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VanTassel sworn in as Supervisor

Penny Shults officially swears in JoAnn Van Tassel as the interim Township Supervisor. Photo by Gabriel Ouzounian (click for larger version)
June 08, 2011 - Orion Township has chosen JoAnn VanTassel to fill the rest of Matt Gibb's supervisor term.

The decision came after a two hour interviewing process June 2 in which nine candidates were asked questions to determine how they would operate. Despite the good showing and multitude of answers from what members of the board called qualified candidates, the decision to elect Van Tassel was made final in a swift 4-2 vote. Voting for VanTassel were Penny Shults, Alice Young, Neal Porter, and VanTassel herself voted yes. John Steimel and Mark Crane voted no. 

The other eight candidates were Donni Steele, John Michalik, Chris Barnett, Micheal Luna, David Kepsel, David Hodges, Mark Crane and Ken Van Portfliet.

Van Tassel was thankful for being chosen and discussed what she felt were some her strengths and some of the weaknesses of the board, part of which was the approval of the Eagle Valley Landfill expansion.

"In a rush to accomplish things that have been accomplished, sometimes we didn't take as much time studying the issue as we should have," she said. "I think the agreement with Waste Management is one of them, and I think there were a couple of others over time where the press of time and the need to make a decision has forced us to act quicker than we should have. In the future we need to do better prior planning and provide enough opportunity for people to have a chance to do their homework before being asked to vote on an issue."

At the June 2 special meeting, after all nine candidates had been publicly interviewed, a discussion about who would get the job began. Other than Trustee Mark Crane, who also ran for the supervisor position, none of the other candidates, were not mentioned by name.

"This is not easy, and first I'm going to say that I am aware whoever sits in this chair is supposed to be elected, not selected, but circumstances have placed this board in the position where we have to select someone," said Young. "I agree with Trustee Porter that we need someone who can hit the ground running, and who has a history, and I believe that person is JoAnn Van Tassel, so I would like to formerly nominate Ms. Van Tassel to be our supervisor for the next 18 months."

Young made this motion after another motion, made by Interim Supervisor John Steimel, failed. The prior motion was to nominate four people from those available and vote from those four at a later meeting.

Young's motion was followed with support from Shults while Steimel requesting any board comments. Shults, explaining her decision, spoke about her view on the interview process.

"I did a point system as i was listening to all the candidates and the outcome was pretty tight, but the two top, according to my own personal point structure, were both Trustees Van Tassel and Crane with two close second places," said Shults. "I agree wholeheartedly that the person who takes this position needs to have a history with this board and be experienced. I feel everyone on this board could fill those requirements with the exception of history."

Steimel again asked for comments, before adding his own.

"As far as my own, I would defiantly be demanding of a background and experience, and you defiantly have that," Steimel said, speaking to Van Tassel. "Personally I would hate to lose you as a trustee, because I like you as a trustee and unlike this roll as a supervisor, you're not bound by things and day to day structure so I have a little bit of a problem there. Sometimes when you sit in this chair you're a little bound by what you can say and do."

Steimel again asked for board comments, and seeing none, he turned to the crowd. First to the pedestal was Orion area business owner Andrew Magnus.

"I would absolutely hate to see after all the effort this community put in to come forward and all the answers we've taken for this to be decided like this," said Magnus, referring to the number attendees at the meeting. "I'd like to see you guys vote, and support your first motion."

However, nearly every other spectator to approach the podium supported the decision to nominate Van Tassel, including candidate John Michalik, who had, moments before, been interviewed for the position.

"As a candidate, and listening to the other candidates, I would say the best person for the position is Van Tassel," said Michalik.

Others echoed his thoughts, though the final speaker, school board member Janet Wolverton urged the board to discuss the matter more before deciding.

"I do feel the supervisor is the face of Orion, and I'd like to know how the other board members feel about this," said Wolverton. "I'd hate to see you go with the first nomination."

Van Tassel began her servitude to the Orion Township Board of Trustees in 1976 as a trustee. She was supervisor from 1980 to 1992, became a trustee again from 1996 to 1999, and again in 2007. Van Tassel was Lake Orion Village Manager from June of 1999 to Dec 17, 2007.

She was sworn in as supervisor on Monday evening.

VanTassel feels her greatest accomplishment was preventing Oakland County and the State of Michigan from installing a state prison in Orion Township, which in 1984 was a possibility.

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