kim Meltzer, township clerk. “We really were hopeful she would run for that position. She was willing to go to it but the GOP did not pick her. … We were not necessarily looking for anyone that had a political persuasion; we were looking for somebody that had a proven record of service, and Vicki Wolber was emergency manager at COMTEC and developed that whole program at the county level. We saw her as a huge value to the township and we were hopeful that the Republican Party would bring her forward.”

Trustees became more familiar with Kress as the campaign season went on.

“He was pretty good once he filed to run for the seat,” said Paul Gieleghem, a Democrat and the Clinton Township treasurer. “He showed up to a lot of different events and was good to see.”

Initial reactions to Kress’ win were similar among the trustees — everyone accepted the win. Gieleghem and Meltzer noted the margin of victory over Means and Saliba, Meltzer musing about how it could reflect turnout in the November general election. Gieleghem was not surprised with the Republican win given the party’s voters had a contested primary.

“Quite frankly, it’s up to the voters,” Gieleghem said. “They determine who they’re going to send here, so it depends on which ones show up and it appears that their supporters showed up in much greater numbers than the other side.”

For Patton, the end of election season meant a new page for the board.

“My initial reaction to him winning was, I’m glad the elections are over, that we can move on as a board, that our trustees can be cohesive and we can move on as a board,” Patton said.

Trustees are hopeful Kress will be a beneficial addition to the board that puts the needs of the public ahead of partisan aims.

“I hope our priorities, everybody’s priorities, is the community,” Patton said. “I am not a party person, I am a people person, and that’s what you have to do first. Clinton Township is a very diverse township — especially in terms of Republicans, Democrats, things like that — and on that board if someone calls me or needs me, I don’t stop and go, ‘Hey, what’s your party first?’ I just do my job. It’s people over politics … It should benefit the people of the community.”

Meltzer believes Kress has a shot at reelection this fall, though serving in a nonpartisan manner will greatly increase those chances.

“I think he gets reelected if he does the will of the people and not the will of the party,” Meltzer said. “If he’s not political, I think if he wants to run again — which I believe he does — for the position in August, I think he will come out a winner.”

According to Meltzer, Kress had not filed for the election as of March 18. The filing deadline for the August election is April 23.

A nonpartisan approach may be more natural than it seems. Julie Matuzak, a Democratic trustee, believes squabbles between the board’s factions reflect the priorities of local media rather than trustees.

“I think you all in the media make far more of a Republican-Democratic split,” Matuzak said. “We split sometimes on a worldview, but at the local level, I really don’t think party plays much of a factor in what we do. I really don’t. I always hear about the split and we’re doing this and we’re doing that. I don’t get it. I don’t think it’s true.”

However Kress’ partial term plays out, Clinton Township residents should get their first look at him as a trustee by press time. His first meeting is expected to take place on Monday, March 18.