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Michigan Capitol Commission gets new head as Democrats prepare to take control of Legislature

Michigan's State Capitol in Lansing.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
Michigan's State Capitol in Lansing.

After years of continuous leadership, the Michigan State Capitol Commission is changing hands.

The commission is responsible for managing and maintaining the state capitol building and grounds.

At Monday’s meeting, the group unanimously voted current commissioner Bill Kandler as its new chair.

Kandler, who has also been a lobbyist in Lansing, said his experience in historical preservation will continue to be his focus as the group's leader.

“This is not a museum, it’s not a temple, it’s a working capitol building so, of course, it has a lot of wear and tear. And we want to make sure we have the right people and the right processes and the right systems in place to keep it preserved and keep it looking fresh and in good shape,” Kandler told reporters after the meeting.

He'll be taking over the commission during a time of expected change. Two of the group’s founding members, Chair Gary Randall, who serves as clerk of the house, and Vice-chair John Truscott are both leaving the commission.

Randall has helped lead the commission since its formation in 2014.

The group is made up of six people: the house clerk, secretary of the senate, two members they appoint, and two members the governor appoints.

With Democrats taking over the Legislature next year, it’s likely four of those slots will change.

“I hope that the new folks that are appointed will be as non-partisan as we have been as a commission. That’ll make this all go smoothly and just make sure there are people that love this building as much as we have and all will go well,” Truscott said.

He said his most proud moments on the commission include upgrades to the building’s heating and cooling system that he projects will save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Though the commission usually handles building upkeep and expansions, like the recently openedHeritage Hall, it has seen its tests — particularly in 2020, when a debate over whether to allow guns in the Capitol came to a head as protesters brought assault-style weapons into the building.

Truscott and Kandler worked together to eke out a compromise in January 2021 that banned the open carry of firearms but not guns overall.

“We worked hard to accomplish something without it becoming a partisan battle. I mean, I ended up voting against something I supported just to keep us from having a partisan split so we had a little more time to work through to get something we could all vote for and not be a Democrat-versus-Republican issue,” Kandler said.

He said he hopes the new commissioners will retain that commitment to partisan neutrality.

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