Whitmer's appointees for Michigan cherry panel blocked by Senate Republicans

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Senate Republicans cast votes Thursday to block two of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's appointees to the state cherry committee, a panel that oversees marketing efforts for the cherry industry.

Whitmer had appointed Juliette McAvoy of Central Lake and Emily Miezio of Suttons Bay to the committee, which can have up to 13 members. The Senate voted 20-14, along party lines, to reject the appointments. GOP lawmakers have now blocked 20 Whitmer appointees this year amid disagreements over the governor's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, said two other candidates for the committee had been passed over without explanation. And Sen. Kevin Daley, R-Lum, indicated that some cherry farmers were opposed to the selected appointees.

Sweet cherries at the 89th National Cherry Festival in July 2014.

"Those cherry farmers are depending on us. Their jobs are important to them. And this commission is important to them. The political games that are being played are being played in that office across the street," Daley said, referring to the governor's office.

"She was offered and asked to reconsider those positions and she refused," he added. "This is a political game that's being played by the governor's office, not by the Legislature."

Whitmer appointed McAvoy and Miezio in March.

McAvoy is the vice president of sales and marketing for King Orchards, Inc. She has degrees in agri-business management and horticulture from Michigan State University, according to the governor's office. Miezio is the receiving station manager for Cherry Bay Orchards.

Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, said Senate Republicans were blocking two qualified women for "no good reason."

"These women have stepped up as volunteers to create marketing opportunities for one of Michigan's biggest agricultural industries," Polehanki said.

Likewise, Sen. Curtis Hertel, D-East Lansing, said Senate Republicans hadn't provided the reasons for opposing their appointments.

"Up until today, the most controversial thing about cherries was a song by Warrant," Hertel said, apparently referring to a 1990 song entitled "Cherry Pie."

For nearly a year, Whitmer's administration and Senate Republicans have disagreed over how to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Republicans have often called on the governor to lift restrictions aimed at stemming the spread of the virus more quickly than she has.