By Matt Mackinder
Clarkston News Editor
Eric Haven is back for his third term as Clarkston mayor, defeating Scott Meyland 292-176 in the Nov. 8 election to gain another two-year term.
There was also one write-in vote.
“I’m humbled by those who have chosen me to be their mayor and appreciative of their trust,” Haven said. “Charter requirements for mayor seem minimal: facilitating meetings, representing the city at community events and defending the ordinances. But I have always believed the job requires more, because to me, the office carries the responsibility of looking forward, anticipating future needs of the village, and being vigilant and ready to meet those needs. We have certainly had our share of surprises and challenges in the last four years with resignations at almost every leadership position, recruiting and training new ones, financing and rebuilding crumbling city offices, resisting challenges to our historic district, a pandemic, defeating a forced charter change by special interests, and finding new revenue to replace our aging infrastructure.
“These were accomplished with the support of city council, the administrative skills of our city manager (Jonathan Smith) and a small but mighty staff, all without raising taxes.”
With the departure of City Clerk Jennifer Speagle to Independence Township, where she will serve as new Supervisor Jose Aliaga’s deputy supervisor, Haven said the move is seen as a positive one for the two communities.
“I can’t remember ever working with a more dedicated and talented employee, and I know Jonathan feels the same,” Haven said. “We wish Jenn well with her new appointment, a job which recognizes her superior skills. Filling Jenn’s position will be one of our first challenges of the new term.
“Jenn’s new position and our new relationship with Jose will, however, strengthen our association with the township with benefits for both. One of our first orders of business will be to explore those benefits for lowering costs while increasing services to city residents.”
Clarkston City Council voted recently to add additional paid parking in the Depot lot to increase revenue to repair the city’s aging streets.
“We will soon begin implementing that outside revenue to avoid raising taxes or floating a bond issue,” Haven said. “Before I die I want to sit, walk, and stand on a new Depot Park amenity, a river walk from Depot Park to Deer Lake Beach through our beautiful wetlands. An engineering survey is underway to determine feasibility.
“Looking for others to join me in this colossal amenity for Clarkston is one of my most personal objectives for my third term. Any of you who feel the same way, reading this, please let me know. We need to work together.”
Haven added that 2023 will begin with “a challenge to a primary environmental asset, our historic mill pond.”
“Clarkston was established in 1832 as a ‘mill village’ recognized on the National Register of Historic Places and celebrated on our new signs, meaning water is the the key resource enabling our village to be built – water, powering a lumber mill,” explained Haven. “Butler Holcomb sawed the planks to build the original homes in Clarkston.
“After the failure of Holcomb’s earthen dam in 1940, Henry Ford built the current structure with lake-level raising and lowering ability. This dam is now 82 years old. The current owners feel a similar vulnerability since the dam failure in Midland. They want another entity to own the dam. Negotiations are underway to find a solution. I believe the people of Michigan (county or state) should own this and most other dams, which define Michigan in its Great Lakes fresh water supremacy. Clarkston is a ‘water town,’ a designation given to it by the Clinton River Watershed Council. Helping find a sustainable solution for this most valued resource is my most important objective.”
After winning the primary election in August, Jose Aliaga ran unopposed Nov. 8, getting 13.137 votes in the race for Independence Township supervisor for the term that ends Nov. 20, 2024.
There were 407 write-ins.
Aliaga said it is starting to feel more real that he will be the township supervisor.
“As the time approaches to make it official, I am preparing so I can start moving Independence Township forward from the first day I take office,” said Aliaga. “This is a very exciting time in my life, so I am eager to fulfill my campaign promises and keep Independence the great community it is.
“Once again, I would like to thank those that support me and my goals for this township. Now that it will be official, I can transpire those goals into great outcomes. I still stand by what I have said since the first day I began running for supervisor. Those things include fighting for better transparency for our residents, giving residents the chance to have their voices heard in our government, supporting our police department, fire department, and first responders by providing a stable and secure position in our township. Other areas include density management, protecting open spaces, and our senior citizens. I am looking forward to meeting and interacting with even more residents than before. My door will always be open, and I encourage you to come and see me. As a leader representing the township, I am not here to govern for you, but to govern with you.”
Aliaga takes over for Gerald Fisher, who was appointed last October when Pat Kittle retired.
“As for Gerry Fisher, I do appreciate his public service as an immediate stand-in for supervisor,” Aliaga said. “He worked hard for what he felt was right for the township.”
The Independence Township police protection millage passed with 12.035 voting “yes,” 7,008 “no.”
The proposal authorizes the township to levy a tax limitation increase up to 2.8678 mills, reduced by the required millage rollbacks, for a period of three years, starting with the Dec. 2023 levy, for the purpose of continuing to provide police protection and law enforcement services within the township.
“First of all, this means for the next three years we have the honor of serving the community, and that’s a big honor,” said Lt. Richard Cummins. “As a substation commander, I am always looking for ways to improve the services that we provide to the community. We will have to look at how the millage can help us do that.
“I personally would like to thank the residents who came out to vote for the millage on Tuesday. On behalf of the deputies at the substation and the sheriff’s office, I would like to thank the residents of Independence Township for their support of the sheriff’s office. This community has always been supportive of the sheriff’s office, and we here at the substation appreciate that support very much.”
Overall in Independence Township, turnout for the election was 20,344 of 30,059 registered voters (67.68%) as 9,176 residents voted by absentee ballot versus 11,151 who voted in person.
In Springfield Township, Bill Whitley ran unopposed for township trustee, garnering 5,423 votes for a four-year term.
There were also 74 write-ins.
County-wide, incumbent Republican Karen Joliat (20,191 votes) defeated Democrat Thomas Kurzyniec (13,625) and Libertarian Connor Nepomuceno (604) to earn another two-year term as 8th District county commissioner.
There were also 34 write-ins.
For state senator of the 23rd District, incumbent Republican Jim Runestad (77,829 votes) defeated Democrat Una Hepburn (53,143) to gain another four-year term.
Also 169 write-ins.
The county public transit millage passed, 336,473 to 252,725.
Aliaga called the passage a “disappointment, especially for northern Oakland County communities.”
“We do not benefit from this decision because we must pay for something that does not benefit us, only the southern Oakland County communities. I support democracy, and I respect Oakland County residents exercising their right to vote.”
Sue Wylie (incumbent, 297 votes), Amanda Wakefield (272), and Mark Lamphier (233) all earned seats for two-year terms for Clarkston City Council.
Three people were running for three open seats.
There were also two write-ins.
Al Avery and Joe Luginski did not seek re-election on council.
The Clarkston marijuana proposal, which would have placed two medical marijuana dispensaries in town, was defeated with 464 votes against it and 102 in favor.
“I want to say congratulations, Clarkston,” Haven said. “You showed up in force to defeated those who would bully their way into our community. Your efforts were magnificent, even in contrast to other small communities who suffered the same attack. We take nothing for granted, but by the grace of God move forward. Thank you so much for coming together around this crucial issue for our beautiful village. I am so thankful to the 40-plus people who formed a team, vigilant and hardworking, for this dramatic result. Thank you so much for your massive efforts.”
The amendment would have authorized two provisioning centers within the city and created regulations for the facilities by adding a new Chapter 16 to the city charter.
In addition, the provision would have authorized marijuana facilities to operate between the hours of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Sunday. It would not have permitted recreational marijuana sales to any adult but would have allowed commercial medical marijuana sales under the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act to qualified patients.
This proposed charter amendment would also have ended the city’s prohibition of medical marijuana facilities and established a local licensing system and regulatory provisions for medical marijuana facilities to operate within the city.
Overall, of the 805 registered voters in the City of the Village of Clarkston, 582 voted (72.3%), which was “pretty amazing,” according to Smith, with 248 absentee, 334 in person.
PHOTO: Clarkston Mayor Eric Haven and Independence Township Supervisor-elect Jose Aliaga. Photo provided