SOUTH HAVEN — South Haven voters will head to the polls next Tuesday to elect members to the city council and determine whether to allow recreational marijuana businesses to locate in town.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. in the lower level of city hall, 539 Phoenix St.

Two city council ward seats are being contested, while a third one in Ward 1, occupied by incumbent Letitia Wilkins, and the office of mayor Scott Smith are not being contested.

Ward 3 race

Incumbent Steve Schlack is being challenged by newcomer Liji Hanny.

Schlack, 52, is seeking his second four-year term. He owns 1st Choice Marine, and is married with two children. Along with serving on the city council, he also is the council’s harbor commission representative. He plays golf on the Moose golf league and supports a variety of local nonprofit groups.

Schlack said he’s seeking re-election to make sure the concerns of Ward 3 residents, many of whom are second homeowners, are heard.

“I have worked very hard to protect the rights and make sure Ward 3 has a voice when they personally may not be up to date on current events,” he said. “I was elected over three years ago to work for the citizens and I plan to do so for the next four years. ... Different wards in the city have different issues they face, different histories and different goals moving forward. I always try to represent the citizens in my ward for their needs and seek to find common ground for the needs of other citizens in wards 1 and 2.”

Since being elected to the council, Schlack said he’s glad to see the city and surrounding townships starting to work together to create affordable housing opportunities for younger adults and families. 

“I have constantly voiced my opinion that the surrounding townships and the city need to work together solving affordable housing opportunities for younger families starting out in life,” he said. “I am grateful to city staff to see this really starting to come to light with making some progress with South Haven Township and the housing commission with continued work sessions.

Other issues facing the city include upkeep of the roads and major projects the city has completed in the last several years, and continuing to assure pensions and retirement accounts for city employees are funded.

Several issues he hopes the city will address in the future include maintenance of overgrowth and visibility at intersections and roadsides, traffic flow and safety of children walking to and from school and working with South haven Public Schools to establish more after-school programs.

Hanny, 51, is a youth development professional for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and is married with two children.

He’s a member of Bronson Safe Kids of Greater South Haven Advisory Committee, the South Haven Superintendent Advisory Committee, a trustee, coach and volunteer for South Haven Junior Youth League, and a volunteer for South Haven Public Schools athletics program.

“I’m running for a seat on city council to represent the people of Ward 3, to make a difference in their lives by giving a voice to their concerns; and to give a voice in city hall to retirees, the disabled, young families and those who can’t make it to the meetings,” he said.

Three major issues facing the city, according to Hanny, are affordable family housing for seniors who want to live independently, and for families who want to live and work in South Haven; more sidewalks and outdoor recreational space; and greater government accessibility for the 3rd Ward through the creation of bi-monthly town hall meetings and creation of a 3rd Ward group on Facebook.

But Hanny thinks affordable family housing is the most important issue facing South Haven.

“In recent years we have seen young professionals decline opportunities to work in the City of South Haven,” Hanny said.

“This is a direct result of families and young professionals who can’t afford to rent and or own a home within the city on their salary. This trend concerns me because it has repercussions well beyond young professionals choosing to work outside of our wonderful city. It affects how many young people attend our schools, school funding, creates disconnected neighborhoods and access to a qualified professional workforce for our local business community.”

Ward 2 race

Two newcomers – Jeff Arnold and Nadine Newman – will be vying for the seat now occupied by Clark Gruber, who is being term limited from the seat.

Arnold, 51, is a teacher at South Haven High School. A previous city council member, he also was former chairman of the city’s harbor commission and parks commission.

Currently he serves on the South Haven Housing Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals. He is also a member of the Elks and Sons of the American Legion. He also is engaged to be married.

“I am running for office again because I think my previous experiences makes me very qualified to serve the people of Ward 2 and the city as a whole,” Arnold said.

He said a number of issues face the city, including affordable housing, attracting businesses that pay well and deciding how Michigan’s new marijuana laws should apply to South Haven.

“I think the city needs to address the housing and jobs issues first and foremost,” Arnold said.

“The issues are linked, so improvements in one will help the other. I think the city staff has a good start in these areas and I hope that my past experience and my willingness to listen to the voters in Ward 2 can help the city speed the process along.”

Newman, 62, is a retired nurse and ice condenser technician in the nuclear field. Presently she owns a hair salon and is working on a law degree specializing in immigration.

“I have been a resident of South Haven for 35-plus years and it’s my hometown away from home. I have enough life experience to now give back to the community that I care about,” she said.

Newman said issues facing the city include affordable housing, education, short-term rentals, tourism, industry and small businesses.

“More focus needs to be placed on affordable housing so we can get our industrial parks filled, keep families in our town and have a future for our youth,” she said.