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Get to know the candidates running for state rep

Tribune Staff • Oct 25, 2018 at 12:00 PM

On Nov. 6, local voters will be asked to select a representative for the state House 89th District. 

The district includes the townships of Grand Haven, Olive, Park, Port Sheldon, Robinson, Blendon, Crockery and Spring Lake, and the cities of Ferrysburg and Grand Haven.

Jim Lilly, R-Park Township, is the incumbent, having first been elected two years ago. He is being challenged by Democrat Jerry Sias of Spring Lake. 

We asked both candidates to answer several questions in hopes that their responses would help our readers make a more informed decision at the polls. Here are their responses:

Jim Lilly

Age: 36

Occupation: Commercial banker currently serving as a state representative

Education: West Ottawa High School; Bachelor of Science in Economics, John Carroll University; currently enrolled in GVSU’s MBA program

Elected offices held: State representative, 89th District

Community involvement: I am currently serving on the project-related investment committee of the Holland/Zeeland Community Foundation and the Public Policy Committee for the West Coast Chamber. Prior to (the 2016) election, my wife and I served as Lighthouse Leadership co-chairs for the Ottawa County United Way, as well.

Why are you running for office?

I’m running for re-election to the Michigan House of Representatives because my wife and I have invested a great deal in our relationships in West Michigan and we want to live here for the rest of our lives, but our state continues to face a great deal of obstacles. We need to continue to send people to Lansing with financial and business experience who can tackle these issues head-on and articulate the challenges to their constituents to generate support for solutions. I’ve worked hard to get the state to put a plan in place to pay off its debt and to invest in infrastructure and K-12 education. There’s still a great deal of good work to do, which is why I am asking voters for a second term.

What do you think are the two or three biggest issues facing the city/county/state right now?

My top legislative priorities are to prioritize investment in our state’s infrastructure and to increase the standard of living for hard-working Michiganders. This can be achieved by driving down the cost of insurance and increasing household incomes by promoting skill trades opportunities.

How do you plan to address these issues?

First, let’s start with discussing skilled trades. Communities across the state can learn a lot from the things we are doing well here in West Michigan with respect to skills training. These best practices should be replicated across the state. I’m working hard in Lansing to ensure that students have more options in our state when it comes to career and technical education. Many of our graduation requirements are set up to put kids on track for a four-year university degree and, while that works well for some students, it is not a fit for everyone. Providing additional flexibility in K-12 education is something I have been a champion of in Lansing and I’m happy to see some progress in this area since I’ve taken office. But there is still more to be done.

Next, when it comes to auto insurance, reforming our system to eliminate fraud, limiting and eliminating benefits for those that don’t pay their fair share into the system, and ensuring that we are not paying inflated rates for attendant care are all items that can drive down the cost of insurance for drivers. These are common-sense reforms that I’ll continue to advocate for in our state.

With respect to infrastructure: Since my election, Republicans in the state House have accelerated the reconstruction of Michigan roads and bridges with the largest annual investment in the state’s history amounting to around $4 billion. We’ve made more progress in this area than any previous Legislature. If re-elected, I’ll continue to prioritize spending on roads and make every effort to do so without increasing taxes. There is still waste in government and in the Michigan Department of Transportation. This must be rooted out before elected officials can say they need more money from taxpayers to fix our roads.

What qualifications/experiences set you apart from your opponents?

Prior to serving in the state House, I had extensive experience chairing committees and boards both in non-profit and business environments. Having served my first term in the Legislature, I now have experience translating these skills to work in government. I have strong ties to the West Michigan business communities and have been a member of the West Coast Chamber's Public Policy Committee for many years. I have a strong grasp of state issues and the ability to connect our community with the resources it needs to be successful.

Jerry A. Sias

Age: 47

Occupation: Retired electrician

Education: Studied electrical theory at Grand Rapids Community College

Elected offices held: None

Community involvement: Commander of the VFW in Grand Haven

Why are you running for office?

I'm running to represent the middle class, working poor, retired and small-business owners who have been left behind in this economy. I’m not going to Lansing to make new laws and regulations. I’m going to Lansing to repeal and replace laws that have weakened the middle class and small business.

What do you think are the two or three biggest issues facing the city/county/state right now? How do you plan to address this?

(1) Mental health is a massive issue in Ottawa County. In 2014, our county lost $7 million in funding while case loads increased by 11 percent. We passed a millage in 2016 for 3 mills but still face a $4 million deficit. This issue will be resolved by eliminating the red tape in Lansing and more funding.

(2) Auto insurance needs reform. Michigan auto insurance rates are the highest in the country. Our insurance rates should not be determined by your ZIP code, income and credit rating. As a survivor of a near catastrophic auto accident, I know the importance of quality insurance.

What qualifications/experiences set you apart from your opponents?

I've had many experiences in my life, which gives me a unique understanding of issues that face the citizens of Michigan. I served eight years in the military. After my service, I started an electrical apprenticeship, worked my way up to become a union foreman and started my own electrical business. In my fourth year of business, I was in a catastrophic auto accident and was forced to retire from the electrical trade.

Now I want to serve my country again by becoming your state representative. I will bring the knowledge of being a working-class family, soldier, leader, small-business owner and a survivor.

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