Republican Sue Camilleri and Democrat Teresa Fortino will compete in the Tuesday, Nov. 6 general election for the Waterford Township clerk position. The township clerk serves a four-year term and is currently paid between $72,696 and $94,507 annually, depending on experience.
The following are questions our staff recently posed to the candidates, and their responses to those questions.
CLERK’S OFFICE: What changes, if any, do you intend to make in Clerk’s Office personnel, equipment, processes, or services if elected, and why?
TOWNSHIP BALLOT QUESTIONS: Waterford voters are being asked on Nov. 6 to authorize the establishment of annual special assessment districts (SADs) to support the police department, and a new millage for parks and recreation. Please explain why you do or don’t support each ballot question.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the township at this time, and how do you propose to address them?
WHY YOU? Why, specifically, should voters select you over your opponent?
CLERK’S OFFICE: In the (township) Building Department where I work right now, I’m in charge of document retention and that is one of the core jobs of the clerk, so I would definitely move forward on digitizing records. Not only does it create a backup, but it makes it faster and easier to access the documents, so at this time of reduced staffing, it would be more efficient.
I would imagine they are doing it now, and I would continue to work with the Secretary of State to clean up our Qualified Voter File. That’s been a goal of the Secretary of State and I’m fully supportive of that.
TOWNSHIP BALLOT QUESTIONS: Public safety is a key component to a healthy community. The residents here deserve and expect a well-trained and well-equipped police department. I think the men and women in (the department) are some of the finest in the state and they count on my support 100 percent. However, I have a couple of problems with the SAD question on the ballot. The first one is that it has no (expiration) written into it. The residents will never have the opportunity to decide if it should be renewed. The second problem is … questions have already been raised about some possible savings in the police budget, and in good conscience I can’t support a millage increase without further scrutiny to be sure our residents don’t need to pay higher taxes in lieu of cutting.
Parks and Recreation is an important part of the community, as well. It’s what leads people to move to a community and causes them to stay. An example is our Community Activities building where our Golden Age Club is housed. That is one of the hubs in the township for the senior citizens — there’s social interaction, sports opportunities, travel opportunities, and they love that facility. Our sports fields are used by teams of all ages year-round, so our residents in Waterford have demonstrated they want a strong, vibrant parks and recreation department. In order to ensure that, they need stable funding. I am supporting the 0.5-mill (collection) for Parks and Recreation. It means a $20 bill on average, but I feel it’s money well spent.
TOP ISSUES: I would say public safety is No. 1. We need to be sure that Waterford has the police force it deserves.
No. 2 is the budget, without a doubt. Not only must we, by mandate, balance the budget, but we don’t want any threat of emergency financial managers to be looming on our horizon, so that’s critical.
Another important item for the township is blight. I’ve walked through a lot of neighborhoods and no neighborhood is untouched. Trash, abandoned vehicles and vacant homes, properly that’s not maintained — the township only has three code enforcement officers and one seasonal one. They are hard working guys, but they only have time to react to complaints. I have a plan where we could be more proactive. We are all familiar with volunteer firemen. Well, there are communities across the U.S., from Florida to Washington state, that are implementing a volunteer code enforcement group that goes out and does the sign sweeps and the grass mowing inspections and inventory and monitoring of abandoned homes. This frees up our trained code enforcement officers to handle more complex issues. There’s a theory in criminology — the broken window theory: If you fail to address an issue when it’s small, the violations escalate. I believe that’s true and this is one way to protect the property values in Waterford.
WHY YOU? I’ve lived here for 23 years. I chose to live here because I like Waterford. I enjoy the natural features and the good people that live here. My husband and I have had three businesses and seen the challenges and opportunities business owners have when they choose to make a living here in Waterford and offer services. I work for the township. I’ve been there 16 years. I’ve developed relationships with department heads, and I know the policies and procedures. So this is a unique gathering of forces: a business owner’s perspective, a resident’s perspective, and an insider’s perspective. I’ve also worked with a lot of non-profits to keep Waterford a good place to live, and this demonstrates my commitment to Waterford. I care about Waterford and do what I can to keep it a good place for people to raise their families.
CLERK’S OFFICE: I don’t know that there’s any big changes that are necessary. You know the old saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I know they are doing a lot of work on digitizing records and have made a lot of progress. The record retention, that’s possibly something that may need to be looked at to see if there’s records that they don’t need anymore in that system and if everything is being done efficiently with that. Otherwise, (Clerk) Kari (Vlaeminck) has been doing a great job. There’s not much that needs to be changed.
TOWNSHIP BALLOT QUESTIONS: I support Parks and Recreation — it’s ultimately the people who decide, but it’s extremely important to keep the community vibrant and healthy, and a social hub. Those things are important to a community.
The (police) SAD — I do support it. Does the police budget need a little more scrutiny? Possibly. I think that instead it being a disadvantage, the fact that the SAD can be reviewed every year is an advantage, because if they trust their elected officials — and I hope they do — every year that (special assessment) can be reviewed and adjusted. If it’s not needed it can go down to zero. It can never be made higher or go above 1.95 mills, but it can be reduced and adjusted as needed. We have to be realistic. The revenues have been cut. Is it essential? Yes, I think it is. It’s the cornerstone of a community. Having a healthy police force — people feel safe, people want to live and stay here — and it creates the perception that it is a safe place to live.
TOP ISSUES: The budget and maintaining the quality of services we enjoy will be a challenge that is ongoing. That’s our No. 1 priority, prioritizing and finding where the savings are.
The public services we enjoy are important to maintain, whether that’s the senior center, parks and recreation — those are all very important and vital to the community. Maybe we can find more creative ways to maintain that. Those are the most important tasks at hand and it will take all the efforts that we have to do that.
WHY YOU? I think I’m the best candidate for this position because I bring a unique set of life skills to the table. After I graduated from Central Michigan University, I held a variety of jobs and started my own business, got married, raised three children, and while I was doing that I ran Fortino’s Flowers for 23 years. Even with all the economic challenges, I managed to keep that business running, so I know what it takes to run a tight ship and maintain the same level of quality of services with much less. I know that the township deserves to have a public official they can trust and is honest and has integrity and good work ethic, and I believe I possess all those qualities. I want to go to work for Waterford. I was raised in Waterford and it’s a great place to live, and know that it can continue to be a great place to work, live, and play. I can promise you no one will work harder.