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Atlas Township clerk receives Loretta J. Manwaring Memorial Award

Tere Onica in Atlas Township, where she has been clerk for the past 11 years. Photo by Patrick McAbee. (click for larger version)
January 19, 2011 - The November 2000 election was hotly contested.

More than 75 percent of Atlas Township voters headed to the polls to decide a presidental election which George W. Bush narrowly won with 271 electoral votes to Al Gore's 266 (with one elector abstaining in the official tally). The election, featuring a controveral recount in Florida, shifted the focus of a nation to election officials.

Just two weeks earlier in October 2000, Tere Onica took over as township clerk after defeating incumbent clerk Jacqueline Hamilton in the August Republican primary, snagging 379 to 303 votes. Hamilton resigned Oct. 16, 2000 and Onica ran unopposed in November 2000.

"I had just gotten into office and had to be the head manager of that election by myself," said Onica. "There was a 76 percent voter turnout, it was quite an election. When I look back on it, I don't really know how I managed to do that job knowing what I know now about elections. I guess it was better that I didn't know what I was getting into," she laughed.

Now, after more than a decade and many elections, Onica is on top of her profession.

Last month, Onica was named the 2010 recipient of the Loretta J. Manwaring Memorial Award.

Each year, the Genesee County Governmental Clerks Association recognizes one township clerk from nearly 20 other candidates in Genesee County for displaying their dedication to their township, community service, and ground-breaking work practices.

Being township clerk is not simply winning an election and then continuing to please the public, said Onica.

"The job entails a wide array of jobs and skills that the officer must master. I run all the elections, the governmental accounting and the township records, including the minutes for all the board meetings," she said.

Some of the bigger projects Onica has worked on in the last decade include administering the federally funded Community Developmental Block Grant. The grant allows the township to help low to moderate income areas with projects and services that will better the surrounding enviornment.

"I reserve 15 percent of those funds, the top amount allowed, for our area senior citizens and the Goodrich community education program," said Onica. "Since we don't actually have a center for senior citizens to visit, the money goes to different trips and education courses for them." Onica also was involved in the Housing Improvement Projects organization (HIP). "We worked with various people in need of very basic things such as windows or heat," she said.

The biggest asset for Onica was the support that the job came with and the relationships with her fellow clerks.

"I wasn't afraid to make the necessary phone calls and make the most of all the resources available to me," said Onica about why she believed she succeeded in her first jobs in office.

Onica earned a bachelor's degree from Oakland University and her certification in the International Institution of Municipal Clerks.

"When I went back to school to get my bachelor's, finishing in 1994, I could only take a few classes at a time since I was working and raising a family," she said. "I take classes all the time for my job and my certification in the IIMC, so I am continually being educated in my profession."

Onica beleives that education is always a valuable asset to any career so she's not opposed to the idea of getting her master's, but she just doesn't see it being in the cards right now.

"The greatest honor is to be recognized by your peers who know the difficulties and complexities of your job," she said. "It really is a privlege, I'm very flattered."

Tere and husband Nick have three children, Matt, Tony and Jamie, all Goodrich High School graduates.

Staff Writer Senior at Goodrich High, part of the marching band color guard, and excited to be a part of the Citizen Newspaper.
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