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Former Mayor Stoneburner reflects on tenure in Algonac

Councilman Bembas will miss her smile and positivity 

By Barb Pert Templeton

When Terry Stoneburner lost her bid for reelection by just 15 votes n Nov. 8, she had spent five years as a member of the Algonac City Council, four of them serving as the city’s mayor,

Still, despite that harsh defeat, when it comes to enthusiasm and love for her hometown, well that certainly hasn’t diminished for Stoneburner, she’ll likely just channel it into some other good deeds for the city.

In all, three council seats were up for reelection in Algonac, Stoneburner’s plus councilmen Rocky Gillis and Jake Skarbek. Stoneburner and Gillis filled petitions for reelection but Skarbek chose not to run again. 

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In addition to Stoneburner and Gillis, the candidate list for the Nov. 8 general election included Ed Carter, Dawn Davey, Bernard Ferris, and Christina Halkias-Robb. Gillis, Carter, and Davey were successful in their bids for a seat at the council table. Then Gillis was voted in as mayor at the council’s organizational meeting on Nov. 14 while Ray Martin was selected as the mayor pro tem.

Stoneburner, 70, graduated from Algonac High School and then earned degrees from Western Michigan University, the University of Michigan, and Marygrove College. She taught schools in Algonac, Port Huron Schools, and Baker College and was also an assistant principal, principal, and Director of Curriculum in the Port Huron School District.

Photo courtesy of the City of Algonac
Former Algonac Mayor Terry Stoneburner.

A strong educational background and ability to connect with people certainly contributed to Stoneburner’s success as mayor, according to her then-Mayor Pro Tem Michael Bembas.

He said Stoneburner provided a calming force for the city council when she arrived at the board table and was voted in as mayor four years ago. He said it was a “turbulent” time for both the council and the prior administration but Stoneburner worked well with all involved and got the council and the city back on track. 

“Terry is just so pleasant to work with, just that big smile she’s always wearing and she’s a very positive person who really cares about the city and the people here,” Bembas said. “And I’m sure she will still be involved in the city because she’s always striving to make Algonac a better place to live and work.”

Bembas listed a number of activities beyond city council where Stoneburner was active including with the local non-profit Algonac Alive, organizing the city’s annual Golf Cart Scavenger Hunt and most recently she joined a group of local women dancing as ‘The Swamp Witches’ during a city Halloween event. 

“The thing about Terry is she does what’s on her heart, she doesn’t do any of these things because she’s seeking praise or attention for herself,” Bembas said. “She does it so she can help other people.”

Blue Water Healthy Living caught up with Stoneburner last week to ask her to share some reflections on her time in the top spot in Algonac via email.

Blue Water Healthy Living: What do you consider your two biggest accomplishments while serving on the city council? 

Stoneburner: Despite high water and a pandemic, two accomplishments immediately come to mind. 

Photo courtesy of City of Algonac/YouTube
Mayor Terry Stoneburner presides over her last Algonac City Council meeting prior to her defeat in the Nov 8 election. 
  1. Creating an environment of teamwork and cooperation. When I joined the city council the city was facing many challenges. A controversial development project had divided the city, the city manager was fired, city council members were not working together as a team and the mayor was being recalled.  I knew that helping the council and community heal would be the first issue needing my attention as mayor, and I worked hard to accomplish this. I think during my tenure as mayor the city council worked as a team that could agree to disagree, and always remain respectful, professional, and cordial.
  2. Completing major improvements to every city park. The enhancements were greatly needed and will be enjoyed by many for years to come.  One of my favorite projects was the replacement of the equipment at Scout Park with a nautical-themed playground and the addition of core communication boards that help non-verbal children communicate. 
Photo courtesy of Michael Bembas/Facebook
Algonac City Councilman Michael Bembas.

BWHL: What projects are in process that you are anxious to see completed?

Stoneburner: It is no secret how I feel about this next project.  The completion of the community swimming pool will improve the quality of life for everyone.  But most importantly teaching children to swim and more importantly about water safety can save a life.  This is a $1.7-million-dollar project. The city has received one grant of $300,000 so far and is continuing to apply for more grants to help with funding.   

Blue Water Healthy Living:  What did you enjoy most about being mayor of Algonac?

Stoneburner: I loved connecting with Algonac residents and local businesses and using the input that I received to help shape the direction of our city. Algonac has moved towards a brilliant future these past five years, and it was exciting to be a part of making it happen.

BWHL: Will you remain active in the city?  Serve on other boards?

From an early age of volunteerism, I was raised to be civic-minded.   As I’ve focused my life on a commitment to others, I look forward to continuing my commitment to the Algonac community.  Going forward I will continue volunteering in our local schools and community organizations.  I am currently planning this year’s Algonac Alive Quiet Christmas, a sensory-friendly experience with Santa.

If there is a need for me, I would be open to serving on other boards.

BWHL: Has this soured you on city politics or might you run again? Stoneburner: I am not sure what path I will take next. However, to quote George Bernard Shaw – I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

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