April 30, 2014 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
Penny Shults was paid $6 a day in gas money to take a job placement course at the CERC building more than two decades ago, ultimately leading to her 25-year career with the township.
She recalled the job placement course.
"We were pretty poor, and a pretty new couple, but I could pay for gas to come. They paid for my son's childcare, and I was so thankful to be a part of that," Shults said.
This aspect of community exchange is why Shults has continued growing with the township.
"What the township has sown into me I need to give back," she said.
April 18 at 8:30 a.m. marked Shults 25th anniversary working for Orion Twp., something she would daydream about when passing township hall after her placement class and working as a waitress.
She learned computer programs, typing skills and filing. She landed a job as clerk for the assessments department in 1979, sometimes taking a big manual home with her at night to learn.
"I just wanted to learn," Shults said. "I think that's really the key if you want to grow anywhere."
After nearly twenty years of self-advancement through certifications and mastery levels, Shults ran for township clerk in 2004 and lost. She tried again in 2008 and got it.
Her philosophy is train and be trained.
"The people you are working with have to be willing to encourage you to learn," she said.
Shults currently holds the second highest position she can as township clerk, and plans to apply for a masters in assessment administration in 2015, the highest advancement.
One thing Shults said has benefited the township was her crossing from assessments clerk to township clerk.
After the 2010 census the federal government scheduled to remove 100 parcels from the Orion Township addressing system. Many houses on Bellevue Island, for example, are divided into apartments with separate addresses, something the federal government didn't account for.
Shults appealed the decision, and 91 parcels were reinstated to the system at $1,000 of funding per parcel.
"I understood how the taxing structure affected our budget and I watched as the assessments and taxable values declined in 2008," she said. "We got a ton back through revenue sharing with the state because of the result of our census. We were up when everybody was going down," she said.
It's the small town feeling of knowing the community Shults accredits her opportunities with.
"I run into people that know my parents. Kids I knew that are now raising their families," she said. "It's history in the simple things, the everyday life that lets me be more effective."
While moving forward within the municipality sector, Shults branched out in community life, joining organizations and in volunteering efforts.
She is currently in her second term as treasurer for the Oakland County Clerks' Association, secretary for the North Oakland Community Coalition and on the board at Echo Christian Fellowship. She also sits on the Parks and Recreation and Senior Advisory committees.
Shults helped organize the "Breath of Fresh Prayer" for Lake Orion Community Schools in 2008 where 13 different churches adopted each school in the district to cover them in prayer.
One of her joys as township clerk is running the elections and going to the schools to register student voters to catch students before they move away.
However she sees people moving back. Orion Township is growing as a community in commitment to one another, she said, as well as demographically with just under 1,000 new housing starts recently.
"We are going to see some kind of controlled development," she said.
With that comes the added responsibility of preserving Orion's natural resources, she explained, something she sees the township taking more initiative with in the future.
Still, her favorite thing about being township clerk is the people.
Shults is pretty sure she will run for election again in 2016 instead of pursuing a state government position or seeking appointment in a different position.
"I got to thinking 'I don't know why I feel like I have to leave,'" she said. "If you're still growing and still effective in what you do, maybe you should rethink it," she said.