|Rik Kowall is the owner of Accurate Woodworking and Cabinetry. A member of the White Lake Township Zoning Board of Appeals, he is also involved with the Knights of Columbus at St. Patrick’s Church and the Union Lake Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.|
Ten candidates — Todd T. Birkle, Carol J. Burkard, Mark S. DeGroff, Randy J. Hebert, Rik Kowall, David Lewsley, Patti Page, Michael C. Powell, Scott Ruggles and Andrea C. Voorheis — are competing in the Tuesday, Aug. 7 Republican primary election for four trustee positions on the White Lake Township Board of Trustees. Since no Democrats are running, the top four vote-getters in the primary election will earn four-year terms that pay $681.25 per month.
The following are questions we posed to Kowall, and his 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?
KOWALL: I don’t necessarily think we need to change our processes regarding the budget. However, I do think we need to be aware of our priorities. Public safety is paramount to the comfort and attractiveness of our community for both current and future residents, existing businesses and prospective developers, and should be “held harmless from the budget ax.” Likewise, I think we need to preserve any and all services for seniors so we don’t shortchange them on their past contribution to the community. I think all other issues can be subject to change or adjusted in order to maintain a workable budget.
PUBLIC SAFETY MILLAGES: For years there has been discussion at the township board level about consolidating the township’s various millages for police and fire services into one levy. Tell us why you do or don’t support that idea. Please state why you do or don’t support the public safety millages appearing on the primary election ballot.
KOWALL: I strongly favor a single public safety millage. By asking for separate millages, we are asking residents to weigh one department over the other when in fact, the Police and Fire departments are essentially joined at the hip and together increase the overall safety and marketability of our community.
DEVELOPMENT: White Lake has seen a boom in development in recent years, with everything from small businesses to “big box” stores opening up, particularly along M-59. Is there a point when there is “too much” development in White Lake? As supervisor, what, if anything, would you do to attract new businesses to White Lake? When will it be appropriate, if ever, to revisit the corridor improvement authority concept in the township?
KOWALL: I firmly believe in an open arms policy with regard to community development, while at the same time, preserving the unique character and natural beauty of our community. The advantages of such a policy far outweigh any disadvantages. First and foremost, we increase our tax base minimizing how many times the board needs to ask for new millages. Secondly, there is no homeowner exemption on commercial property. I also believe it’s in our best interest to establish symbiotic relationships with these new developers. These relationships ultimately benefit the entire community, as well as the developer who, in turn, becomes an integral part of the community.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the township, and how do you propose to address them?
KOWALL: I believe the top issues are the budget, public safety, and community development. If we don’t make the right decision at the right time on each of these issues, it could have an adverse effect on the future of our community.
WHY YOU? Why specifically should voters choose you over your opponent?
KOWALL: With the knowledge and insight I’ve gained as a result of my experiences, I feel the timing is right for me to be able to serve effectively as trustee. I’ve had a 30-plus year relationship with the community. My children grew up here. Other family members have lived and died here. Through my business, I have developed long-standing, working relationships with both residents and businesses throughout the community and share many of their needs and concerns.
As a result of my lifelong experience as a builder and contractor, I’ve had to learn many of the laws and ordinances that govern a community. In turn, I’ve learned which ones work and which ones may pose obstacles to growth. My current position on the Zoning Board of Appeals brings me even closer to these issues within the community.
Lastly, my family’s involvement in politics has made me all the wiser regarding laws, state funding, and the processes that directly impact our community. As well, it gives me a direct conduit to Lansing that can enhance our visibility in the larger picture. While I’m an advocate of growth and development, I’m also a history buff and an advocate of the seniors who established our community and work to preserve its history and natural beauty. Overall, my goal is to help continue the forward momentum established by our former supervisor toward the balance of both.