More than a dozen candidates running for St. Clair Shores City Council

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published April 26, 2021

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Thirteen residents have thrown their hat into the ring to be considered for one of three spots on City Council up for grabs in November.

Although there have been primary elections for City Council races in the past, City Clerk Mary Kotowski said there is a lot of interest in the election this year.

“I don’t remember, in my 22 years, having this many candidates,” she said.

A primary election is triggered for the City Council election if more than double the amount of candidates to be elected file to run. The top six vote getters from the Aug. 3 primary election will move onto the November general election, when the top three candidates will be elected to serve a four-year term on City Council.

Filing to run for City Council are: Nathaniel Bean, John Caron, Joseph Fuga, Mark Fuga, Nicholas Handy, Dustin Hoffman, Justin Maniaci, Jennifer Oresti, David Rubello, Candice Rusie, Michael Smiatacz Jr., Lawanda Turner and Angela Washington.

Bean, 33, has lived in St. Clair Shores since 2016. The mortgage loan officer with TCF Bank said he’d like to see City Council members increase their engagement with residents, “really, really interacting with people, especially more my generation, on social media.” Bean said he’d also like to help keep spending under control, increase transparency, and support the police and fire departments and small businesses in the community.

Caron, a quality engineering manager at General Motors, has lived all of his 50 years in St. Clair Shores. He was first appointed to City Council in 2011 and said there is still work to be done improving infrastructure and facilities.

“I love being a part of all the great changes we’ve been able to make over the last 10 years and want to continue doing it,” he said.

Joseph Fuga, 35, moved to St. Clair Shores three years ago, but his wife grew up in the city. He works in development and property management with Rondo Investment LLC, and it was that work that sparked his interest in running for City Council.

“Right now, we have on Greater Mack, the old Harper Sports which we’re currently in the middle of renovating now,” he said, explaining that they have found it difficult to get the occupants they have found for the building to be able to locate there. “It was such a fight to bring business to a building that’s been vacant.

“That’s what inspired us.”

Fuga’s father, Mark Fuga, is also running for City Council, as is Washington, who is related to the Fugas and also works at Rondo Investment LLC.

“I think the City Council needs some diversity right now. Everybody seems to be focusing on the same thing,” Mark Fuga, 60, said. “We’re both focused on the commercial end of it and getting development going and enhancing the city.”

Mark Fuga moved to the city three years ago, as well. He said he wants to focus on the Nautical Mile and the Greater Mack corridor.

Likewise, Washington, 32, moved to the city in 2018. She handles the finances for Rondo Investment LLC and said with two young sons, she takes advantage of a lot of the recreational opportunities the city has to offer.

“It’s a great family town, and with me being in finances, I know that handling the fiscal responsibility, the budgeting, being on City Council interested me,” she said.

Handy, a 38-year-old bar manager at the Country Club of Detroit in Grosse Pointe Farms, moved to St. Clair Shores in 2009. He said he’s always been interested in local politics.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. I definitely think we need more business, we need less empty buildings, we need to fix the city roads,” he said.

Hoffman, 40, was born and raised in St. Clair Shores with the exception of a period between 2010 and 2014 when the customer experience executive left to work in California.

“I really just want to improve the resident experience,” he said. “I want to make and create a St. Clair Shores that’s a destination for folks in and outside of Michigan. I really want to improve the city services and things that we offer our residents.”

Maniaci, a 44-year-old State Farm Insurance agent, has lived in St. Clair Shores for 17 years. He is raising a family in the city, he said, and will represent all of its residents.

“I am active in community events, and I frequent local restaurants and shops,” he said. “My vision is to support our local business and to save our precious Lake St. Clair.”

Oresti, a 28-year-old yoga teacher and political organizer, said she cares about the city she’s lived in since 2017 and is passionate about community organizing.

“As a young, Hispanic woman, I want to be a voice for a younger generation as well as for younger people in our city,” she said. “Our city is only getting younger and more diverse, and I feel that our government should reflect that.”

Rubello, who was appointed to City Council in 2020, has lived in the city all of his life. An account representative for C & G Newspapers, Rubello, 59, said he thinks the city is heading in a positive direction, and he wants to continue that momentum.

He said he’d like to pursue the establishment of a social district in downtown St. Clair Shores and continue assisting residents who need help with outdoor chores, like those helped with the snow brigade he began this past winter.

“At Blossom Heath, I want to see to it that the extension of the pier gets done. I want to make sure that we have strong police and fire departments and that our business community has a voice,” he said.

Rusie, 39, has served on the City Council since 2009. The attorney has lived in the city since she was nine years old and wants to continue to “help move the city forward in a fiscally responsible manner,” she said. Parks and recreation improvements, as well as strong public safety and updating ordinances, are all things she would like to continue to pursue so she can “keep helping to make decisions that impact the residents in a positive way.”

Smiatacz, 44, works in logistics and has lived in the city his entire life. He said he was inspired by the dedication of his father and grandfather, who each worked for the city for 30 years, to run.

“Ultimately, it’s just, I love this city and I want to give back as much as I can,” he said. “I just want to be a voice for the residents and do my part of calling balls and strikes for the city. I just love the city and (am) passionate about helping its growth.”

Turner, 36, has lived in St. Clair Shores for the past nine years. The realtor and law office real estate assistant said she would like to address the vacant storefronts along Harper Avenue.

“We also have an issue of community relations and police,” she said. “I have been actively having conversations with residents and our police force and trying to resolve any potential hostility that can arise, and talking about any issues that arose in the past, to heal the community.”

Also on the August Primary ballot will be the candidates running to fill the 8th District state senate seat left vacant when Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido was elected to that post. The partial term will run through Dec. 31, 2022.

A primary election will likely cost about $70,000-$80,000, Kotowski said, depending on the number of absentee ballots returned. There are 19,500 voters on the permanent absentee voter application list. By the 75th day before the election, May 20, the city will have a form on its website for voters that want to apply for an absentee ballot. No reason is required for voting absentee.

“Payroll is my biggest cost,” Kotowski said. “It will be based on how many of those applications that I get back and how many ballots I’m issuing.”

Macomb County will cover some of the cost of the election since the state senate race is on the ballot: the cost to print the ballot and the cost of the county canvassers. St. Clair Shores will have all 23 precincts open for voting because of the state senate race, whereas with a normal city primary election, Kotowski would be able to consolidate precincts in the same location.