Skip to content

Primary election to narrow choices for Chesterfield Township supervisor – The Voice

The Aug. 2 primary election will narrow the field of candidates vying for the supervisor’s seat in Chesterfield Township.

Voters will be asked to select one of two Democratic candidates, along with one of three Republican candidates, to face off in the supervisor race this fall. The winner in November’s election will serve a partial term ending Nov. 20, 2024.

Incumbent Supervisor Brad Kersten, a Republican, is being challenged by Michele Ficht and Paul S. Lafata, who have both previously served on the township board of trustees. Kersten was appointed to the supervisor’s seat by the board last year.
The Democratic candidates on the ballot are Joe Katich and John P. Spica.

The supervisor’s salary as of 2022 is $103,807.77, said Karen Gharbie, the supervisor’s assistant.

AQ & A with the Democratic candidates

The Voice sent questionnaires to the two Democratic candidates in the supervisor race, asking them to provide biographical information, as well as answer two questions. Each response was limited to 100 words.

• THE VOICE: Biography: Please provide information about yourself, including your age, education, occupation and any previous political experience.

Joe Katich (Courtesy photo)

– KATICH: I’m a retired engineering manager from Ford Motor Co. I’ve lived in Chesterfield for 40 years with my wife and three children. While doing the initial planning for the Ford Plant in the Schmidt Complex, a sign that read Chesterfield Township Gateway to Anchor Bay led me to move here. My interest in local politics started by attending the board meetings about eight years ago. I volunteered to work on the water rate review board to establish a fair and consistent method to determine water/sewer rates. I coauthored a “white paper” on how the department should operate including financial guidelines.

John P. Spica (Courtesy photo)
John P. Spica (Courtesy photo)

– SPICA: Chesterfieldfirst! Proud Chesterfield Township resident. Married my best friend (a resident for almost 23 years). I am 53 years old. I am a graduate of Oakland University with a BA in political science and a minor in communications. I’ve worked in the private sector for over 23 years with demonstrated success. I am skilled in budgeting, problem solving and negotiating. Voters want someone pragmatic, civil who can collaborate and get things done.

• THE VOICE: What makes you the most qualified candidate?

– KATICH: One of my responsibilities at Ford was to preview project requests from various plants before being presented to a vice president. They had to be technically correct, financially sound within budget, including any possible effect on other products in engineering or manufacturing. Chesterfield desperately needs to develop similar procedures before the board votes on proposals presented to them. Having attended most of the board meetings over the years it’s obvious that political decisions are sometimes made that have led to budget shortfalls. Paul Lafata is the only other candidate qualified to bring the needed financial discipline and order to Chesterfield.

– SPICA: I understand what it means to live within a budget and how to properly handle finances. Providing quality customer service to the residents is a top priority of mine. With my 23-plus years of private sector experience I know how important providing excellent customer service is. Respecting the taxpayers’ money and not wasting it is another priority. I have the necessary skills needed to move Chesterfield forward. I lead by example; a true leader leads by example.

• THE VOICE: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the township, and if elected, what would you do to address it?

– KATICH: Previous Supervisor Acciavatti, current Supervisor Kersten and board members reduced and almost eliminated public participation in Chesterfield meetings. They refuse to respond or engage in dialogue when questioned on agenda items. Questions are now called comments. Time is limited to three minutes on agenda items and five minutes for public comments. There is no response to public comments. Important notices are not posted on the township website. I would welcome public participation and engagement. Check my website “Joe Katich for Supervisor” to learn more.

– SPICA: The biggest issue facing the township is the budget. The current board-appointed supervisor has been on a spending spree and using fuzzy math since his appointment to him. The residents are getting fleeced at every township meeting. Chesterfield Township currently has an annual operating deficit. This means the township is spending more money in a given year than we take in. Every time a budget amendment is made the board-appointed supervisor is adding more money to the deficit. My plan is to be fiscally responsible, live within our means and to listen to what the residents want.

AQ & A with the Republican candidates

The Voice sent questionnaires to the three Republican candidates in the supervisor race, asking them to provide biographical information, as well as answer two questions. Each response was limited to 100 words.

• THE VOICE: Biography: Please provide information about yourself, including your age, education, occupation and any previous political experience.

Michele Ficht (Courtesy photo)
Michele Ficht (Courtesy photo)

– FICHT: Age 63. Married 37 years. Chesterfield resident for 26 years. Retired after 40 years as an administrative assistant/legal secretary for a corporate-estate planning attorney. Ella served on the board as a trustee from 2008 through 2012. Previous experience on the Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Beautification Committee and Elections Commission. Four years’ experience in assisting the clerk’s department during elections. Preparation and proofing of legal documents. Accounts payable, accounts receivable, payroll and IRS tax forms, and budgets.

Brad Kersten (Courtesy photo)
Brad Kersten (Courtesy photo)

– KERSTEN: Age 56. Retired from Chesterfield Township Police/Fire as director of public safety in July 2021 after 30-plus years beginning as an officer in 1989. Capac High graduate; A/A degree, MCC; Bachelor’s, Baker; master’s, EMU. Advance leadership training within professional law enforcement, fire and EMS systems. Past president of Macomb County and Southeastern Michigan Associations of Chiefs of Police. Father of three professionally successful children, Grandfather of two. I have no prior political experience prior to being appointed in 2021. The past 13 months have been a complete honor to fulfill the role of supervisor and one I hope to continue.

Paul S. Lafata (Courtesy photo)
Paul S. Lafata (Courtesy photo)

– LAFATA: Born November 1948. Chesterfield resident for 47 years. Private sector positions: Engineering manager, plant manager, program/project manager, director of design and development for large automotive suppliers. Inventor, two US patent awards. Co-authored Textron’s quality manual. Member of Chesterfield’s Water Rate Advisory Board, 2016. Chesterfield Township treasurer, 2016-2020. Married with three children, graduates of Anchor Bay High, all college graduates. Member of St. Peters Church. US Army Vietnam combat veteran 1968-1969.

• THE VOICE: What makes you the most qualified candidate?

– FICHT: I have four years’ previous experience on the board serving the residents and the community. I have served on the Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Elections Commission, Beautification Committee, have been a liaison to the library board, and assisted the clerk’s department for elections during my four years on the board. I am adept at budgets and assisted the board in keeping the township in the black for four years during one of the worst recessions. Employees are valuable assets to the board and the community. During my prior term, I maintained a good working relationship with all employees.

– KERSTEN: My career in law enforcement/emergency services has given me access to the insight and operation of the township for over 30 years. I’ve had a front row seat to witness the expansion of the township and the demands placed on our community at several levels. Having a working knowledge from the historical past to current issues confronting the township places me in a position to offer a unique perspective to lead. My leadership abilities provide a clear direction; in collaboration with other elected officials will always work towards public input, public transparency and motivated initiatives which work for the residents.

– LAFATA: I have documented managerial skill sets in: Annual budget process, profit and loss responsibilities, program/project and risk management, problem solving, labor negotiations, continuous improvement process, data-driven decision making. I have the proven ability to turn manufacturing facilities with 350-450 hourly and 50-90 salary employees from an operating loss to a profit through dedication, leadership by example and earning the respect and support of my employees. I understand the difference between a balanced budget and budget deficit. Efficiency and utilization are not just political buzzwords, they are operational performance metrics.

• THE VOICE: What do you think is the biggest issue facing the township, and if elected, what would you do to address it?

– FICHT: Infrastructure in the township has always been paid for by the developers who purchase and develop land. I am against the township board bonding $13 million at the residents’ expense for infrastructure on the north end of the township. I would put the burden back on the developers and not the residents. We have no director or deputy director at DPW. I would hire a qualified person to run the DPW. Morale at the township offices has never been lower. I would meet with every department and give them my full support.

– KERSTEN: One cannot list just one “biggest” issue. Most are intertwined and impact several areas. Development/growth elicits topics our community must address, from streets/roads, water/sewer, traffic and public safety. The ability to manage growth and also maintain a high level of services to meet the demand is constant. The maintenance of a low tax rate, along with other vendor services, is key to maintaining our township in a prosperous stable position. Having a safe community which allows everyone to live and travel freely, and enjoy all of the amenities, is the goal of my management principles, along with serving the residents.

– LAFATA: Budget deficits and bond debt: Understanding current state of the economy, how it personally affects residents. In tandem with increased operational cost and non-essential expenditures. The financial viability of Chesterfield is at risk. Dependent on management, leadership and honesty. Management is simple. There are two main duties: A set of policies/procedures to operate by a budget set to operate within. Leadership is an ability a person has or doesn’t have. A true leader leads by example. Genuine leaders do not take outside direction for sewer projects or seek political endorsements. Leaders hold themselves responsible/accountable. Honesty is always the best policy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.