August 10, 2011 - The scenery for those attending Lake Orion Village Council meetings may be changing soon, albeit not much.
On Sept. 3, Lake Orion Village residents will have their opportunity to cast their votes and change one member of the council. Of the four spots available, five people are running, including incumbents Michael Toth, Douglas Dendel, David Churchill and President Ken Van Portfliet. The newcomer to the political fray is Shawna Brown.
Brown and Van Porfliet will be running as write-in candidates, while the other three filled out petition forms with 25 to 50 signatures from village residents.
With five people running for four spots, someone will go home without the prize of a council seat, but Toth said he's not too worried.
"Six years ago, when I ran for the first time, there were a lot of people running for just a few spots and it was nerve-racking," said Toth. "But even with five people running for four spots this year, I'm not too nervous."
"I'm running again because, really, if I didn't, I feel like I would be doing a disservice to the village. My vote has made a difference, my comments have made a difference and I feel like it would be bad for the village if those votes hadn't been cast."
Dendel, who started on the council in 1982 after attending two years worth of meetings, felt the same way concerning his running. He started attending meetings after an issue concerning a dock in his back yard drew Council attention.
"The hardships that some people in the village go through are something I'm familiar with. These are the people that live in the village and when they have problems with ordinances and the government, or they bring up problems, I'm their people person," said Dendel. "I've been here a long time. For example, I can remember when this lake used to be a romantic lake but it's transformed into a recreational lake now and I fought hard against the noise problems people complained about.
"At the end it's all about the budget. That's what people here react to and that is what needs attention."
Speaking on the same lines of why he chose to run again, Van Portfliet said it's the community that makes him want to maintain his position.
"I certainly don't do this for my own benefit, because their is none," he laughed. "It's kind of like the reward of volunteering. My wife, who founded the Orion Historical Society, and I both care deeply about the area and the community. Maintaining taxes, fiscal balance, police services, political-base items like protecting our community and lake and protecting the jewel that is Lake Orion are all important.
"For many years, we fought hard against blight, and we still are. But these are just our current events, and around the corner there's always something else."
Toth also noted a few events that stuck out during his time on the council, but said the most recent times, which include the controversial Streetscape project, are the most exciting times he's seen.
"There weren't a whole lot of issues before, but the 2011 to 2012 budget balancing - which included the Green's Park lifeguard issue - the microbrewery which almost didn't go in, and the Streetscape have all garnered more attention than anything else I've seen," said Toth. "The village manager being fired was another big issue. I've never seen so many people in the room and I still do not think I handled that right, just sitting their quietly. It was a turning point for me."
Dendel remember issues that date back further, such as attempted absorptions from the county and the zoning and geography of Lake Orion. He also explained how though Lake Orion is a picturesque part of the community, it hinders development. He again stressed the need to control spending and take great care in handling of the Village's budget.
Van Porfliet, speaking on the upcoming election, urged residents to vote and, noting the low number of candidates, wants more participation.
"If I could wish for any one thing with this election it would be that people in the community would just come down here more often," said Van Portfliet. "Anyone can do these jobs, why not apply and try it out, especially if you're not satisfied with the current council."
Toth felt similarly and said he doesn't "care who it is," he would like to see a new face on the council.
"I just hope it's not another boring election," he said.
At the time of this articles publication, Churchill and Brown could not be interviewed in time or had not responded.
For more information on the Village of Lake Orion, visit their website at lakeorion.org or call the downtown offices at (248) 693-8391 ext.102.
The deadline to be a write in candidate is September 3.