Democrats sweep Clinton Township trustees race, increase board majority

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published November 9, 2020

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — It was a Democratic sweep for trustee positions on the Clinton Township Board of Trustees.

Four candidates — incumbents Mike Keys and Jenifer “Joie” West, and newcomers Laura Cardamone and Tammy Patton — will serve the next four years.

They will join successful incumbents Supervisor Bob Cannon, Clerk Kim Meltzer and Treasurer Paul Gieleghem. Cannon and Meltzer are Republicans; Gieleghem is a Democrat. The board will go from a 4-3 Democratic majority to a 5-2 majority.

Republican trustee candidates Mike Aiello, incumbent Joe Aragona, Phil Rode and Kenneth Tardie fell short.

Keys was the top vote getter in the trustee race, with 26,310 votes (13.3%). He was followed by Cardamone (25,892 votes, 13.1%), Patton (25,613 votes, 13%) and West (25,333 votes, 12.8%).

Aiello was next with 25,078 votes (12.7%), followed by Aragona (24,972 votes, 12.7%), Rode (22,968 votes, 11.6%) and Tardie (21,229 votes, 10.8%).

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Keys said he was forced to campaign in an unorthodox way.

“Instead of going door to door, it was a lot of phone calls and deliveries of essential equipment. … It was a little harder to campaign, but we had to be creative,” he said.

Residents he spoke with cited the coronavirus as an ongoing concern, as well as a narrower focus on economic development and a more far-reaching ethics policy that includes outright gift and solicitation bans.

He said campaign mailers from outside groups “really highlighted the need” for policy change.

“Talking to residents, I think there was that shift to have a more account, transparent government … a board that will have that focus on economic development and equitable throughout, where we won’t just be focused on that Partridge Creek, Hall Road corridor and keep a focus on the Gratiot and Groesbeck corridors, getting that shot in the arm to compete,” Keys said.

Cardamone is a member of the Chippewa Valley Schools Board of Education. She said her experience in that capacity, especially dealing with the duty of making decisions for families regarding COVID-19 and education, will help translate to her duties on the Board of Trustees.

She said the virus “has to be at the top of everyone’s agenda.” Other efforts she wants to focus on include infrastructure improvements, particularly on the township’s south end; road conditions; and improvements to walkability.

The Democratic leanings of the board shouldn’t interfere with the larger goals at hand, she added.

“Elections used to be a lot more predictable than they are now, even going back to four years ago. … I just feel really grateful to be given the opportunity to be part of the success of the township,” Cardamone said.

Patton becomes the first Black woman to serve on the Township Board of Trustees. Part of the reason she ran was based on diversity and the board reflecting the township’s changing population.

“I feel phenomenal, I feel like this is such an accomplishment,” Patton said. “I feel great knowing so many people supported me and elected me. I feel I definitely broke barriers, and it’s something for my daughters to see the first African-American woman on this board. … I think this was a year for women, especially with the 100-year amendment for women to vote. It was just our time.”

Moving forward, she hopes the board can work together and achieve success no matter the partisanship. Her major issues include transparency and access, as well as inclusion.

“We need diversity in terms of race, religion, disabilities — people should feel included,” she said. “They live here and have a voice.”

West, who was first elected in 2004, will enter her fifth term as trustee. She “most definitely” believes there is an advantage to the number of Democrats on the board, as well as the number of women.

“I think the people know who I am and they didn’t listen to the hit pieces that were out there,” West said. “It will be a very good board. The four Democrats I think will be a treat and work together on things. We want to move Clinton Township forward.

“I think what we can do is agree on a lot of things — the roads, the budget, etc. I think we’re still going to have a marijuana issue. I think it’s going to come up again and we’ll see what we have to do.”