By Jim Newell
ORION TWP. – Orion Township Treasurer Donni Steele has been in township government for 10 years but in January she will be cutting her current term short and moving on to the Michigan State legislature.
Steele narrowly defeated Democrat Shadia Martini of Bloomfield Township, claiming victory by slightly more than two percentage points in the race for state representation in the Michigan House of Representatives 54th District.
Steele won with 22,959 votes to Martini’s 21,913 votes, or 51.1 percent to 48.77 percent, a difference of 2.33 percent, according to the unofficial results from the Oakland County Elections Division.
“It was a hard-fought battle, I have to say,” Steele said.
The 54th District includes all of Orion Township, nine precincts in Bloomfield Township, two precincts in Bloomfield Hills, eight precincts in Auburn Hills and two precincts in the southwest corner of Oakland Township.
Steele said it was voters in the township who propelled her to victory over her Bloomfield Township opponent.
“I want to thank Orion Township for their high voter turnout and their support throughout the whole election. Had Orion not come out and supported me, I wouldn’t have won and that’s a fact,” Steele said. “I think that being that I live in Orion and have worked for 10 years in Orion Township (government), I’m closest to the meat of it and provide the best representation for the people who live here.”
Steele will be sworn in and will take her seat in the state legislature in January.
Until then, she will continue to serve as Orion Township treasurer through the end of the year and resign before taking her oath of office as state representative.
Because Steele is more than halfway through her current term as treasurer, the township board will not have to hold a special election but instead will be able to appoint someone to fill that role until the Nov. 5, 2024 when all of the township board of trustees will be up for re-election.
Going forward, Steele said her approach is going to be visible throughout all of her district and get to know the people and local governments.
“My goal is to meet them. I’m going to host coffee hours, I’m going to go to the township halls, I’m going to go to the chamber of commerce meetings, I’m going to go to events in communities where I can meet people I don’t know and see what is most important to them,” Steele said.
“I’m going to get to know the district and the people and see what their needs are and be immersed in the community and see how I can help.”
The Democrats control both the state senate and house, so Steele said she will focus on getting to know all of her district and find ways to serve residents.
“What’s interesting is that we lost the majority and so we’re not going to be huge on making policy because we won’t have the opportunity as much as we would want to,” Steele said.
Steele notes that with all the connections she’s made in northern Oakland County in the last 10 years and a new staff in the state Capitol and access to state resources she will be to help her constituents.
“Even though we might not be making legislative policy I’ll still have access to the government as a whole at the state level,” she said.
Among her main issues of focus while campaigning, Steele lists:
· Supporting small businesses through less government, citing the pandemic shutdowns. “One of the many lessons learned was that small businesses thrive when they are open and allowed to exercise competitive competition with less government oversight and overreach,” she said.
· Addressing labor shortage and inflation, saying Michigan continues to see a declining population and is losing young adults to other states. “We need to provide more jobs, opportunities, and stability for our workforce…To do this, we need to address the current state of inflation. We need to reevaluate our national energy crises and dependence on foreign resources. We also need to lessen our dependency on foreign economies.”
· “Defend not defund law enforcement”: “I am horrified by the talk of defunding the police,” Steele said. “Everyone knows that the police are the first called, the first on the scene, and the last to leave the scene in an emergency…There should never be the talk of defunding any law enforcement agency ever.”
· “Schools are for education, not social agendas”: “Classrooms are for education, not social agendas. Parents have the right to know what their child is learning in school,” Steele said. “There has to be more transparency in education. Michigan spent over 13 billion on education in 2022…The majority of money allotted for education should go into classroom learning and student support services.”
· Advocating for veterans and senior citizens: “The state of Michigan must be a leader in veteran care, benefits, and services,” she said.”
Steele has also served on the township’s safety paths and trails committees and was integral to safety path development and supporting the Polly Ann and Paint Creek Trail systems.
Steele served as Orion Township trustee from 2012-2016 and as treasurer from 2016 through the present. Prior to public service, Steele was a realtor.
Among her endorsements, Steele lists the support of the entire Orion Township Board of Trustees, Oxford Township Supervisor Jack Curtis, previous Orion Township Supervisor JoAnn Van Tassel, Auburn Hills Mayor Kevin McDaniel, Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, Waterford Township Supervisor Gary Wall, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard and Oakland County Commissioners Mike Gingell, Eileen Kowall and Michael Spisz.
By Jim Newell