City, county need to fill vacancies

ALPENA – In order for Alpena Municipal Council and Alpena County Board of Commissioners to make educated decisions on the issues to vote on, or make recommendations from various committees. Sometimes keeping these committee seats filled for an extended period of time can be difficult.

Currently in the City of Alpena there are eight seats available on seven different committees. The committees range from the harbor advisory committee to the building board of appeals. Kathy Himes, human resources generalist and assistant to City Manager Greg Sundin, said she believes the political climate in the city over the last few years has discouraged people from applying for the vacant positions. She said now that many of the past issues have been resolved maybe more people will offer volunteer for the committees.

“I don’t think we’re in as good as shape on the committees as we were say a year ago, because of the direction and not having a full-time city manager in place,” Himes said. “Typically when there is interest in a committee it is because somebody knows a family member or friend on it or considering volunteering for it. Often those are where our best recommendations come from.”

Alpena County only has a pair of open seats on its list of committees. There is one vacant seat on the planning committee and one on the parks and recreation committee. Executive secretary to the board of commissioner Tammy Sumerix-Bates said only having the two open positions is really good. She said because there are so many different committees there are times where more seats are available.

“Sometimes it seems like they need to be filled as soon as you get them filled, but right now we are in pretty good shape,” Bates said. “Most of the time when a person resigns from a board it is due to a change in circumstance in their life. Sometimes they may move or something like that or it just may not be a topic they are interested in.”

Sumerix said the county sees an increase in people wishing to sit on committees when there is a large issue facing it. She said people either want to be a part of something exciting and positive, or help when there is a problem.

“We will see new interest in certain areas where things are booming,” Bates said. “Let’s say the library is having a millage and there is a lot of activity with it. You may see a lot of people wanting to take part and express interest in that one board specifically. Whatever is in the news and exciting.”

Bates said the county has an application online that people can fill out and submit. She said the information will be forwarded to the commissioners and a brief interview could be held. Bates said there is little or no pay, but some do offer per diems. She said she doesn’t believe that keeps people from serving their community in local government.

“I think people serve because they really want to be in a community service activity,” Bates said. “They usually have an interest in the committee. People who like to camp will want to be on the park’s board and so on.”

Himes said there is no pay for any of the committee positions and like the county an application is available online. She said once a candidate has applied, the committee will review it, conduct an interview and make a recommendation to the council for final approval. Himes said it is important for people to participate in local government and that their voice can impact Alpena’s future.

“All of the committees were put in place for the betterment of the community and without the community’s input we won’t know if we are moving forward appropriately,” Himes said. “The community has to help us to do so and achieve the goals of making Alpena a better place to live.”

Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review … at