Seven look to represent township on county board

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published July 21, 2020


MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Not only will Macomb Township voters notice a rather large number of trustee candidates in the Aug. 4 primary election, they will also consider who is the right candidate to represent them at the county level.

With seven candidates running for Macomb County commissioner for the 13th District, that makes Macomb Township the municipality with the most candidates looking to serve on the commission.

The 13th District includes most of Macomb Township.

Leon Drolet, the current Macomb County commissioner representing the 13th District, is not seeking reelection for that position. Instead, he is running for Macomb Township treasurer.

Three Democrats and four Republicans are running for a two-year term on the Macomb County Board of Commissioners.

Gary Lee Kimbel, 67, is a retired UAW administrative assistant who said his top goals are environment accountability and education.

“I care about my community and want to make a positive change in it,” he said.

The Democratic candidate has lived in Macomb Township for 19 years and said the county needs to protect its lakes and streams.

“We need accountability in our government and our children need the best education opportunities available,” Kimbel said.   

When asked what he believes the biggest challenges facing Macomb County will be in the next two years, Kimbel said because of COVID-19, the budget will be the biggest challenge, noting the county needs to work with the state and federal government to help address the county’s budget shortfalls.

Democrat Joanne Recchia, 58, said she believes in people over profit.

“I feel that every part of our lives has been affected by the long arm of corruption,” she said. “Sadly, human health and safety have been overlooked in order to maximize profits. For this reason, I have decided not to take campaign contributions.”

She said it’s time to take a hard look at industry and the role it plays in environmental issues.

“We need a more innovative and productive plan for our waterways,” Recchia said. “We are seeing record-breaking water levels and science warns that the waters will continue to rise.  We also need to protect our water from bad infrastructure and bad practices.”

She added that she would like to see an emergency plan in place in the event of a future pandemic and/or environmental issue.

“We must stay on top of COVID-19 to include contact tracing and innovative solutions,” she said. “I would love to see a community that can respect all of its citizens by giving full access to resources and promoting equal opportunities.”

Democrat Kyle Simpson’s top goals are to have more mental health resources and substance abuse counseling, versus law enforcement interdiction in those areas.

“I’d like to see deployment of mental health professionals in our schools/colleges to provide services to the students free of charge,” he said. “I’d also block any attempts by the National Rifle Association to create a 2nd Amendment sanctuary in Macomb County.”

Additionally, the 57-year-old said he supports red flag gun laws for Macomb County and would like to create a Macomb County summer jobs program for youth by forging a partnership with local area businesses.

“I bring a fresh perspective and a business background to the position,” Simpson said. “I know how to bring stakeholders together in order to bring about positive change. I can bring a new way of creating solutions to our pressing problems as a community.”

He said the biggest challenge facing Macomb County is the dramatic rise in drug use and deaths due to opioid abuse for the past 10 years.

Republican Nicholyn Brandenburg, 74, was a county commissioner from 1988-2006.

“My first priority if elected would be to give taxpayers a rebate for the three months they had no service at the county level during COVID-19,” Brandenburg said. “I would also like to change the tax laws from one year to four years, allowing people more time to pay their taxes.”

She said she would like to implement zero-based budgeting and said she is committed to integrity, honesty, compassion, and diligence.

“My years on the commission makes me the most accomplished and experienced candidate,” Brandenburg said. “I held many leadership positions including health services chairman and vice chairman and worked with the state and national Association of Counties.”

Republican Vincent Olshove, 56, said his top goals are to make Macomb County a safe and affordable destination for families to raise their children and for businesses to provide good, high-paying jobs.

“I want to be a watchdog on spending to ensure taxpayers receive full value on their hard-earned tax dollars, and to give citizens a voice in government knowing they are represented by a supporter of their family budget, represented by a patriot and not just another politician.”

When asked what makes him the best candidate, Olshove said for two years, he served as lead on the independent CPA audit of the county and understands its financial workings better than any candidate.

“I have never held a paid political position, but for over a decade, I have personally worked to improve ethics, transparency and economic responsibility in all levels of government,” he said.

Olshove added that he is running to ensure Macomb Township has a qualified, knowledgeable and fiscally responsible individual on the board.    

Liz Roe, a Republican, said as a commissioner, she will take a conservative stance on the county budget and will oppose every effort to raise taxes.

“As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, our county budget will need to be carefully considered so that we maintain critical services without sending the bill to our residents and local businesses,” she said.

The 47-year-old said she has worked in public and nonprofit administration for her entire professional career.

“I have worked to empower everyday citizens to be advocates for their profession and their community and supported nonprofit organizations that provide needed services in southeast Michigan,” Roe said.

She views the economic recovery from COVID-19 as the biggest challenge facing Macomb County in the next two years.

“The loss of revenue to our community has been significant, and we must assure that county services are maintained without relying on an increase in taxes from our communities,” Roe said. “We must also support our local businesses during the aftermath of this pandemic, and promote initiatives demonstrating that Macomb County is the destination for living and working.”

Republican Joe Sabatini, who previously served as a county commissioner from 2011 to 2016, said his financial background will be a huge asset to the board.

“Tough decisions will need to be made due to our current economic shortfalls,” he said. “As a former commissioner, I helped design a process to provide financial oversight and full transparency to the commission. These processes have led to weed out corruption in Macomb County and they need to be updated so that additional measures can be incorporated.”

The 44-year-old said he has nearly 25 years of both local and national business experience in the private and public sector.

“During these challenging times, we need a proven financial watchdog and a strong ethical leader to represent Macomb Township,” he said. “I have a track record against raising our taxes as a former three-term county commissioner. I know how to get the job done and always keep us safe.”

Sabatini said the coronavirus pandemic will be the commission’s greatest challenge for the foreseeable future, noting that the economic crisis caused by the pandemic will affect Macomb County’s $800 million dollar budget.

In addition to voting for a county commissioner, Macomb Township voters will also select candidates for township board of trustees, among other races. For more election coverage, visit