Oxford Village’s search for a new clerk-treasurer continued Monday evening as council interviewed two candidates for the position.
Laurena Stewart, former deputy treasurer for the City of Rochester, and Teresa Onica, the current elected supervisor of Genesee County’s Atlas Township, were interviewed.
The clerk-treasurer position has been vacant since last June.
First up was Stewart, who worked for Rochester from July 1998 to 2017.
“I enjoyed that considerably,” she said. “I got to work with the public a lot, which I enjoy.”
Stewart, who resides in Elba Township, was proudest of the role she played in helping “bring the city into the 21st century” by converting documents from paper to digital files and implementing new technology that made processes more user-friendly for residents and saved the municipality money.
Stewart told council her standout skill is her willingness to take on any task and “see it (through) from start to finish.
“I like being busy . . . I like having something to do. I love a challenge. And that’s really what I’m after,” she said.
She enjoys working with others and when tackling a project, she likes her “team to be right there” alongside her, working together like “a well-oiled machine.”
Prior to municipal work, Stewart was employed at NBD Bank in Rochester from April 1990 to July 1998. She was a customer service representative and head teller.
Stewart told council she is looking to move to the Oxford-Orion area, which she described as an “up-and-coming” place.
“Oxford, I think, has a lot of potential,” she said. “There’s a lot going on. I think that it would be a really nice place to live.”
Up next was Onica, who has served as Atlas Township supervisor since her election to the office in November 2016.
Prior to that, she served as township clerk for Atlas from October 2000 through November 2016. Onica told council she originally didn’t plan on building a career in the public sector, it just happened.
“Government really never was on my radar,” she said.
She was approached about running for Atlas clerk in 2000 and decided to go for it. She defeated the incumbent in the August primary and found herself running unopposed in the November election.
Onica faced her first big challenge before even being elected to office.
In October 2000, two weeks before the general election, the incumbent Atlas clerk resigned and Onica was appointed interim clerk.
“I had no prior experience in government or with elections at all,” she said. “I had to train people and learn the job myself in a very short period of time.”
Onica passed her trial by fire, running a successful election with a 76 percent voter-turnout. “Resourcefulness is one of my attributes,” she said.
As a certified municipal clerk, Onica has twice been honored for her work.
The Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks named her Township Clerk of the Year in 2014.
She was also the 2011 recipient of the Loretta Manwaring Award, presented by the Genesee County Governmental Clerks Association for her dedication to public service and innovative work practices.
Onica indicated she takes the responsibility of serving the public very seriously.
“If it’s within my power to help somebody out, then that’s the right thing to do,” she said. “And you should never be afraid to do the right thing.”
She believes both elected and appointed officials have an obligation do whatever is expected of them.
“If they don’t step up to do the job, it makes everybody look bad (and) it costs you more money because then you’ve got to pay somebody (else who’s) going to clean up the mess and/or come in and do the job that they are not willing to do or cannot do,” Onica said.
When asked why she’s interested in making a career change, Onica replied, “Honestly, it would be nice to be compensated for my experience, my education and my knowledge.”
Onica’s current annual salary at Atlas is $37,773. The only fringe benefit she receives is a 457 retirement plan with an annual contribution of 15 percent.
“Are you okay with the salary range that was posted?” asked village President Sue Bossardet.
“Not the low end of the salary range . . . because I do feel that I bring value . . . to this position,” Onica replied. “I’m not really sure how to answer that because everybody would like to start right at the top, but I am not unreasonable.”
The village advertised the position with a salary range of $45,000 to $60,000, plus benefits.
This reporter asked Onica if she would step down as Atlas supervisor should she take the job with Oxford and she replied, “No, I would like to stay on until November 2020 just because I feel an obligation to (the) people who voted me into office and I don’t really want to just give the seat away to somebody. I have a lot of knowledge and experience and it really matters when you’re conducting business.”
“What I would make sure (that) I have (in place) would be a person in the (supervisor’s) office to handle anything that comes in,” Onica continued. “There would be somebody representing me at no additional cost to (Atlas) taxpayers. I would divert some of my pay to that individual . . . I have somebody in mind who’s interested (in doing this) that I think would be a good person for the job and is also interested in (later) running for the position.”
That being said, Onica noted, “If there was somebody suitable . . . (who) I could trust to do the job properly (so) I (would) not have to (pull) double duty (in Atlas and Oxford), I would consider (stepping down). It’s not just about what’s best for me. I want to do what’s best for the township.”