|Lynn O’Brien is a procurement specialist with Becton Dickerson, a world-wide medical company, in Ann Arbor. She worked in municipal government for 17 years and has been involved with the White Lake Township Community
Tree Lighting, the Veterans Day Memorial, Sparks in the Park, The Joel Jeremy Memorial Fund, and Quake on the Lake.
Donna Gundle-Krieg, Rick Hamill, Catherine Kristian, Lynn O’Brien and Arthur Van Brook will compete in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 primary election for the Republican nomination for Highland Township supervisor. The winner will face the Democratic Party’s nominee in the Nov. 6 general election. The Highland Township supervisor serves a four-year term and currently earns $65,691 annually.
The following are questions our staff recently posed to O’Brien and her response to those questions.
LEADERSHIP: As supervisor, at what point do you believe you should disregard public sentiment, and cast a vote on an item based on your own knowledge and feelings about how an issue impacts the greater community?
O’BRIEN: As supervisor, I plan to vote on behalf of the public good as a whole — based on my knowledge acquired from 17 years in municipal government, relevant college education and 20 years of public service in our community — instead of the good of a particular interest group beginning on Day No. 1.
Being one of the seven members of the township board is not an autonomous position. I welcome differing opinions and agree to disagree. The members of our boards and commissions should open their (meeting) packets and research relevant issues prior to the meeting instead of waiting until the day of and collaborate in advance without violating the rules of the Open Meetings Act.
BUDGET: All municipal governments in Michigan have faced difficult budget scenarios over the past few years, as declines in property values have produced a revenue stream that can’t keep up with various rising costs. 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?
O’BRIEN: The budget reflects the priorities of the township. The best budget plan is to increase the property values of the township. We must be prepared for diminishing revenues and adjust our operations/missions for our aging population. There should be more funding for our first responders, and rationalization of personnel costs. The township should make sure that they work with the auditing firm and follow their recommendations.
DEVELOPMENT: Some in the community are striving to preserve the township’s rural character while others are yearning for more business development in Highland. Is there a way that Highland can maintain its rural ethos while attracting new business and development? If so, how? If not, why not?
O’BRIEN: Yes, Highland Township certainly can preserve its unique character and retain green/open space while attracting new businesses and redevelopment of existing vacant commercial/industrial zoned parcels by consistently enforcing the township Master Plan for Land Use. This has been my opinion since my first announcement regarding my candidacy.
Development is needed to increase our property values and can be accomplished via the following initiatives:
• Update zoning and master plan maps to provide access of goods and services to residents in under-served areas;
• Form special assessment districts for water and sanitary sewer infrastructure extensions in Highland’s business district area; and
• Rezone existing non-conforming zoned parcels to appropriate conforming zoning designations allowing for expansion of existing businesses.
PUBLIC SAFETY: Highland voters are being asked to authorize a two-year, 0.75-mill increase in local property taxes to continue providing for police services in the township, with the increased revenue generated in the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) District being disbursed to the DDA. Please explain why you do or don’t support the ballot question.
O’BRIEN: I fully support the millage. It’s the only way taxes should be increased. It’s voted on directly and dedicated in purpose.
Safety and security are one of the township’s top priorities. Property values will increase and help fund public safety initiatives via economic development in accordance with the township Master Plan for Land Use, and through General Fund expenditures, too.
I am in favor of the (Highland Downtown Development Authority’s) allocation of tax revenue dollars to historic preservation and promotion of the Highland Station Area and surrounding commercial and residential districts.
(Tax increment financing) monies spent on community revitalization projects and economic growth/ redevelopment of the downtown district supports local projects and families of all ages by keeping profits in town. (The) Non-motorized Pathway Plan and designation of trail heads promote economic tourism.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the township, and how do you propose to address them?
O’BRIEN: No. 1, (to) safeguard (the) health, safety and welfare of the citizenry by supporting public safety initiatives:
• Support the proposed police millage for the (Oakland County Sheriff’s Department) Highland substation; and
• Continue to support the first responders (police and fire initiatives)
No. 2, increase property values:
• Help existing businesses to succeed;
• Facilitate redevelopment of vacant commercial/industrial zoned property by streamlining rules/regulations via ordinance amendments; and
• Approach investors/developers who have had trouble in the past to reconsider Highland Township.
No. 3, improve culture of Town Hall by being more inclusive and welcoming, including hosting more civic events:
• Utilize the principals of participatory government, where partnerships are formed by the municipality and business community to develop and promote community events benefiting families of all ages; and
• Continued improvement of the Highland Adult Activity Center to benefit our seniors and soon-to-be seniors.
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponent?
O’BRIEN: No other candidate in this race has the proven experience in township government and economic development. I am uniquely qualified as the only candidate who has recent municipal experience of 18 years with White Lake Township, relevant education, and over 20 years of community service.
I am a natural born leader; public servant; inclusive; professional; open door policy; diversity; speak the truth; economic development; look outside the box; find common ground; approachable; teamwork; get the job done; treat people the way you want to be treated; the borders of our communities do not end at the property lines.