The 4 p.m. deadline for filing petitions to appear on the ballot in Ann Arbor’s city primary elections passed today with no surprises, but a bit of suspense. All candidates who took out petitions and intended to file them did so and the clerk’s office was able to verify sufficient signatures for all candidates. The primary elections will be held on Aug. 5, 2014.
Council candidates must collect 100 signatures from voters registered in the ward they seek to represent. Mayoral candidates need 50 signatures from each of the city’s five wards.
All candidates who filed petitions are Democrats. No Republicans took out petitions. Only one race is uncontested – in Ward 4.
Here’s a quick listing of candidates for city office. Mayor: Sabra Briere, Stephen Kunselman, Sally Petersen, Christopher Taylor. Ward 1: Sumi Kailasapathy, Don Adams, Jr. Ward 2: Nancy Kaplan, Kirk Westphal. Ward 3: Julie Grand, Samuel McMullen and possibly Bob Dascola. Ward 4: Graydon Krapohl. Ward 5: Chuck Warpehoski, Leon Bryson.
The minor suspense stemmed from the fact that McMullen had fallen eight signatures short with his initial filing. But he handed in 17 supplemental signatures on April 22, about a half hour before the deadline. Those signatures gave him more than the 100 total he needed.
One independent, Bryan Kelly, took out petitions in Ward 1 – but he’s been informed by the city clerk’s office that he does not meet the one-year residency and voter registration requirements in the city charter. Kelly might become eligible, depending on the outcome of a pending lawsuit that’s been filed against the city by a would-be Ward 3 candidate, Bob Dascola.
Dascola has submitted sufficient signatures to qualify for the ballot, but has also been informed that he does not meet the charter requirements on one-year residency and voter registration. The U.S. District Court is handling the case on an expedited schedule, so the matter is likely be settled before ballots are finalized in June.
As an independent, Kelly would have until July 17 to file petitions to appear on the November ballot.
Brief snapshot descriptions of all candidates except for those in Ward 1, based largely on their own remarks or campaign website descriptions, are presented in this report. [Editor's note: We've elected instead to add Ward 1 candidate information to this article, instead of creating a separate file.]
Mayor John Hieftje announced last year he would not be seeking re-election. Four candidates will be contesting the mayoral primary: Christopher Taylor, Sally Petersen, Stephen Kunselman and Sabra Briere. All currently serve on the city council.
Mayor: Christopher Taylor
Christopher Taylor was first elected to city council representing Ward 3 in 2008, having won the August Democratic primary against then-incumbent Stephen Kunselman. Taylor has not faced a challenge in a primary or general election since 2008.
Now in the concluding year of his third two-year term, Taylor will be leaving the council if he’s not elected mayor. The seat he currently represents on the city council is being contested by Julie Grand, Samuel McMullen, and possibly Bob Dascola.
At an April 16 candidate forum, which was held in the context of a public policy class taught by mayor John Hieftje at the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy, Taylor described himself this way: “I came to Ann Arbor in 1985 and like many of us, for the university, and, like many of us, stayed because I ended up loving the city. I am a four-time graduate of the university, two bachelor’s degrees, degree in American history and degree in law from the law school here. I am a lawyer. I work at the law firm of Hooper Hathaway downtown, where my representation mostly focuses on local individuals and local businesses. I have, let’s see, a wife and two kids – both go to the public school at Tappan.
“I have been on city council for six years, three terms, and my service on council has been tremendous. I have enjoyed it … the problems and challenges of government are to me intrinsically interesting and I have enjoyed so much working with residents and colleagues on the problems and opportunities, problems that confront us and the opportunities that present themselves. I am running for mayor largely because I love the city. And because the city is at an important time in its history and it is, I think, critical that the next mayor have the experience, temperament and judgment to work collaboratively with residents and colleagues and staff, of course, to work to improve and maintain the quality of life for everyone in the city. It is an important place. It is a special place and it deserves that careful attention.”
Mayor: Sally Petersen
Sally Petersen is concluding her first two-year term on the Ann Arbor city council, having been elected in 2012, after winning the Democratic primary against incumbent Tony Derezinski. If Petersen is not elected mayor, she won’t remain on the council. The seat she now represents is being contested by Kirk Westphal and Nancy Kaplan.
At the April 16 candidate forum, Petersen described herself this way: “I moved here in the summer of ’96 from Massachusetts, which is where I grew up. I moved here with my husband, Tim, so he could attend the university at what was called the University of Michigan business school and I had a five-week-old baby at the time. … My undergrad degree is in psychology from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. I have an MBA from Harvard business school.
“So while I grew up and was educated in Massachusetts, most of my professional career has actually been in the Midwest. Between undergrad and graduate schools I worked for Cummins Engines in Columbus, Indiana, and after business school when I moved here with my husband I actually had to go back to work full time even though I had a baby, and I worked for CFI Group … and most recently in the for-profit world I worked for Health Media. In 2007 I became a stay-at-home mom. My kids were approaching middle school years, so I became very involved in the community, and … did a lot of PTSO, PTO work, and then eventually decided, after a couple of years, I would try to run for city council. And it has been a great experience.”
Mayor: Stephen Kunselman
Stephen Kunselman is in the middle of his fourth two-year term. Those terms have not been served consecutively, as he lost the 2008 Democratic primary to Christopher Taylor, after first winning election in 2006. The Democratic primary in 2006 was a three-way contest between Kunselman, Jeff Meyers and Alice Ralph.
After his loss in 2008, Kunselman came back the following year with a successful challenge to Ward 3 incumbent Leigh Greden in the Democratic primary, which was a three-way contest that included LuAnne Bullington. Two years later, in 2011, the Ward 3 primary was again a three-way race won by Kunselman – against Ingrid Ault and Marwan Issa. And last year, in 2013, Kunselman prevailed in the primary against Julie Grand, and in the November general election against Sam DeVarti, who ran as an independent.
At the April 16 candidate forum, Kunselman described himself this way: “I was recently re-elected to my fourth term on Ann Arbor city council. I grew up in Ann Arbor, graduated from Pioneer [High School] in 1981, attended the University of Michigan, graduated with a bachelor of science in natural resources, spent the summer of ’86 working for the Ann Arbor city forestry department and in ’87 I was a driver for Recycle Ann Arbor. Went back to school, to the University of Michigan, [earned a] master’s of urban planning.
“And from about 1992 to about 2002, 2003, I worked in local government. I served as environmental planner for six years in Sumpter Township, which is in the southwest corner of Wayne County, and rose up through the ranks to township administrator, worked for seven elected officials for over ten years. And I think that is really one of the highlights of my qualifications for … mayor – that I know local government and I understand government, and I understand politicians and what we can do and what we cannot do within the limits of law. Local government is a book of rules and I think it is really important that we abide by those rules.”
Mayor: Sabra Briere
Regardless of the outcome of this election cycle, Sabra Briere will, along with Mike Anglin, have the longest tenure on the new council in November. Anglin and Briere were both first elected in 2007. Briere won the 2007 three-way primary, a race that included John Roberts and Richard Wickboldt.
In 2009 she wasn’t challenged in the Democratic primary and prevailed over independent Mitchell Ozog in the general election. In 2011 she did not face a challenge. And in 2013 the Democratic primary was also uncontested. She prevailed in the November general election against independent Jeff Hayner.
At the April 16 candidate forum, Briere described herself this way: “My name is Sabra Briere, I sit on city council. I have been on council since 2007.
“I am a neighborhood activist – that is what got me involved in politics and it is what I still am. I have a firm commitment to government that is from the people, not to the people. And so as a person who believes government comes from an educated and engaged populace, my task has always been to try to engage the people of Ann Arbor in what we are doing. I am still trying to do that. And it is a challenge. This is an excellent way to do it, and I thank the class hosting us and I thank all of you out there for attending this class, because I think that we should all take some public policy classes from time to time.”
Two candidates will be on the ballot in the August primary: incumbent Sumi Kailasapathy and Don Adams, Jr. When we have something more than cursory information to report on Adams, we’ll report Ward 1 separately. [Editor's note: We've elected instead to add Ward 1 candidate information to this article, instead of creating a separate file.]
Ward 1: Sumi Kailasapathy
Sumi Kailasapathy is concluding her first two-year term representing Ward 1.
She won the 2012 Democratic primary against Eric Sturgis and was not challenged in the general election. That year, Sandi Smith did not seek re-election to represent Ward 1 after serving two terms.
Kailasapathy is an accountant, and works for a downtown firm. She describes herself on her website as focusing on the basics: fiscal responsibility, funding core services, protecting parks and natural areas, supporting local public transportation, preserving neighborhood character and upholding zoning ordinances.
She has served on the city council’s audit committee both years of her service, chairing that group this year. The audit committee has become more active over the last two years, as it has met to review the city’s annual audit as well as the audited statements of the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority and the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority. That contrasts with 2010, when the council’s audit committee did not meet at all.
Kailasapathy’s efforts on the council have included a revision to the ordinance regulating the tax increment finance (TIF) capture of the DDA, a version of which eventually was approved by the council. Her efforts also included support for a revision of the city’s crosswalk ordinance – to remove the requirement that motorists stop for pedestrians who were standing at the curb, but not actually in the crosswalk. The crosswalk ordinance amendment was approved by the council, but subsequently vetoed by mayor John Hieftje. She also helped lead an effort to return money set aside under the city’s former Percent for Art program to the funds from which the money had originally been drawn.
Ward 1: Don Adams, Jr.
In a phone interview with The Chronicle, Don Adams Jr. described himself as originally from Detroit, having lived in Ann Arbor for the last 13 years.
Since 2005 he has worked at the Eisenhower Center, a rehabilitation facility for patients with traumatic brain injuries. He serves on the center’s board of directors, a group drawn from the employee-owners of the company, which is structured under an employee stock ownership plan. He’s completed coursework at Eastern Michigan University most recently in health administration and before that in biology, chemistry and initially in computer science. His undergraduate studies were interrupted when the car he was driving was struck by a drunk driver. He spent a year in rehabilitation for injuries to his leg and arm.
Adams serves on the executive board of the Ann Arbor Public Schools PTO Council and has for the last three years served on the PTO of Northside Elementary School, where his two daughters attend school. He described how Alena (age 7) and Ayana (age 6) joined him as he walked the ward to gather signatures for his candidate petitions.
Adams indicated that he’s running to represent Ward 1 on the city council because Ward 1 residents want accountability and collaborative government – based on the input and ideas of a lot of people. They’re not sure they’re getting that, he said, because city councilmembers seem like they’re fighting all the time. He bases his impressions of what Ward 1 voters want on his interactions with people as part of the PTO, and the local Democratic Party organization – saying that his ear is to the ground. He wants to be a voice that will work for the best interests of the ward. He said that he would schedule a regular coffee hour for Ward 1 residents on either a weekly or monthly basis – citing the coffee hours of state representative Jeff Irwin (D-53) and city councilmember Sabra Briere (Ward 1) as examples. “You need it, I’m doing it,” he said. “You’re my boss.”
The incumbent candidate for this Ward 2 seat would be Sally Petersen, but she is running for mayor. The seat open is being contested by Kirk Westphal and Nancy Kaplan.
Ward 2: Kirk Westphal
Kirk Westphal previously ran for a seat representing Ward 2 in 2013, but did not prevail in that general election contest, which was won by independent Jane Lumm – in a field that also included independent Conrad Brown.
Westphal currently serves on the city’s planning commission, having been first appointed in 2006, and is now chair of that group. He also serves as the planning commission’s representative on the city’s environmental commission.
His reappointment to the environmental commission, representing the planning commission, will be considered at the council’s May 5, 2014 meeting.
Westphal holds a master’s degree in urban planning from the University of Michigan and owns a business that produces video documentaries based on research and interviews, with an emphasis on urban topics. Westphal served on the leadership advisory group for the Connecting William Street study, which contemplated future use of five city-owned parcels downtown. That study, led by the Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority, concluded in early 2013.
Westphal is married, with two sons ages 5 and 7.
Ward 2: Nancy Kaplan
Nancy Kaplan was elected to the Ann Arbor District Library board in 2012 for a term that runs through 2016.
She’s told The Chronicle that she’d resign her position on the AADL board if she were elected to the city council.
Kaplan’s press release announcing her candidacy describes the priorities of Ward 2 residents as having “well-staffed police and fire departments and well-maintained streets and parks.” Another priority that her press release describes is ”growth that respects Ann Arbor’s community values.”
Kaplan has lived in Ann Arbor for 37 years. She is former director of the physical therapy department at Glacier Hills Retirement Community.
Her public service has also included tutoring for Washtenaw Literacy, and membership on the Allen Creek Greenway Conservancy Advisory Committee.
Christopher Taylor would be the incumbent candidate for the Ward 3 seat, but he is running for mayor instead. Candidates for the seat are Julie Grand, Samuel McMullen and possibly Bob Dascola. Dascola’s participation depends on the outcome of a pending lawsuit that will determine whether Dascola is eligible to run, in light of city charter one-year durational requirements on residency and voter registration.
Ward 3: Julie Grand
Julie Grand‘s previous experience running for elected office was the 2013 Ward 3 Democratic primary – a race that was won by incumbent Stephen Kunselman.
Grand is a lecturer in health policy studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. Before earning her doctorate, Grand worked as a health educator for the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute’s Community Outreach Division.
Grand served the maximum two three-year terms on the park advisory commission, concluding the last three years of that service as chair of that group. Grand volunteers at Burns Park and Abbot Elementary Schools.
Grand has lived in Ann Arbor for 17 years, and is married with two children ages 8 and 5.
On her campaign website, she describes why she’s seeking office: “My reasons for running for city council have not changed. I continue to believe that Ward 3 is in need of a representative who will be responsive to constituents, thoughtful in their decisions, and focused on promoting healthy neighborhoods and community.
“The current composition of City Council and transition to new leadership in 2014 further heightens the need for leaders capable of making sound policy decisions and providing comprehensive constituent services. I look forward to our conversations and the campaign ahead.”
Ward 3: Samuel McMullen
Samuel McMullen is concluding his freshman year at the University of Michigan, where he’s studying biochemistry with the intent of eventually attending medical school.
He grew up in Ann Arbor in Ward 4, right across Packard Street from Ward 3. He attended Rudolf Steiner High School.
He works as a nurse’s aid at the Rudolf Steiner Health Center, which is an anthroposophical medical practice operated by his parents, who are both physicians.
In an interview with The Chronicle, he said that as he’s gone door-to-door collecting signatures, one concern he hears about frequently is the condition of the roads: “I hear about roads a lot. About every other person says, ‘What are you going to do about roads?’”
McMullen said one of the main responsibilities of local government is “to keep roads in repair, to keep infrastructure in repair.” Once infrastructure and public safety are covered, he said, then it’s possible to start thinking about further development. That’s something he says he was already planning to run his campaign on, but that’s been reinforced in the conversations he’s had with Ward 3 residents so far.
His interest was drawn to city politics, he said, when independent Sam DeVarti’s Ward 3 city council campaign – for the fall 2013 general election – asked him to help register people to vote. He wasn’t campaigning for DeVarti, and is not affiliated with the Mixed Use platform that DeVarti ran on. But he helped with the voter registration effort, he said, and as he started to research city politics in more depth, he knew that it was something he wanted to do.
McMullen participated in the model UN in high school – as ambassador representing Cuba.
Ward 3: Bob Dascola
Dascola’s candidacy depends on the outcome of a lawsuit that is currently pending in U.S. District Court.
Ann Arbor’s city charter includes two durational requirements – for residency and voter registration – each for one year prior to election.
In his most recent filing, Dascola’s attorney Tom Wieder rejects what he calls the city of Ann Arbor’s implication that “Dascola is some sort of aggressive interloper who is trying to exploit legal loopholes so he can parachute into the city and do political mischief.” Wieder concludes that: “Fortunately, neither of these portrayals bears any resemblance to the truth,” pointing out that Dascola has spent his entire career as a barber, always working in the city of Ann Arbor.
In a press release, Dascola described himself as a downtown barber, a community activist, and a Vietnam veteran.
Dascola describes his concerns as focusing on basic city services, police and fire protection, crosswalk safety, road repair, public transportation, the Allen Creek Greenway, and the city’s parks.
If elected, Dascola says he will set up a monthly town hall meeting for Ward 3 citizens.
The Ward 4 seat Graydon Krapohl is seeking to fill is open because Margie Teall is not seeking re-election. After mayor John Hieftje, Teall is the longest serving member of the council, having first been elected in 2002.
Krapohl was appointed to the city’s park advisory commission in January 2013. He currently serves as vice chair.
Krapohl describes himself on his website as born in Ann Arbor and raised in Jackson. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from George Mason University and a master’s degree in strategic studies from the U.S. Army War College, where he teaches as an adjunct faculty member.
Krapohl is a colonel in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, having joined the Marines in 1984. He served nine years on active duty stationed in Hawaii.
In the private sector, Krapohl has worked for national consulting firms in operations management, information technology.
Graydon has been married for 25 years and has a daughter who attends Tappan Middle School.
Two candidates will appear on the ballot in Ward 5: incumbent Chuck Warpehoski and Leon Bryson.
Ward 5: Chuck Warpehoski
Chuck Warpehoski is concluding his first two-year term on the city council. He was first elected in 2012, having won the Democratic primary against Vivienne Armentrout. That seat was left open by Carsten Hohnke, who did not seek re-election after serving two terms.
Warpehoski serves on the city council’s audit committee and on the rules committee. For his first year on the council,
He also serves he served as one of two council representatives on the city’s environmental commission. His efforts on the council have included an ordinance to regulate video surveillance, which did not get enough support on the council to move forward. He also worked to create a pedestrian safety task force and an ordinance to regulate smoking in certain outdoor locations, which was approved by the council at its April 21, 2014 meeting. Leon Bryson, who’s also running to represent Ward 5, delivered remarks at that meeting in support of the ordinance.
About his first two years of service, Warpehoski states on his website: “I’m proud to have increased funding for affordable housing, promoted policies to keep our neighborhoods safe from too-fast traffic, and fought for cleanup of pollution that threatens the supply of our drinking water, among other accomplishments.”
Warpehoski is director of the Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice. He is married with two children. His wife is Nancy Shore, who is director of the getDowntown program and employed by the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority.
Ward 5: Leon Bryson
Leon Bryson describes himself on his campaign website as originally from Detroit, and a 15-year resident of Ann Arbor.
He holds an engineering degree from Wayne State University and has worked in manufacturing and product development for larger companies, but currently operates a small business.
Bryson has attended several of the council’s meetings through the early part of 2014, and addressed the council on Jan. 21, 2014, calling for a moratorium on fracking in the city. During council communications, after Bryson’s commentary, Warpehoski pointed out that the city of Ann Arbor already bans fracking, through its prohibition on mineral extraction through drilling (Chapter 56: Prohibited Land Uses).
Bryson’s website highlights environmental issues, in part through his description of outdoor activities that he enjoys – and his campaign blog includes an entry describing a six-mile run he took through the ward on Easter morning.
On his campaign website, Bryson describes his entry into city politics as stemming from a perceived lack of focus: “[O]ur city government has lost its focus on providing the basic services we have come to expect. Our roads are crumbling. Leaf collection has been eliminated. Police and fire protection have been severely reduced. We also face the threat that our drinking water supply may be contaminated by the Pall/Gellman 1, 4-Dioxane now moving through the groundwater toward the Huron River.”
The Chronicle survives in part through regular voluntary subscriptions to support our coverage of public bodies like the Ann Arbor city council. If you’re already supporting The Chronicle please encourage your friends, neighbors and coworkers to do the same. Click this link for details: Subscribe to The Chronicle.