Douglas Helzerman, a candidate for Livingston County commissioner of District 4, has a vision of what the rural western side of the county could be like in 50 years.
The Republican candidate said future development should be a balance two things: maintaining rural character and changing with the times.
“I would encourage development of what I would call the Gregory Road project,” Helzerman said.
He said Gregory Road could be “developed into a big road,” which could involve building Interstate 96 ramp exchanges.
“Then each township could develop a village along it for stores and industry, and you could retain the rural flavor. Development has been discouraged by dividing it into 5-acre plots. It eats up the farmland. I favor developing villages and you can still keep large farmland,” he said.
The District 4 county commissioner represents all of Conway, Handy, Iosco and Unadilla townships; the village of Fowlerville; and a portion of Putnam Township.
He will be running against fellow Republican Mary Helfmann and Democrat Dennis Lee Andrzyczak, who have also filed as candidates.
Current District 4 County Commissioner Ron VanHouten — Helzerman ran against him twice in close races — is running for a trustee position in Iosco Township.
“My family moved to the county when I was in kindergarten before the expressway. My dad was one of the first people out of Detroit in the 1950s, and he wanted to move out of Detroit because he saw the moral decay. And he moved out of Detroit as the Democrats took over and the population decreased. … I always hope for western Livingston County we would be smarter than other people who handled the influx of people from Detroit,” he said.
Helzerman said things could start today.
“It could be 50 years down the road, but if we don’t start today, it would be more expensive to buy the right of ways,” he said.
The former Fowlervile village councilman has a background in religious education. He was a principal at Fowlerville Baptist School and taught at Wixom Christian School. He is also a deacon who attends Antrim Baptist Church. He said he started getting involved in the community through the church he was brought up in, Fowlerville Baptist Church, after returning from Korea where he served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.
Helzerman, who is retired from other jobs he has had since stepping away from teaching 10 years ago, said he intends to be “a full-time commissioner” if voters elect him.
He said roads, sewer and water infrastructure should be priorities.
Preparing for changes in Internet technology and communications is also needed, in his opinion.
“One of the things that rural American will be dealing with is the removal of phone lines. From what I understand, that is coming, and if the county and townships are not in front of that and provide high-speed Internet, there is going to be a train wreck,” Helzerman said.
Appeared in Livingston Daily
May 8, 2016