By Barb Pert Templeton
A new face and voice will be in place at the Marine City Commission table in early December as officials recently appointed Sean O’Brien to fill a vacant seat on the board.
At the Nov. 16 meeting, Mayor Jennifer Vandenbossche noted that there were actually two agenda items related to filling the vacant commission seat. It was listed under both “unfinished business” and “action items.”
The mayor noted there were two applicants for the seat (Sean O’Brien and Michelle Hoskin) and stated that the appointee would be sworn in after the current meeting and be in place at the board’s December meeting.
The vacancy came about after Commissioner Michael Hilferink was removed from his seat following a special hearing in October where fellow commissioners accused him of misconduct in office. Hilferink was cited for five charges, three being misconduct in office for his behavior during three city commission meetings. The two other charges alleged he approached an East China School District official about the possible purchase of land by the city and a Facebook page where he’s the administrator released privileges city documents from an anonymous source.
Hilferink was elected to a four-year term in Nov. 2022. He got 816 votes, the most votes for the three commission candidates on the ballot.
During public comments at last night’s regular commission meeting Hilferink spoke about the commission’s plan to fill his seat.
“Only two applicants? Doesn’t surprise me, just with how much of a mess the city’s in, not many people want to get involved in it,” Hilferink said.
He went on to state that between the two applicants the choice was clear to him. He said Hoskin is a cousin of a department head in town so it’s a conflict of interest.
“Not to mention she’s not even an elector of the city and she wants a seat at this board and she’s not even a registered voter?” Hilferink said. “I don’t know if she didn’t look at the rules as far as she has to be here for two years, don’t know if she just moved here, I don’t know”
In contrast. O’Brien has been a longtime city resident and although Hilferink initially thought O’Brien was a “keyboard warrior”, he’s changed that opinion. He noted that O’Brien has in fact attended meetings and added, “He’s an intelligent guy. “
“I know his family, he’s been here a longtime and anybody that’s been here a longtime has my vote,” Hilferink said.
Commissioners weight in
During the action items section of the agenda Vandenbossche thanked those who applied and made a motion to have Sean O’Brien appointed to the seat.
Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Hendrick seconded the motion and said it’s nice to have people applying for the position, as it’s not an easy job.
“I think you’re younger, we need some more younger people, you’re very sharp at things, you do your homework and I think you’re going to be a very, very, good addition to this board,” Hendrick said.
Commissioner Brian Ross said it’s a great problem to have when there are two excellent applicants and despite what was said by Hilferink about Hoskin being related to someone in town, that’s hard to avoid.
“Michelle is one of my go-to people, and I think in this town you’re not going to find too many people that are somehow related to somebody,” Ross said, bringing about chuckles from the commission.
The commission then unanimously approved O’Brien to fill the commission seat.
Who is Sean O’Brien?
An application, resume and letter of interest were included in O’Brien’s package of documents filed with the city regarding the open seat. His resume included lengthy sections noting his education, skills, achievements and work history. It further noted that he is currently a part-time faculty and program assistant at Wayne State University and that he’s pursuing a PHD in history at Wayne State.
O’Brien also stated that he graduated from Marine City High School in 2007 and many of his family members, friends and his in-laws live in the area. Noting that he has been a union leader who has successfully negotiated two recent contracts, O’Brien said he’s served on numerous committees and adheres to a solid goal of consensus building – that is, a desire to reach common good solutions through compromise.
“Local government matters and it’s our duty as citizens to serve if and when we can,” O’Brien wrote.
He was to be sworn in by the city clerk at the conclusion of the meeting and is expected to take his place at the commission table on Thursday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.