LANSING | An estimated crowd of 200 filled the commons area of Thornton Fractional South High School last night as the school's Parent Teacher Student Association hosted a candidates forum for those running for positions within the village in the April 9 election.
Village President Norm Abbott and his Lansing Village Party answered questions submitted by the audience, as did village president candidate Don Sciackitano and his Progressive Action Party.
Abbott's slate includes incumbent village trustee candidates Terry Kapteyn, Daniel Lyzenga and Mikal Stole, along with village clerk candidate Donna Kooyenga.
Sciackitano's team includes trustee candidates Michael Manno, Humberto Rivera and Timothy Williams, as well as Kelly Hasse, a candidate for clerk.
Incumbent Village Clerk Patty Eidam is running as an independent.
Abbott made his opening statement before Sciackitano and defended his administration's record, saying he had inherited an economic mess.
"We started with a $3 million debt in the garbage," Abbott said. "Shortly after that I was told that we had about a $1.3 million debt on some bills that were not paid in the previous administration."
Abbott said the garbage problem has been corrected, the debt paid off and his administration has lowered the cost of the village's insurance by $200,000.
Sciackitano, who lost a close election to Abbott in 2009, said he is running again to bring change to the village.
He ran off a long list of businesses he said have left the village during Abbott's tenure.
"I want to bring economic development back to this town," Sciackitano said. "I want to fix our streets and infrastructure."
Lyzenga stressed the importance of his faith in his desire to serve the village.
"I have been taught from an early age that we are stewards of God's resources," he said. "I have learned that we are to get involved in God's plan and not to be spectators."
Kapteyn spoke of the work he has done with the public works department.
"We eliminated separate departments within our public works," he said. "This enables us to cross-train workers and save taxpayers the cost of separate department heads."
Stole said he is "proud to be a member of a team comprised of business individuals."
"The village is in better financial shape than it was when we inherited it in 2009," Stole said.
Manno spent 34 years with the Lansing Police Department and also worked in the village's Public Works Department.
"Because of my employment history in the village, I truly understand how each department — public works, fire and police work," Manno said.
Williams told the crowd that he is employed by Thornton Township, for which he facilitates programs for the disabled among his different responsibilities.
He said his work with the township has taught him "how to work collaboratively and how to execute a vision."
Rivera, a retired university administrator, said he has witnessed a lack of communication between the administration and residents.
"The reason I am running here is mostly for accountability and transparency," he said.
Eidam listed the various ways she has served the village over the years, including eight years as a trustee, the last four as clerk and as a village police officer and paramedic.
"I have successfully spearheaded village-wide activities and been a part of civic organizations that provide benefits to residents of all ages," she said.
Kooyenga touted what she said has been her "well-rounded business career."
"Both my positions as office manager and also as a director of human resources have really taught me the importance of open communication, cooperative interaction between departments within a company or in office and the value of a positive, friendly work environment," Kooyenga said.
Hasse told of her deep family ties to the village and her current work as a dean's assistant at T.F. South.
"I am seeking the position of village clerk because I would like to continue to serve the village that I have spent my entire life living and working in," Hasse said.