By Paul Garrod
State Representative Pauline Wendzel will face Republican challenger Matt Nilson in the Aug. 2 Primary election for the 39th District State Rep. seat. The winner of that race will then meet Democratic Challenger Jared Polonowski in the November General Election.
Nilson is a resident of Van Buren County. He graduated from the United States Military Academy earning a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering in 1993. At West Point, Nilson was a four-year collegiate wrestler. After graduation, Nilson was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the infantry where he was stationed in Germany. There, he served on peace keeping operations in Bosnia and Macedonia.
Upon returning to the United States, Nilson attended Special Forces Qualification course earning his Green Beret. Special Forces gave Nilson many opportunities to travel the world and serve his country. From tracking terrorist in Asia to fighting the Quds Force in Iraq during the 2007 surge, Nilson has many interesting stories to tell. His education includes a Master of Science in Defense Analysis where he did ground-breaking research on “Manhunting”. This research helped the CIA develop a board game called Kingpin. He retired from the military in 2013 as a lieutenant colonel and earned an MBA from Kenan Flagler’s School of Business from UNC Chapel Hill in 2016. He recently retired from Golden Plain Farms as director of business development. Nilson has started RBA Capital Investments and is working on creating a non-profit – Stone Soup Labs – a business incubator for rural communities.
Nilson enjoys coaching Hartford’s varsity wrestling team and helping young student athletes achieve success in life. Nilson and his wife, Jodi, have two adult children, a son, Michael, 24, and a daughter, Madeline, 26.
Nilson said he is running for State Representative in the 39th District to help the community recover from the devastating impacts of COVID. “Government at both the federal and state level continues to control more of our lives while causing more challenges for Michiganders. Our legislators continue to spend more money, but nothing seems to improve.” Nilson said, “We need fresh ideas in Lansing, and his life experiences give him a unique perspective that will help Allegan, Berrien, and Van Buren counties prosper. He believes Michiganders need to change the culture in Lansing from distributing resource to appease special interest groups to focusing taxpayer dollars on generational change issues – rural broadband, rebuilt transportation networks, water and sewer restoration, and power generation and distribution expansion. We need to rebuild Michigan for the 21st Century.
Nilson has worked on labor policy issues with Michigan Farm Bureau and has earned the Michigan Farm Bureau “Friends of Agripac” endorsement.
Pauline Wendzel is a lifelong Watervliet resident from a fourth generation Bainbridge Township farming family. She is an active alumnus of both Watervliet High School and Michigan State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and Food Industry Marketing.
Growing up on her family farm and counseling young children at Five Pines, a local Christian day camp, Wendzel learned the value of hard work and getting the job done right. Seeing an opportunity to learn more about her community, Wendzel became the programs director at the North Berrien Historical Museum where she educated youth on the importance of their Southwest Michigan heritage. Throughout this time, Wendzel was an advocate for the community and the museum at many local city, township, and school board meetings. Seeking to learn more about local government, she became the assistant deputy clerk for Bainbridge Township and has a deep understanding of the elections process. Before serving as state representative, Wendzel was the product brand development manager at Coloma Frozen Foods, promoting Michigan fruits, vegetables, and agritourism throughout the country.
As chairwoman of the House Commerce Committee, Wendzel’s top priority is helping Southwest Michigan small businesses and the residents of the community they employ recover from Gretchen Whitmer’s illegal shutdown orders. Additionally, she said she is fighting to reign in Biden and Whitmer’s out-of-control inflation by providing permanent tax cuts and putting more money back into the pockets of Southwest Michigan residents.
As the vice chairwoman of the House Elections Committee, another priority is working to make commonsense improvements to the elections process and ensuring every Michigan resident has full faith and confidence that their vote is counted. Finally, as a member of a fourth-generation farming family, Wendzel wants to focus on expanding access to rural broadband and helping local growers compete in a global market by getting government and red tape out of the way and allowing them to thrive.