By Jim Newell
Voters in Lake Orion went for a mix of the old and the new, re-electing two candidates to the Lake Orion Village Council and electing two challengers – and ousting one current councilmember.
Council President Ken Van Portfliet, President Pro-tem Bradley Mathisen and Councilmember Jerry Narsh ran against three challengers – Michael J. Lamb, Sarah H. Luchsinger and Leigh Stephen Wilson, for four open seats.
Councilmember John Ranville did not seek re-election, guaranteeing that the council would have at least one new member.
And voters, it seems, wanted a mix of the old and new on the council, re-electing Narsh and Van Portfliet and electing Lamb and Luchsinger.
President Pro-tem Bradley E. Mathisen lost his re-election bid, and candidate Leigh Stephen Wilson failed to win a spot on the council.
Because of the vote totals, Narsh, Luchsinger and Lamb will serve four-year terms on the council, while Van Portfliet will serve a two-year term.
Narsh, Lake Orion’s former police chief, received the most votes, 814 (23.88 percent of the total votes cast in the race). He was appointed to the council in December 2019 to fill the seat vacated by former Councilmember David Churchill, who resigned.
Narsh said garnering the most votes in the election and support of the community was “humbling.”
“I was humbled by it and I’m proud to continue to serve in this community,” Narsh said. “It’s my home. I love the people here. Y’know, towns aren’t made up of buildings; they’re made up of people. And the way people come together in this community is what makes it a great town.”
Lamb got 615 votes (18.04 percent). Luchsinger was third with 561 votes (16.46 percent), narrowly edging out Van Portfliet, who had 548 votes (16.08 percent).
Mathisen had 465 votes (13.64 percent) and Wilson had 391 votes (11.47 percent). There were also 15 unassigned write-in votes.
There were 3,409 total votes cast in the council race – 1,993 by absentee ballot and 1,416 at the polls.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank my family, friends, neighbors, business colleagues, the Lake Orion Review, ONTV, Oakland County Times, the other candidates and the village for this opportunity to serve our community as a council member,” Luchsinger said. “As I have discussed with many of you during my campaign, I am committed to developing effective, consistent communication between the village council, the residents and businesses in order to encourage community participation in important decisions.”
Narsh said he welcomes Lamb and Luchsinger to the council and looks forward to their input.
“Anytime you have more voices, more opinions, of people who want to improve our community…we always benefit by new voices, new blood, new opinions and a new debate,” Narsh said. “It’s refreshing and I welcome them to these two new roles. I hope they find it exciting.”
Luchsinger, a downtown business owner but a newcomer to village politics, went door-to-door listening to residents’ concerns and informing them of her platform: increased communication, updating the village website and making it more user-friendly, promoting the downtown, businesses and parks, managing growth responsibly and fixing infrastructure.
For Narsh, trust is the most important feature that he can bring to the council.
“Being in law enforcement and being trusted, to me, is the Holy Grail. That’s the hardest thing in life,” Narsh said. “Even before the challenges that we have today in law enforcement, when I was a young cop, that was the most important thing to me, that every single citizen encounter I had they left feeling that I listened to them.
“Having that kind of affirmation, that people trust me, is more important than anything. I’d rather somebody trust me than like me. And I mean that. You can disagree with me, but if I’m being honest with you, you can not like my answer but it’s the answer I have to give you. It’s the truth.”