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?
- 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.