Six candidates vie for four seats on the Lake Orion Village Council in the Nov. 3 general election

By Jim Newell

Review Editor

There are six candidates running for Lake Orion Village Council in the general election on Nov. 3, and at least one will be a new member to the council.

Incumbents Kenneth W. Van Portfliet, Bradley E. Mathisen and Jerry Narsh are seeking re-election and will face off against challengers Sarah H. Luchsinger, Michael J. Lamb and Leigh Stephen Wilson.

Councilmember John Ranville did not seek re-election.

The three candidates who receive the most votes will each serve a four-year term on the council, while fourth place will serve a two-year term. The Lake Orion Village Council is structured so that four seats are up for election every two years.

Current councilmembers Doug Hobbs, Teresa Rutt and Ray Hammond will not be up for re-election until the November 2022 election.

The Review asked candidates for background information and answers to three questions to give voters an introduction to the candidates and an idea of where the candidates stand on a few issues in Lake Orion.

Candidate responses are listed below.


Michael J. Lamb, P.E.

Age: 61

Political experience: Seven years engineer for Oakland County Drain Commissioner, 30-plus years in residential land development and engineering.

Occupation: Civil Engineer, Residential Builder, Real Estate Broker

Community involvement: Resident of Village, Constructed new homes in Village, voiced opinions on issues to Village Administration.

What do you consider to be the most important issue(s) confronting the village?

The most important issue I see confronting the village is the financial ability to maintain the existing infrastructure. Where the money is going to come from to maintain the local roads is the primary example. My understanding is the money will come from special assessments against the local properties on the roads. I do not see how waiting for the roads to disintegrate and then hoping the residents will request a Special Assessment District to replace them will work. With my 30-plus years in land development and construction I am well versed to address these issues.

How important is it to listen to residents’ and represent their concerns when making decisions?

The residents are the most important voice in the village. This country has risen to the point where all adults in a community have the right to vote and voice their opinion. The voters in the majority get their way under the framework of our constitution and laws. Taxpayers are the next in line to have their opinions heard, as many of the commercial properties in the village are not resident owned so they do not have a voice in the voting part of our decision making. Their voices have to be heard as they contribute to supporting the community.

Lake Orion has a downtown with many small, family and individually owned businesses. As a councilmember, what measures would you take to support all of the downtown businesses?

I believe that all property owners should be supported and represented in the community fairly regardless of size. I would support and encourage all business that benefits the community. Business that does not benefit the community I would support as dictated by law. With the current hard times I will continue to support our local restaurants and business to keep them operating.


Sarah H. Luchsinger

Age: 33

Political experience: BA in Political Science, Pre-Law

Occupation: Small Business Owner

Community involvement: I am the owner of Sarah’s Bath Boutique in downtown Lake Orion, and as a business owner, I have had the opportunity to be very involved in our community. My involvement includes, but is not limited to: participating in events in downtown, including both as a small business owner and as a resident (I had the privilege of being “Captain Marvel” in the Lighted Parade last winter), providing charitable donations to local organizations and helping promote downtown businesses through videos and social media.

What do you consider to be the most important issue(s) confronting the village?

Communication and promoting our village. Prior to opening my shop, I practiced law and worked as a project manager for a national healthcare corporation. Through my experiences, I have learned that communication is the cornerstone for any relationship, regardless whether it is between client and professional, colleagues, or any group of people working towards a common goal. Simply put, there absolutely needs to be communication in order to understand different perspectives of a situation so that those involved will be, and feel, represented.

The Village of Lake Orion has a lot to offer. Our downtown is quaint, has a variety of shops, restaurants, and professional services. Our parks and trails are great places to play, exercise, and meet friends. That said, we lack parking and public restrooms, which inhibits promoting and economic growth. This is something that I will address if elected.

How important is it to listen to residents’ and represent their concerns when making decisions?

Pursuant to MCL § 65.1, “[t]he legislative authority of villages shall be vested in the council.” In a nutshell, the village council makes many decisions that directly affect residents and businesses. Therefore, it is essential that a council member seeks the perspectives, opinions and concerns of a variety of members from each of those groups. In addition, they should stay up to date on current events in order to anticipate the potential impact on the community.

Lake Orion has a downtown with many small, family and individually owned businesses. As a councilmember, what measures would you take to support all of the downtown businesses?

Local businesses help fundraise for and support local charities, schools, events, etc. Encouraging businesses to work together to promote our village and each other helps encourage people to come downtown and increases morale.

I witnessed this in July when I filmed a short promotional video for social media. I, along with the other participating businesses, had a great time filming and enjoyed the opportunity to promote downtown and our businesses. We also got to know each other.


Brad Mathisen

Age: 52

Political experience: Village councilmember since 2013

Occupation: Building Trades, Estimator, Maintenance

Community involvement: Former volunteer Orion/Oxford Boys and Girls Club, Master Plan Steering Committee, Parking Ad Hoc Committee

What do you consider to be the most important issue(s) confronting the village?

I consider infrastructure (water mains, sewers/lift stations, streets, parks/bridges) and budget (keeping tax rates as low as possible while providing needed services) to be the most important issues confronting the village, especially now during the Covid-19 crisis.

How important is it to listen to residents’ and represent their concerns when making decisions?

I think it is very important to listen to residents and represent their concerns as the decisions of council have an impact on not just individual residents but the village as a whole.

Lake Orion has a downtown with many small, family and individually owned businesses. As a councilmember, what measures would you take to support all of the downtown businesses?

I would support all of the downtown businesses by stopping by each business a couple of times a month to get their input as to what council is doing right and what we could improve on. Encourage business owners to feel free to contact me via email anytime with concerns.


Jerry L. Narsh

Age: 61

Political Experience: Presently an appointed Village Council member as a result of a vacancy

Occupation: Retired Lake Orion Police Chief, after 38 years at LOPD. Current Chief of Police for Holly Police Department.

Community Involvement: I have lived in the Lake Orion area since 1978 and moved into the village in 1990. As an officer with LOPD and chief from 2001 to 2019 I have spent my entire adult life in the community. During my time with LOPD my dream and vision was to create a police department that was involved with every segment of our community, residents, business owners and visitors, but specifically our veterans, our children and youth and senior citizens.

Listening and learning what the needs are and then creating programs to not just meet needs, but define how a department should exceed them. My passion has been to involve myself everywhere where I and the officers can help create and keep the peace and prosperity our community deserves. Kids & Kops, Shop with a Hero, Cops who Care and other outreach programs are just a part of that vision.

What do you consider to be the most important issue(s) confronting the village?

We are blessed to have a historic and quiet residential district, vibrant and perfectly situated Downtown District and an all sports lake. Our issues are to keep and maintain exceptional personal service with police, DPW and administration that is listening and responding in a fiscally responsible way. With COVID-19, we are as affected as all communities and therefore must strive to compete for federal, state and local dollars to support operations and plan for long term improvements to village streets, update our sewer lift stations and improve public spaces and parks. Helping seniors to stay in place and become a more walkable, bike friendly and all-inclusive community.

How important is it to listen to residents’ and represent their concerns when making decisions?

My life has been listening and helping resolve conflict and needs. I have always tried to be completely honest with everyone, even when the answer is not what they want to hear. I value new voices, ideas and direction if they benefit our goals and objectives. Truthfulness and trust can only be obtained and maintained with each resident need and response. We must be truth and solution oriented even when the problem requires difficult decisions, but with openness and honesty, they can be resolved, defended and accepted.

Lake Orion has a downtown with many small, family and individually owned businesses. As a councilmember, what measures would you take to support all of the downtown businesses?

Local business is the backbone of the American economy. The majority of jobs and investment are from small, local business. Corporate America does not greet you at the door, support local charity and causes or provide the unique charm we possess in our business district.

I will support them by listening, shopping and providing real solutions to cut red tape. Creating Social Districts to fight COVID and spur business, help with marketing our LO Advantages and assisting business in securing grants, loans and tax relief when necessary to improve the entire community. A safe community is where people want to live and shop. We have that, we MUST keep that.


Kenneth W. Van Portfliet

Age: 65

Political experience: Village governance for 20 years including: Village Council, Planning Commission, Downtown Development Authority board, Board of Zoning Appeals, Southeast Council Michigan of Governments (SEMCOG).

Occupation: Construction Project Manager/Marketing

Community involvement: Liaison to state and county authorities. Have provided support and communication for residents and charitable organizations.

What do you consider to be the most important issue(s) confronting the village?

Fiscal responsibility and finding funding to reduce taxpayer burden. We have some high cost infrastructure projects such as replacing pump stations, roads and pedestrian bridges.

Commercial and residential growth has begun to reshape us. And we need your opinion to help us know how to navigate growth while maintaining the familiar people-based charm that has drawn so many here to our community

How important is it to listen to residents’ and represent their concerns when making decisions?

Highly important.

We try to be creative to improve response to opinion surveys, and to engage citizen involvement.There are many opportunities to hear your concerns. Contact me directly, reach out to village administrative offices or contact the DDA. We work together as a team.

Lake Orion has a downtown with many small, family and individually owned businesses. As a councilmember, what measures would you take to support all of the downtown businesses?

I would encourage businesses to contact our administration office or me for consultation. I can draw on historical experience and a well-developed network of resources to find solutions that are acceptable and readily agreeable to the community at large.

Our council worked hard to provide creative tools to support business health during these times. Go downtown. Look around. It’s vibrant.


Leigh Stephen Wilson

Age: 49

Political experience: None

Occupation: Para Educator in Lake Orion Community Schools

Community involvement: I’ve spent the past eight-an-a-half years working for LOCS, and have lived in Lake Orion for the past 40 years. I’m a second-generation Dragon, my daughter graduated from Lake Orion in 2017, and my son will graduate in 2021. While my daughter was in high school, I was very involved with the Lake Orion Marching Band, usually volunteering 12-18 hours each week during marching season. My father and grandmother were both involved in local politics, and I’d like to continue my community involvement by working with the other council members.

What do you consider to be the most important issue(s) confronting the village?

I think right now, Lake Orion is in a period of tremendous growth. It’s a wonderful thing to see, but in order for continued successful growth, there needs to be sufficient infrastructure to support it. I feel that adequate parking in the downtown area needs to be addressed, both for cars and boats, as people enjoying the lake are beginning to consider enjoying the village as part of their time in Lake Orion. Other things that I hear frequent complaints about are the amount of police presence on Lake Orion, (mostly that there should be more presence at night and during busier times), and the lack of sufficient regulation for short term rental, Airbnb-type homes in the village and on the lake. I believe that making changes in all of these areas will increase enjoyment of the village and its amenities for all.

How important is it to listen to residents’ and represent their concerns when making decisions?

It’s very important. Residents should always be able to have input into decisions about village issues, and their input should always be considered as part of any decision. Decisions made should represent the best interests of the village, which hopefully will align with residents’ concerns.

Lake Orion has a downtown with many small, family and individually owned businesses. As a council member, what measures would you take to support all of the downtown businesses?

I believe that infrastructure is fundamentally important to the support of all local businesses. Ensuring that sufficient parking is available will help all businesses thrive, regardless of what time of day the majority of their business takes place. I will continue to frequent all the businesses in the village. It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors, and find new sources for items and services we all need and enjoy. Additionally, I think that the events put on by the DDA and the village are a great way to encourage all Orion residents to come out and see what’s available in the village.

 

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