COVERT TOWNSHIP — Change may be in the air in Covert Township, where several positions are being contested in the Aug. 4 primary.
Incumbent Supervisor Dennis Palgen is being challenged by incumbent Clerk Daywi Cook on the Democratic ticket, with the winner facing Republican Tom DeRosa in the November general election.
In another contested race, incumbent treasurer Wednesday Pritchard will be challenged by Barbara Rose on the Democratic ticket.
The only position that remains uncontested in the Aug. 4 primary election is the clerk’s position. Current deputy clerk Naomi Barnes, a Republican, is seeking that seat. All of the township board seats are for four-year terms.
This year’s township board election could prove to be a pivotal one for Covert, which is inching closer to the closure of the Palisades Nuclear Plant – the municipality’s largest taxpayer – in May 2022.
All of the candidates pointed out that the plant’s closure is by far the biggest issue facing the township over the next several years.
Cook, 35, has served as clerk since 2016. Prior to that she was deputy treasurer of the township for three years.
“Although my current role as clerk has been rewarding, I believe my time and resources would better serve the community of Covert in the role of supervisor,” she said. “We’ve accomplished so much since 2016, and yet there is so much more we can do. Our beautiful, vibrant community is being underserved and too many opportunities are being lost.”
The next four years will be tough for Covert, according to Cook.
“The closure of our biggest taxpayer in the spring of 2022 means we need to make some tough decisions now and still find a way to continue improving the services we provide to our residents. We can also take steps to qualify for state programs available to townships who are seeking funds for development, such as the Redevelopment Ready Communities Program offered by the MEDC, to help grow our tax base at a pace that makes sense for Covert. Seeking alternative funding for programs will need to be common practice to keep economic stability in our township.”
Outside of her job, Cook is a member of Market Van Buren economic development group, Safe Kids Coalition of Greater South Haven and Diversity Coalition 2.0.
Palgen, 78, has served as township supervisor since 2016. Prior to that he was clerk for 16 years.
“I am running for re-election to continue my 20 years of experience serving the residents of Covert Township with experience, individualized attention and resources in hopes of meeting the needs, concerns and expectations for our community,” Palgen said.
He echoed Cook’s concerns about the township’s economic future.
“The biggest challenge facing Covert Township is the up-and-coming closure of Entergy/Palisades in the spring 2022 and the continued tax revenue losses from the township’s largest taxpayer over the past two years and the upcoming years,” Palgen said. “However, the current township board proudly met that challenge head on and has approved a balanced budget for fiscal year 2020-2021. I plan to continue working with the township board to prepare for the future of Covert Township, the same way … head on.”
In addition to serving as supervisor, Palgen is a member of the We Care In the Name of Christ’s Covert Advisory Board, Covert Veterans Memorial Committee, Covert Senior Advisory Committee, Covert Township Lions Club and he is chairperson of the South Haven-Bronson Advisory Committee.
Pritchard, 48, has been serving as treasurer for the past year after the township board appointed her to the position when longtime Treasurer Marilyn Rendell retired. Before that, she served as deputy treasurer for 2 1/2 years.
“Since taking office, I have gained a wealth of knowledge, and learn more with each passing week,” Pritchard said. “I truly enjoy the position and duties of being treasurer, and have many ideas for growth and financial planning I hope to present to the board in the near future. ... I enjoy the challenge of spearheading the creation of the annual budget, considering the large cuts to our future tax revenues.”
Although Palisades isn’t closing until 2022 the township, Pritchard, said the township board is already taking steps to deal with the economic impact.
“By working with the department heads and township board, monitoring our budget, and encouraging responsible and thoughtful spending of taxpayer dollars, we as a township can and will adjust to the reduced tax revenue in the future,” Pritchard said. “We have been exploring other, more lucrative options for the township investments as well.”
Rose, 72, who previously served as township supervisor from 2008-2016, is running for treasurer “to serve and utilize the experiences that I have acquired.”
As supervisor she oversaw the township’s dispute with the Michigan Tax Tribunal over the reduction in property taxes sought by Covert Generating power plant.
“Covert has two power plants, with one closing in a year,” she said. “Our community will be facing critical issues that must be identified and planned for our survival. ... The biggest challenge will be to critically identify the needs of our community while developing an accurate budget and capital outlay plan that addresses the township’s future.
“The community will be facing cuts from Entergy’s closure, and potential reductions in property taxes from Covert Generating that must be addressed effectively for our community’s growth.”
Rose, who is retired, is a member of the Van Buren County Planning Commission, We Care human service ministry’s outreach program for Covert residents, Senior Services of Van Buren County, Michigan State University Rural/Research Board of Directors, the Governor’s Sustainable Development Commission and MSU Extension and AgBioResearch State Advisory Council.
Candidates seeking trustee positions will be covered in Saturday’s Herald-Palladium.