April 17, 2013 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
Interim Lake Orion Village Manager Darwin McClary wants to come home.
Currently living in Ferndale, McCLary is a small town Oxford boy at heart, graduated from Oxford High School in 1984, and served as the Oxford village president from July 1993 to September 1996.
He has nieces and nephews all over Orion, sisters in Clarkston and Brandon, and reminisced about the old L&S grocery store on Atwood, his local grocery store.
"This is home to me and this is why I'm so excited for the opportunity to be back even if it is for the interim position," he said.
With 23 years of administration and managerial municipal experience, ranging from Linden to Standish to Highland Park to Litchfield, McClary is interested in the long-term Lake Orion village manager position, and is also a candidate.
"I don't know if test is the right word," said council president Van Portfliet, describing McClary's new position. "He will have an advantage because we will get to work with him prior to the selection process."
Although McClary's duties as interim are to maintain current plans ,projects and budgets for the village, he has cutting edge ideas for the Lake Orion community.
"I would love nothing more than to have people point to Lake Orion and say, I want us to do what they're doing."
He is a very techie person. Some of his ideas involve incorporating "QR" codes into the business district and parks, and even the council meetings.
"All you guys need is the top sheet, and the entire agenda packet will be on your smart phone," he said, if a QR code was placed on the front page. "It will have the bookmarks so you can thumb through it, ya know, just stuff like that to make it more convenient for citizens to interact with their village government."
McClary also would like to increase the connectedness of the community. He would like to see the implementation of 'quick fix' programs incorporated in the community, which could be used on smart phones, laptops or desktops, allowing citizens to report problems they see around them more easily.
"Whether there is a stop sign knocked down, or a pothole in the street, as soon as they report the problem it is emailed directly to me so I can follow up on it in a timely fashion."
He also interested in drawing a larger, younger crowd to the downtown.
"It's all about bringing the creative classes to your community, and all about arts and culture and making it a hip-happening community," he said, wondering if Lake Orion could host some Detroit Institute of Arts classes downtown. He also sees opportunity in a downtown evening expansion.
"They want night life, so you've got to somehow bring that into your downtown. They want to feel connected. When they go down town, they want it to be an experience, so I'm hoping we can do some of that," he said.
It is important for McClary to connect to all ages in Lake Orion, via technology and more open communication.
"It is taking advantage of technology and incorporating that, preserving the past but embracing what the present and future have to offer, and incorporating that technology and what we can do to make us more cost effective and efficient."
For his last position with Garden City, McClary created a blog called McLary Mumblings and Musings to be more available to the public as their city manager.
After working in cities nearing populations of 40,000 people, McClary said he can bring a managerial perspective of both larger and smaller municipal governments, with the hopes of staying in a small community.
"[In a larger city] You have a lot more staff who do a lot more things for you, and handle a lot more of the interactions with citizens, and I miss that so much," he said. "The interactions you have with citizens on a daily basis, and the small town flavor, everybody knowing everybody, I just miss that a lot."
McClary is not placing any expectations on securing the full-time village manager position, but is putting his intentions out there.
"Whether I'm here for 60 days, or 10 years, I love this community, I grew up here," he said. "I remember the old L&S on the corner of Atwood and M24 where we used to do our grocery shopping as a kid. To me this is home, my family is here, I come in and just feel totally comfortable with it."
The Village Council will begin looking at recommendations from their hiring subcommittee after April 15, when their advertisement for the job closes on the Michigan Municipal League website. They are hoping to view as many as 20 applications, and will interview 6 candidates or more, depending on qualifications.