Political Column - Success, Failure, and the Future

I've been in office for three years, with one year left to go to complete my term. It's a good time to take inventory of some of the success, some of the failure, and what the future holds for the township and myself.

There were three areas that I focused on while running for office: one, to have real choice in elections; two, to increase transparency; three, to make it easier for people to do business and farming.

In the 2020 election there was a real choice, a real difference between candidates. That interest and choice has continued. In 2023, because of resignations, there were two trustee positions open. The board needed to appoint replacements to complete the term through 2024. There were eight people that put their names forward for the two positions. It's good to have such interest from people for local public office.

Transparency has been heavily increased. People still have a tendency to generate rumors, because the rumor mill is part of human nature, but I've noticed that trending down as I release information. The township now has a Youtube channel. We record and post the Board of Trustee, Planning Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals Meetings, along with other updates and debates. You can watch hundreds of township videos.

I also release the packet of information that I give to the Board of Trustees for meetings, and the public gets the information at the same time as the board. Everyone has the same information and can make up their own mind on issues. We've also started uploading historical documents such as older meeting minutes and board packets. You can read thousands of pages of documents.

Ordinances have been under constant review and revision since I've taken office, and I've endeavored to always keep it in people's minds that we want to be friendly to business and farming. Dozens of ordinances have been changed. Things like allowing more animals for hobby farming can help families to feed themselves, and allowing easier use of signs allows businesses to advertise to get more business, to make more money, to make improvements and employ more people. These types of changes add up over time.

Even though I wasn't specifically running to change other things, I stated that I would fix as much as I could over the four years. For instance, it would be a dereliction of duty to take office and ignore roads. We've continued to fund road projects over the last few years, and just allocated a large portion of ARPA funds to road projects for next year.

I've worked on keeping the fire department separate from politics to the extent possible over the last few years so that they can focus on doing their jobs. To help them continue to have a high level of service going forward we had the millage vote this year, and with that funding will have some full-time firefighters in Dalton next year.

When I first came into office there were plans to add new parks. Some of which had being talked about for decades, but our current parks weren't in very good shape. At Catalpa Park on Goose Egg Lake we removed an open septic tank that had been left there for years, and replaced the playground equipment, with a pretty small budget. We've started going over the bike trail on an annual basis and filling in cracks to help preserve the pavement.

The housing market has been tight with it being expensive and difficult to buy or rent. We've reduced the minimum square footage of houses making it more affordable for people to build, added the possibility of accessory dwelling units, and sold property to individuals and developers to build in the area.

The township hall roof was in rough shape. There were leaks that damaged paperwork and walls. The roof has been replaced. Since I took office there has been talk about how the front of the office was oddly open and unsecure for staff. The office has been remodeled to address those concerns.

Due process has been codified in the ordinances, ORVs have been approved and set a precedent for the county, and food trucks have been approved in the ordinances.

Ever since the 2006 sewer project along Whitehall Road the township has had a struggle with those finances. From the trailer park and some businesses going broke, to the two court cases over the sewer rates that the township did not win. The fund was going to run out of money in 2026 with another decade of loans to be paid. By selling off property and putting over half-a-million dollars in, along with explaining the need and then increasing rates, we've restored the financial health of the sewer fund. Also, the land we've sold into private hands can result in development meaning more housing, increased property tax revenue for the township to continue funding things like parks and roads and operations, and as individuals own the land it may limit the problem of people dumping trash as well.

I didn't think I would be able to get the railroad crossing on Riley-Thompson Road replaced during my term, but I said I would look into it and try. I did try, and it did get replaced.

The M-120 welcome sign in Twin Lake was in bad shape. This has been replaced, and the old sign was put back together by the maintenance supervisor and is hung at the township hall.

The business park off of Whitehall Road had been sitting empty for 20 years because of bad government policies. I was able to get a contract with the city canceled and for the county to lower the prices and sell the property. Now multiple businesses are building and operating in the business park.

The township owned a rental house on North Lake that was unnecessary. We sold that, used the funds to help fix the sewer fund, and someone is fixing the house up.

There was a crossing guard position in Twin Lake where no kids were crossing and it would be unsafe to cross. I talked with the superintendent and we canceled that position because it was not needed, and if a kid needs to walk across that road then the school would reroute the bus because that would be safer anyway.

Realistically, especially when you think about how poorly governments often operate, that's quite a bit of success. I've also had a lot of things delayed or fall through entirely. I was hoping to have more home development to ease the housing burden. A developer is still planning on doing that, it's just delayed. I wanted to make a deal with the county for the business park roads, but I was denied. Many things haven't gone the way I want, which is part of being a living being. That's the challenge of life and why it's engaging. In all circumstances there are two options available to us, to win or to learn, and both are opportunities.

There are a lot of choices to make in life, taking office is no different. I expected a large learning curve at the beginning and put in a lot of hours knowing that it makes sense to do that at the beginning, and later when things are running well I'll be able to backoff. I also front loaded my term with training, so that it's useful to me over the four years. These are good strategic decisions. I also decided at the beginning of my term to focus on internal management of the organization rather than external leadership, and that's a decision that I question. I thought at some point I would work out the organizational functioning and transition, but that's never fully happened. I tried several types of communication methods including one-on-one meetings and staff meetings, work sessions and personal contact. But, I never fully achieved as much of a team feel or function as I would like, although it's the best that it has been in the three years, so progress has been made. I know why it is more challenging in an organizational structure like the township, and I know that it's foolish to think that someone can get the politics out of politics, but I still would have liked to have done better. 

The future is a massive subject. For Dalton, destiny is, as always, in the hands of the people. It's the decisions of individuals that determine the hands of fate. I believe and hope that once again there will be real choice in the 2024 election for the township board. I know that several people are considering running for supervisor and I wish some of them well.

Before the next supervisor takes office we have more road work being done next year. There are plans to do some upgrades at Beegle Sports Park. The board is talking about forming a parks and recreation committee. The M-120 Christmas tree is planned for replacement with a healthier tree next year. The Cemetery Coordinator has plans for improvements at the cemeteries, the Maintenance Supervisor has plans for improving the parks and trails, and the Zoning Administrator is helping to redo the master plan and the parks plan, in addition to the ongoing ordinance changes that he helps facilitate.

As for me, I always have a lot of things that I'm planning and doing. I completed an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a graduate degree in public policy and management over the last few years. I considered going somewhere to pursue a PhD, but I want to focus on other areas of life. I considered running for the state legislature, but I think it would consume my next five years with less of an impact than I would like. I can make a larger difference in other pursuits. I have been designing a meditation instruction program. I hired a part-time employee 21 months ago. I plan to bring her on full-time soon and start adding customers. That endeavor will be a big portion of my life for many years to come, with interesting spinoffs further down the line.

It's an example of the life decisions being made by every person every day. Thousands of people in Dalton Township are thinking about: getting involved in politics to uphold liberty and justice, or starting a business, or going to school, or changing careers, or moving, or growing their family, or getting healthier, or going on an adventure. Thousands of destinies are intertwined with millions and billions more, each a series of struggles, triumphs, and tragedies; wins celebrated and lessons learned; paths walked or ignored. The future is all of this, and more.



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