|Beth Lewis has been a commercial insurance writer for 30 years. She is a member of the Highland Downtown Development Authority Board of Directors, the Highland Community Emergency Response Team, and the Highland Equestrian Conservancy Board. She has helped organize a variety of community events, including the Barn Tour, Dancing with Horses, and Highland Horsin’ Around.|
Ten candidates — Mary Pat Chynoweth, Charles Dittmar, Jim Gorman, Brenda Granroth, Brian Howe, Bob Husic, Joe Jozwiak, Beth Lewis, Raymond P. Polidori and Russ Tierney — are competing for one of four trustee positions on the Highland Township Board of Trustees in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 Republican primary election. Since no Democrats filed to run for a trustee position on the township board, the top four vote-getters will each earn a four-year term that pays a base annual salary of $5,531.
The following are questions we posed to Lewis, and her responses to those questions.
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?
LEWIS: The township needs to continue to spend wisely and always keep the best interests of our residents at heart. The most important item is properly maintaining township infrastructure before it collapses, which costs more money to fix or replace. We should get quotes from outside vendors for refuse collection and recycling services on a yearly basis to make sure we are getting the most competitive pricing. We should also review the township’s insurance program yearly with our agent and discuss coverages and pricing. We could also consider “job sharing” opportunities by township employees, if necessary, as a way to reduce expenses. We shouldn’t compromise police or fire protection since this is one of the most important services we provide to our residents.
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?
LEWIS: Our township has many things to offer and we must preserve them for us and posterity. We are unique and an oasis in the midst of the urban sprawl around us. We need to maintain our hamlet atmosphere and preserve our natural resources and clean water. We need to attract the types of business that our residents want to see in Highland and that fit our rural nature. We don’t want to be a clone of the communities around us. As a trustee, I would like to form a citizens committee of residents and business owners who are interested in seeing Highland grow and prosper. We should talk to business owners in other small communities to determine what makes them successful and get ideas of how to attract business to Highland.
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.
LEWIS: I do support the 0.75-mill property tax increase. Police and fire are two of the most important services the township provides to its residents and should not be compromised. The duties of a trustee are: “An individual placed in a position of public trust with fiduciary responsibilities to manage the affairs of the township in the best interests of the public.”
I am currently a member of the DDA board and I do support our mission of preserving and revitalizing the downtown district. Our funding comes from TIF (tax increment financing) money as well as (the) private sector. The DDA would automatically get TIF revenue generated by a millage increase.
PATHWAYS: The township is considering a master plan for future non-motorized paths in the community, after about a year of work. Please state why you do or don’t believe embarking on future path projects should be a priority in the township.
LEWIS: I do support the Non-Motorized Pathway Plan. Highland Township wants to ensure that residents can access community centers, the historical downtown, schools, recreation lands and natural areas. The Highland Township Non-Motorized Pathway Master Plan will provide the framework for a hierarchy of non-motorized pathways that accommodate multiple uses, including biking, equestrian, hiking and walking. This pathway system is also intended to provide and to maintain a safe connection to natural, cultural and civic destinations within Highland Township and outside the municipal boundaries. It also provides access for residents of all ages and differing athletic abilities.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the township, and how do you propose to address them?
LEWIS: No. 1, maintain a balanced budget. This is the most important issue the township faces in these tough economic times. The township needs to continue to spend wisely and always keep the best interests of our residents at heart. The most important item is properly maintaining township infrastructure before it collapses, which costs more money to fix or replace.
No. 2, attracting new business while maintaining our hamlet and rural atmosphere. We need to get our residents and current business owners involved in attracting new business to Highland. We also need to assist current business owners and make them aware of the business assistance programs Oakland County offers.
No. 3, preserving our natural resources, clean water and green spaces for future generations. We must be sure that we encourage responsible recycling, land use and building construction.
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponents?
LEWIS: My husband and I have been Highland residents for 24 years. I am a charter member of the Highland Community Emergency Response Team. I am a current member of the Highland Downtown Development Authority board and serve as the Organization Committee chairperson. I’m also on the Highland Equestrian Conservancy Board. I have helped organize many special events in Highland, such as Barn Tours, Dancing With Horses exhibitions, and Highland Horsin’ Around events. I have also been employed as a commercial insurance underwriter for 30 years and am well versed in issues residents and business owners face in these tough economic times. I have many years of experience working on boards and have a volunteer’s heart.