Trustee Seeks Promotion to Supervisor
Paul Okoniewski has a passion for Bruce Township he wants to share
Four the last eight years, Paul Okoniewski has been a trustee on the Bruce Township Board. He spent two decades on the township planning commission, even more time as a volunteer at the Capuchin Retreat Center and nearly his entire life with the Boy Scouts of America. For Paul, it’s about being invested in the things you care about most. “When you work with people on a voluntary basis, there is usually a passion for what the organization stands for and supports. You learn to connect with people by using mutual passion to work towards a common goal.” This election cycle, Paul is looking to take the lead on ensuring a bright future for Bruce Township as he seeks the role of Supervisor on the board he’s served since 2012.
Okoniewski believes there is a need for more transparency and better communication within the board so that it can better serve the residents of Bruce Township. Paul supported digitizing the records and allowing access from the township website and he hopes to follow up by creating some efficiency-enhancing procedures. “Creating Standard Operating Procedures for all departments would help with consistency and continuity in providing services to the residents.” Paul is also embracing technology to stay more connected with the townships residents. He’s recording a Podcast on a regular basis about township news which is available on Spotify and his facebook page. And he aims to streamline the records and information search processes, “Looking for information on the township website should be intuitive, (and) information being searched should only be three clicks away.”
While Okoniewski has been frustrated with the board's lack of harmony, he hasn’t let it stop him from getting things done for Bruce Township. Paul is proud of his record and points to his leading role bringing a new traffic light to 34 mile road and Van Dyke as well as his work with outgoing Treasurer Obrecht to improve the sewer ordinance, “I worked with Debbie Obrecht to rewrite the township sewer ordinance to make it self-funding and fair to all end-users. We have not raised sewer rates in over 3 years since then, and the sewer fund will be in the black by the end of this year. Up to that time, the board (borrowed monthly) from the general fund and increased sewer rates yearly by 11% to cover the debt. I always voted no on these actions because they were not sustainable. This was a huge hurdle to overcome and it made the success of the ordinance a great accomplishment. We need to do something similar with our water ordinance.”
The supervisor candidate also wants to put a focus on fiscal responsibility.
“The state is predicting a shortfall in revenue sharing and Bruce Township doesn’t have a rainy-day fund. There are a variety of ways to address this without reducing services or increasing taxes.” And despite some of the rumors circulating, Okoniewski was clear that he will not be cutting township employees salaries; of the rumor, Paul says, “This is absolutely not true.”
Instead he will look at limiting the number of stipends the township pays out in the short term and form a “long term strategic plan vetted by financial experts”. Though he believes the financial debt is manageable, he says the time to deal with it is now. “If we don’t seriously address the debt issue, there won’t be anything for the current employees and officials in the future. We cannot afford to keep kicking this issue down the road.”
Finally there is the issue of unity; bringing the communities of Romeo, Washington and Bruce Township together is something Paul takes seriously. “If we treated everyone with dignity, respect and tolerance, and didn’t try to force our beliefs on others, we wouldn’t have as many problems as we currently do in this country.” And he thinks that has to start with a strong working relationship between the communities. “Bruce Township currently has agreements with the Village of Romeo concerning EMT and firefighting services and sewer services, (but) there are opportunities to do so much more.” He elaborates, “Our connection with Washington Township will require thoughtful discussions between the two communities addressing the desires of the citizens. Bruce Township wishes to remain as rural as possible and Washington Township is growing substantially. We need to have discussions with Washington Township officials to determine what services we should continue to collaborate on or which ones may require new directions and alliances.”
Paul Okoniewski has lived in Bruce Township for thirty-four years and his passion for the community is stronger than ever. “I’m not doing this for the money or the power. I’m doing this for the Township.” He is so committed to the community that even you ask him about his hobbies, he can’t help but be drawn back to his civic responsibility,
“I enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking and working with community members to maintain the rural atmosphere in Bruce Township.” His goals center around that desire to keep Bruce rural for the people who live there and love it. “Let’s keep Bruce Township (a place) where you can still see the stars at night.”
Article Courtesy of Macomb Underground