Just My Opinion – A Political Awakening in Swanton

What may be unprecedented in the history of Swanton politics, a grass roots movement took seed just less than a year ago, organized by Swanton citizens and local business owners, as a response to a Village Council that was too often unresponsive to the concerns and needs of the Swanton community.  This is a Village Council whose all six members gained their position by either running unopposed or being appointed and voted to strip the mayor, who did actually defeat an opponent and was truly a choice of the people, of most of his authority, his voice and his influence. 

However, we need to be honest with ourselves.  The good people of Swanton bear some of the responsibility for allowing certain Council members, who do not have the best interest of the Village at heart, to occupy those seats of power.  No one stepped up to challenge them.  But those days look to be over if this well-organized and committed group of community activists are successful in educating the voters on the real issues and provides them qualified choices at the ballot box.  All indications are that the citizens of Swanton have awakened.

With four Council seats up for reelection this November, this group is petitioning to place four candidates, Derek Kania, Sam Disbrow, Patrick Messenger and Mikey Disbrow on the ballot to help bring the Village of Swanton forward as a community with a focus on economic development and transparency in government.  There are also two petitions being circulated that will create ordinances to establish an all-volunteer Economic Development Commission (EDC) as an advisory board to the Council and to make the live-streaming of Council meetings available to the public.

At a recent petition signing event sponsored by Benfield Wines on Main Street, a large number of voters showed up to sign all six of the petitions which will eventually allow them more control in November over how the Village is run and how their lives are affected.  “I think it’s time for change,” said long-time Swanton resident and military veteran Rick Maynhart who attended the event.  “This whole community has been stifled the last two years.  We need to move forward, not backward.” 

Mr. Maynhart’s sentiment was echoed by Tara Shaver who lives and works on Main Street. “I think it’s important for us to be embracing change right now within the Swanton community.  We’ve had so much positive change,” said Ms. Shaver referring to the increase in downtown economic activity generated in large part by the Swanton Small Business Group and the Swanton Chamber of Commerce.  “There’s a lot more that could be done if we had some open minds and updated opinions.”

What might help the stimulate the local economy and expand the tax base to help counter rising costs would be an EDC as mandated by the voters on one ordinance petition, not the Council, which would work to bring in new businesses into the Swanton community.  The second ordinance petition, the live-streaming of Council meetings, would allow all citizens to view Council proceedings and ensure their concerns, interests and overall welfare was being taken into consideration by Village officials.

“We are circulating the petitions in order to give our residents a chance and a voice as to how things are run within the Village Council and the Village,” said Swanton resident and Federal employee John Schmidt who is spearheading the committee working on the two ordinance petitions.  “Council refuses to have an economic development commission.  The Mayor, Neil (Toeppe), has advocated for that for a number of years.  They continue to refuse and they will not video live-stream Council meetings.  We want to see it where everybody has the opportunity to participate including the elderly and disabled.”

If all six petitions make it on the ballot it will then be up to the people of Swanton to go to the polls and vote their conscience as it represents the changes they support.  Just as important will be for unregistered voters to register and exercise their right to help shape how they will be governed.  August 4, 2021 at 4:00 PM is the deadline for all petitions to be filed.  After that, the voters of Swanton will decide their future.

Pictured:  John Schmidt (center) discusses Village petitions with Council candidate Derek Kania (left) and resident Rick Maynhart (right)

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