By Chris Hagan
Review Staff Writer
Orion Township Treasurer Mark Thurber wants to keep his seat and announced this week that he is seeking re-election in November.
He will be going up against current township Trustee Donni Steele who’s also running for the same position.
Thurber is running his campaign slogan around three simple words that he
says hold much more weight in their meaning: Values, Integrity, Legacy.
“That’s what I’m about. Orion family values, integrity, and legacy,” he said. “I want to leave something where my family and my children grow up here as well.”
Thurber, who recently received his certification as a Certified Public Treasurer from Central Michigan University, is looking to continue the work he’s brought to the township.
According to the Oakland University graduate, when he took office nearly $44 million dollars of township money was at risk and now that number is below $1 million. He said through various risk reduction investments he was able to lessen the risk but increase the reward with higher returns, taking it from one percent to at times three percent.
He’s also proud of the work he and his department have done both at the surface and behind the scene. The treasurer’s office has integrated credit card services which Thurber regards as a significant undertaking given the custom software work that had to be created. He also said within the township’s investment portfolio he’s made it more streamlined and easier to manage.
“I’m always looking out for our residents and we kept several people from losing their homes and help where we can,” he said.
If elected for another four years the husband and father of three said he hopes to advance his department by upgrading their operating software. He views the current residential development as too explosive but with it comes an ever-increasing workload, he said.
According to Thurber, their current software is obsolete and with the residents comes an increase in processing tax bills, water bills, dog licenses and park passes. Something he says will be a nonstop procedure, “unlike building permits.”
“I just see that with the increase in the number of residents we’re going to be having it’s going to be time, sometime soon, to change software but it requires an investment,” Thurber said. “For me, everything is about return on investment. If the numbers add up, then I’ll ask for it, if it doesn’t then it doesn’t.”
With Thurber’s decision to run for re-election means he’ll be potentially working with the same members of the current township board. Some of the members have expressed frustration with his work.
Over the past two years Thurber has come under fire by members of the township board, most often by Trustees Neil Porter and Mike Flood Jr., for issues with attendance and his treasurer’s reports.
Back in March of 2014, a brouhaha ensued at the township board meeting when Porter offered a resolution requesting Thurber’s resignation for not being in his office on February 28, the last day Orion taxpayers could submit their tax payments before being penalized. The motion was denied.
Thurber said on the day in question he was caring for his ill mother and confidentially notified the board members via email regarding his absence.
Thurber said despite being in constant contact with his staff, at no point were duties being neglected or not completed. He said they chose to take advantage of the situation and discredit him over it.
“The board knew this and made issue of it. I sent an email to the board members to let them know I’d be in and out for a while. Well they made hay of it,” Thurber said. “I think it’s shameful and speaks of what kind of people we have sitting on our board. Mr. Porter engaged the Oakland County prosecutor because I was absent one day, the last day of tax collection. I was available by phone and that was the day my mom went into the hospital for the last time.”
Flood has also brought into question the accuracy of Thurber’s treasurers reporting. During the February 29 meeting this year, Flood, who acknowledged the treasurer’s successful and legal investments, questioned Thurber’s report and if certain account holdings should be reported as investments in the portfolio.
Motion was passed 6-1 to have township attorney, Dan Kelly, review and provide the township board with a written legal opinion within 60 days, if inter-local investment pools and certificate of deposits are required by law to be reported, written, and be included as investments of the township treasurer’s investment reporting portfolio and if necessary to consult township auditors, Plante Moran.
“The report isn’t lacking information. The report in the treasurer’s office is transparent and available to any resident. In fact my treasurer’s reports are far more comprehensive than my predecessors,” Thurber said. “I view it as Mr. Flood looking at an opportunity to grand stand, I stand behind all of my reports each and every time. If he wants to make comments that’s his choice.”
Moving into election season, Thurber said he’s looking to preserve and protect the special culture and way of life residents have in Orion Township. He also said he’s concerned that even though the township board remains in the “driver’s seat of development,” he would like to proceed with great caution.
“I want the highest quality and lowest possible density; I want Orion to be to the place everyone wants to live, not where everyone does live,” he said. “We don’t necessarily need to allow as much to take place as we have been. We have to be careful, once changes take place, it’s impossible to undo. We have to proceed with great caution.”
“My voting I try to maintain consistency in what the public’s desires are. Whenever I get feedback from our residents, I listen very carefully to what the public is asking for because they’re the reason I’m in office,” he said. “It’s my responsibility to carry out what the public is asking for because I’m their representative.”
Thurber says that in addition to increasing software and refining the investment portfolio, he hopes to have more personal interaction with local groups and associations.
He currently serves as treasurer for the Polly Ann Trail, USA hockey league, and local troop for Boy Scouts of America. He sits on the board of directors for NOTA, Oakland County Treasurers Association and Senior Advisory Council. He’s also one of the founding members for the Orion/Oxford Lone Ranger parade and festival.
Thurber also said he initiated the acquisition and preservation of Camp Agawam, helped NOTA get new headquarters, and now he said he is working on a handicap parking lot for the Polly Ann Trail.
He has a Facebook page, “Mark Thurber-Orion Treasurer,” where supporters and residents seeking more information can stay updated.