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Get to know the BLP candidates

Alex Doty • Nov 1, 2017 at 1:00 PM

This story is part of a series of articles featuring local candidates appearing on the Nov. 7 ballot, and is designed to help you head to the voting booth with confidence.

Today’s article features the three candidates running for two seats on the Grand Haven Board of Light & Power. Candidates include incumbent trustees Larry Kieft and Gerry Witherell, and challenger Lane Sterenberg. The top two vote-getters next week will win the two six-year terms on the board.

Larry L. Kieft

Age: 76

Occupation: Retired

Education: Degreed, economics and business, Hope College

Elected offices held: Board of Light & Power trustee, 12 years

Community involvement: Grand Haven Community Center, 15 years; president, board of directors, Christian Haven Home, five years; Presidents Award 2008, Hope College Second Century Club; chairman, Hope College Landscape Architecture Committee, five years.

Why are you running for office again? To ensure proactive, environmentally positive trustee-directed initiatives for the Board of Light & Power.

What is the single biggest issue facing the BLP right now? Build expanded portfolio of alternative clean energy sources with an integrated resource plan.

How do you plan to address this issue? Strategic planning and development.

Why should voters choose you? Twelve years experience in the electrical power generation business.

What sets you apart from your opponents? Business work experience and ownership in industries requiring significant electrical energy for product manufacturing.

Lane Sterenberg

Age: 59

Occupation: Math Teacher

Education: Associates, MCC; Bachelors in Business Administration, GVSU. Majors: finance, occupational safety and health; Minors: economics, math. Masters in Education, Aquinas.

Elected offices held: None

Community involvement: I attend community functions that others organize.

Why are you running for office? Concern for the environment. Observation that we burn coal now and into the foreseeable future.

What is the single biggest issue facing the BLP right now? The cost of cleaning up our environment. The transition away from coal to reasonable alternative(s).

How do you plan to address this issue? First by setting the goal of finding an alternative to dirty coal. I anticipate that this discussion may take awhile. Since the Grand Haven BLP is community owned, we will need to educate the Tri-Cities on the alternatives that are available as well as the financial and environmental impact of each alternative. Only when this level of understanding is high can we begin to survey our neighbors and then prioritize cost versus environment. Coming to consensus is required when millions of dollars, thousands of people and the future of our environment is at stake.

Why should voters choose you? I care about Grand Haven. I care about the environment that Grand Haven will have in the future. I have a sufficient education to play a role in this discussion. I can articulate the issues, costs and consequences of our decisions.

What sets you apart from your opponents? I'm the youngest. At the end of the day, my opponents are good people, they care about Grand Haven, they are intelligent. We just need a fresher look at when we decide to stop burning coal. Holland did it, Muskegon did it, coal plants all over the country are shutting down. Let's take a good look at what we can do.

Gerry Witherell

Age: 80

Occupation: Retired

Education: Grand Haven High School

Elected offices held: Board of Light & Power trustee, 12 years

Community involvement: Board of directors of Hospice, YMCA, North Ottawa Board of Realtors, Tri-Cities Historical Museum, Grand Haven Area Arts Council, Grand Haven Schools Foundation, DDA Streetscape Committee. I attend St. Patrick/St. Anthony Catholic Church.

Why are you running for office again? As a board, we have so many things in the pipeline and I would like to see them reach resolution.

What is the single biggest issue facing the BLP right now? The biggest issue facing the BLP is the aging Sims plant. We have been planning for well over five years about what to replace it with. The task is not a simple one, as our industrial base is not the same as when Sims was built. We need less generation and more efficiency. The new plant would have to have renewables in the mix to comply with government restriction.

How do you plan to address this issue? We will hold town meetings to get input from our users. Also, we’ve had many key retirements in the last few years and management has replaced them with some outstanding people with experience in the municipal power business.

Why should voters choose you? It took a number of years being involved to become educated in the public power business. With the vast number of changes coming our way, experience is very important.

What sets you apart from your opponents? We all want what’s best for our customers.

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