COUNTY COMMISSION - 15TH DISTRICT
Ward is a realtor who lives in Rochester Hills. She has her undergraduate degree from Oakland University and a master's degree from Marygrove College.
REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY
After failing in 2016 by only one percent in Oakland County, there is a new regional transit plan proposed for the November ballot. Do you think a regional transit millage proposal should go on the ballot for all Oakland County communities? Why or why not? Should some Oakland County communities be allowed to opt out?
Yes, I support the regional mass transit plan. All popular and successful city areas in the country as well as the world have a strong mass transit system. This will aid our area in many ways; it will attract young people to our region. Many of them would rather not have to own a car and all the associated expenses. It would also relieve traffic congestion. It will unify all regions and make it easier and more cost effective to transit within out metro Detroit area.
Oakland County receives a limited amount of money – although increased from previous years – from the state for road construction. Do you think the county, either by itself or in cooperation with neighboring counties in southeast Michigan, should pursue a millage or a dedicated gas tax strictly for road repairs?
It is our responsibility to make sure that we have roads that are safe to travel on. I would like to make sure that the roads are built with quality components as it seems like our roads wear out more quickly than roads in other states and countries. I know that we have harsh weather, but so does Wisconsin. We need to invest in roads that are built with high quality.
IMPROVEMENTS TO THE COUNTY
Oakland County is once again the top-rated county in the state, with AAA-ratings and a 3.6 percent unemployment rate. The county has created a number of focused development efforts, such as Automation Alley. Do you think there are other concerted efforts the county should be launching at this time?
The people who are not retiring need to be well trained prior to their departure. Procedure manuals and philosophies need to be produced. In-servicing of these procedures and philosophies should be taken by the employees left behind. If this is done, the elected officials will be able to reproduce the same results and may even improve upon them. The county office climate must be of the highest quality.
According to experts, teens and young adults are experiencing mental crises, with rising suicide rates. Hospitals are experiencing larger influxes of mental health patients. What should the county mental health division be doing to address this issue? Is there anything the county board of commissioners should be doing to address this issue?
Do you feel Oakland County is doing all it can to be a strong partner in the southeast Michigan region as it applies to the issue of regional cooperation?
1. Maintaining a clean water supply. This includes what comes out of our faucets as well as our water table and small lakes.
2. We need to maintain and even strengthen our community health system. Mental health services should be strengthened and made available to those that area in need.
3. Our county roads need to be maintained and kept in great condition.
Oakland County is the home to hundreds of inland lakes and sits at the headwaters of six major rivers feeding the state’s waterways. Should the county be taking a stronger role in protecting the environment through a more aggressive approach with ordinances regulating items and activities that threaten our natural resources?
Why should a voter choose you over an opponent on the ballot?
I taught children for many years; managing them, evaluating them and presenting them. This demands strong organizational and people skills. I have had many jobs including medical transcription, sales and customer service. Currently, I teach English Language Learners as well as sell and buy real estate. I love to learn new things and enjoy challenges. This makes me highly qualified to do a great job for the people of Oakland County.
Kochenderfer lives in Rochester Hills, and is currently the county commissioner for the 15th District. He is an attorney who received his law degree from University of Michigan Law School, and his undergraduate degrees from Oakland University. He previously was a Rochester Hills city council member from 2011-2015.
REGIONAL TRANSIT AUTHORITY
It is clear that our region cannot reach its full potential without a transit system beyond SMART’s current offering. Too many are left behind, and large employers have named mass transit as a significant consideration to moving jobs here. But if one of the goals of mass transit is combining our regional strength, forcing outlying communities into a system they don’t want is a poor start. We must take the time to formulate a strong transit plan with buy-in from all necessary communities, regardless of whether that includes all or a portion of Oakland County. Any other approach deepens the divisiveness we are attempting to combat.
Keeping our roads smooth and safe is one of government’s critical functions. However, an additional tax on families and businesses is neither necessary nor practical. As a county commissioner, I supported a pilot program that invests millions of dollars in local road improvements. Oakland County is also employing innovative techniques that leverage our existing road dollars. For example, we were able to “purchase” federal funding from other counties in Michigan who are not using the funds. This may mean that Oakland County would pay the other county $800,000, but it would receive $1 million in federal funds to spend on road improvements. We are continuing to explore and deploy unconventional approaches to stretch road dollars. A new tax limited only to our area would make Oakland County both less affordable for current residents and less attractive to employers and families considering a move to our area.
IMPROVEMENTS TO THE COUNTY
I’m proud of the strong economic growth Oakland County has experienced during my tenure as a county commissioner. The county now holds one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state. But now isn’t the time to rest. We are continually exploring new sectors to pursue. For example, artificial intelligence promises to be the next leap across industries and society at large.Oakland County is uniquely situated to be a leader in that field. Our automotive resources are crucial to the development of autonomous vehicles. But that is just the beginning. We can leverage that expertise to become a magnet for companies exploring artificial intelligence in a wide variety of industries. This and other efforts will ensure that Oakland County continues to attract high-paying jobs that shape tomorrow.
As a parent of two small children, I’m deeply concerned about the mental health of our county’s youth. That’s why I co-sponsored a resolution expanding the Safe and Healthy Kids program in Oakland Schools. This program provides anti-bullying training for educators and promotes awareness and understanding of how to combat bullying in schools. This is one example of many actions that the county’s mental health division is taking to protect our youth. Whether it be suicide or violence against others, the board of commissioners has a critical role in continuing to support those prevention efforts.
Oakland County has a moral and functional obligation to work with other counties and communities across southeast Michigan. That’s why Oakland County serves as a partner in the regional authority governing Cobo, the Great Lakes Water Authority, and many other partnerships that cut across county lines. But regional cooperation is not synonymous with regional capitulation. Partners can have honest differences of opinion. When we do, we must frankly express those opinions and attempt to work through disagreements to benefit all residents.
I strongly believe our water resources are critical to both Oakland County’s economy and residents’ quality of life. For example, I co-sponsored a resolution to support and expand lake testing and monitoring throughout the county. This included a partnership with Michigan Clean Water Corp, which works to preserve and protect our state’s water resources. We must serve as responsible stewards of our county’s water resources, and I will continue to support efforts that meet that goal.
While I did not have an opponent on the primary ballot, I believe my experience in both the public and private sectors has prepared me for continuing to serve the residents of Oakland County. I am currently on the Board of Commissioners, representing Rochester and a large portion of Rochester Hills. I formerly served on the Rochester Hills City Council and numerous other community organizations. But I am also an attorney and equity partner at a law firm in Oakland County, Wolfson Bolton PLLC. Additionally, I am a former partner of a large regional law firm, Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP. I have represented clients ranging from automotive OEM’s to private individuals in complex disputes. That experience has required deep problem-solving and analytical skills, but also an ability to sometimes bring feuding factions together to achieve a common goal.