Commissioner faces challenger in contest for Kalamazoo County board seat


KALAMAZOO, MI — Democrat Anthony Bates, 50, and Republican John Gisler, 78, are competing in the upcoming Nov. 8 election to represent District 6 on the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners.

MLive has partnered with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters to publish a voters guide for candidates across Michigan. Each candidate was asked to outline their stances on a variety of public policy issues listed below. View the full guide at Vote411.org.

Bates said in his response to the League of Women Voters survey that he is a business owner. For education, he lists both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. For qualifications and experience, Bates said he has run for county commissioner before, and currently is the president of the Lawrence Memorial Library Board, chair of the Climax Township Board of Appeals and sits on the Climax Township Road Committee.

Gisler is a current county commissioner, representing District 8. His education is “AB Wabash College – Zoology/Chemistry. MBA Syracuse University-Finance, ”according to his survey responses from him. Gisler said in the survey he was first elected as county commissioner in 2010. He lists “Extensive business experience in the pharmaceutical industry.”

The county’s new District 6 was created in the redistricting process that happened in 2021. It includes Brady Township precincts 1, 2; and Comstock Township precincts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7; Pavilion Township precincts 1, 2, 3; the townships of Climax and Wakeshma and the village of Climax. Kalamazoo County commissioners are elected to two-year terms.

Below are candidates’ responses to questions from the League of Women Voter Guide survey.

All responses in the voter guide were submitted directly by the candidate and have not been edited by the League of Women Voters, except for necessary cut if a reply exceeded character limitations. Spelling and grammar were not corrected. Publication of candidate statements and opinions is solely in the interest of public service and should NOT be considered as an endorsement. The League never supports or opposes any candidates or political parties.

What specifically will you do as a Commissioner to improve the quality of life for residents of your District? How will your talents and skills enable you to succeed in these efforts?

Anthony Bates

In District 6 I have been working to expand rural broadband, a much needed infrastructure. The pandemic showed the weakness created from a lack of internet to the rural school districts. Seeing kids in cars parked outside schools or libraries to use the WiFi to do schoolwork is hard to watch. Internet is important, not only for schools, but for businesses, farmers, and the elderly. I will continue to work in the district to get broadband expanded.

John Gissler

I will scrutinize every expenditure of taxpayer dollars. I will seek to limit government intrusion into our daily lives and encourage policies that promote personal responsibility and individual liberty.

My years as a manager with budget responsibility and my MBA in Finance will enable me to keep Kalamazoo one of the most fiscally sound counties in the state.

What policies and programs will you promote to enhance citizen equity and engagement in the wellbeing of our communities and the democratic process?

Anthony Bates

As a former educator, and the child of two educators, I will always promote education. Education is the foundation needed to create an equitable and engaged community. Getting information out to the public and sharing knowledge is important. The opportunities are there, we just need to make sure everyone knows how to find it.

John Gissler

I will promote policies and programs that encourage each citizen to succeed in whatever endeavors they undertake based on their own initiatives rather than dependence on government. If each of us prospers, our entire community will prosper.

What are the two most significant environmental concerns in the County? What should the County do to address each of them?

Anthony Bates

Everyone has heard about PFAS, that is the biggest issue in Kalamazoo County at the moment. The county needs to continue with testing water and working on more ways to prevent PFAS from getting into our drinking water.

John Gissler

Our county continues to deal with extensive flooding. While lessened in the last year, water will continue to be a challenge to many of our neighborhoods.

PFAs will continue to be an environmental issue for our county. As PFAs continue to be better understood, we need to be prepared to respond appropriately to protect our citizens.

Are you satisfied with the County’s progress in assuring affordable housing for residents? Why or why not? What more needs to be done?

Anthony Bates

This has been an issue for far too long in Kalamazoo County. The county and the cities are far behind in what can be considered affordable housing. The county is 7,000 units behind and are not catching up fast enough. To put it briefly, the county needs to reach out to members of the community to begin building homes and apartments through charity work and donations. Work with the state and federal government on retaining grants to offset costs for renters and first time home buyers. If the county can catch up to the demand then prices will begin to drop.

John Gissler

The United States is the wealthiest and most prosperous country in history. Every citizen should have a decent roof over their head.

We’re not there yet, but as a county, Kalamazoo is moving in the right direction. The passage of the Housing Millage is a step forward. Funding is now available to meet this challenge.

The county commission is currently evaluating proposed projects that will yield more affordable housing in the coming years.

Kalamazoo County District 6.

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