Local candidates answer questions

 Absentee ballots start coming out this week

Starting this week, clerks in both Addison and Oxford townships can start sending out absentee ballots to residents who have requested them. Aside from state initiatives and candidates to vote for, there are also local people and issues to vote for.

In order to help voters gain some insight into local candidates and issues, inside this week’s Oxford Leader we will publish answers to questions we posed to candidates running for Oxford School Board and Oxford Village Council. Next week we will publish answers for Oakland County Commission (5th District) and Michigan House of Representatives (66th District).

As some candidates were running uncontested (for Oxford Township Trustee, Addison Township Trustee and Leonard Village Council) we did not ask them questions. We will list their names and what they’re running for as well as local proposals important to our communities. Don Rush

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In Leonard voters will be asked to vote for “not more” than two village trustees. Each seat is for four years. Two residents are running, Jennifer Swack and John Hawkings. Addison Township voters will vote for “not more” than one trustee whose term will end on Nov. 20, 2024. Only one person is on the ballot, Republican Mary Frost. One person in Oxford Township is running for a trustee seat, with a term to end Nov. 20, 2024, Republican Catherine Colvin, the incumbent.

Oxford School Board

There are six people running for four, four-year seats on the Oxford School Board. Of the seven only one, Mary Hanser is an incumbent. Rounding out the candidate list for the school board are Bryan Eftink, Charlie Hanks, Amanda McDonough, James Sommers, and Michael Whitney. Also on the ballot is George Stoffan, who has since announced he will not run as he has taken a job out of state. Current board members not seeking re-election are Korey Bailey, Chad Griffith and Erick Foster. Following are the candidates’ answers to our questions.

Bryan Eftink did not respond to our questions.

Charlie Hanks has two daughters, Morgan and Megyn in the school district who are in the 11th and 6th grades.

Charlie Hanks

Profession/Work Experience: Mortgage Loan Originator

In 150 words, why are you running for school board? I am interested in preserving and improving the quality and security of our school system. I feel that this is a great opportunity for me to serve our community and contribute positively to the district.

In 150 words or less, what is the number one issue the board needs to address? Transparency in regards to what happened in the days leading up to and on November 30, 2021. I think most of the community would like to see an independent and thorough investigation like what was offered by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Incumbent Mary Hanser is married with two kids and one dog. Both children are Oxford graduates. She is completing her fourth year on the board

She has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Walsh College and has served in a variety of organizations, from corporations to nonprofits and small businesses. “I have experience working with CEOs and with community members. Before joining the board I was an active volunteer with our high school robotics team and with the band.” 

In 150 words, why are you running for school board? I am running because I care . . . about every student and their family, every teacher, bus driver, support staff member, and volunteer. Serving on the board is where I can most effectively contribute to our community. I have the knowledge and experience to help lead Oxford through the unique challenges of the next four years, having continually expanded my knowledge on effective school governance and earning the MASB Level 5, Master Diamond Award.

I am a positive, solution-seeking voice on the board and strive to consider all stakeholders when evaluating policies and expenditures. With a focus on safety and student achievement, I am committed to the district vision of creating a world-class education for every Oxford student.

In 150 words or less, what is the number one issue the board needs to address? It is difficult to address just one issue. Our primary purpose is to educate students. In order to do this, we must provide a safe environment for learning to happen. The physical and emotional safety of our students and staff remains the top priority and we need to be continually evaluating and improving. It is important that we establish metrics and evaluate the effectiveness of our tools and programs in order to plan for sustainable solutions. We must also keep our focus on student achievement. We need to re-establish our commitment to clearly defining goals and regularly monitoring targets, keeping the board’s attention on district goals and not on daily operations.

Amanda McDonough is married to Josh and has two sons Tyler (6), Liam (7), and stepdaughter Kayla (11)

Amanda McDonough

Kids in district: “Our children are no longer in the district, as we have decided to homeschool.”

Profession/Work Experience: I graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor’s in Marketing & Communications. I currently work full-time as a Marketing Director for an entertainment company that manages bands and contracts tours nationally and locally. I’ve been with this company for 13 years, working with many groups such as Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Josh Groban, and YGIC.

In 150 words, why are you running for school board? I see a need on the board for a fresh perspective, unity, and community engagement – I believe that I could add value to those needs. I want to actively participate in serving the district, for the benefit of our students, staff, and families. Whether it be as a School Board Trustee, or as a community member, I will continue to speak out, advocate, and contribute to bringing the community and kids together. I have a lot of faith that Oxford community members can and will come together to strengthen our school district.

In 150 words or less, what is the number one issue the board needs to address? While the board has faced unimaginable tragedy, and has navigated through an array of issues, I believe that there needs to be a focus on the district culture moving forward. This encompasses the working culture for our teachers and staff, the supportive culture of our students, and the partnership with parents.

Our district teaches students the immense benefits that come from teamwork – we need to ensure that these edicts are being fully represented by board members, administrators, and parents. There is an abundance of evidence showing that the culture within a district determines its future success; this needs to be a priority.

James Sommers has a wife and three children who go to Oxford schools.

Profession/Work Experience: I work full time in the information technology field and have been a reserve police officer since 2001.

In 150 words, why are you running for school board? I’m a Class of 2000 Oxford Alumni and no stranger of community service through my 20+ years as a reserve police officer and help with the CTE advisory program with our schools since 2014 when they started it. As a community we all are doing our part to make our schools better in our own ways and for me listen to lots of different people in the community I want to make sure their voice is heard at the board level.

In 150 words or less, what is the number one issue the board needs to address? In the last calendar year we have been through so much. Even going beyond that the 3+ years with dealing with the Covid has put a lot of stress on everyone in our community. We need to address the loss of learning that has happened and do everything in our power to reduce the educational gap, the mental healing and since of security that schools provide for the community.

Mike Whitney is married to Heidi. Their sons are Gabriel, Elijah and Malachi and their daughters are Amaris, Moriah and Magdalen, “plus baby Whitney #7 due February ‘23.”

Mike Whitney

Kids in district: 3: one at OES and two at DA (4th school-aged child is currently homeschooling).

Profession/Work Experience: Currently lead engineer for an automotive supplier where I have worked in different capacities for almost 15 years.

In 150 words, why are you running for school board? I want to apply my past/current roles on various boards to help improve the academic experience for the children in our community. I believe that we certainly need mental healthcare support but more emphasis needs to be put on giving these kids every opportunity to catch up and succeed academically as they enter the next chapter of life. In the next six years, I will have at least 7 school-aged kids, therefore I am deeply invested in seeing my children as well as Oxford Public Schools thrive.

In 150 words or less, what is the number one issue the board needs to address? I believe the number one issue is transparency. This was an issue before the current board. Certainly it would seem that currently they are worried more about liability than what is best for the community, but I have heard countless stories of past issues being brushed under the rug as to not give the school or certain programs a bad name. Three of Oxford’s core values are “Trust, Integrity and Accountability” and these are not situationally dependent. We need trustees on the board that will do the right thing regardless of consequences in order to earn that trust back. This also includes transparency with parents on curriculum as well as any issues that the children may be facing while at school. I view the school’s role as one of coming alongside the parents, working hand-in- hand with them, and never circumventing the parent’s authority in their children’s lives.

Oxford Village Council

Kelsey Cooke is married to Justin Cooke. Their children are Natalie (daughter age 6 at Daniel Axford Elementary), and Quinn (son age 2 at Oxford Early Learning Center).

Kelsey Cooke

Work experience: I am a manager and chief legal officer for the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s office. I manage the legal team, marketing and communications team, human resources team, and safety team as well as handle labor relations and policy for the office of more than 350 staff. I’ve worked for Oakland County for more than 8 years. Before coming to Oakland County, I worked for a law firm doing mostly administrative law and civil litigation work. I’ve also served on the Village Planning Commission for a year and on the Oxford Downtown Development Authority for a year.

Years in the Village: My family bought our home in Oxford in 2015, 7 years ago. Time on Council: I’ve served on Village Council for almost 3 years and served as Village President for almost 2 years.

I’m running for office because I care deeply for the community and everything it’s been through. My family is rooted in all things Oxford. I want council to continue to remain approachable and empathetic while making sound decisions for village residents. I am risk averse when it comes to taxpayer dollars and feel that I provide a unique perspective on council to many issues while able to have effective conversations and look at all sides before making a decision. My experience in the practice of law, along with public policy and county government, lend well to working at the local level. I have a very positive working relationship with our village manager and clerk, who do an exceptional job of handling day-to- day operations of our village and I have strong relationships with other local government leaders. I want to lead Oxford in a direction supporting the voice of the people.

Allison Kemp is a Dog Groomer who has lived in the village for seven years and has been on council for four.

Why are you running for office: Oxford has faced incredible challenges in the past year that revealed the strength and love within our community. I have never been more proud of my hometown and the way we came together in the face of tragedy.

Allison Kemp

The M24 project gave the Village an opportunity to revitalize our historic downtown. This allowed us to create a more walkable downtown and gathering spaces to enjoy. These improvements have attracted more people to local businesses. I look forward to building upon these efforts. We need to continue to advance toward our goal of making information more available to the public. In recent years we have seen a shift in the way people access information. We must continue to adjust our outreach to make constituents aware of the issues coming before the Village Council. We should extend information pertinent to our community through multiple channels, including social media. It is critical for the Council to hear input from our neighbors.

My name is Maureen Helmuth. I have lived on Dayton St., in the Village, since 1993, with my Husband, David, son Chip and daughter Brenna. I worked for the Village from 1985 to 2005, and have loved the closeness of the community. I have been on the Village Council since 2009. I am running for Council again as I believe we are again at a turning point where we need to return out focus to our infrastructure (road repairs, state mandated water lead replacements, etc.) and need to complete future planning for these repairs without over burdening our residents. The village has a very competent staff heading us in the right direction, but it is up to the Council to make the decisions necessary for the future.

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