First elected in 1987, Heins masterminded the 1998 firing of popular city manager Mike Herman. Voters, apparently weary of what had become the local political reality show, voted Heins off the council in November 1999.
Those days seem so long ago. A lot has happened since then, and I dug out some of my old newspaper columns to refresh my memory.
I was struck by how Heins had positioned himself as the voice of the regular folks in a war against the elites, not unlike the political positioning of some of the current Tea Partiers. But instead of, say, Sarah Palin’s finger pointing at the media, Heins turned his sights on the “out-of-towners,” the “money people” and the “elites” he felt were currying special favor from Howell’s city manager.
High on Heins’ hit list were the Howell Area Chamber of Commerce, the Livingston County Press, the Town Commons subdivision and, of course, Howell City Manager Mike Herman.
The first attempt to fire Herman came in a hastily called meeting on Labor Day 1998. Despite the fact that the meeting was taking place on a holiday, Herman supporters — who Heins at the time called a “lynch mob” — jammed the council chambers.
Rather than fire Herman that night, the council voted for a 30-day “cooling off” period in which evidence to support Herman’s firing could come to light.
The reason for Herman’s fall from grace? The city had overcharged the Pepsi plant in Howell for the raw water it used.
We never learned whether Herman knew about the overcharge, and if he did, whether it was done intentionally and with malice.
“Without that knowledge,” I wrote in my Sept. 16, 1998, column, “terminating Herman seems like firing a cashier for the scanner mischarging a customer for a box of cereal.”
No matter, the votes of Heins, and former council members Bret Coy, Donald Miller and Elizabeth Parker fired Herman.
A year later, when Heins and Coy were up for re-election, voters fired them.
Like I said earlier, it was all a long time ago. I know how dramatically my own life has changed in these past dozen years — I’ve had a kid, lost a job and become a website pioneer.
Life has changed a lot for Heins, too, I am sure.
I called his home to ask about why he wants to run for council again; I left a message, but he has yet to return my call. I suspect that Howell’s street program, with which Heins has taken some issue, might be spurring him to get involved in local politics again.
In other Howell political news, Mayor Gerri Moen will have some competition as Philip Campbell filed a petition to run for the city’s top elected spot.
There are three council positions open, and Heins is the only candidate to turn in his petition as of this writing. The deadline for filing is 4 p.m. Tuesday, May 10.
If a primary election is necessary, it will take place on Aug. 2. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 8.