For 37 years, City Clerk Janet Green has been the go-to person in Orchard Lake due to her historical knowledge and hands-on approach. As city clerk, she helps bridge the gap between local government and the community but takes little credit for the city’s achievements over the years. Green took some time to reflect on her tenure with the city and what she anticipates for the future as she prepares to retire on June 30.
SCN: Please give us a little background about yourself, and how you became involved with Orchard Lake.
JG: I came to work in Orchard Lake a little over 36 years ago as an assistant clerk. I worked here for 2.5 years and left for four months and came back in 1977 as the city clerk and have been here ever since. I grew up in the area and this is where I ended up.
SCN: Was municipal government your chosen career path or did you fall into it?
JG: It’s something that I started to do and enjoyed it. I still enjoy it so I stayed.
SCN: You essentially run the show there, so to speak. How do you balance all your duties?
JG: Carefully. There are a lot of responsibilities, but that’s part of the fun of the job, because you learn to do a lot of different things and interact with a lot of different people so it really is one of the benefits of the job.
SCN: What has kept you here in Orchard Lake for this length of time?
JG: Orchard Lake has been very good to me. It’s been a great place to work. Again, there’s a lot of wonderful people to work with, it’s enjoyable, and it’s close. I’ve never had any reason to leave.
SCN: What prompted your decision to retire and when is your last day?
JG: My last day will be June 30 and that was chosen because that’s the end of the fiscal year. I do take care of the city finances so that seemed like a logical date. I decided to retire for many reasons, all of which added up to that the time was right. My husband is home and I’d like to spend more time with him. I have a wonderful 82-year-old mother that I’d like to spend more time with as well. All the signs indicated it was time.
SCN: What plans do you have in store once you retire?
JG: I hope to have more time to improve my golf game. I love to swim and boat and I’d like to spend more time doing those types of activities. Hopefully we can get some travel in and see more of the country. I haven’t had a lot of time off during my career to do extensive traveling so I’m looking forward to that.
SCN: What will you miss most about working for the city?
JG: The people. I work with a great group of people, not only the employees, who are wonderful. I really like coming to work and seeing them, but also the people in the city. A lot of them have been here a long time and so have I, so you develop a nice relationship. I’ll miss the people, but I think I’ll enjoy the free time as well.
SCN: How has Orchard Lake changed in the last 35-plus years since you’ve been with the city, specifically with technology?
JG: That’s probably been the biggest change I’ve seen in the city’s operations. Technology improvements have been phenomenal from the typewriter to the PC to wireless Internet. All those wonderful tools we have now that we didn’t have years ago sure have helped to improve communication with the residents, to improve the type of information we’re able to provide to City Council. It’s been a great benefit.
As far as the city itself, the city is much more developed than it was when I started working here. We’ve done some big projects such as the construction of the water and sewer systems. It’s really just grown.
SCN: Given these changes, where would you like the city to go in the future, and what, if anything, is currently in the works?
JG: I think the good news for Orchard Lake is that in two years, the city’s debt will be satisfied and that will ease the financial challenges significantly. With a 20-year debt, we borrowed $25 million 20 years ago and that’s all going to be paid off. That will make life for the City Council and the residents a little easier.
I’m not sure what the future holds. The Planning Commission will be starting their review of the city master plan. We update that every five years and they’re just beginning to review that, so we’ll see where that takes them.
SCN: Construction of the water and sewer systems, City Hall, and the acquisition of the Orchard Lake Nature Sanctuary all occurred during your tenure. Tell us about these projects and how they came to fruition.
JG: The water and sewer project was the most challenging part of my career here. To take a fully-developed city and construct water and sewer systems is very disruptive and we did the whole city at one time. It was a significant challenge, but the projects really were able to be completed because volunteer council members and officials that worked for the city saw the value in doing that and made the commitment to pursue it by obtaining voter approval and so much credit goes to those volunteers who guided that process.
The Orchard Lake Nature Sanctuary was owned by Cranbrook Institute and they decided they didn’t need that property anymore and planned to develop it. The residents of the city expressed their desire to keep that pristine property the way it is today, so they voted to tax themselves to purchase it. The city was also awarded a $2 million grant from the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and that was a significant accomplishment. Again a lot of credit goes to the City Council members and officials serving at that time.
The City Hall was an accomplishment as well. We were able to construct this building in 1987 without incurring any debt. Prior to that we worked in what is now the Orchard Lake Museum. Being able to construct this building without incurring debt was an accomplishment.
SCN: What are some other pivotal achievements you’ve been involved with that you’re most proud of?
JG: Being able to be in public service for 37 years is an accomplishment in and of itself. You work for a different group every year because there’s an election every year for new City Council members so essentially you have new management each year. Just being able to maintain for that long is probably my best accomplishment.
SCN: Due to property value declines and cuts in state shared revenue, governments are seeking ways to do business more efficiently. Share with us some of the ways Orchard Lake may be changing up or has changed how they operate, including forging cooperative agreements or shared services for the acquisition of equipment or infrastructure.
JG: One of the most significant cooperative ventures we have is in contracting through the Tri-City Fire Department with West Bloomfield Township for fire and EMS services. In addition to that, the city has reduced its police force by one officer and the size of its clerical staff. So there have been cutbacks in personnel and those have probably been the biggest cost saving items.
SCN: As clerk you’re role is integrally involved in elections. “No reason” absentee voting has been discussed for years. Explain what this is for our readers and if you think it’s a good idea.
JG: “No reason” absentee voting — a simpler way to describe it is voting by mail. I personally think it’s a great idea. People have busy lives and aren’t always in the position of coming to City Hall on a specific date to wait in a line during a presidential election to cast a ballot. If there are protections in place to protect the absentee voting process, then those could be extended to others to vote by mail.
SCN: Are there any other ways you would like to see election laws changed?
JG: I think that would be the first priority, to eliminate those restrictions as to who can vote by mail. You have to be absent from the community, a senior citizen, in jail awaiting trial — there are just a few statutory reasons — I’m going to be busy that day, two weeks ahead of time I know what I’m going to do. Or another great idea that other states have implemented is allowing people to do early voting. Set up equipment in your voting room and allow people to come during regular hours on their timeline. A lot of other states have implemented that and I think there’s a lot of merit in that as well.