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Township clerk steps down



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Clerk Shelagh VanderVeen packs up her office after resigning on Jan 5. Photo by Trevor Keiser (click for larger version)
January 12, 2011 - After six years and half way into second term of office, Independence Township Clerk Shelagh VanderVeen decided to step down.

"Due to personal and health reasons, I will be resigning my position as clerk effective January 10, 2011," VanderVeen said in an e-mail to fellow board members, Jan. 5.

Supervisor Dave Wagner was "very distressed" when he read the clerk was resigning her position. He said VanderVeen was "leaving as she came in, a real professional."

"I know she won't reconsider, but she's going to be sorely missed. She has done more for this township than has been done in many, many years, not to say the previous clerk wasn't loved and did magnificent things too," Wagner said. "But Mrs. VanderVeen has done an excellent job."

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Trustee Larry Rosso agreed it will be a "great loss to the board."

"She's going to be very difficult to replace," he said. "She's really a wonderful person to work with and she's going to be missed."

Treasurer Curt Carson, who was out of town, said he was saddened by the news.

"I will do everything I can to maintain stability on the financial floor," Carson said.

Trustee David Lohmeier said if it's not health related, he'd love VanderVeen to change her mind.

"But if its health related as she said, you can't push someone beyond what they're physically capable of. She's got to make the decision that's in the best interest of her own health," Lohmeier said. "It's a huge hole to fill."

VanderVeen would not comment any further as to reasons why she was leaving, but she did recall some accomplishments she was proud of during her time in office.

When she was first elected in 2004, VanderVeen remembers taking a little tape recorder to meetings in order to do the minutes. With the help of Clarkston Public Access Coordinator and Program Director Andy Reish, the township purchased recording equipment that recorded clearly everything board members said, and had the capability to e-mail it.

"That's when we had the audio portion of the meeting delivered to all the board members," she said. "We (also) could send it to our court reporter, our minute taker and she actually to this day does the minutes from that audio."

VanderVeen was also very happy when the township went to the "paperless agenda" and was able to e-mail board packets as well.

"When I first came in, we would have to get ready for the meeting. We would put together 11 packets for the board. We'd had to collate everything, we'd have to put in all the check run, which sometimes to this day runs 284 pages, just for the check run," she said. "Then we'd get that all together, put a big paper clip on it, put in an envelope and have to take it and hand deliver it to everybody's home."

Wagner agreed that was one of the VanderVeen's "milestones," which got them into the 21st century.

She said the two most important functions of the clerk are elections and record keeping. She can sleep easy now knowing records are kept safely electronically as well.

"There are years and years of accumulated records out in that pole barn and nobody really knows what's out there. When it came to finding records, it was like 'who has that?' Rita Heady (project manager for the records retention program) has done a great job," VanderVeen said. "She's organized the pole barn and cleaned it up."

Though not completely where they want to be concerning record keeping, she believes they're heading in the right direction and eventually they'll get there.

"All the things we do now, save so much time," she said. "We just take it for granted and that's all right."

Even though she took some heat for it, VanderVeen is "pleased about getting a human resource professional."

"Carol (Gabris) negotiating the contracts, helping with the benefits, helping with the hiring, firing, and discipline. We don't have to worry whether we're doing the right thing any more, whether we're following the law – she's a professional," she said. "I think it's nice the employees can go and ask questions without having to deal with board officials, but it's somebody separate."

Lastly, VanderVeen's proud of the new Township Hall.

"This is going to be something that's going to be here long after both of us (she and Wagner) are gone," she said. "It's a beautiful facility. It works well for all the workers and residents."

Going forward, VanderVeen wants to spend more time with grandchildren, family, and friends. As far as future advice for the next clerk, she encouraged them "not to be influenced by what they hear or read."

"Come in with an open mind and willingness to work with everyone," she said. "I've always done what I thought was best for our township."

VanderVeen still has things she'd like to see happen, which Wagner has promised to bring to the board.

"I think they're good ideas," he said.

According to state law, the township board has 45 days from the date of resignation to appoint a new clerk. If they do not appoint within that time, it will go the Oakland County clerk, who will call a special election to fill the vacancy.

The board scheduled a special meeting, Jan. 11, to discuss the resignation. Check Clarkstonnews.com and the Jan. 19 edition for details.

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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