Dems, Repubs seek Meridian Township clerk post

By Sam Inglot

Two Democrats and Two Republicans will square off to fill a position long held by conservatives

This story was updated August 2 to reflect that Meridian Township Trustee Lynn Ochberg is running as a write-in Democratic candidate for the township supervisor. Also, a previous version of this story said Jim Hershiser was endorsed by the Ingham County Republican Party: He was endorsed by Norm Shinkle, chairman of the Ingham County Republican Party.

There hasn’t been a Democratic clerk in Meridian Township for over 30 years.

The township clerk is responsible for administering elections and handling requests for township records and is also a voting member of the Township Board of Trustees. Republican Mary Helmbrecht has served in the position since 1997.

Two Republicans seek to continue the trend of conservative clerks owning the position: Greg Hammond and Jim Hershiser.

Hammond retired from the Meridian Fire Department in 2010 after 26 years of service. He is an adjunct faculty member at Lansing Community College, where he teaches in the Emergency Medical Services program. He has the endorsement of Helmbrecht.

Because of his tenure with the Fire Department, Hammond said he has a “street level understanding” of the functions of the township and is a self-proclaimed “problem solver.”

Hershiser has served on the Meridian Township Zoning Board of Appeals for 16 years and was chairman for nine of them. He has also chaired the Ingham County Drain Office Board of Determination, on which he has served for 12 years. He has owned and operated several small businesses in Ingham County. He has the endorsement of Ingham County Republican Party Chairman Norm Shinkle.

Like Hammond, Hershiser also has his priorities set on maintaining quality fire and police services. He and Hammond favor scaling back on legal costs and attorney fees. However, Hershiser would also “trim a small percent” of the township’s largest expenditures — employee wages, retirement costs and benefits — to help balance the budget.

Democrats Phil Deschaine and Brett Dreyfus are also campaigning for the clerk spot. Both publicly tout themselves as “environmentalists.”

Deschaine is running as a slate with incumbent township Treasurer Julie Brixie and Milton Scales, who is running for a township board position.

Deschaine is the sales executive at PTD Technologies, an information technology provider for businesses, government organizations and nonprofits. He said his 25 years of experience will help “streamline” services. He has a history of volunteerism in the community, helped raise $20,000 to relocate the Haslett Library and has been an Eagle Scout mentor.

A supporter of the Capstone II apartment project, Deschaine said he believes in a balanced approach to government oversight over private development and calls himself fiscally conservative. He said he wants to combat the “anti-development” perception of the township, which he believes has kept businesses like Meijer from expanding into the area.

Dreyfus calls himself a “progressive” and is outspoken about his pro-environmental positions — he also campaigned door-to-door on a Segway. He’s in his first term as a township board member and was an extremely outspoken opponent of the Capstone II project. He said residents were misled by the developers of the project.

He has served on the Meridian Township Economic Development Corp., the township Cable Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals. Dreyfus also has a background in technology as the owner of Internet Video Corp., which creates Internet video packages for businesses.

Meridian Township also features a competitive primary for the Board of Trustees, with six Democrats competing for four spots to move on to the general. The race to fill the township Supervisor position, being vacated by Susan McGillicuddy, is competitive Democrats Elizabeth LeGoff and write-in candidate Lynn Ochberg. The winner will face Republican Andy Such in November.