Retired Navy Chief Coleman candidate for 59th District seat
By Robert Tomlinson Staff Writer
THREE RIVERS — If you go to a meeting of any governmental body in St. Joseph County, be it a county commission meeting, a township board meeting, or even a road commission meeting, there is a good chance you may have seen one of the candidates running for the Republican nomination for the 59th District in the Michigan House of Representatives, Jack Coleman.
Coleman, a retired United States Navy Chief and Park Township resident for the last three years, said he goes to a lot of those meetings because of his interest in politics and the interest of what is going on in the local community.
“If I’m going to ask people to represent them in Lansing, how can I do that without knowing what’s going on in each of the townships and municipalities?” Coleman said in a recent interview. “My thought process is, if I’m fortunate to get elected, then I’m not playing catch-up, I know what’s going on in Fawn River with the Fennell Subdivision, I know what’s going on in Colon or in Fabius.”
Coleman is one of a few Republicans running for the Republican nomination for the seat on the Aug. 4 ballot. Other Republican candidates include Allen Balog, Steve Carra, and Allen Meyer, while the lone Democrat seeking their party’s nomination is Amy East.
Coleman served in the Navy for 20 years between 1996 and 2016 initially asan air traffic controller, and was deployed overseas three times on the U.S.S. Kearsarge, which Coleman said was the lead amphibious ship for the Iraq War. Coleman also served as a radar branch Chief at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Va., and as an air traffic control instructor at a Naval Air Technical Training Center in Pensacola, Fla. He retired from the Navy in November 2016, and moved to Park Township in May 2017. He lives in Park Township with his wife, Jennifer, and his 10-year-old daughter, Tricia.
During his time in the Navy, and even before then, Coleman had an interest in politics, going to county commission or city council meetings wherever he was stationed. However, he said didn’t seriously consider running for office until after he retired, saying he “missed serving.” He then became an officer with the American Legion, and later became a member of the Park Township Board of Review and Planning Commission.
Coleman was one of the earliest candidates to file for the 2020 election, having formed a campaign finance committee back in March 2019. He said the early file was so that he got a chance to learn about the community more and get to know as many people as possible.
“My thought process was, at the end of the day, state representative is a local election, and I wanted to give people the best opportunity to know me personally, instead of just recognizing a name and face,” Coleman said.
Policy-wise, Coleman is running on a platform of fiscal responsibility, which he said affects plenty of issues in the community, from mental health to road funding and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s road bonding project.
“Ever since the Engler administration, mental health has seen a decline in support from the state. I think we’re starting to see the mistake in that, especially on a local level. If we can get people help and get them to where they can be self-sufficient, then it’s better for them, better for us, and just the right thing to do,” Coleman said. “Along with that, having the governor have absolute unilateral control to put the state into debt needs to be changed. That’s a serious financial decision, and that law, in my opinion, needs to be changed to allow the House and Senate to approve that also.”
However, Coleman said the biggest issues facing the 59th District coming into the 2020 election are the decline in population, the job market in the district and access to high-speed internet. Coleman said the district, and the state as a whole, is “not attracting the right kind of jobs.”
“The young people that are essentially leaving the state and district are going for the jobs Michigan is simply not providing right now, and some of them are high-tech jobs,” Coleman said.
As for high-speed internet, Coleman said a “large portion” of the district lacks the access to it, and if they do have access, the reliability of it wasn’t up to par. That, he said, along with other factors, makes it harder to attract hightech jobs to the area.
“We have zero interstate miles, we have very limited access to rail, and we don’t have any airports that can handle a significant business load,”
Coleman said. “You add the lack of high-speed internet, it’s going to be very hard to attract businesses to the area and businesses that young people are interested in.”
Coleman said he is pro-life and proSecond Amendment, and is a member of both Right to Life and the National Rifle Association. He said he is not in favor of so-called red flag laws, which would allow police to temporarily confiscate firearms from people deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves and others, per requests from friends and family members.
“The red flag laws I’ve seen drafted in our state and others concern me, because you can report somebody virtually for any reason,” Coleman said. “Plus, it takes people’s personal property away without due process afforded by the Fourth Amendment. You essentially have to prove your innocence to recover your property.”
Coleman said his Navy experience, along with his experience of owning a restaurant in Pensacola, has prepared him for many aspects of the job as a representative.
“When I was radar branch Chief at Oceana, I had to coordinate with the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Transportation on the local level and on the federal level, so I have experience in dealing with federal and local politicians,” Coleman said. “I’ve also had leadership experience with the Navy, and when I was the command duty officer in Pensacola, we had over 4,000 people who were stationed and living together in the local area, say, the size of Mendon. You have to learn to get along with people to make the mission work.”
Overall, Coleman said he enjoys the 59th District for its “Good, oldfashioned wholesome family values,” and said people should vote for him because of his involvement in the community.
“I’m invested in the community. I’m involved with my township, the American Legion, I’m a property owner. This community is mine, and I’m part of the community,” Coleman said. “I think I have the people skills and the networking ability that’s required in Lansing, and I am very true to my beliefs and my morals, and I can’t be dissuaded from them. The skillset, the networking ability, my knowledge of government, and what I know is going on at a state level and a local level, I think I could benefit our district.”
Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or robert@ threeriversnews.com.