IRONWOOD - Retired Maj. Gen. Jerry Cannon is looking to extend a career dedicated to public service by being elected to Congress in 2014.
Cannon, D-Fife Lake, a former Guantanamo Bay commander, announced his candidacy last August to unseat U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls, in Michigan's First Congressional District.
The Vietnam veteran and former Kalkaska County Sheriff, is touring the Upper Peninsula this week to "listen and talk with as many people as possible," he told the Daily Globe Tuesday.
Cannon, who grew up in Detroit, served in Vietnam with the U.S. Marines from 1967-1969. After serving in a suburban police department, he took a position with the Kalkaska Sheriff's Department and joined the Michigan Army National Guard in 1977. He rose through the ranks in both concerns, as he earned military promotions and was elected sheriff to four terms.
While stationed in Cuba for two years, Cannon was the commander of the Joint Detention Operations Group at Guantanamo Bay and sheriff of Kalkaska County. He was promoted to brigadier general in 2003 and finished up his final term as sheriff in 2004. "I knew I was in military full time from there," he said.
He was promoted to major general in 2006, and was deployed to Iraq in 2008 and 2010. He retired from the National Guard in 2011.
Cannon said he thought he was home for good, but as people came to him with the idea of running for Congress he listened hard.
"I thought, maybe all the things that I've done have prepared me to go to this next level," he said. "For me, it's just an extension of what I've done my entire life. My entire professional life – both military and police – has been about public service. I'm proud of the work I've been able to do."
Cannon said his work at the local level, in addition to his overseas experience, gives him a unique perspective.
"I'm grounded in local stuff and how to get things done, but I also served in the military and know how to operate at the strategic level as well," he said. "Both of those give me some skill and comfort working in a complex environment."
Cannon said it's time for a different kind of representation. "I think it's time for a change. I think I can bring enough to the table to make that happen."
Cannon said the district, comprised of the 15 U.P. counties and 17 more below the Mackinac Bridge, is struggling with economic issues, including unemployment.
He said he's made short trips through the district, but this is his first extensive trip around the U.P.
"We're talking to community leaders, government leaders, business leaders; Unions, veterans, firemen; asking them what is on their mind," he said. "The bottom line is brining people better representation, and what do we have to do to get some jobs going around here."
Cannon is asking leaders about their ideas for a better future.
"I want to get the ideas from the locals about what's holding them back, if anything," he said. "What do you wish would happen? What could we do another way? How could government, not do it for you, but be a partner, kind of clear the way?"
He said he'd like to see the three state universities in the Upper Peninsula - Michigan Tech, Northern Michigan and Lake Superior State - become "incubators of these ideas."
"I'm grounded in local issues and concerns, and how to get things done. The state and the fed can be a better partner to help get things done when needed," he said.
Cannon said his Irish immigrant grandmother used to tell him he was lucky to be here. He said he knows that's true and that is propelling him on his "next big adventure."