Shut This Blog Down

It is primary election day. Did you vote yet?

When you do vote, remember this blog. Your choice could shut this blog down. If you vote against crazed loony politicians that say stupid things and make terrible decisions, what would we have to make fun of? If you vote for rational and sensible people, it could mean the end of this blog!

If you want the S.S. ARRRG to keep sailing the high seas, remember to vote for the nuts. If you want the County to work efficiently with healthy leadership, well… you should probably avoid voting for idiots.

Also, please remember that there are some township issues on the ballot. There are congressional primaries to be decided. There is also Antrim’s 911 Millage that is on the ballot. Important stuff!

The choice is up to you. Go vote!


Time to mosey out by the road and check the ol’ mailbox. Let’s see if we got any good letters!


We received several notes about one particular topic that was too gossipy even for this well-respected boat full of drunken idiots. But, we can ask some questions.

Why did Terry VanAlstine support Dawn Lavanway’s terrible idea?

At this last meeting, Dawn made a motion to hire an outside firm to conduct a search for the next County administrator. Everybody thought this was a waste of money and a dumb idea. The commissioners felt that the HR director was perfectly capable. It also sounds like they have an internal hire in mind. So, why waste the money?

Oddly enough, the notorious penny-pincher Chairman seconded Dawn’s dumb motion, and was the only commissioner to vote along with her. He did this despite not actually vocalizing any reason for the support.

Isn’t that strange? Why did he do that?



Do you have a hot tip? A little bit of snitching to do? Feel free to drop us a note. This is especially for Antrim County hostages employees.

Below is a snitch form that is a bit more private than leaving a pubic comment.

Hate Mail

We receive a lot of encouraging messages. People write us with thanks, and notes that plead for more. We appreciate those, but hate mail is SO much more fun. For example:

“Go back to Ann Arbor, you twat.”

Anonymous Fan

“Imagine a person who thinks government can fix housing affordability issues… THE GOVERNMENT CAUSED THE HOUSING AFFORDABILITY ISSUES YOU STUPID F—ING C–T”

Anonymous Fan

“No one wants your liberal democrat bullshit. Go to hell.”

Anonymous Fan

“That last donut is mine.”

Jim the Pirate

Thanks for all the love content. Keep it coming!

For the several writers accusing us of being Democrat operatives, we will explain again. We are no more Democrat than Trucker Randy. Local issues should not be seen through a prism of a political party. That only distracts. Real neighbors can use common sense to think through these issues and come up with positive solutions. You don’t need to be an Elephant or a Jackass. But, some people can only think in terms of us vs. them. That’s too bad. Their world is probably very small.

Harsh Language

We received a couple complaints regarding us calling commissioners names. One writer said that it was disrespectful to refer to Dawn Lavanway as “wacko”.

Is that too harsh? We thought that was pretty mild. We get WAY worse than that in our inbox. We referred to Lavanway, Watrous and Politician Jarris Rubingh as the “Triumvirate of Mental Deficiency”.

Should we have said that Lavanway “exhibited the behavior of one who is wacko”?

Our criticism is restricted to what the Board members say in public and some of it is cRAzY. The word “wacko” seems like an accurate description of things that come out of some of these commissioners’ mouths. Lord knows the things they say when they are not on the record!

Why Not Run?

We have received quite a few requests along the lines of “Why don’t you run for a Board seat?” Which one of us do you want to run? Who is to say that one of us isn’t running for a spot?

Besides, if we ran, who would make fun of us?

Voters Guide

August 2nd is the primary election. Your favorite pirate ship has put together a brief guide for anybody voting in the Elephant Party primary on Tuesday.

Elephant District One

Bill Heffernan

Heffernan recently retired as the probate court administrator after 26 years. He is the chairman of Milton Township’s Planning commission. He told the Retched Beagle that he was running because he enjoyed working with county employees during his career.

Caleb Pero

Pero is a military veteran and works for an excavating company. Should we dig into that?


He told the Retched Beagle that he is running to “bring conservative values back to Antrim County”. Bring them back? What? The Board can’t even approve of meeting minutes without someone complaining about immigration or marijuana.

His social media feed could be a MAGA bingo card. TRUMP! GUNS! JESUS!


Elephant District Two

Politician Jarris Rubingh



Election law-violator

Anti-health department


Pro-useless tax cuts for rich people

Farmer. Did you know that he was a farmer?

Melissa Zelenak

Zelenak previously served on the Board. She is from Central Lake and is the Executive Director for the Conservation District. On her website, she states that if elected, she will not say crazy things at meetings and belittle staff. She also states that she will be rational and work for the whole county’s benefit and not just a few people. That would be really wEirD!

Elephant District Three

Terry VanAlstine

VanAlstine is the Board chairman and thus serves as the Clown in Chief. He’s a MAGA Republican, but at least he acts like an adult. He focuses on county business and that is good. The problem is important projects are not getting done. It seems that he is just fine with that. Stop staring at your beard in the mirror and get to work, Terry!

Gary Lockwood

He isn’t even running.

Elephant District Four

Brenda Ricksgers

Ricksgers is the Board’s resident grandma. Her family owns a horse farm in Alden. She is active in the community. She tends to focus on County business and doesn’t get caught up in the political games.

Jason Helwig

Helwig is from Mancelona and works at a plant in Bellaire. He made the decision to run, but not to actively campaign this go-round. It is understandable. This Board is exhausting.

Elephant District Five

Dawn Lavanway

Lavanway is from East Jordan, where she runs the library. Redistricting put her into the same district as Christian Marcus. Lavanway is always happy to share her bad ideas and say ridiculous things at Board meetings. Nobody can derail a productive meeting like Dawn can!

Christian Marcus

Marcus has served on the Board for a long time. Generally, he can be reasoned with and it is possible to get him to invest in important projects. However, when he gets into the political Kool-Aid, he is just as nutty as Lavanway. His ideas about 😮 election fraud 😮 were awful.

Good luck if you live in District 5!

Lipstick on a Pig

At the July 21 Board meeting, the Board discussed several matters before getting to CIP and facilities. They discussed soil erosion with the new soil erosion officer. Veterans Affairs presented an annual report and told the Board how they serve 2,000+ military veterans living in the County. They are clearly doing a great job with outreach and the pirate ship salutes the County VA. Thank you for your service!

Let’s keep track of all the ways that the Board is failing the county through this one meeting.


Politician Jarris Rubingh bitched about spending money to fix the Courthouse clock tower. It wasn’t a lot of money, but he didn’t like it. At one point he blurted out “everybody’s got cell phones”, and then voted against approving the expenditure. He was apparently pushing the Board to just abandon the working clock tower.

What an asshole.

The vote to approve a few hundred bucks to fix the clock passed with only Politician Jarris Rubingh being an asshole about it.

County Building

They finally got around to the most important item – buildings. They discussed the county building, which is falling apart. The heavy facade panels around the stairwells could fall off and kill somebody at any time.

The Board is waiting on numbers from the engineering firm before hiring a contractor to do the work. There is already hand wringing about the cost, and it will be EXPENSIVE. Millions of dollars will be needed to fix this problem.

The Board put itself in this position. The Board should have done its job and enacted a facilities master plan years ago. How does the County Building fit into the overall plan? Instead of spending millions to temporarily fix an aging monstrosity, why not spend those millions on a new and better building at a different location? It is stupid not to.

Maltby Building

The Maltby Building used to house Nifty Thrifty. It has a lot of problems and will require investment to be usable. So, the county is looking to off load the building. The Board argued about whether to auction the building or go through a realtor. Should we do a local realtor or a state wide commercial realtor. They got VERY bogged down in this. Lavanway opposed auction. She was worried that the high bidder would be outside their control. The new owner could try to sell cannabis out of the building. What a stupid comment.

Josh Watrous came out of nowhere and said something rational. Shocking! He suggested that the Board ought to figure out what they are doing as an overall plan with all the buildings. This is a better idea than just merely reacting to individual issues. Instead, develop an overall plan, and then see how each building fits within that plan.

Oh my god! That is the most sense we have ever heard him speak. Nice job, Josh! He is totally right. But, why is that so difficult for the Board to comprehend? Are they stupid? Are they incompetent? Or perhaps this is a failure in leadership. Perhaps we should look at the Board Chairman and wonder why he is avoiding this necessary planning.

Capital Improvement Plan

The Board was finally presented with the Capital Improvement Plan. We read the whole thing. You can find it here. But, don’t bother. It is exactly what we thought it would be – maintenance on old buildings, money wasted on short term solutions, and no long term plan for where the hell the County is going.

We are shocked that the plan did not include literal lipstick on an actual pig.

The so called “Plan” is just a list of things that are busted and how much it will cost to slap a band aid on it. It is 50 pages of avoiding the underlying issues. There is NO long range plan. There is NO clear direction. They know that there are clear long-term problems, yet they are avoiding solutions.

Several Commissioners pointed out that they are operating without a 10 year plan. Bargy pointed out that replacing an entire mechanical system in a crumbling building makes no sense. Van Alstine angrily accused Bargy of getting in the way of building repairs. She tried to explain that she was just pointing out that there was NO LONG TERM plan. She’s right! They are just making things up on the fly!

In a heated exchange, Boettcher bemoaned the fact that the CIP did not in any way address a new law enforcement center. Politician Jarris Rubingh did his usual song and dance about how much it will cost. The Politician claims the County would have to double its tax rate to afford a new jail. Boettcher interruped and called bullshit on Rubingh. “You don’t know that! You haven’t even read the report! It will not double the tax rate.”

“There is no reason not to have the discussion [about the new jail],” said Boettcher. Watrous accused Boettcher of being the Sheriff since he was so insistent on building a new jail. Boettcher claimed that there was nothing stopping the Board from working on the long term direction for the County. The other Board members then all claimed that they were actively working on a long term solution. They were all committed to doing something about the jail problem.

They are lying. There is no active planning happening at all. They are blatantly avoiding the issue. They have a facilities master plan. Why not work on it and use it? This CIP is completely divorced from the master plan and that is a failure by the Board.

This CIP sucks. It is a critical part of the Board’s responsibility and they blew it. What a failfest!

Administrator Search

Administrator Pete Garwood has announced his upcoming retirement.

At the July 21 meeting, Dawn Lavanway suggested spending $20K to hire the Michigan Municipal League to run the hiring process. She suggested that the League has the capability to find a bunch of great candidates. 20K will be spent and the amazing candidates will appear. Voila!

Ed Boettcher called her out on this pipe dream. Everybody’s hiring. Other counties have recently done this and have struggled to find candidates, just like every other municipality and business. The County has a Deputy Administrator who is qualified and capable. Why spend $20,000 when the County has a HR department?

As usual, Lavanway claimed that she is an expert. “I’ve done this before,” she claimed.

Really? You’ve hired a County Administrator before? Okay, sure.

Local expert Dawn Lavanway insisted on a vote for her dumb idea, which she lost 2-6.

The County Administrator is the most important county employee. The position requires a working knowledge of everything the sprawling county government takes part in. It is important that the person they hire is capable and qualified. Some stuffed shirt is not going to cut it.

The ARRRG team is on the job and will keep an eye on the search process. We just feel sorry for the poor sap, whose job will be working with this god-awful Board.

A Clear Sign of FRAUD

Politician Jarris Rubingh wants the people of his district to send him back to the Board as a reward for all the ways that he screwed them over. So, he has deployed signs all over the place so his supporters can virtue signal their front lawns.

Did you spot the problem with his sign? Look again.

No, it is not the tractor in the middle. But, since it was mentioned. That guy talks more about being a farmer than a firefighter brags about being a firefighter. Good Lord! We get it, already. You’re a freakin’ farmer.

The problem is the very first word at the top of the sign. “Re-elect”. Jarris was elected in District 1. Since re-apportionment, he is now running in District 2. So, he is running, for the first time, for the Commission seat from District 2. It is, therefore, NOT re-election that he is seeking.

Claiming incumbency can have advantages. So, it seems unfair to do it when you are not an incumbent. In fact, it should be illegal!

Oh, wait. IT IS ILLEGAL!

According to Section 944 of Michigan’s Election Law, people running for office who are not incumbents are forbidden from advertising as an imcumbent. They cannot have signage or advertising that lists them as incumbent, or claim to be running for “re-election”. In fact, it is a Misdemeanor in the state of Michigan.

But, here’s ol’ Jarris: blatantly breaking the law.

Wasn’t this the same guy that demanded a recount, even when it was explained that it was outside the Board’s power? Wasn’t he worried sick about 😮 Election Fraud 😮 and demanded integrity?

But, maybe he just slipped up. Perhaps this was an honest mistake. They happen, right?

NO. He does not get the option to claim that. When we were in the midst of the election snafu, he would not allow it to be a simple whoopsie. He did not allow the clerk to claim a mistake was made, so we cannot allow him to make such a claim. If he wants election fraud investigated, then let’s do it.

If you live in Politician Jarris Rubingh’s district, you should consider calling the prosecuting attorney, or the Attorney General’s Office.

Hey, Jarris. Stop breaking the law.

Board Priorities – Facilities

The second priority the Board of Commissioners identified via strategic planning was this:

Determining the direction for facilities

The fact that they are still attempting to identify a mere direction is a testament to government incompetence. This has been a topic at the Board for over a decade. Over a decade! And we are still trying to find a direction?

Not to worry. The Board has tasked the Capital Improvement committee (CIP) with handling this. The Chair appointed two members to the CIP – Dawn Lavanway and Politician Jarris Rubingh!

During the last meeting, Ed Boettcher demanded to know what progress has been made, and he wanted to know why the Board had not heard anything back about this. Lavanway told him that they would present it and the Board can vote yes or no. Take it or leave it. *shrug*

Politician Jarris Rubingh hemmed and hawed. Mumbled some vague nonsense, and generally had no answers for Boettcher.

“I have yet to been involved with any plans and I am frustrated with that,” Boettcher said. “We have not followed up on this at all.”

Lavanway tried to deflect and then admitted “We haven’t got to it yet.”

You haven’t got to it yet? The CIP is supposed to determine the direction of the facilities plan for the next 5-10 years. That’s it. That’s what the CIP does. They haven’t got to it yet? What have they been doing.

Good luck finding the minutes to CIP meetings. No where to be found. So, who knows what they do at those meetings?

We have covered how astoundingly useless the Board is when it comes to facilities. But, let’s just review the status of the County’s facilities.

Sheriff’s Annex Building

This place is located on Grove St across from the Sheriff’s administration office. It is where deputies and detectives have their offices. It is awful. The only tool that could possibly fix this building would be a flamethrower.

We may be too pessimistic about this building. Let’s look at it another way: When meth heads are brought in for questioning at the annex, they feel right at home.

This building got to be so bad that the county has already started to move personnel out of the building. They moved several employees over to the health department building, across Broad St. They couldn’t wait for the CIP committee. They had to move.

County Building

Can you imagine a couple being head over heels in love? They are so in love that they decide to get married. Hand in hand, they walk to the County Building to get a marriage license. They can’t help but to stare into each other’s eyes as they approach the County Building door. That’s when a concrete facade panel falls off of the county building and crushes the bride-to-be!


That scenario could actually happen. The Board hired an engineering firm to examine the facade panels on the outside of the Building. These are masonry panels bolted on to the exterior walls. So much moisture has built up behind the panels, the damned things could fall off, tumble down, and cause massive damage.

The next time you go there to conduct a forensic audit, watch for falling debris!

Those two buildings need immediate attention.

Other Buildings

The jail is still a safety hazard, and it is an eyesore. It is so old that it will continue to cost the county a lot of money to maintain it. At some point, the Board has to be able to comprehend the mathematics of the situation. What is the plan for that building?

The County Building is falling apart. The facade issue is a critical safety issue. But, there are others. Beyond the structural issues, the building is an ugly brutalist structure that has no place downtown. What is the plan for the county building?

The ACT shop, the Maltby building, Commission on Aging, etc. What is the overall plan for these buildings? What is the county’s facilities plan?

This was supposed to be a “priority” for the Board this year. Is it? It sure does not seem like it.

Dawn Lavanway and Politician Jarris Rubingh should resign from CIP immediately and we should entrust that role to more capable people. Terry Van Alstine should be reprimanded for the Board’s failure to plan.

This should be among the Board’s most important responsibilities. They have kicked the can down the road for ten years. Here we are, a decade later, and we are still looking for a mere direction. What a disgrace!

Board Priorities – Employees

The Board identified two top priorities during strategic planning:

  • Investing in employees
  • Determining the direction for facilities

Really? The things that the Board regularly refuse to do are now their priorities?

Investing in Employees

A goal of investing in employees sure sounds good, but they are just words until something is actually done.

Staff have tried a few things. They are working on surveys, employee engagement strategies, and they have even started an employee recognition program. But, is that really “investing”?

It seems like the Board instructed staff to prioritize “investing in employees” with no definition of what that means, and no actual plan on how the Board would invest in employees.

As far as we can tell, the Board has taken no action on this supposed priority. They agreed to a modest bump in pay for the union contracts. But, that modest increase has been wiped out by inflation. Other counties have enacted wage adjustments to help solve staffing issues, and provide some relief to employees. Not Antrim. Hell no.

How about benefits? That is a major draw to municipal work. How are Antrim’s benefits?

Medical – It is okay. Not good and certainly not great. Employees are given a choice between several different programs. All are mediocre.

Retirement – Shit. Complete and utter shit. it used to be good, but the Board gutted the old pension program. We won’t bore you with the details , but future Antrim County retirees may be asking if you prefer paper or plastic.

What could the Board do?

There are a lot of things the Board could do to actually invest in employees.

  • Wage adjustment
  • Matching 457 contribution
  • Offer an HSA program to assist with health care
  • Increase defined benefit caps
  • Offer additional wage steps
  • Invest in employee wellness
  • Create promotion opportunities
  • Tuition Assistance for employee family members
  • Create child care assistance program

Finally, the Commissioners could address the biggest problem that county employees have. Most employees work in dilapidated and possibly unsafe facilities.

More on facilities, next time.

Commissioner Grades – Recap

Let’s go from worst to first.

  • Rubingh – 0 | Politician Jarris Rubingh actively works against the county’s best interests. He proudly impedes progress. His only redeeming aspect is the entertainment we get from the stupidity that comes from his mouth.

  • Watrous – 0 | Josh Watrous just does whatever Rubingh does. He’s a trained parrot.

  • Lavanway – 2 | All aboard the CRAZY train! This commissioner is full of bad ideas, and she is not afraid to share them.

  • Marcus – 4 | Christian Marcus is slightly more reasonable than Lavanway. But, he also has his moments of craziness.

  • Vanalstine – 6 | The chairperson is the top clown of the clown show. He is doing a better job than we anticipated. But, there are a lot of LONG meetings that are accomplishing little.

  • Helwig – 7 | He is a man of mystery and easily swayed. But, he is trying to represent his district well.

  • Bargy – 9 | She had a rough term, but did a good job standing up to this Board’s extremes and nonsensical decisions. The voice of reason in an insane asylum!

  • Ricksgers – 10 | A solid commissioner who stands up to stupidity and speaks for her district. Somebody needs to be the adult!

  • Boettcher – 11 | We advocate for rationality in local government. Ed Boettcher personifies rationality. He has performed his duties with solid reasoning and responsibility.

This Board is clearly awful. It shows in their work (or lack thereof). But, there are a few reasonable people on the Board that are trying to do good things. We hope those reasonable few that are running for reelection are retained, and the loudmouthed loons are sent packing. But, that is all up to the voters, and the primary is coming soon.

Commissioner Grades – District Nine

Let’s evaluate how each commissioner is doing so far in their time on the Board. We will rate each commissioner on their abilities in five different criteria. The rating will be on a 3 point scale.

3 = Excellent | 2 = Very Good | 1 = Satisfactory | 0 = Not Good at all

Here are the criteria:

Reasonable/Rational. Does the Commissioner act in a manner that shows rational thought patterns, and does the Commissioner consider proposals is a reasonable manner?

Effectiveness. Does the Commissioner get things done? Do they move the Board toward accomplishment?

Political Perspective. Is the Commissioner focused on the local needs of the County? Do they avoid playing idealistic political games, and do they concentrate efforts on accomplishing county business?

Communication. How well does the Commissioner communicate with members of the public and with fellow Board members? Do they articulate their mission/vision for the County?

Entertainment. How crazy are they? Do they provide comedic content for the ARRRG blog?

Okay. Here we go.

District 9 Commissioner – Christian Marcus


He’s a MAGA guy. Which is fine. Just don’t join a cult, and don’t let your irrational beliefs affect decisions on the Board. Unfortunately, Marcus was all in on the 😮 election fraud 😮 conspiracy theory. From time to time, he does see reason and votes for the benefit of his district.

Rating: 1


Marcus represents the county on the Health Board, Mental Health, and the Michigan Association of Counties. Marcus benefits from these appointments as he regularly updates the Board on things that he has learned from those committees and associations.

Rating: 1


Allowing the vast political battles in the national spotlight to affect decisions on local issues is bad for business. Marcus does this often. He much prefers to rant about state and federal issues. Useless.

Rating: 0


Marcus is blunt, condescending and down right rude at times. During the 😮 election fraud 😮 nonsense, he went after the County Clerk and accused her of all sorts of ridiculous nonsense. He flat out stated that she had committed fraud, and then the next meeting threw a tantrum because his accusation wasn’t included in the meeting minutes. Wow.

Rating: -1


We appreciate histrionics, hissy fits, and all manner of tantrums. Great for business and great for entertainment. Thank you, Christian Marcus for the content. This guy is running against Dawn Lavanway. What a choice. Pick your poison!

Rating: 3