Two Candidates Apply for County Board Seat

Interviews for District 7 vacancy set for Oct. 17 in Pittsfield Twp.

Washtenaw County board of commissioners administrative briefing (Oct. 12, 2011): At Wednesday’s 4 p.m. agenda briefing for their Oct. 19 meeting, Washtenaw County commissioners were told that only one person had applied by that point to fill the District 7 vacancy on the county board, following the recent resignation of Kristin Judge.

Felicia Brabec

Felicia Brabec, right, talks with Greg Dill at the Oct. 5 meeting of the Washtenaw County board of commissioners. She's one of two candidates for an appointment to fill the District 7 seat on the county board. (Photo by the writer.)

The deadline to apply was 5 p.m. – an hour away. Conan Smith, who chairs the board of commissioners, said that at 5:01 p.m. they would cancel a scheduled Monday meeting to interview candidates, assuming that no one else applied.

But at about 4:15 p.m., another candidate – Christopher M. Nielsen – turned in an application too. So he’ll join Felicia Brabec, who applied earlier this week, in vying for the board seat to represent Pittsfield Township.

Candidates will be interviewed  on Monday, Oct. 17 at the Pittsfield Township Hall (6201 W. Michigan Ave.) starting at 5:30 p.m. Commissioners – seven Democrats and three Republicans – are expected to make an appointment at their board meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

Peter Simms, deputy county clerk, told commissioners that the staff had received several calls from people who expressed interest in the appointment, but also some confusion about what it entailed. The person appointed to the board won’t serve a full term – they’ll be representing District 7 only until special elections are held. There will be a Feb. 28, 2012 primary for that seat, followed by a May 2012 special general election. The winner of that election would serve a truncated term for the current District 7, through 2012. Redistricting of the county board, which takes effect in 2013, will reduce the number of districts in the county from 11 to 9. Candidates for the new districts will compete in an Aug. 7 primary and November general election.

District 7 Applicants: Background

Applicants for the board vacancy were required to submit a letter of interest and resumé, including a home address – they must be residents of District 7 – as well as identification of political affiliation and a current list of past political leadership/involvement. They were also required to provide a statement of 500 words or less, responding to the board’s Strategic Priorities and Budget Principles.

Both Brabec and Nielsen are Democrats.

District 7 Applicants: Felicia Brabec

Felicia Brabec attended the Oct. 5 board meeting as well as the Oct. 6 working session, and turned in her application earlier this week. According to her resumé, she is a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical social worker in private practice. She previously worked as a staff psychologist and social worker at the University of Michigan. [.pdf of Brabec's resumé] She received her undergraduate degree from Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, with a master’s degree in social work from Boston College and a doctorate in clinical psychology from the Illinois School of Professional Psychology.

In her application, Brabec stated that she was active in student government throughout graduate school, college, and high school, but has had no recent political leadership or involvement. As reasons for her interest, she cited a “desire to serve the constituents of Pittsfield Township while balancing their needs with those of the residents of the county as a whole,” and a “desire to actively work with other Commissioners on the Board as well as other public and private entities to advocate for public safety as well as attending to the needs of those most vulnerable in our communities, particularly children and families.”

Brabec’s essay in response to the board’s Strategic Priorities and Principles begins with a quote from Henry David Thoreau: “Be not simply good, be good for something.” [.pdf of Brabec's essay]

She writes in support of the board’s general direction, as outlined in their priorities and principles. ”I hope to be a part of this board; a board that is willing to tackle difficult problems rather than shies away from them or pretends that they do not exist or waits for someone else to potentially help. I also appreciate that the board recognizes the need for collaboration. If these guidances are to be met effectively, collaboration will be necessary. The apparent lack of ego in service of accomplishing this important work is refreshing.”

District 7 Applicants: Christopher M. Nielsen

Christopher M. Nielsen is a housing development officer with the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). He’s a University of Michigan graduate and received his law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. [.pdf of Nielsen's resumé]

His local government experience includes serving as an assistant town manager and acting town manager for Orange, Virginia. In 2001, he was an environmental intern with the Washtenaw County drain commissioner’s office.

Nielsen stated that his political experience includes assisting in the 2008 presidential campaign, and in the 2010 campaign for Jeff Irwin, a Democrat and former county commissioner who was elected in November 2010 as state representative for District 53, representing Ann Arbor.

Nielsen’s response to the board’s Strategic Priorities and Principles provides, in part, a critique:

It is evident a great deal of thought has been given to the priorities outlined in the Strategic Plan. However, more emphasis and clarity on some qualitative priorities may provide the Administration and staff with a better understanding of the Board’s intent. Clear concise statements particularly in reference to guidance objectives 1 and 4 may help to focus resources on programs and services that adhere with the strategic priorities outlined by the Board. In addition, this document identifies several priorities that assume responsibility for services that go beyond investment in core services and functions essential to maintaining long-term institutional stability. The Board should exercise care to ensure its commitment of priorities do not over extended the resources of the County should economic conditions worsen.

Appointments to County Boards & Commissions

The vacancy in District 7 wasn’t the only appointment discussed at Wednesday’s agenda briefing. Peter Simms, deputy county clerk, told commissioners that notices have been posted for 20 volunteer committees, commissions, boards and advisory groups for the county. Positions are open in these groups [.pdf descriptions of volunteer groups]:

  • Accommodations Ordinance Commission
  • Agricultural Lands Preservation Advisory Committee
  • Area Agency on Aging Executive Board
  • Brownfield Redevelopment Authority
  • Building Authority
  • Citizen’s Advisory Council to the Juvenile Drug Court
  • Community Action Board
  • Department of Human Services Board
  • Emergency Medical Services Commission
  • Emergency Telephone District Board
  • Environmental Health Code Appeals Board/Public Health Advisory Committee
  • Historic District Commission
  • Huron River Watershed Council
  • Local Emergency Planning Committee
  • Natural Areas Technical Advisory Committee
  • Parks and Recreation Commission
  • Public Works Board
  • Washtenaw County/City of Ann Arbor Community Corrections Advisory Board
  • Washtenaw County Veterans Affairs Committee
  • Workforce Development Board

The deadline for applying is Friday, Oct. 28. The board of commissioners will make appointments at their Dec. 7 meeting, to take effect Jan. 1, 2012.

Applicants for those positions are asked to submit a letter of interest and resumé, including a home address, to Peter Simms, Washtenaw County clerk, P.O. Box 8645, Ann Arbor, MI 48107. Applications can also be made via email to, via fax 734-222-6528, or via the county’s online application form.

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