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Democratic newcomer challenges Republican incumbent in Kalamazoo County District 7 race

Kalamazoo County Commissioner District 7 race debate.PNG
Incumbent Roger Tuinier, left, is facing a challenge from Anthony Bates in the race to fill the 7th District seat on the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners. (WWMT)

Two men are hoping to join the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners to represent District 7, which covers Galesburg as well as Charleston, Comstock Climax and Wakeshma townships.

Republican candidate Roger Tuinier has held the position since 2012. Tuinier is also an Army National Guard veteran and longtime businessman, owning and operating a greenhouse for nearly 50 years.

“This is where my family and I live and work,” Tuinier said. “I have a great deal of interest in the current and future decisions that are made for this county. I have been a County Commissioner for almost 8 years. I am committed to serving the county and continue the work on all current and future business that I have been involved with since I have been on the board.”

Anthony Bates, Tuinier’s Democratic opponent, has no previous experience in local politics but is an English teacher at Glen Oak Community College and has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in sports management from Western Michigan University.

Bates, who has lived in the district he hopes to represent for 12 years, said although he’s never served as an elected official, he has consistently attended the local governmental meetings in the district, including the county commissioner meetings. Bates also said he has created relationships with community leaders and has come to know the needs within the district.

“I want to be the voice for change that, so far, my community has not had. We, the people, deserve to be heard, and our concerns noted. As the next commissioner, I will not only listen to these issues but act upon them, because issues concerning livelihood, infrastructure, farming, community values, business growth, and the environment are not just important to me — they are important to the district,” Bates said.

Not only does Bates put a strong emphasis on communicating with the people of District 7, he also said if elected, he wants to have an open line of communication with all local leaders.

“Staying in contact with local municipality leaders monthly to work on ideas that can impact their communities in a positive way is the first step,” Bates said. “There needs to be a strong working relationship between leadership at all County levels.”

Tuinier is listed as a coalition member for the Kalamazoo County Consolidated Dispatch Authority. In 2018, in light of the 2016 shooting rampage, the dispatch authority was created to combine the five emergency call centers throughout Kalamazoo County into one entity, to provide a quicker, more efficient response to emergencies.

The Republican incumbent is also the county's liaison for the Comstock Township Downtown Development Authority and is endorsed by the political action committee, Kalamazoo Right to Life, a nonpartisan, nonsectarian, nonprofit pro-life organization.

“I am committed to working in a collaborative way with the cities, townships, villages along with other boards and authorities to accomplish the goals and making decisions that best suit our counties’ needs,” Tuinier said of his approach as a county commissioner.