Senate race pits Vanderwaal against Taillard

November 1, 2018


By Aaron Michell

Curt Vanderwall, Republican

Vanderwall is challenging Democrat candidate Mike Talliard for a four-year term in Michigan’s 35th Senate District. For Vanderwall’s complete biography and platform, please visit This exclusive interview was provided for the Marion Press and Clare County Review. Remarks edited for clarity.

Marion Press: Tell us about your background. What experiences have made you a good candidate for State Senate?
Vanderwall: I’m currently the State Representative for the 101st district, which is Mason, Manistee, Benzie, and Leelaunau County. I was in the retail food business; I was in the grocery business for twenty years of my life before being a small-business owner where I worked my way up from a stocker, produce, meat guy, to a store director, to a district supervisor for two different companies: Eberhardt Foods, and Prevo’s Family Market. And then when Prevo’s sold to Spartan, I went out and went to work for a friend of mine who owned a fertilization and weed control company, and I bought it after three years. I’ve worked on numerous non-profits. Just basically a good listener; somebody who likes to carry the values and the concerns from the constituents to the places they need to get the work done. I was born and raised in Kentwood, and I moved when I got promoted to store director for Eberhardt Foods from Grand Rapids to Ludington in 1983 and that’s where I currently still live.

Candidate Curt Vanderwall

Candidate Curt Vanderwall

MP: What are some of the big issues and concerns that you’ve been hearing about, and that you’ll work to address?
Vanderwall: Number one thing that we’ve got to get fixed, and I still have hopes that we can get it done this fall, is auto no-fault reform. That’s something that has to get done, no matter what. And then the other two issues are going to take a little bit of time. One of them is revamping our public education system; we need to reintroduce the professional trades into our school system, and work to reform early childhood development. It’s such a crucial period of time that we struggle with in the state of Michigan, and we need to do better, and get better at bringing our parents back into the mix of how a school is run with our local administration, and our school boards.
The way a school is run in Marion isn’t the way a school would be run in Detroit, and vise versa. And then infrastructure. And when we talk about infrastructure, it’s not just the broadband or the roads, but all the components that make it work. If we don’t have adequate broadband or internet service in rural Michigan, it puts our school districts and our students at a disadvantage, but it’s also the same way for our businesses. To grow in Marion, or McBain, or Evart, if we don’t have good infrastructure, those businesses are going to choose to go somewhere else. Those are probably the top three that I really want to see us get moving on.

MP: When you’re not out on the campaign trail, or working in Lansing or with your constituents, how do you spend your free time? Any hobbies or interests that our readers might not know about?
Vanderwall: You bet. That’s probably some of the fun things. I’m a happily married guy; my wife and I have been married for 34 years and we have three children. My oldest boy is married and just had our first grandchild. I’m an avid motorcycle rider; my wife and I love to tour our Harley Davidson up and down the countryside and throughout the state. Probably one of our biggest passions: our family is big into hunting. We love to deer hunt; small game hunt. I’ve been a snowmobile safety instructor and a hunter safety instructor for many years, to make sure that we pass down some of those traditions to our young people.

MP: Why should voters vote for Curt Vanderwall on Tuesday? What can they expect if you’re elected to the Senate?
Vanderwall: They can expect several things. One of them would be that I’m extremely active in the communities that I serve. I’m very accessible. I have the skills to make relationships that will allow us to get the job done and make sure that we take care of the 35th Senate District along with the state of Michigan.

MP: With all the divisiveness and partisanship we’ve been seeing lately, how can you reach across the aisle and work in a bipartisan manner to get things done?
Vanderwall: Number one, you’ve got to have relationships, and you’ve got to have the will to do it. But I think the biggest thing is that if you’re not willing to sit down and listen to the other side when they express their concerns, you’re not going to get anything done. I think if you can do that, and you can listen, and there’s civility between the parties that are trying to work on it, there’s good legislation and there’s great opportunities to take care of the folks and their concerns. That’s really my number one top priority: to make sure we work to get things done that benefit all people, and not just one side or the other.

Mike Taillard, Democrat

Taillard is challenging Republican candidate Curt Vanderwall for a four-year term in Michigan’s 35th Senate District. For Taillard’s complete biography and platform, please visit This exclusive interview was provided for the Marion Press and Clare County Review. Remarks edited for clarity.

Marion Press: Tell us about your background. What experiences have made you a good candidate for state senate?
Taillard: I’m an economic consultant by trade, and a Michigan native. Over the course of my career I’ve had many clients that were either government agencies or politicians looking for research or policy analysis, or things of that nature. Prior to that, I was working primarily with the Department of Defense, a lot of global companies, non-profits, and start-ups. It dawned on me that our elected officials were making decisions that were contrary to the evidence. Most of my clients were good people, and they did have the best intentions at heart. But there was always something that got in the way – something was politically inconvenient, or someone’s hands were tied, due to their donors and so forth. There was always something that was intervening with developing policy that was ideal for the people of the state or for the country.
And it’s like I tell people, if you want a better Michigan, you have to start making better decisions. In Michigan here, we have the least transparent state in the nation. And we’re far from having anything implemented that is sufficient in terms of conflict-of-interest laws for our elected representatives. There’s absolutely no obligation or oversight or accountability for the decisions that are being made. And that’s really what inspired me to run back in 2013, but I hadn’t found the right position yet. I was still in the military; I still had a full client list. I waited a little bit, and eventually we moved back home to Michigan, because that’s where we wanted to be. The senate position opened up, and it seemed like an opportunity to really make some significant changes.

Candidate Mike Taillard

Candidate Mike Taillard

MP: Why did you decide to get into politics? What made you want to run for office?
Taillard: I don’t, and I never have intended to be a career politician; I enjoy being an economist, and I intend to go back to it, eventually. But somebody’s got to do something to fix the structure in which our representatives function; the structure in which they make their decisions and develop policy. Pick a name out of a hat from our current representatives and I guarantee you that they don’t know what a stochastic analysis is, or anything about economic growth models, or any of these things. What I’m doing, really, is just cutting out the middle-man; our current representatives, and making sure that the people of Michigan are able to come to somebody to express their concerns or express their goals, and have that person go out, get their hands dirty, and do the research, and start developing policies based off of the evidence instead of personal ideologies or special interest funding and things of that nature.
I was in the Army for a number of years, and my wife was in the Air Force. My grandfather was in the Army Air Corps back before there was an Air Force. And her family’s all in the military. Both our families are very much ingrained in the U.S Military throughout its history.

MP: What do you feel are some of the most important issues regarding the 35th district? What concerns and issues have you been hearing from your potential constituents?
Taillard: The ones I’ve been hearing over and over again are economic issues. There’s a lot of agriculture up here, especially dairy farmers – they’re getting two percent less for their milk than comparable products in surrounding states. We’re having a difficult time getting, and keeping people in the area. Whether it’s agriculture, or it’s tourism, or what have you – the employment prospects up here are not very good right now. There’s been very little effort on the part of Lansing to resolve that. There’s a lot of potential, because the costs, generally, up here are low. So there’s a lot of potential to stimulate entrepreneurship, especially among young people. With experienced professionals there’s a lot of opportunity for people to pursue small businesses that lower cost risks. But we’re lacking critical things, like internet. Throughout most of the district, we don’t have proper freeways, or rail transportation – which is an issue with agriculture as well. We end up with a lot of seasonal jobs in the service industry that don’t pay very well.
So we have a lot of jobs, but they’re all underemployment: part-time jobs, or things that don’t have much opportunity for growth or progress. We have an aging population, where all our young people, once they graduate high school, they leave to go to other areas. There’s just very few opportunities for quality employment. These things all tie together. To create an environment where we can be attractive to businesses, and especially new entrepreneurs. People opening new businesses; innovators. Innovation is going to be a critical aspect of all of this. We need to reach out and make sure that we can create an environment where they can thrive and compete.

MP: Some of the issues that we’ve been hearing lately: Farms, struggling to survive; rural businesses and schools struggling with a lack of technology and infrastructure. How might you address these issues?
Taillard:We need to make sure that we’re sustaining the farms that we have. Right now, we don’t have enough people going into the family business; going into the family farm, or even interested in going into farming in general. We have kind of a niche with micro-farms, but that’s not enough to replace the larger row-crop type farms where their producing a lot of corn, or wheat, or fruit. The wine-producers in particular seem to feel that their grape production is highly volatile, and if they have one bad year, there’s nothing in place to sustain financially until the next year. There’s a lot of risk involved in that. By getting kids involved, and more young people involved in 4-H, and MSU Extension, and by teaching the kids the skills they need to hit the ground running and to be the potential for a future northern Michigan. To see where they can apply their knowledge and their skills, and have an opportunity to have professional success – we’re lacking a lot of that.
By having our people open up, say, agricultural processing facilities so that we don’t have to send our fruit or our milk over to Wisconsin or Minnesota or Indiana or Ohio, where it increases the cost of production. It becomes a big problem. It’s no wonder our farmers are struggling when they’re getting squeezed at both ends.
There’s not a whole lot of incentive for young people to go into that, when they see that the financial incentive isn’t there. So what do we have to do? We have to make Michigan more competitive; make it more attractive. And the only way to do that is by helping to facilitate new entrepreneurship; new businesses. And to provide the proper infrastructure necessary. Whether that be rail, or road, or internet or telephone. A lot of that is lacking up here. It’s not enough to just keep the status quo, we need to update the State. That’s our slogan: Update the state.

MP: What other concerns and issues would you work to address?
Taillard: And then there’s this issue of insurance. We have a lot of people talking about different things, whether it’s our health insurance; we have a lot of people talking about no-fault auto insurance. The Michigan Association of Justice discusses the role of insurance in the judiciary system and how they’re overstepping their bounds; doctors are not happy with liability insurance for their malpractice; we’ve got businesses all over the state who are not happy with their liability insurance. And there’s this common theme that no matter what we’re talking about it all comes back to the same core problem, these are all just symptoms. How we address no-fault, or medical, or any of this, it all comes back to this core issue of the insurance industry itself, and Michigan really needs to rethink its relationship with the insurance industry as a whole if we’re going to really address any of this.

MP: What can voters expect if Mike Taillard is elected to the State Senate on Tuesday?
Taillard: Evidence based policy. I’ve worked in this sector for many, many years now so I can hit the ground running, no problem. Immediately, off the bat, we’re talking about introductions of policies to improve the way our government functions.

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