Change Address

VOTE411 Voter Guide

Traverse City City Commission {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

Term: 4 yearsThe City Commission is the legislative body of the City of Traverse City, essentially functioning as the city's "board of directors."Very broadly speaking, the functions of the City Commission for the City of Traverse City are to: Set public policy for the city through ordinances and other official actionsAllocate public funds under the city's control and responsibility, including adoption of the City BudgetExercise policy oversight of the city's resourcesAppoint the City Manager and City AttorneyAppoint individuals to various boards and commissionsExercise other authority and powers granted to it by the Michigan Constitution, Michigan Law, Michigan Promulgated Rules, the City Charter and other authorities
  • Candidate picture

    Michele P. Howard (N) Librarian

  • Candidate picture

    Gary Howe (N) Photojournalist, Consultant

  • Candidate picture

    Jeff Leonhardt (N) Public School Teacher

  • Candidate picture

    Brian Patrick McGillivary (N) free-lance journalist, semi retired.

  • Candidate picture

    Tim Werner (N) City Commissioner

Change Candidates

Biographical Information

Describe your background, experience and qualifications for this office and the reasons you are running for it.

What are the top 2 (or 3) priority issues that this office should address and what actions would you take regarding each of them?

Campaign Phone (231) 883-1121
Contact Email (not visible)
Campaign Website
Facebook Page
Occupation/Current Position Librarian at Northwestern Michigan College
Education University of Michigan - Masters of Information and Library Studies; Michigan State University - Bachelors of Political Science
Qualifications & Experience Current City Commission (12/16-present)
My interest in politics began as a student at Michigan State University. I graduated a Political Science major and have always followed local and federal politics.

My experience as a community volunteer and leader in various organizations demonstrates my commitment to our town. I am or have been involved in the following: SEEDS, Central Grade PTO, North American Vasa ski race, Iceman Cometh Challenge, church actives, and trails organizations.

Finally, as a current City Commissioner I have proven my ability to make fair and educated decisions. I pride myself in listening to our citizens, doing independent research and making common sense decisions. I’ve enjoyed doing this for 10 months, and I’d be honored to do it for 4 more years.
My top three priorities are housing, multi-modal transportation and the environment. Just like all problems, not one agency or government can fix them. It will take a team effort.

Housing is a tough issue. As a City, we need to encourage private entrepreneurs to built affordable housing using grants and Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) initiatives. We need to support the work of our Housing Commission to find ways to create housing. Finally, we need to work with BATA to provide affordable transportation to less expensive housing areas.

Transportation is a top area of concern for many citizens. Sometimes it’s the condition of the roads, the bike lanes, or the traffic. We need to support our infrastructure budget for all modes of transportation. While we need to make sure there are good roads, we must remember that every cyclist or walker is one less car and one less parking spot needed.

We must protect our environment. The water is our most precious resource, and why most of us live and work here. We must maintain our stormwater and improve our stormwater system. We should support green spaces and green infrastructure. Finally, we need to continue our work toward being a 100% renewable energy City by 2020.
Campaign Phone (231) 883-5121
Contact Email (not visible)
Facebook Page I update followers on City issues and urban planning ideas at A Strong TC on Facebook.
Occupation/Current Position I currently work as a freelance photojournalist, photographer, writer, and policy consultant.
Education I graduated from Northwestern Michigan College, Northern Michigan University, and The Hopkins–Nanjing Center in Nanjing, China.
Qualifications & Experience I’ve been a City Commissioner since 2013 and Mayor Pro Tem since 2016. I have served on Planning, Parks and Recreation, Joint Recreational Authority, Joint Housing Task Force, Brown Bridge Advisory Committee, and numerous subcommittees. I’m a self-motivated, independent, forthright leader with experience in project management, policy, budgeting, strategic planning, and communications.
I’m seeking another term because I’m dedicated to the idea that Traverse City can continue to evolve into a place that is increasingly inclusive, connected, and sustainable. Like many people, I get anxious when I think about issues like climate change, health care, and national politics in a seemingly volatile world. I believe there is no better remedy for those worries than working on making our hometown as a resilient as possible. In the last four years, I have proven that I can lead with the thoughtfulness and pragmatism residents need and expect. I have drafted policies and guidelines that address the way the City tackles affordable housing, zoning, and planning processes. I’ve been a key leader in planning and funding parkland improvements and more diverse, robust street design. I’ve created and spearheaded public engagement programs that invite new voices into the discussion, including the Adopt a Commissioner program, now in its fifth semester, which teams Commissioners with high school students, connecting leaders to the next generation. I am inspired every semester when I hear the voices of future active citizens.
The next City Commission needs to continue building in critical areas where we’ve made progress: creating more housing opportunities and investing money and vision into the City’s corridors. Our housing supply must have more variety to meet the needs of people in different life stages and circumstances, due to decreasing family sizes, employment shortages, and the changing demographics of an aging population. And to protect the City's sustainability, we need to take a measured look at our infrastructure projects and make sure that a return on investment meets the social, environmental, and economic goals of the City. There's no such thing as an infrastructure fairy. As our needs grow, we need to be ever vigilant about the growth we need. I support investment in underperforming corridors -- when we do it right, with broad public consensus, we will be securing the City’s future by creating opportunities and encouraging private investment that feeds an efficient, revenue-positive tax base. If we do this, we will sustain what we all love about our city, and also realize the potential of Traverse City's tomorrow.

Campaign Phone (231) 883-6118
Contact Email (not visible)
Occupation/Current Position Public school teacher at East Middle School.
Education Bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University. Master’s degree from the University of Oregon
Qualifications & Experience Teacher for 30 years. Past president of the Traverse City Education Association. Current board member of the Michigan Education Association. Leadership Grand Traverse participant.
My name is Jeff Leonhardt and I am running for the City Commission. I live in the Eastern Elementary district. I am a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Social Science and History, and the University of Oregon with a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction. I have been a public school teacher for nearly three decades. I have lived and taught in Traverse City for 18 years and I currently teach at East Middle School. Prior to that, I lived and taught in Oregon, Washington, and Switzerland. While living in Switzerland, I also worked at Credit Suisse Private Banking. I am the past president of the Traverse City Education Association, a current Board Member of the Michigan Education Association, and a Leadership Grand Traverse participant. I grew up in Michigan and spent many vacations up north. My wife, Camille Weatherholt, was born and raised in Traverse City, works at Munson Medical Center and is a member of the Traverse City Planning Commission. We both care very much about this city and want to preserve and protect the gem that it is. City Commissioners have an obligation to listen to and serve the citizens of Traverse City. If I am elected, I will strive to meet their needs. The character of this city matters.
Protect and invest in our neighborhoods: We must maintain the character and quality of our neighborhoods. Fix the streets, fix and extend the sidewalks, plant trees, and grow safe bike and walking routes.

Protect and invest in our downtown: We don’t live here, nor do our guests come here, to have a “big-city” experience. Our thriving downtown is proof that tall buildings are not necessary for success. We have ordinances. Let’s follow them! I supported the Prop 3 Charter Amendment (adopted by the citizens!), and as a City Commissioner I support vigorously defending it.

Invest our money wisely: Taking care of the city and its infrastructure is costly. Whether it’s fixing 8th Street, protecting and preserving our water or making the town easier to navigate, we need to spend our city tax dollars wisely. Economic projects supported by tax dollars need to have significant public input and value.

Protect the environment and promote peace and quiet: These days our senses are assaulted with all manner of emissions. The city needs to redouble its efforts to protect the bay and calm the city by limiting noise, air, water and light pollution. A quieter, calmer city is healthier and safer for everyone, residents and visitors alike.

Contact Email (not visible)
Campaign Website
Facebook Page
Occupation/Current Position Freelance journalist, home remodeling, and obtaining real estate license. City planning commissioner
Education BA in Communications from Michigan State University, majored in journalism and political science pre-law. Also studied engineering at Michigan Tech
Qualifications & Experience I have over 28 years of experience dealing with governments at all levels, including 23 years as an award winning journalist and five years working with local governments as an aide to Congressman Bart Stupak. I covered city politics for five years and I know how to ask the tough questions and hold city officials, developers, and consultants accountable. I also sit on the city planning commission
Our city has entered a growth spurt that is critical for our future and the character of the town we call home. City officials bring in out-of-town consultants, recruit developers, and find the latest fads on the Web to direct our next step. While the people who live here, the voters and taxpayers who make up the neighborhoods that sustain our great city, have been relegated to an afterthought. Commissioners discard the will of the voters and won't defend their vote in court. I will listen to the people, their concerns and their ideas. I will direct city resources to neighborhood residents' priorities, not developers. I have 28 years of experience working with all levels of government, including 13 years reporting on the city, Grand Traverse County, and the surrounding townships. I have exposed corruption, self-dealing, and criminal acts while shedding light on both the pros, cons, and risks of controversial issues. That comes from hard-work, research, and a willingness to listen openly and without judgement to people of various views. I worked for you as a reporter to provide you the knowledge to make informed decisions, and I want to continue that effort as your city commissioner.
The city needs to refocus its infrastructure and transportation efforts through better coordination with outside agencies and more input from city residents. The city has repeatedly missed opportunities to improve pedestrian, cyclist, and motorist safety and efficiency by not engaging the state early and effectively in long-planned upgrades to U.S. 31/M-72. City leaders want to reconstruct 8th St. at a cost of $9.5 million to make it more like the downtown, but they will have to borrow millions, raise our water rates, and put off needed neighborhood improvements to pay for it. We don't need economic policies that focus solely on downtown expansion. We don't need tax dollars to create more retail, restaurant, and housekeeping jobs to service high-end condos built with taxpayer subsidies. We need to focus on policies that attract businesses with year-round, good paying jobs. We need to protect our neighborhoods from downtown encroachment; commercialization through short-term rentals, and cut-through traffic because our main corridors are unsafe and inefficient. I have great respect for the people who live in this city. They are bright, engaged, generous, and deserve to be listened to.
Campaign Phone (231) 313-6903
Contact Email (not visible)
Occupation/Current Position City Commissioner
Education B.S. Chemical Engineering, Northwestern University M.S. and Ph.D. Chemical Engineering, University of Michigan
Qualifications & Experience City Commissioner 4 years Planning Commissioner 4 years Board of Public Works 1 year Light & Power Board 2 years
It has been a privilege serving as a City Commissioner, as well as serving on the Planning Commission, Board of Public Works, and Light & Power Board. Committee involvement includes: Farmers Market, Active Transportation, Stormwater, Hickory Hills, and Green Team. In addition, with a 12 year old daughter and 14 year old son, I am involved in the daily happenings of Traverse City.

The reason I am running for reelection is that I want to set Traverse City on an improved course regarding the environment and infrastructure. These topics are tremendously interconnected, from our streets and sidewalks to the Bay. I understand the connections, and with community input will work hard to accomplish real improvements in a fiscally responsible way.

As an engineer with my Ph.D. in chemical engineering and a focus on environmental engineering, my experience teaching at a major university, and time working for a high-tech startup company, I am uniquely qualified to research issues before the City Commission. I stand by my statement from 4 years ago: “With my background in science and engineering, I approach issues facing Traverse City with one goal: finding the best solution that benefits the most people today and for the coming generations.”
My top two priority issues are protecting our environment, and investing in our neighborhoods and parks.

If reelected I will continue to be a leading voice on the City Commission to protect our environment: preserving and extending our City’s tree canopy, improving the quality of storm water entering Grand Traverse Bay, and reducing the City’s utility bills through energy optimization. These opportunities require perseverance, as the long term value of the investments will be realized over decades.

Also, if reelected I will continue to be a leading voice on the City Commission to invest in our neighborhoods and parks: sidewalks to schools and parks, safe crosswalks for pedestrians, completing the Hickory Hills improvements, and completing the Boardman Lake Trail. A community with neighborhoods and parks that encourages healthy lifestyles benefits all Traverse City residents – young and old alike. These investments also assist with economic development, as they improve the quality of life that is important to attracting and retaining businesses and employees. logo


All statements and videos are posted directly by the candidate, unedited by the League of Women Voters and do not express the views of the League. The League never supports or opposes candidates or political parties.