Peter Pace may have been unsuccessful in his race for a Commerce Township trustee position last month, but he’s scored many other victories around the community. The current vice-chairman of the Commerce Township Parks and Recreation Committee, he is also a member of the Planning Commission, chairman of the Entertainment Committee and founded the Concert in the Park Series. He also serves on the Lower Straits Lake Preservation Committee as chairman, as well as the Edgewood Homeowners Association. As a small business owner, he started Tri-Star Enterprises Construction Services, a property management and real estate development company. As concerned citizen, Pace believes in giving back to people, especially when catastrophes hit. He traveled across the country as he volunteered his service in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and various Florida hurricanes. Pace and his family have lived in Commerce for 24 years.
As vice-chairman of the Commerce Township Parks and Recreation Committee, what are you working on or have you recently undertaken?
PP: There’s a number of things we’re taking on. Our first goal right now with the budget is getting everything in place for the improvements with the parks that we have funds allocated for, such as improvements to Maple Glen and Hickory Glen, their entrances to the parkways and making it more convenient for the residents and safe. We have issues with everything being safe. We’re big on that with our board.
We’re looking at dog runs at Dodge Park, maybe some additional parking there, as well to help accommodate Concert in the Park — that’s been a big plus the last few years. I was the creator and director of it. We’ve had very good response with that and it’s held in Dodge Park and we try to make some improvements to accommodate that big project.
With municipalities struggling, has the board had to deal with budget cuts to produce events in the community, or have you had to pare back on events?
PP: Actually, I wouldn’t say either. There has been a cutback, sure, but with a good board we try to improvise and come up with different ways and different solutions to still give the residents some events. That’s what we did with the Cinema in the Park. We did that this year, sponsored by Genisys Credit Union. We went out and searched for that and they were our sole sponsor and were able to fund the project for us. Same goes with Concert in the Park — no tax dollars were involved for that. It was all funded by local sponsors — local companies and business people. I’m proud to say they supported me 100 percent on that.
Tell us how and why you spearheaded the Concert in the Park series.
PP: Basically, we needed it. We didn’t have a lot of activities here for the residents, outside of organized sports. We had plenty of that and that was good, but for people to come out and enjoy the parks, for example Dodge Park, we decided to do Concerts in the Park there. I came up with the idea. I brought it to my board and the board gave its blessing. We chose Dodge Park because it was a nice location where it would fit the concept of Concert in the Park. As the event grew in size — we had over 600 people in July. People were coming to me from outside our township border telling me what a wonderful event (it was) and (that they) didn’t even know it existed. That was one of the reasons we did it. Some of our events we try and move to different parks to showcase the park itself because some people don’t even know we have these parks and that’s why we’re doing this. It’s a good way to showcase or highlight the parks.
Has it been a popular event among residents?
PP: It’s grown every month. The first show was June 2011, (and) we had about 300 people; July, 400; August, 500; and definitely 600-plus in June and July of this year. Is it popular? Yes, our Parks and Rec Office at the Richardson (Senior) Center gets a lot of calls, especially during the week of the event, inquiring about the location and what’s included. There’s a lot of activities — we have face painting, moon bounces. Home Depot, a big sponsor, does a kids’ workshop. We have some local vendors hand out bottled water for free. CW3 (Soccer Association) is there, and they have kickball and soccer for the kids. There’s a lot of activities besides the swing sets and everything else and it’s free and an open event to the public.
As chairman of the Parks and Recreation Entertainment Committee, what new ideas would you like to see come to fruition?
PP: We started with Concert in the Park. That was the first one. When that one became a success, we decided to create a little committee, which I chair — (and includes) Richard Demmin and Emily England, the Parks and Rec director. She supervises all the concerns with the parks — we combined efforts to make a 3-man committee and brought out the Cinema in the Park. We have a couple other ideas we’re bouncing around right now and writing a business plan as we speak, but (with) those types of projects, we work on those in the fall and winter, and during that same time we look for sponsors of funding for those events to bring out for 2013. But are there definitely some things in the works.
What is your role as a member of the Lower Straits Lake Preservation Committee?
PP: I am a board member and been on that board since 1989. What our job is for Lower Straits Lake, I represent Edgewood Subdivision as a whole. That’s where I live, and every subdivision should have representation by one individual. On the board I sit down with John Levinson, the president. There are 7 or 8 of us, and we sit down on a quarterly basis and go over the needs for the lake to keep it preserved like weed control — that’s a big one — the fish habitat for the lake; the geese population; and most of all, working with the financing for the weed control, the SADs (special assessment districts) involved, because weed controls needs funding and (we) need to have that on the SAD for projects so we have a clean lake that’s navigable and swimmable. I’m part of that and part of (Oakland County) Sheriff (marine) patrol. In 2009, I was one of the leading gentlemen to go to the Oakland County Sheriff’s (Department) when we heard they were going to pull our tax dollars and no longer pay for marine patrol on the lake. I initiated with (the Sheriff’s Department) to privatize it and bring it to these lakes so we can have scheduled patrols on a regular basis. It’s funded through donations from our lake committee. That’s how it is here on Lower Straits Lake. That’s one of my positions. I oversee that complete project.
What is the goal of this group and what do you hope to accomplish in the near future?
PP: Our goals have been met — to preserve the lake for water quality for fishing and function. The goal is to keep the lake as functional as possible for swimming, boating, fishing and recreation. We don’t want a lake full of weeds. That’s not conducive for the residents. That’s why we live there, to enjoy nature itself. Besides that is preserving the lake as close to what Mother Nature has it as it is now. We’re trying to preserve the fish and oversee (the lake). We have an aquatic expert, Doug Coleman, and he’s very involved as to the species of fish, how to maintain fishing beds and water quality to keep conducive fish in our lake.
As owner of a construction company, you volunteered your services in the wake of hurricane devastation in the South, including after Hurricane Katrina. Where did you lend a hand?
PP: Mississippi, through Orchard Grove Church. I volunteered. I knew people at the church working and actually they called me and asked if I would go and I did. I went down to Mississippi, near Biloxi, right across from New Orleans. I went down with a team of 16 people. We shared vehicles and loaded up chain saws and tools and went down. We had a contact there. The church worked with other churches down in Mississippi affected by Katrina. It was an 18-hour drive. As soon as we got there we had a list of things to do, trees fallen in yards or leaning up on houses, to clear them up and out of the way, and picking up debris from the storm. When I was there, I was fortunate enough to put a church back together. A roof was completely removed during the storm. They had this small building next door and asked us to go in there and clean it all up, which we did. The pews, stacked up neatly from a prior group — I personally cleaned them all up so they could hold services, which they hadn’t had for a long time. When I left, they were holding their first Sunday service since Katrina hit — four or five months after the devastation.
Tell us why you decided to offer your help, what you saw, and in what capacity you helped those in need. Do you have any plans or interest in providing assistance in the wake of Hurricane Isaac?
PP: First of all, we have to see the wrath of the storm, if and when it does exist, but if someone were to call on my aid to help them and I could get involved, of course I would. That’s my nature. If you look at my record, that’s what we do here — extend our help to every organization if we’re asked to help.
You were unsuccessful in seeking a Republican Party nomination for one of four township trustee seats in the Aug. 7 primary election. Please tell us why you decided to enter the trustee race.
PP: It ‘s basically part of my community work. I’m on the Planning Commission for Commerce Township and on the Parks and Rec Committee. I wanted to make sure our message from both divisions was getting to that top level. There’s a lot of decisions to be made there and there’s a lot of work that committee members do as a whole on every topic given to them or any project we create. I felt that I had the credentials and experience for that position. You’re right there were four openings. There were three incumbents. I didn’t seek any of their seats — that was not the goal. I (sought) an empty position for Deb Kirkwood who was leaving (since she was challenging township Supervisor Tom Zoner). The reason why I ran was that I’m from the old school. I believe if you want to be successful and learn, you need to start somewhere and work your way up. I started with Parks and Rec and with the Planning Commission and am in no way done with with those two entities. I plan on staying. Even if I won the election, I planned on staying to contribute. With that in mind, I felt I had more experience than the other two gentlemen involved. Even though I met the gentlemen and they’re nice guys, you need some kind of background in our community to take one of the highest positions in Commerce Township. I felt like I was the guy at the time to run. I have no regrets. I ran a good and clean campaign and was unsuccessful.
What were some of the things you learned during the campaign, either about the community or politics, or anything else?
PP: That’s a good question. We learned a number of things. I am very proud for all those who supported me. I’m very pleased with at the input I learned — even the state (representative) in our district — I had a fine rapport with all of them. They all knew me prior to the election and said congratulations. I learned (that) people do listen to my words and respect my judgment. They want me in there to help carry out the work.
Some of these guys have been there 20 years — things have changed in 20 years, but some of the mentality has not. That’s the big thing. We have to stay current and that’s something I do very well. I do stay current. I’m an idea person and make a business plan to it. I’m able to finance them and bring in the whole idea to fruition. That’s why you have Concert in the Park, and Cinema Night.
There are a number of other things I’ve brought with the help of my board members with their full support. The people of Commerce Township really have a great community to live in. It’s absolutely gorgeous, between the lakes, parks and subdivisions — it’s just a wonderful place to live in. People have come to me and told me how much they like it here and their enthusiasm to see the community move forward, even through bad times. Some communities are devastated by this, but Commerce has held its own. I learned that the budget is very important. I’m a businessman and survive by how you control your funds. We do a fine job with that… As for the campaign, I learned a few things to do for the future if I choose to run again.