DeWitt’s Opsommer takes job with bridge owner Matty Maroun

DeWitt Republican opposed Canada deal

Written by
Paul Egan
Detroit Free Press

The former chairman of the House Transportation Committee said Wednesday that he is going to work for Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun.

And a Democratic state lawmaker who broke with her party in December to cast a key vote for a regional transit authority has landed a job with the Snyder administration.

Paul Opsommer, a DeWitt Republican, had opposed the deal that Gov. Rick Snyder signed with Canada for the New International Trade Crossing. Shanelle Jackson, a Detroit Democrat, started work this week as a $76,500-a-year regional deputy director with the Michigan Department of Transportation. They are among 15 former House members who had to leave the Legislature at the end of 2012 because of term limits.

Opsommer said he will not be working for Moroun’s Detroit International Bridge Co., but instead will be director of government affairs at both the federal and state level for Moroun’s broader transportation and business interests, working for CenTra Inc.

He said he didn’t oppose the public bridge proposed by Snyder, but was concerned by a lack of transparency in the state’s bridge agreement with Canada. Still, Opsommer said he didn’t want to go to work for the bridge company because it could appear inappropriate. But he said he welcomed the challenge of tackling broader issues, such as fixing the road funding problem, at the federal and state level. Moroun spokesman Mickey Blashfield said CenTra wants “to be well-served with someone who knows what’s going on” in transportation.

Bills to authorize the public bridge backed by Snyder and opposed by Moroun never came to a House committee or full chamber vote while Opsommer chaired the House Transportation in 2011-12 because they never emerged from the Senate.

Jackson was one of two Democratic House members who voted yes when legislation to create a regional transit authority for southeast Michigan squeaked through the Legislature on Dec. 6. That’s the day Snyder outraged Democrats by announcing his support for fast-track passage of right-to-work legislation.

Jackson said Wednesday that she took heat from her caucus colleagues over her vote, but in no way believes her job is a reward for helping pass what was a major priority for Snyder.

“It was the right thing to do,” she said. “I had never seen so much opportunity come through for the city of Detroit.”

Jackson will be responsible for outreach to get the transit authority up and running.

Jeff Cranson, a spokesman for MDOT, said Jackson was hired for a two-year contract.