Republican voters will choose candidates in three primary races for the Berrien County Board of Commissioners. Four Democrats are on the primary ballot who will have Republican opponents in November.
Five incumbent commissioners are the only candidates on the primary ballot in their districts, and incumbents in three districts will face challengers on the November ballot.
Two Republicans are running for the seat, and no Democrats filed.
Jon Hinkelman of Watervliet, chairman of the Board of Commissioners, is seeking his seventh term. He is a farmer and serves on several agricultural organizations. As a commissioner he serves on the Land Preservation Board, the Economic Development Corporation, and the Cornerstone Alliance Board.
William Hodge is Bainbridge Township supervisor, having been elected in 2016. Prior to that he served on the Berrien County Road Commission for three years. He served in the Berrien County Planning Commission for nine years, including two as chairman and as a representative to the Twin City Area Transportation Study; and two years on the Watervliet Township Planning Commission.
Two Republicans are seeking their first term on the Board of Commissioners
Chris Heugel is president of the Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce and a former St. Joseph city commissioner, first elected in 2013 before stepping down after moving to St. Joseph Township in 2017. Before joining Cornerstone two and a half years ago, he spent 25 years in the hospitality business, including as manager of the Boulevard Inn and Bistro.
Anthony “Tony” Benhart III, a resident of Sodus since 1980, is the former superintendent of Crystal Springs Cemetery in Benton Harbor, a position he left in 2012. Benhart was a volunteer firefighter for St Joseph Township for 15 years and a volunteer weather spotter for the National Weather Service for 17 years.
Three Republicans – Robert Harrison, Harry Burritt and John Blahnik – are seeking the nomination for the District 7 seat, and the winner will face Democrat James Organ on the November ballot.
Harrison is the retired president of Lake Michigan College. He was appointed in 2009, retired in 2015 and returned as interim president. Prior to that, he had been Dean of Community and Business Services at LMC since 1999. His previous career was as a hospital administrator at Pawating Hospital in Niles and with the Lakeland Health System.
Burritt is retired Whirlpool Corp. executive, where he worked for 20 years and was vice president of Planning and Development. He served as chief financial officer of the Harbor Shores golf course and housing development at Harbor Shores. Since retiring in 2008 he has served as a board member with Junior Achievement of Berrien and Cass Counties and with the First Tee of Benton Harbor as treasurer.
Blahnik is the owner of The Primary Plumber, a business he started in 2005, after entering a plumber’s apprentice program in 1997. Prior to going into business Blahnik worked as an assistant line service manager for A.V.S.A.T at Ross Field Airport. He also served at that time with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Reserve Unit.
In District 1, incumbent Commissioner David Vollrath, a Republican, and Democrat Pat Camarena-Rose Barbary, both of Coloma, are on the primary ballot.
In District 9, incumbent County Commissioner Ezra Scott, a Republican, and Democrat David Blum are on the primary ballot.
In District 12, incumbent Commissioner Michael Majerek, a Republican, and Democrat John Klimek, both of Niles, are on the primary ballot.
Commissioners who are the lone candidates in their districts are Democrats Don Meeks, District 3, and Mamie Yarbrough, District 4; and Republicans Bill Chickering, District 5, Teri Freehling, District 8, R. McKinley “Mac” Elliott, District 10, and Jim Curran, District 11.