A candidate was selected to fill the vacant clerk-treasurer position in Oxford Village, but the decision was not unanimous.
Even one of the ‘yes’ votes was cast “with great reluctance.”
At its June 12 regular meeting, council voted 4-1 to extend a contract offer to Teresa Onica, the current supervisor of Genesee County’s Atlas Township.
“I have no doubt whatsoever that she’ll be able to immediately step in and take care of all the responsibilities necessary,” said Councilman Erik Dolan, who made the motion.
Onica was one of two candidates interviewed by council during a June 4 special meeting. The other one was Laurena Stewart, who was deputy treasurer for the City of Rochester from 1998 to 2017.
Oxford’s clerk-treasurer position has been vacant since last June when Susan Nassar retired. She had worked for the village since 2011.
“I’m waiting to see something in writing and then I will make my decision, but I’m pretty positive,” Onica told this reporter the day after the council meeting. “I’m looking forward to working in Oxford.”
Village officials did not disclose what their initial salary offer to Onica was going to be, but the position was advertised with a pay range of $45,000 to $60,000 annually, plus benefits.
During her June 4 interview, Onica told council she believes she’s worth more than “the low end of the salary range . . . because I do feel that I bring value . . . to this position,” but she also noted she’s “not unreasonable.”
Onica is currently earning $37,773 with Atlas and her only fringe benefit is a 457 retirement plan with an annual 15 percent contribution.
Dolan was quite enthusiastic about Onica describing her as a “go-getter” who is “unbelievably competent and knowledgable.” He even called her a “rock star.”
Onica has served as Atlas supervisor since being elected to the office in November 2016. Prior to that, she served as the township’s elected clerk for 16 years beginning in 2000.
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.
Dolan felt Onica was “head and shoulders above the other candidate.”
“She’s good for the village. The village wants the best,” he said.
But Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth wasn’t sold on Onica and voted against offering her the position.
“I think both candidates were exceptional,” she said. “I do think one interviewed better than the other. I don’t know that I would call one a ‘rock star’ over the other.”
Helmuth saw Stewart as the stronger candidate when it comes to performing the treasurer’s duties and Onica as stronger on the clerk side of the job.
She expressed her preference for Stewart because she believes having someone in the village office with a treasurer’s skill set is more important right now, so “we don’t fall into the old pattern” where activities such as making journal entries and reconciling bank statements were not being done in a timely manner.
Dolan was confident in Onica’s ability to handle both sides of the dual position.
“I have no doubt that with the volume of business this municipality handles, which is low, that she’ll be able to excel in a very brief period of time in that role,” he said.
When the time came for her to vote on Dolan’s motion, village President Sue Bossardet paused 40 seconds before casting her ‘yes’ vote and noted that it was done “with great reluctance.”
“I want that in the (meeting) minutes, please,” she said.
When asked to explain why she added that sentiment to her vote, Bossardet told this reporter the next day, “It was for reasons that we discussed in closed session.”
Immediately following the June 4 interviews with Onica and Stewart, council conducted a closed session meeting.
According to village attorney Bob Davis, it was to discuss generic contract terms for the clerk-treasurer position.
When asked what about Onica’s candidacy made her hesitant, Bossardet told this reporter, “I don’t want to say. I guess I have no comment.”
In response to the “great reluctance” expressed by Bossardet, Dolan cast his ‘yes’ vote “with great confidence,” and he, too, wished that to be noted in the minutes.
Bossardet didn’t appear to be pleased with either candidate interviewed by council.
Prior to Dolan’s motion to offer the job to Onica, the village president made a motion to set the issue aside until the June 26 meeting or later and direct the search committee to take a second look at the other applications the village had received or advertise the position again.
Her motion was not well-received.
“I do not want to drag this out any further,” Helmuth said.
“I have no intention of voting to set this aside,” Dolan said.
Bossardet’s motion failed in a 3-2 vote.
The next day, Bossardet told this reporter she wanted to set the issue aside because she wanted more options.
“I think that we needed a broader selection (of candidates),” she said.
“I agree with what (Helmuth) said. I believe that we’re looking for (someone with more) treasurer experience. That’s what we need,” Bossardet added.
In a previous interview with this reporter, Onica expressed her desire “to stay on (as Atlas Township supervisor) until November 2020,” the end of her term, because she feels “an obligation to (the) people who voted me into office.”
If she accepts the position in Oxford, she wants to hire someone to staff the supervisor’s office “at no additional cost to (Atlas) taxpayers.”
“I would divert some of my pay to that individual,” she previously told this reporter. “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.”
However, if “there was somebody suitable” now who she “could trust to do the (supervisor’s) job properly,” Onica said she would “consider” stepping down in order to “do what’s best for the township.”
The next regular village council meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 26. Meetings take place at 22 W. Burdick St.