LeJeune out, McLaughlin in for Rock River

In a rare move, Ron LeJeune failed to be reappointed to the Rock River Township Planning Commission. No municipality in Alger County has failed to reappoint a member of its planning commission that has wanted to return to the position since at least 2019.

LeJeune’s three-year term on the commission ended on Jan. 1, 2023, so the township accepted applications for the position. Four total candidates submitted letters of intent. Renee McLaughlin was appointed after a 4-1 vote, with Township Trustee Rowan Bunce dissenting. Bunce, who serves as the township board’s liaison to the planning commission, nominated LeJeune, but could not get a second.

According to planning commission meeting minutes, LeJeune missed his first four meetings after being appointed in 2020. With the planning commission meeting quarterly, that meant he missed the entire first year of the term. Since the absence, he attended every meeting, was named the secretary of the commission and was active in the review of the township’s proposed master plan updates. LeJeune has also been active at public comment of township meetings and submitted potential language for a township antidiscrimination policy that was positively received by the township board.

McLaughlin has a doctorate and served with the U.S. Army Reserve during the Iraq War. She moved to the township 2.5 years ago.

Both before and after the vote, supporters of LeJeune spoke to his desire to continue in the role and confusion about whether or not retaining willing members to appointed committees would be considered a “best practices” effort. Other members of the public made a point of recognizing McLaughlin’s accreditations given the abundance of potential candidates.

“I’ve gone to three of these meetings, and the last two times you asked me to be on that commission. It’s good that there’s multiple candidates to pick from,” McLaughlin’s neighbor Nathaniel Wood said. “I get defending (LeJeune), but let’s not forget that she’s more than qualified and a good neighbor too.”

LeJeune said that he was surprised that the term was up so quickly, but did not comment on the result of the vote. McLaughlin made a public statement on Facebook after the meeting.

“I would like to publicly thank the Rock River Township Council for selecting me as a member of the Planning Commission. I will bring an open mind and a deep love and respect for the beauty of the community that we call home and of the people that live here,” she said.