Incumbent Democrat Carl Solden and Republican challenger Gary Wall will face off in the Tuesday, Nov. 6 general election for the Waterford Township supervisor position. The township’s supervisor serves a four-year term and is currently paid $90,987 annually.
The following are questions our staff recently posed to the candidates, and their responses to those questions.
LEADERSHIP: The supervisor is the township’s chief executive officer, responsible for oversight of most township departments. Please describe your leadership style and priorities.
TOWNSHIP BALLOT QUESTIONS: Waterford voters are being asked on Nov. 6 to authorize the establishment of annual special assessment districts 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?
LEADERSHIP: I appreciate that question because it came up during a debate we had in 2000. Everyone was doubting my experience and I had three minutes to wrap it up and I said, “Everybody is asking about my experience, but not my leadership role.” It’s a very important part of this position. I’m not a micromanager and don’t intend to be because I’ve got qualified department heads and they are getting paid for that responsibility and charged with that responsibility.
My attitude and the way I operate is let them do their job. If they have a problem where they stumble, they can come to me. If I have a problem, I can go to them. An example (is), I’m a police officer with 32 years experience. I’m well familiar with chain of command — that alone will destroy an agency if you don’t follow that. I’ve been brought up this way and done it for 32 years; I call it college, quite frankly. Based on that, if I go to the DPW (Department of Public Works) director, who I don’t have a clue in most cases as to what his functions are until I look over his shoulder and say, “No, no, do it this way.” He’d probably be offended and say, “If you know so much about it, do it yourself.” Then where would I be. So, I have to depend upon these people.
I have a great staff. We’ve made some changes along the way and haven’t skipped a beat. We’ve got a great group of department heads and professionals that take their job seriously. We’ve made numerous cuts since 2001 and they’ve stepped up to the plate. The key is to let them do their jobs and not micromanage them and (to) make them part-owner in the company, and that’s what’s happening.
TOWNSHIP BALLOT QUESTIONS: I am supportive of the Parks and Recreation millage. I’ve used the services, and so have my family and friends. The important thing is to keep the people and programs in tact. We have a group of seniors who use the Community Activities facility on Williams Lake Road and, despite the fact that that’s a 1940s building and they are proud of that facility, there is a fear we are going to close that building. We can’t. First of all, we wouldn’t, but we also signed an agreement when we took that building over that we would maintain it for the Golden Agers and those who use it. They call that building home. That’s a very important part of their life. So that needs to stay and it will, but we need to enhance the programs somewhat to get more funding to make it better for Parks and Recreation and the seniors, as well. So 0.5 mills was put on the ballot, and I support that 100 percent.
When it comes to the SAD (special assessment district proposal for the Police Department), it’s again understanding how people feel and whether they can afford it or not. That’s definitely a problem, but at the same token, all is well when you turn the faucet on and there’s water, all is well when you call the Fire Department to respond to your home, and in a few minutes they’re there. (It’s the) same with police.
There’s no secret crime is on the rise. We see that happening all around us and unfortunately we have our incidents, and not as many at this time, but I fear that will increase. We need more bodies on the streets. We need more police officers. We’ve decimated the Police Department with the budget cuts we made and the positions we eliminated because we didn’t have the money to pay them. So we need to enhance that and get those people back and this is the only way I know to do that.
It is a very critical service and I see no other way of doing this and asking the people to support this SAD. We did something recently and have a habit of doing good things here, such as the Pontiac fire consolidation merger, and just recently negotiated with the patrol union to give us the authority to employ part-time police officers, fully-trained and certified — wages only, no benefits — to put additional police on the street. We’re in the process of doing that. That will help the situation, but it’s not a cure-all because there’s a limit on hours and a limit on how many people we can have in relation to full-time guys. That’s a tentative stop-gap situation for now, but it’s something no other community has accomplished, and Waterford did. That’s the leadership role we spoke of earlier, having the ability to work with these people and keep them on our side and do the right thing. I do support the SAD and reemphasize that people need to trust in their township board, whoever that may be come Nov. 20, that they have the ability every year to decrease that 1.95 (mill levy) based upon the need. I tell you I will do it, and if I’m not (in office), hopefully the group that is there feels the same way.
TOP ISSUES: Obviously revenues is one of the major issues. We’ve asked the people for help and hopefully they will come through and provide us with a better staffed Police Department. The second thing would be the Police Department being staffed adequately to perform duties and responsibilities (for) citizens. We’ve already talked of two (top issues), one of which is the SAD and ability to bring in part-time police for wages only.
Thirdly is the Parks and Recreation situation, where we want to enhance that program and provide a better lifestyle to utilize services. Again, there’s a half-mill on the ballot for that.
WHY YOU? I congratulate Mr. Wall and we squared off in 2008 and ran a good campaign. It’s up to the voters in the township to decide what they want. I understand it’s a public office, and have ever since I started in 2000. I’m aware the people decide — that’s the American way and the best way. I don’t have a problem with that.
On the other hand, I think I’ve served the community well. I haven’t done anything that drastic to lose the position. We’ve made a lot of changes during the last 12 years, some of which were painful and people understand that, I believe. By the same token, changes were necessary to survive and, quite frankly, we have survived. Is it the way it was 12 years ago? Absolutely not, but we’re down 125 employees since 2000 and that had to be done. It’s not nice to sit down and tell someone they are going to be laid off, or whatever the case might be . We’ve doubled and tripled the work load on these people and they’ve handled it very well.
By the same token, my leadership in the organization has been great — I’ll hang my hat on that. If and when the time comes that I leave the position, be it of my own volition or the election process, I will (say) this: I can look in a mirror and not have any bad feelings or harbor any, because I haven’t done anything I’m ashamed of in this position. I therefore think, quite frankly, that I’m the best person to continue on, but that’s up to the voters and they will make that decision.
We’ve made a lot of changes and consolidated a lot of things. Mr. Wall talked about forecasting the budget, and we’re doing that now and the Finance Department is doing that. Consolidation within and without — Pontiac with fire, and White Lake with IS (information services), made them accessible to a broadband wireless system so they can feed off our system.
We’ve done (a lot) since 2002. We’ve gone to the next step and done a lot that other communities can’t. We probably have the third-largest fire department in the state now because of the merger with Pontiac. These are key components in everyday operations that a lot of people don’t understand.
All these consolidations are working very well. Our human resources director left, (and) instead of adding someone outside the organization, I tapped the DPW financial guy and accountant and made them the financial people in the department. They are doing a wonderful job. We had a civilian employee in the Police Department with a background of personnel, so I made him the human resources director. That saved us about $20,000 … I have that experience and (would) like to carry on another four years.
LEADERSHIP: My expertise is in the construction business. I’ve owned my own business for 22 years handling everything from top to bottom, including overseeing job sites. You’re dealing with subcontractors, employees, customers and suppliers, but the biggest thing is dealing with a budget. You have X amount of dollars to do a job, and if you don’t bring a job in at or under budget, it’s not profitable and hard to remain in business. The No. 1 goal is to keep the finances under control and still turn out a quality job. I feel confident in my ability to do this and have done it for years and kept my business going through tough times.
(The) transformation and leadership role in the township will be a smooth one. I’m not saying I will have all the answers, but I’ve got 22 years experience in handling budgets and handling money, and that would be an essential part of my new job as township supervisor.
You have to coordinate with people under you and keep open lines of communication, and when things come up, deal with things. As a township supervisor, you deal with department heads — coordinate and gets ducks in order and open lines of communication and deal with them on a daily basis. You’re dealing with all different people on the job. If something comes up, it must be dealt with immediately because problems don’t go away.
TOWNSHIP BALLOT QUESTIONS: Anything that promotes physical activity and education in children, I’m 100 percent behind it. The biggest part of Parks and Recreation is the kids and seniors. They have some wonderful programs out there, and I’ve been personal friends with the (Parks and Recreation) director and he’s done a great job. Anything for Parks and Recreation, I’m behind. It promotes physical activity in this day and age of electronics. It promotes sports and builds character.
(With the police SAD) … I support our Police Department 100 percent — it’s not about me. My concern is about the people who can’t afford that (proposed tax). I’ve done a lot of door knocking and campaigning, and people from all walks of life like having their own police department, as do I for the personalization of it. The majority of the people want that, too, and know they have to pay more money for it. Now it’s up to a vote and it’s what the taxpaying citizens and voters decide. That’s what’s beautiful about the U.S.A. — you’re free to support what you want to support and free to vote against what you want to vote against. It’s the people I know who can’t afford it who I’m concerned for, from a financial standpoint.
TOP ISSUES: I based my campaign on my top three topics: (The) budget, blight, and creativity. The budget has to deal with financial revenues, and if you don’t have them — you have to crunch numbers — again it’s math and it has to work out. Your expenditures can’t exceed your income — if it does, then it’s a formula for disaster. (Do) long-time, I’ll call it, (budget) projections and try to get numbers in line. If the (police) SAD doesn’t go through, it’s tough to think about. We’re still faced with a budget deficit. There are other ways of generating income off the SAD to help balance that.
If Parks and Recreation (millage) doesn’t go through — again, you have to think positive, but think safely. The budget is the top priority because everything revolves around the budget.
No. 2 is blight. I’ve been here 58 years. I’ve done a lot of work on a lot of homes, and have passion for the community. When door knocking, you hear and have to listen to people because these are the people that form Waterford Township, and no one is happy about the blight. A big concern is dealing with blight. It needs to be addressed.
No. 3 is creativity. I want to tap into the brilliance of a lot of people in the township. I’m talking volunteer programs. There’s no money to create anything new. I volunteered at the (Waterford) Historical Society for years. It’s amazing what people want to do and the creativity people have. We can hold rap sessions and sit down with the community and come up with programs to help the community, like beautification committees and build on programming to clean up the township.
WHY YOU? Campaigning, when I get out and talk to people, I have ideas. First, I want people to understand (that) I don’t dislike Carl Solden — he’s a good guy, but I have experience. I’m not saying I’m more qualified than anyone else for the job, but I have experience in business, in handling situations and working with people.
The big thing is working with people to keep things going smoothly. There’s no one person who makes it happen, but when you can coordinate and get people working on the same page toward (the) same direction, that helps and I’ve been very good at this and working with budgets. I’m trying to project that to the taxpaying citizens that I’m more than qualified for the job. I worked with people, budgets and situations for decades and have been successful at it. I think the transformation from the work I do now into the Supervisor’s Office and the relationships I created would be a smooth transition and beneficial for everyone in the township.