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Drain commissioner aims to retain post

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David P. Thompson was appointed county drain commissioner Jan. 1. No other candidate has filed to run for the job.

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MONROE -- Monroe County Drain Commissioner David P. Thompson is running to retain his office.

Mr. Thompson took the job Jan. 1, when he was appointed to fill the unfinished four-year term of Daniel Stefanski, who retired. He was Mr. Stefanski's deputy and is a longtime employee of the drain commission.

"This is not a whim for me," Mr. Thompson said of his decision to seek election. "This is my career. I have been working my way up in the drain commission for 18 years, looking for better ways to serve the public. I learned the job from the ground up. I enjoy it. I enjoy working for the people."

Nobody else has filed to run for the office, according to the Monroe County clerk.

The Temperance resident, who is 44, believes his experience uniquely qualifies him for the position. His employment with the drain commission began in 1994, when he was assigned to the Bedford Wastewater Treatment Plant as a sewer system specialist, and he notes that he has learned his job "from the ground up."

Mr. Stefanski said Mr. Thompson was an able deputy during his seven-year tenure as drain commissioner.

"He certainly knows the workings of the office and he knows the drain code, and I can't think of anyone better qualified to take over from me. He's already interned in the position. We've been doing 14, 15, 16 projects a year and David has been involved in all of them," he explained.

Mr. Thompson was unanimously appointed by a committee consisting of the county's prosecutor, clerk, and chief probate judge. The position pays $74,900 annually.

The drain commission maintains 900 ditches and 200 tile systems in Monroe County. Each of these is in its own district funded by special assessments and has three accounts: for revenues, expenditures, and projects.

Mr. Thompson said the drain commission's total staff is five, including himself. The county's general fund pays 56 percent of his payroll, with the remainder financed by drain work. The office has eliminated seven general fund positions since 2003, he said.

He said he has been involved in drain projects in every township and virtually every municipality in the county and "I am committed to protecting private property values and agriculture from flooding and water damage by maintaining drainage in Monroe County."

He graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in education, planning to be a teacher. But he entered the labor force at the same time the state's Proposal A was switching school funding to Lansing, leaving districts uncertain of their financial situation.

"Nobody was hiring," he recalled, "and I just wanted to get out and get a job." So in 1994 he took a position at the Bedford Wastewater Treatment Plant, where he had worked summers as a student. The drain commission operates the facility, which is owned by the township. He was hired as a sewer system specialist and was promoted to drainage district agent before becoming deputy drain commissioner. He has certifications from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality in storm water and soil erosion/sedimentation control.

Mr. Thompson has a fifth-degree black belt in shotokan karate and is owner of the Blissfield Martial Arts Institute. He said his karate studio is mostly managed by his assistant instructors because of his 55-hour work week. He grew up in Frenchtown Township and graduated from Monroe High School. He and his wife, Jessica, have 2-year old twins, Elizabeth and William.

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