|Karen Joliat has worked as president of the Oakland County Children’s Village Foundation for the past four years. She previously worked as an advertising executive with the Detroit Newspapers Agency for four years, and as a pharmaceutical representative with Bristol-Myers Squibb for seven years.|
Karen Joliat is among eight Republicans running in the Aug. 7 primary election for seats on the Waterford Township Board of Trustees. The four Republicans with the highest vote total will advance to compete against four Democrats in the Nov. 6 general election to fill four trustee positions. Township trustees serve four-year terms and are currently paid $10,976 annually.
The following are questions we posed to Joliat, and her responses to those questions.
BUDGET: Years of revenue decline prompted by falling home values and other reasons have forced a variety of budget cuts. What changes in township budgeting priorities or processes do you advocate to deal with these hurdles? Where could the township’s budget be trimmed back? What, if anything, in the budget should be held harmless from the budget ax?
JOLIAT: Waterford must work within its monetary constraints, with no departments exempt and all held accountable, in order to return to sound fiscal policy. In the face of a large deficit, I would advocate to preserve as many wages as possible. As a business manager, cuts need to start at the top and work down, including the entire seven-member (township) board.
POLICE/FIRE DISPATCH: Some on the township board have come forward with a proposal to contract with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department for police and fire dispatch services as a way to save money. Explain why you do or don’t support the proposal.
JOLIAT: I would definitely be in favor of anything that would save the township money at this point, even if it means contracting with the Oakland County Sheriff or another entity. However, any proposal would need to have minimal impact on services and employees’ livelihoods.
EMERGENCY FINANCIAL MANAGER: Some people have speculated that the township will be forced to come under the authority of an emergency financial manager (EFM) within the next two years. Please state why you do or don’t agree that such speculation has merit.
JOLIAT: The possibility of an emergency manager definitely has merit in Waterford. We are facing over a $1 million dollar deficit. The economic reality is quite simple. If we can’t adapt to living within our means as a community, someone else will make it so. All departments, including the township board, need to make concessions so we can keep Waterford within our control.
WASTE COLLECTION: Waterford currently has a waste collection system under which each individual resident and business is left to secure their own trash collection service, but it’s been proposed that the township change that by carving up the community into waste collection districts and soliciting bids from haulers to serve those districts. How, if at all, should the township’s current waste collection system be changed, and why?
JOLIAT: The township has much work to do to keep us operating above water. Expending time and resources on devising a waste collection system should not be a fiscal priority at this point in time. I would defer to keeping the choice of waste collection with individuals/neighborhood communities for the present.
SUMMIT PLACE: Essentially vacant and an eyesore, the Summit Place Mall has been the subject of a number of proposals for redevelopment. However, there has yet to be a large-scale redevelopment proposal to come to fruition. What is your vision for the future of the Summit Place Mall site? What would you do, if anything, as a township trustee to ensure that vision becomes reality?
JOLIAT: I would be open to any options that the new owners or present owners suggest. Sports-related development I think would be well suited for the Summit Place space. Sports arenas have been popping up all over the metro Detroit area and are doing quite well. Retail and entertainment would be another consideration for the area. I would actively work the economic development board and chamber of commerce to search out perspective purchasers and would help with a smooth transition of the property.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the township, and how do you propose to address them?
JOLIAT: The budget is the top issue. This is a tri-fold challenge: creating solutions to make the most efficient use of existing dollars, devising a plan to entice small businesses, and eliminating the blight of foreclosed property.
I would actively research everything possible to save the township money while trying to preserve jobs. Research is needed in the consolidation/sharing of services within departments and with surrounding areas. Strategies should have a positive impact on the budget while preserving a fully functional and productive living environment.
I would also research tactics on increasing revenue for Waterford through enticing new businesses. Businesses can possibly be attracted by offering introductory incentive packages.
I would investigate ways to improve the appearance of the foreclosures. The banks need to be held accountable for maintenance of their foreclosed properties.
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponent?
JOLIAT: I have a bachelor’s of business administration degree. I have worked in the business (profit and non-profit) sector for over 15 years (including as a pharmaceutical representative at Bristol-Myers Squibb, account executive at Detroit Newspapers, and president of the Oakland County Children’s Foundation). As a business territory manager, I learned how to analyze geographic areas and growth opportunities. As the president of a foundation, I’ve learned how to be creative in maximizing services and appropriating funding on a limited fluctuating budget. I am running because I believe that the citizens deserve new blood on the board with some leadership. I have the flexibility, creativity and drive to be a productive board member. As a resident, raising my children here, I have a vested interest in helping the community grow and prosper.