Candidates took questions in council chambers at City Hall during the recent town hall.

Candidates took questions in council chambers at City Hall during the recent town hall.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

St. Clair Shores City Council candidates share goals, opinions at town hall

Election to be held Nov. 7

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published September 29, 2023


ST. CLAIR SHORES — The St. Clair Shores Women’s Civic League hosted a town hall Sept. 20 in the City Hall chambers, giving the six candidates running for City Council a chance to tell the public more about who they are.

The candidates were asked questions provided by the public, as well as the Women’s Civic League. The candidates were given a minute each to answer the questions. The moderator for the event was Judge Mark A. Fratarcangeli of the 40th District Court.

The six candidates running for St. Clair Shores City Council on Nov. 7 are Linda Bertges, Kristine Crook, incumbent City Councilman Ronald Frederick, Jay Heck, Bryan Owens and incumbent City Councilman Chris Vitale.

After the opening introductions, the candidates were introduced by Fratarcangeli and were each given two minutes to explain their candidacy and qualifications for the job. The candidates talked about where they went to school, any community involvement, goals for the city if elected, their occupation and much more.

The Women’s Civic League provided three questions: Do you support the city’s plans for the American Rescue Plan Act funds, why or why not; how would you attract more business to other areas of the city beyond the Nautical Mile and the downtown area; and what is your position on the 3 a.m. to 5 a.m. parking rule written in the city ordinance?

The incumbents, Frederick and Vitale, spoke first about the ARPA funds question with Vitale saying they realized they needed to act quickly on the funds when they received them. He explained they decided to use the funds on updating the police headquarters, updating the fire stations, improvements to the library and infrastructure to separate stormwater.

“I think we’re going to bring some new buildings and some great projects to the city that’s going to be better for residents,” Vitale said.

Frederick said he thinks they are doing the right things and mentioned how the city replaced the architect for the fire station after they thought the first one wasn’t doing a great job.

“There’s not a lot of ARPA funds left to spend, but I think we’re doing the right things and we’re going to be looking for other ways to fund some parts of what we’re already spending with other sources,” Frederick said.

Crook said she loves what the city is doing with the ARPA funds. She said it’s important to update the police and fire stations and the only thing she would add is a community center for kids to go to in the winter months.

“I would really love us to make sure that we’re focusing and spending money to upgrade those facilities because we have the best firefighters around and we need to be taking care of them,” Crook said.

Owens said he agrees with Crook in terms of police and fire and added the departments needed more attention than the pier. He said the pier is nice, but it should have been last on the list.

“I think that the fire station should have been put first, the police station should have been put second and see what we have left after that,” Owens said.

Bertges said she agreed with a lot that’s been said but that she thinks water quality is the most important thing to focus on.

“I think water quality is the most important thing because it affects all of our lives,” Bertges said. “And so I’m very much looking forward to the groundbreaking work that’s going to be done at the Chapaton pump station and all the work that’s going to be done there.”

Heck said he can’t disagree with any of the candidates who already spoke.

“I think they’ve covered everything,” Heck said. “Fire stations are, I believe, top of the list, then the police stations.”

Questions posed by the audience focused on what the current council is doing or not doing that the candidates think should be done or shouldn’t be done. The candidates were asked about their vision over the course of the next term, what they want to accomplish, what they view as the biggest challenge facing St. Clair Shores and how they intend to address it. They were also asked about their first objective if elected.

Bertges said her first task would be to focus on the water problems in the city. She spoke about a friend who calls her about basement flooding in the event of a heavy rainfall and the new improvements being made to fix it.

“I want to continue working towards making sure that our water quality is good and that our residents aren’t having huge problems with their homes,” Bertges said.

Heck agreed with Bertges about water quality. He added another issue that needs to be addressed is littering.

“Working at the parks I see it all the time,” Heck said. “This is not just kids; it’s adults. People throwing stuff out the window, just leaving stuff and you just have to work on things like that as a community to make everything better.”

Vitale said the biggest challenge is keeping the momentum going within the City Council.

“I think we’re going to head into a very uncertain economy, and we may see another drop in real estate values,” Vitale said. “There’s a lot of things trending that way.”

He also said the council’s “rainy day” fund balance will be an asset in difficult economic times.

Frederick said the biggest challenge is always the budget and that he wants to make sure that the city is healthy in terms of finances.

“Really, the challenge is to make sure that the budget is accurate enough that we can not only do what we do on a daily basis but to cover off on all of these things that could be emergencies down the road,” Frederick said.

Crook said the first thing she wants to do is establish a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee within the city.

“There are a lot of small things where improvements can be made and maybe that’s even a place where we utilize the north end by having a large festival that celebrates the diversity in this community and brings us together in another way,” Crook said.

She also wants to work on a multijurisdictional task force to clean up Lake St. Clair.

Owens said he believes infrastructure is important.

“If we’re going to start building up, we need to look at what’s under the roads, what’s under the streets,” Owens said. “And we need to widen the streets a little bit, too.”

At the end of the town hall, candidates offered closing remarks and reasons why the public should vote for them. Fratarcangeli thanked the Women’s Civic League and asked the audience to consider joining the league.

Women’s Civic League Vice President Sarah DeDonatis said the Women’s Civic League has provided more than 80 years of service to the city. The members aren’t given any money or assistance by the city or the county, she said.

“We are (a) fully run volunteer group and we do things like providing this town hall as a nonpartisan service to our community to ensure that the right to vote is also the right to vote educated,” DeDonatis said.

The video of the town hall is available on the St. Clair Shores website at and at the city’s media center.