Groceries meets politics: Scarbrough returns to public office to ‘make a difference’

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Linda Scarbrough stands by the entryway of her grocery and feed store in Millburg on Wednesday. Scarbrough is the newest member of the Benton Township Board of Trustees. (Tony Wittkowski | HP Staff)

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

BENTON TOWNSHIP — In some way, shape or form, Linda Scarbrough has spent the last 30 years serving Benton Township residents.

She owns the Red & White Grocery & Feed Store in Millburg and represented the township as treasurer for four years.

With the election season in sight, it appeared the township’s Board of Trustees would have at least one new face among its panel. Scarbrough took the chance and made her return to the board in November.

Scarbrough sat down with Herald-Palladium staff writer Tony Wittkowski to talk about her store and what she hopes to see from the township in the next four years.

What made you want to run for the Board of Trustees?

I’ve been active with the township since the early 2000s in different capacities. Whether that be committees or boards. I’m interested in the growth of the township. I just want to be a part of what goes on and hope that I can make a difference.

You were a treasurer for four years. When was that?

It was in, I believe 2000. I was asked to do that. Paul Harvey, who was the supervisor at the time and Jack O’Brien, who was very active in the Democratic Party, came here to visit me as a small business owner. O’Brien was getting the supervisor acquainted with the area and there was a vacancy on the board of trustees.

They asked if I would be willing to fill the position. The next day Mr. O’Brien called me at home and asked for me to run for treasurer. I told him I would do my very best.

I know you were on the Planning Commission. What were some of the other committees?

I was on the Planning Commission. I was on the Property Committee when I was treasurer and I have been on the Board of Review, as well.

OK, how long have you been involved with the township, in any capacity?

Probably 30 years. The first time I participated was when I was working at the store and Jim Boothby called during the election and said, “I am short a person at one of the polling places. Can you fill in?” I was there within an hour and have been doing something ever since.

Have you lived here all your life?

No, I moved here in 1963 from Missouri.

What brought you to the area?

Jobs. We were farmers in Missouri, which is very seasonal. In the ’60s, Southwest Michigan was a booming place. It was a place to go and get a job. We moved during the Thanksgiving holiday and the following Monday, my husband applied to work at Modern Plastics and went to work that Tuesday. We came because we needed work.

How did you end up opening the Red & White Grocery Store?

That started out as a joke. During the gasoline crunch in late ’70s or early ’80s, Avian closed after being here in the area for so, so long. We had a small farm out here, 10 acres, it was a hobby farm. We had some livestock and bought our feed at this store.

We had heard this place was for sale. The guys that were here, had been here for 44 years. One of them built the mill that we still operate. My husband joked “we could buy you a job.” The more we talked about it, the more interested we became. We made them an offer and here we are 35 years later.

Where do you see the township going in the next few years? You’re on the board now and have a front row seat on what comes through the township.

I can only hope I see it going up. I would hope that we can have some magnet stores. The new strip mall that’s coming in over by the Secretary of State(’s office). When they get one vendor in there, it will hopefully be a magnet for another store. We as a township need to be the shining star that people want to come be a part of.

Benton Township has one of the larger footprints in the county. Being on the Property Committee helped me understand that as well as the business districts and where they overlap. I go out to the site and do my homework. I want to see what we’ll be talking about and what controversy we might face.

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

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Feb. 20, 2017)

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