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Beline Obeid

Four vie for three Farms council spots

October 24, 2013
GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Four candidates — three incumbents and one challenger — are running for terms on the city council of Grosse Pointe Farms.

Members of the council serve four-year terms and are paid $600 per year.

The candidates are, in alphabetical order, Louis Theros, Elizabeth Vogel, Peter W. Waldmeir and Martin West.

The election is Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Louis Theros (I)

“All government is local,” said the late Congressman Tip O’Neill — and also Louis Theros, incumbent Farms councilman.

Theros remembers being elected 12 years ago to his first of three consecutive terms on the council.

“We decided there would be no self-aggrandizement,” he said of his colleagues. “It’s everybody pulling in the same direction.”

Yet, everyone brought a different perspective to the council.

“The overarching theme is to make the Farms the best it can be,” Theros said.

Fiscal management and efficient operations are among his priorities.

“We’ve been able to cut taxes four times in my tenure,” Theros said. “I voted against the only millage increase because I didn’t think we needed it.”

An ongoing issue is maintaining the city’s infrastructure.

“If you don’t keep up with your infrastructure, you’re never caught up,” Theros said. “We do streets every year. If a municipality doesn’t keep up with its infrastructure, and roads are the best example, why should I expect a homeowner to take care of his house?”

Theros chairs the municipal budget and audit committee.

He’s proud of the city’s five-year capital plan, which includes putting money aside for future purchases.

“When we bought a pumper truck my first year on council, we immediately started banking $80,000 per year out of the general fund, so when we needed a new truck we wouldn’t have an $800,000 to $1 million hit on the budget,” Theros said. “That is smart budgeting.”

He spent much of his time in office as a member of the public safety and general employees pension commissions.

“Right now, we are overfunded on public safety and at about 88 percent on general employee, which is out of the ball park in Michigan for municipalities,” Theros said. “The fact that we almost have a fully funded pension is unheard of.”

He wants to ensure the Farms is a sound, stable community now and in years to come.

“I look at what is fiscally responsible, what can I bring to the table together with the talents of the other council members to make sure we not only have a great place to live today, but I want it to endure for my children and grandchildren and those of all residents.”

Theros is on the board of directors of Butzel Long law firm.

Elizabeth Vogel (C)

If votes were awarded for recycling election campaign signs, Elizabeth Vogel would have a head start.

She’s updating her signs from campaigns in the two prior city council election cycles for another run this year.

“I have an incredible amount of passion and enthusiasm for all of the Grosse Pointes, Grosse Pointe Farms in particular,” Vogel said. “We live in one of the best committees in the world.

“If voters elect me, I’m going to go the extra mile to do everything I can to protect the things we value most, which are our beautiful property, beautiful parks, our spectacular roads and to keep our services the best they can possibly be.”

Vogel initially sought office in 2011 as a write-in candidate when heavy rains combined with malfunctioning utility power sources and municipal pumping equipment to cause widespread basement flooding.

This time, now that new pumping equipment and emergency generators are installed, she’s looking more toward things to come.

“The city does not have a standard futuring plan,” Vogel said. “There’s a five-year capital plan, but there isn’t a comprehensive five- or 10-year plan which would include all of the departments, in which we analyze where we are in the life expectancy of roads and infrastructure. That way, you can map out a clean plan for addressing those issues.

“That’s something I would push for as a city council person.”

Flooding isn’t forgotten, however.

“I’d like to see the people who suffered consequences of flooding, whether in higher insurance premiums or losses, be made whole,” Vogel said. “The government’s getting better at transparency, but we still have a long way to go. Good is OK. But, for me, I feel there’s always work to do.”

Vogel is an executive assistant at Petitpren Inc., an Anheuser-Busch distributor in Clinton Township.

“I report to the president and vice president in the executive team,” she said.

She chairs the Grosse Pointe Historical Society membership committee, belongs to the Farms communication committee and was appointed by the city council to the Grosse Pointe Library Board.

“I know the council values my input,” Vogel said.

The library board supported a millage increase “by a very small amount,” Vogel said. “The maximum we can levy, with the supplemental millage, is .7. Last year, we levied .46. This year, we’re levying .5.

“We’re .2 mills under the maximum we can levy. In 2011, the millage passed with overwhelming support of the community.”

Council members elected this year will serve during preparations for the Farms’ 125th anniversary in 2018.

“Those elected to council will be in a position to look forward to that benchmark and see what we can to do bring everything up to the highest possible standards,” Vogel said.

Peter W. Waldmeir (I)

The past is prologue for 16-year incumbent Councilman Peter W. Waldmeir.

“Experience has been an important part of why the council has been able to achieve as much as we’ve been able to accomplish, both on the fiscal front and bricks-and-mortar front,” Waldmeir said. “This has a lot to do with experience, understanding the community and how it’s evolved over the years.”

He said the council’s accomplishments include long-range planning for infrastructure maintenance.

“I can tell you which road will be paved over the next four years,” Waldmeir said. “We have it all planned out.”

He’s seeking reelection to help continue the city’s momentum.

“We maintain the lowest millage rate in the Pointes through conservative fiscal management and accountability of our department heads and personnel,” Waldmeir said.

He credits Farms employees for the city’s quality of life.

“They’re the ones who keep the roads clean, they keep the bad guys off the streets,” Waldmeir said. “They do all the things necessary for a well-functioning, harmonious city government and community.”

It’s important for city officials to enforce zoning ordinances that protect the highest property values in the Pointes, he said.

“If we continue to do that, we’ll bring more people into our community,” Waldmeir said. “They’ll want to enhance their homes and businesses. All those things work hand-in-hand.”

Ongoing issues include public safety.

“We have a very strong police department and we work with all other departments,” Waldmeir said. “I want our community to be a welcoming community. But, I also want it to be known that we’re protecting our residents in a watchful environment.”

Waldmeir is a senior partner at Miller Canfield law firm.

He chairs the Farms parks and harbor, compensation, and Mack-Moross economic development committees.

He serves on the Farms budget, parking and ordinance committees and is co-chair of the Grosse Pointes futuring committee.

Martin West (I)

Effective councilmembers don’t just cite problems. They also propose solutions.

Martin West, an incumbent councilman, cites his business experience as helping him oversee Farms municipal operations.

“Business people tend to be more results-driven and want to get things done on a quicker basis,” West said. “Our biggest challenge in the Farms is to keep the amenities and services to residents at the lowest tax rate of the five Grosse Pointes. We’ve always had a pretty tight rein on spending.”

West credited Farms residents, city management and employees for the community’s success.

“We are blessed with a good tax base, a good mix,” he said. “That helps give us the resources we need. (City Manager) Shane Reeside has done a wonderful job creatively managing his work force.

“We haven’t had to lay anybody off. People are producing, yet the numbers go down.”

West is a general agent for AAA Michigan insurance. Before that, he was AAA’s marketing director and a senior vice president of Campbell-Ewald advertising.

“We run the city more like a mom-and-pop than as a big corporation,” said West, a 31-year Farms resident. “With government, you have to get things done through consensus, not dictating.”

He chairs the Farms communications committee and is liaison to the Farms Foundation. He serves on the parks and harbor, parking and traffic, public safety retirement and general employee retirement committees.

He served on the beautification, compensation and budge committees.

“I think I’ve served on every (Farms) committee there is,” West said.

West was elected to the council from 1997 to 2001. In 2010, he was appointed to fill the late-Councilman Doug Roby’s seat and again in 2011 to fill the vacancy created by the death of Councilman Terry Davis.

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