Benton Township clerk, treasurer to have contested primary

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — There are several candidates vying for the Benton Township clerk and treasurer positions Tuesday.

The three Democratic candidates who wish to be clerk in 2017 are Joiesette Hilliard, Barbara Meeks and incumbent Carolyn Phillips. Treasurer also has three Democrats running, which includes Karen Bennet, incumbent Debra Boothby and Richard Royall.

The top vote-earner for both positions will run unopposed at the November general election. Both positions are four-year terms that end in 2020.

Hilliard, 54, is a retired Benton Harbor city employee who has a daughter and a son.

Hilliard was a union steward in her time working for the city.

She attended Lake Michigan College, where she studied liberal arts and business administration.

“Being the next clerk to me would mean serving the people and the community I grew up in,” she said. “I’d like to get more input with the citizens of Benton Township. I want our community to prosper and be more transparent. That means letting citizens know what’s going on.”

Meeks, 59, is self-employed who has a husband, Don, and two grown children.

The candidate was on the Cornerstone Alliance Board of Directors, and serves on the Lakeland Foundation Board of Directors and the Board for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

Meeks has a bachelor of arts degree in business administration from Sienna Heights University.

“I believe in change, and in order for change to happen we have to do something about it,” Meeks said. “I can’t just sit still. I’m hoping to be part of the process of that growth to spur development in the township. I want to have some input on what goes on in our township.”

Phillips, 62, is in her fifth term as clerk.

She is a member of the Berrien County Clerks Association, the Benton Charter Township Police and Fire Pension Board and the Benton Township Planning Commission.

Phillips has an associate’s degree from Lake Michigan College.

“My commitment to the community where I was born and raised speaks for itself,” Phillips said. “I would like to continue the record of financial stability and security of the township’s future. We have made improvements on the infrastructure, but I would like to see that continue. I support single-family housing development, as well as commercial.”

The race for treasurer

Bennet, 55, is a clinical assistant who has a husband, Richard, and four grown children.

She is the program chairwoman for the St. Matthews Missionary Baptist Church in Benton Township.

Bennet earned her business degree from Baker College. She said wants to make Township Hall more personable.

“I’ve attended some of the meetings and noticed most people aren’t friendly,” Bennet said. “I have a background in customer service and could improve meetings.”

Boothby, 53, is has a husband, Jim, and two grown children. She is in her third term as treasurer.

She is treasurer of the Berrien County Treasurer’s Association, chairwoman of the Benton Charter Township Police and Fire Pension Board, and is a member with the Medic 1 Community Emergency Service Board, Northwest Berrien Landfill Committee, Southwest Michigan Regional Airport Authority, Michigan Treasurers Association, Michigan Township Association, Chief Elected Officials Council, Berrien County Show Cause Hearing Committee, Lake Michigan College Citizen Task Force, and the Paw Paw River Water Trail working group.

Boothby, who attended Lake Michigan College, said she is running on the experience she has shown through her previous three terms.

“I believe I should be re-elected because of my record of fiscal responsibility and my commitment to offering the citizens of the township the best police, fire and utility services that they have come to expect and deserve,” Boothby said.

Royall, 67, is a retired Whirlpool Corp. employee who has a wife, Lynn, and a grown son.

He was a chairman of the Board of Trustees for the former American Baptist Church in Stevensville.

Royall received a bachelor of science degree in business economics from Purdue University and his masters in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.

“My focus will be on professional management that can properly allocate resources for the benefit of the residents of Benton Township,” Royall said. “The treasurer’s position used to be a part-time position, and I think it should be a part-time position again. There’s been a misallocation of resources in the township.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on July 28, 2016)

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