A retired doctor, a downtown business owner, a public safety officer and an individual who helps meet the needs of military veterans.
That was the pool of applicants for the vacant seat on the Oxford Village Council.
Dr. Theodore Walton, Susan Oles, Erik Dolan and Kathleen Logan were interviewed for the position during a special council meeting held Monday evening.
Council indicated it was planning to fill the seat at its regular meeting the following night. (Update: Council voted 4-0 to appoint Dolan.)
Whoever is selected will hold the position for the remainder of Bryan Cloutier’s term, which expires in November.
Cloutier submitted his resignation in February because he moved to Lapeer. Council voted to accept it at the March 22 meeting.
Here’s a snapshot of the candidates:
Dr. Theodore Walton
Until his retirement a couple years ago, Walton had been practicing optometry in Oxford since 1966.
He’s now ready to help people and serve his community in a different capacity.
“This place has been very, very good to me,” said Walton, a village resident since 2000. “I just felt I’d like to be able to give something back.”
“It’s a lovely community. It’s a hidden gem up here,” he told council.
Walton made it clear he would have no problem helping to tackle some of the difficult issues currently facing the cash-strapped village.
“There’s a lot of tough choices, I think, that need to made as far as the future of the village, where we’re going,” he said. “You have a somewhat limited amount of people that live here and you want to provide as many services as you can for them. Sometimes you just can’t do everything for everybody. You have to just make choices (as to) what’s going to be best for the most people without excluding the minority of people.
“Some people are going to get hurt and nobody’s going to like everything you do, but you still have to try to do things that you think are the best for the common good.”
He sees the village’s financial situation as its biggest problem right now.
“I think you have a lot of things that you would like to have that you can’t afford to have,” Walton said.
In his view, the village needs to discuss and make some decisions regarding what it wants to keep and what it’s willing to give up. To him, this dialogue should include all the options, from which services could be downsized or eliminated to a potential property tax increase.
“You can’t have it and not be willing to pay for it somehow,” Walton said. “Something has to go or be given up to get something that you want.”
Walton noted he has no preconceived notions about what he likes or doesn’t like with regard to village government.
“I don’t have any specific agenda in coming here,” he said.
“What I do like is this village,” Walton continued, and he wants to try to “create the best atmosphere that I can by being a contributor” when it comes to helping solve the community’s problems.
“I think there are some tough decisions that need to be made and I think we have to step up and (make) them,” he said.
Since 2013, Oles has owned and operated The Boulevard Boutique, an upscale consignment shop in downtown Oxford. She recently expanded her operations into a second store next door called The Boulevard Boutique Tots 2 Tweens.
“I love this community and would like to learn how I could help the other businesses and help Oxford (by serving on council),” said Oles, who’s lived in Oxford for 28 years, 10 of which have been in the village.
When asked what she believes is the biggest obstacle or problem facing the village, Oles replied, “I don’t know. I think we’re doing very well . . . I see Oxford flourishing.”
With regard to her willingness to make hard decisions ranging from raising taxes to eliminating departments, Oles said, “I will take a look, along with everyone else, and see what is (in) the best interest of Oxford.”
Given she’s running two businesses and has a son who’s a freshman at Oxford High School and a “busy athlete” in the midst of lacrosse season, Oles indicated she has some constraints with regard to the amount of time she can devote to council-related activities.
“I will tell you I’m a mom first. I’m just being honest,” she said. “If I can be there, I will. But I’m going to go to that lacrosse game first.”
Logan, a 2000 Oxford High School graduate, is the regional coordinator for the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency.
Her work has involved creating a collaborative network of various entities that serve as resources for veterans and their family members in the seven counties that make up the Thumb Area.
Earlier this year, Logan’s work earned her a spot in the Oakland County Executive’s “Elite 40 Under 40” Class of 2016, a program that spotlights dynamic leaders under the age of 40 who live or work in the county.
Logan’s family has lived in the village for 22 years. Following her time in the U.S. Army, which included serving in Iraq from February 2007 to April 2008, Logan returned to Oxford seven years ago to raise a family.
“I’m deeply, personally invested in this community,” she said. “I want to do the best I can to become a part of making it the best it can be for future generations.”
She recently purchased her first home on Crawford St. in November 2014.
“One of the main reasons I came back to Oxford is the fact that we’ve done such a phenomenal job revitalizing our downtown and making it appealing to all generations,” Logan noted. “That’s probably one of our best assets.”
When it comes to helping the village make budgetary decisions, Logan told council she has some experience in this area.
“Although I don’t have an extensive financial background, I can say that I’ve dealt with federal and state budgets and I’ve learned to navigate those,” she explained.
Logan gained some budgetary experience at the municipal level when she worked for Auburn Hills as a health and wellness coordinator and program developer.
“I was the one that came up with the budget for the senior department and (made) sure that we were allocated the proper funds in order to continue with some of the award-winning programs that we had in the city at the time, ” she said.
She also noted that as the mother of three small children who’s the “sole bread winner and bill-payer,” she knows “fully well how to balance a paycheck” and she can translate that to a municipal level when it comes time to balance the village budget.
Logan is a life member of Oxford American Legion Post 108 and North Oakland Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 334. She’s spent the last four years in the Michigan National Guard, where she holds the rank of sergeant.
She plans to run as an independent this November for the 46th District seat in the Michigan State House of Representatives.
Dolan believes the 20 years he’s spent with the Oak Park Public Safety Department makes him uniquely qualified to serve on council. He worked as a dispatcher for the first 14 months, then became an officer.
“In that community, we’re cross-trained,” Dolan explained. “We do firefighting, police work and medical work.”
Because of his job, Dolan believes he has “intimate understanding of how public operations work.”
“I have the ability to understand what is and isn’t mission critical for a village” when a department head comes before council with requests, he explained.
Although he is “absolutely a friend of” police officers, dispatchers and firefighters and “a huge supporter of” them, Dolan noted, “I understand the time might come (when) reusing paper clips and sharpening pencils further down is not going to save the village (enough money) and that there might be tough decisions made.”
To him, the village’s “number one issue” is finances.
“I think the Village of Oxford is in a fiscal struggle that has put it in a position in which we are (currently) unsustainable,” Dolan said.
In order to fix things, he believes a lot of “homework” and “teamwork” will be necessary on the part of village officials.
A village resident for the past 5½ years, Dolan previously lived in the township for about 10 years.
“I honestly, truly love this community,” he said. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else other than this community. It’s important to me that it thrives.”
Dolan, who served in the U.S. Army military police from 1991-96, told council he has “no personal motive” for applying for the vacant seat.
“I am extremely interested in politics and I am even more interested in our local government and its direction,” he said.
Dolan believes the village and township need to work together more closely because they’re “interdependent.”
“One can’t make a move without directly impacting the other,” he said.
He would like to be part of fostering more cooperation between the two governments.
“I think it’s important that we have greater interaction,” Dolan said.