February 05, 2014 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
Tom Berger, who has been with Orion Township 23 years, is officially retiring April 4 to hunt, fish and spend more time with his family.
His position as building official is being handed over to his colleague Randy McClure February 24.
McClure worked under Berger for 10 years before taking a job in Warren as the planning reviewer and building official, and was welcomed home at the board meeting Monday night.
"I'm excited, a little nervous. Tom's kind of like bigger than life so he's going to be a hard act to follow," McClure said.
Berger remembers the most all the development he saw happening through the course of Orion's last 23 years.
"Oh gosh, Brown Road used to be gravel when I started, now it's the Auburn mile," he said. "Auburn Hills started bringing development in. We didn't have a Baldwin Commons Mall. We didn't have anything on M-24 where all the commercial activity is. We didn't have Belle Tire and the restaurants," he said.
Berger has seen tremendous growth in Orion Township and also the slumps.
"We used to build two houses a day, on average 60 a month. That slowed down after the 2008 crisis," he said. "We're back up again to where were probably going to build 1000 to 1400 houses again."
Based on the residential growth, Berger has overseen construction of Fire Station 3 and 4, and subdivisions all over, including where the Franklin Settlement Campground used to be, the quadrant of houses at Elizabeth St. and M-24, Round Tree and Marina Pointe.
"I could name 15 probably," he said.
His proudest moment was receiving the Thomas Rickets Award in the early 2000s from the Home Builders Association of Southeast Michigan. The award recognizes promptness, reliability and fairness in all steps of the building process.
"We did an excellent job working with all the new developers, and it was an honor to receive that award. It took 10 years to get to that level for people to want to come to Lake Orion, and I'm proud of that," he said. "We worked really hard to change the personalities and the demeanor and the attitude that we had in Orion Township for developers when they first arrived. That's a big deal."
Berger's last day is March 7.
He grew up in Lake Orion. His parents graduated from LOHS, and his sons live in the Lake Orion area while Berger lives in Oxford.
"It means a lot to see it still moving in the right direction. It's a great community. It has a lot of amenities, good school district, good police and fire. It has all the right ingredients. To me it's a great community," he said.
"It's been a third of my life almost, 20 some years. That means a lot to me."
Berger says McClure will absolutely fulfill the job requirements, is a hard working man, and "he is high on the list."