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Candidate Q&A: White Lake Supervisor Candidate Michael Smith

Michael Smith (D-White Lake) is running for Township Supervisor in the Aug. 7 primary election.

To kick off election coverage, White Lake-Highland Patch has sent out a survey to candidates running for office in White Lake and Highland. The following is the Q&A response from White Lake Supervisor candidate Michael Smith. Smith, a democrat, will be facing off against either republican Matt Sprader or incumbent Greg Baroni in the November election.

Patch: How long have you lived in White Lake?

Smith: I have lived here for my entire life (except during college)– 31 years in the same house.

Patch: What community and civic organizations are you currently involved in?

Smith:

  • Currently serving as the Democratic Precinct Delegate for Pct. 9 in White Lake.
  • Member of the National Sierra Club and Michigan Chapter.
  • Member of Clean Water Action.
  • Alumni Ambassador for Grand Valley State University.
  • Supporting Member of the Oakland County Democratic Party.
  • Supporting Member of the Michigan Democratic Party.
  • Member of the Oakland County Clerk’s Association.
  • Member of the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks.
  • Member of the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.
  • Currently serving as an elected Walled Lake Consolidated School District Board Member – elected in 2010 to a six year term.

Patch: What drew you to run for Supervisor?

Smith: I am running for White Lake Township Supervisor because I want to be a part of the change that needs to take place in the Township. I have devoted my life to being a public servant and I feel I can be a voice for all of the residents of the Township. Through my first-hand experience I have seen how municipalities respond to the struggles of declining revenues, foreclosures, unemployment and vacant buildings. As an experienced public servant I feel it is my duty to step up to the challenging cause, rather than sitting on the sidelines as a bystander and face these struggles together.

Patch: What personal and professional experiences make you qualified to hold that position?

Smith: For the past 8 years I have had first-hand experience working for the Oakland County Clerk’s Office in the Legal, Vital and Elections Divisions and for the City of Clawson as the Deputy City Clerk. Through these experiences I have been involved in budgeting, planning, forecasting, website design, legislative mandates, negotiations, human resources, grant research and other administrative duties that can allow me to hit the ground running if elected. I have been able to work closely with residents and other elected officials to address their concerns and implement change. In these tough economic times it takes a new voice with new ideas and someone who has experience working in the public sector to respond to the challenges. Through my collegiate experience at Oakland University, where I obtained my Master in Public Administration and a Post Master Certificate in Local Government Management, I was able to network with many professionals across varied fields of the public and private sector. These experiences and sharing of ideas have given me the tools that I feel make me qualified to hold the position of Supervisor to move us toward a prosperous future.

Patch: What is the most important issue facing the township and what do you intend to do about it during your term in office?

Smith: The most important issue is fiscal responsibility because it encompasses all of the integral issues to local governance such as: safety, quality of life, quality schools, parks and clean waterways. In order to quantify all of these issues it comes down to fiscal responsibility. One way to be more responsible is to forecast for a multi-year budget similar to the one that Oakland County and other municipalities have done. Being more pro-active and prepared for possible future revenue declines or changes we can be more responsible with our spending of taxpayer’s money. During my term of office I would also focus on one of the other problems which is the perception from residents of local leaders and how they use taxpayer money and how they lead. In order to rectify this issue it is my goal to be more transparent with all the bills the Township pays by publishing them on the Township website and being more open with information that elected leaders are provided so residents are equally informed. If the residents can see first-hand where all of the money goes and what the key issues are they might understand better the purpose of local government.

Patch: In recent years there has been discussion about contracting either police services or dispatch services with the county. Do you think the police department should be turned over to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department? Why or why not?

Smith: Many communities have faced this challenge and while it is important to analyze all scenarios it really should start first with resident input. The vote that is occurring in August will help show how residents feel about the police department. The County can be asked to do an audit to let us know what the costs will be just for a fiscal comparison. My personal feelings are that the safety of our Township is tantamount to the success in the future. People move to the Township knowing that the Police will be there when they call and the only way that should change is if the voters decide that is what is best.

Patch: What is your vision for White Lake Township, where do you see the township in 10 or even 20 years, and what does the township need to do now to realize that vision?

Smith: My vision for White Lake Township is to balance the past, present and future. I have lived here my whole life and I have seen the changes from farmland to subdivisions and open space to shopping centers and while development is good because it creates jobs, we need to focus on good development. I want to see us moving toward a forward thinking Township that will seek out new jobs and have development initiatives that take into account the need for balancing open space, farm land, parks and waterways. Our main goals as a township should be safety, park access, clean water, shopping, great school systems, and the best quality of life possible. The Township needs to continue to develop itself as one that is open to new ideas but also that has a reverence for its history. We need to focus on the idea of “place-making” and infill development so people will come to visit the restaurants, shopping, skiing, parks and waterways while keeping the beauty of the farms and parks. 

In order to realize that vision we need to play to our strengths and continue to learn from our weaknesses. A part of this would be to respond to funding declines by focusing more on researching grants, sharing services, implementing streamlining efforts at the Township for citizen involvement and technology development. In the end, my mission is to make sure we are more accountable, transparent in our decisions, having sound moral leadership with an eye to the future and obtaining citizen input while leading with integrity and honesty. With all of these goals the township will continue to survive and evolve over the next 10 to 20 years and be a top notch living, learning and growing community in Oakland County.

Jerry Grubb July 17, 2012 at 12:55 PM
This candidate is a Democrat. He will not be "facing off" against any Republics in the primary on August 7th.
Brooke Tajer July 17, 2012 at 01:12 PM
You are correct. He will face off against one of the republicans in November. Thanks!
Laureen Lewsley July 17, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Which position does Mr. Smith currently hold...deputy clerk/Clawson, or clerk for Oakland Cty?
Mike Smith July 17, 2012 at 02:47 PM
Ms. Lewsley, I am currently the Deputy City Clerk for the City of Clawson. Prior to this position (since Feb. 2010) I was working at the Oakland County Clerk's Office. Thanks, Michael D. Smith
Peggy Miller July 17, 2012 at 05:39 PM
I would like to ask what exactly you mean by, "the change that needs to take place in the Township." Voters must stop voting simply for 'change' - without explanation, we have no way of knowing whether the 'change' you intend is a good or a bad change!! Thank You.
Jeffrey Long July 17, 2012 at 08:56 PM
"Smith, a democrat, will be facing off against either republican Matt Sprader or incumbent Greg Baroni in the November election." From the very first paragraph.
Brooke Tajer July 17, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Thanks Jeff, that sentence was tweaked this morning to clarify Jerry's point.
Gerry S July 18, 2012 at 02:38 AM
You seem to be well educated and qualified for the position and I like some of the things you are saying. You are the first candidate to suggest that the county do an audit and let us know what the cost would be to have them patrol our streets. Like many others I like our police department just the way it is but with tax revenues down we need to look at all available options. Without the audit we will never know what the potential savings are and how such a move might impact us. I do think that running for supervisor in White Lake without the experience of sitting on the board might be asking too much at this point in your career, however. Truth is, if you were on the ballot as a trustee I would vote for you. You are well spoken and make some valid points. You have a bright future in public service and I wish you the best of luck this coming election Mr Smith.
Mike Smith July 18, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Ms. Miller, Thank you for your question. I think it is important to clarify what my interpretation of “change” means. My ideas of “change” are as follows: In order to respond to community development issues we have to develop better initiatives by: • Balancing new development, re-development, open space, waterways and parks • Creating incentives to attract new businesses • Protecting small business owners, current businesses and promoting entrepreneurship to help create more jobs and to help build on the successful enterprises In order to respond to declining tax revenues we have to be fiscally responsible by: • Enforcing better energy policies, practices and initiatives to be more “green” • Implementing innovative cost-saving policies and forecasting for multi-year budgets • Researching grants and implementing “best practices” for sharing services • Streamlining resources and implementing technology improvements In order to respond to transparency problems we must focus on areas to be more open by: • Creating Board packets for easier public viewing of all documents • Focusing on citizen involvement and assessing residents needs • Recording meetings and utilizing social media outlets to be more accessible
Mike Smith July 18, 2012 at 03:19 AM
I also believe in providing full disclosure of all spending of taxpayer’s money by questioning all spending and saving when valuable resources and equipment could be purchased with millage money that was designated to do so. I will question why there has been no movement on creating a more bike and pedestrian friendly township, when we were promised there would be sidewalks using millage money. As a fellow taxpayer I would hope you would welcome this change. There have been more closed session meetings than I can even count and that just leads to transparency problems along with minutes not being available on the website in a timely manner. I want to make sure all bills, minutes and the creation of board packets are provided to residents on our website for greater openness. I know that not everyone will have the same belief system or even believe in the same change – that being of transparency, fiscal responsibility, integrity and striving for a high quality of life for my family and all of the residents of the Township, but I have hope that many will. Thank you, Michael D. Smith
Mike Smith July 18, 2012 at 03:24 AM
Mr. Szumiak, Thank you for your kind comments and I am humbled by your reception and possible vote. I implore you and others to look deeper into my answers to see the changes I espouse are ones that will only benefit the Township, with no hidden agenda, making sure that every resident’s voice is heard and given a fair chance. The success of a democracy depends on citizens who care and I am one citizen who cares and will promise to do what is best and right for White Lake. I might not be able to convince you or other voters of my vision for White Lake and you might decide to vote for someone else but I will always be honest and upfront with my opinions and decision making. I will put the Township’s need ahead of any personal agenda. Change is a part of life and in my opinion it is imperative that our elected leaders be accountable and accessible to its citizens. For far too long the Township has been under the direction of the same leadership and it is time for new voices and new ideas to help lead White Lake. While I do not have experience on the Township Board I do have experience as an elected official making decisions that affect students and citizens of our community and many others. Thank you, Michael D. Smith
none July 28, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Agree. need a lot more transparency

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