Gonser ready to lead Oakland Township Board

Terry Gonser has retired from several previous careers. This month, at the age of 66, he embarks on a new one: Oakland Township Supervisor.

“I certainly didn’t need it and it certainly doesn’t pay,” he said Tuesday night as he cruised to victory despite a last-minute write-in campaign by incumbent supervisor Joan Fogler. “I think the reason I did it is for the citizens. I have a daughter and a granddaughter who live in the township. And as I look across the country, I am very disappointed in government at all levels, how it’s conducted. I’d like to start at the local level.”

Gonser was one of five newcomers to win election to the township board of trustees by virtue of winning the August Republican primary, since there were no Democratic candidates. He and clerk-elect Karen Reilly, treasurer-elect Jeanne Langlois and trustees-elect Judy Keyes and Maureen Thalmann take office Nov. 20, joining returning incumbent trustees Michael Bailey and Sharon McKay on the seven-member board.

Gonser said he’s ready to move on the promises he and the others made during the primary campaign.

“I want to make sure the newly elected officers and board of trustees make good on our campaign promises of transparency and professionalism,” he said. “That wasn’t just a saying. … I believe in it.”

Gonser said he intends to be ready at his first meeting to ask the board to seek bids for televising and webcasting township meetings. He said he has already contacted three local cable-access providers about the service. He also wants to update the township website with the goal of making information on how the township spends tax dollars more readily available.

“I feel it’s deplorable that citizens have to FOIA to see how their tax money is spent,” he said, referring to the Freedom of Information Act.

Another priority is a more comprehensive ethics policy. The current one-page code of conduct “is so loose that basically each individual regulates himself,” he said. “I think that’s improper. I want to make sure we have an ethics policy that is very clear, very definitive.”

Gonser said he’s also concerned about rumors of improper spending and is considering whether to seek a forensic audit, “to make sure we aren’t walking into a beehive.”

Beyond that, he wants to improve customer service. “How the public is received when they come in is important, and a lot of that is leadership.”

Gonser and Township Manager Jim Creech have already had discussions about the future. Gonser said Creech has a year left on his five-year contract and is seeking an extension.

“I’m willing to work with Jim and evaluate his performance,” Gonser said. “But I’m not making a commitment before I enter office.”

Gonser grew up in the township and graduated from Rochester High School. He is a retired General Motors engineering manager and entrepreneur and is president of the Rochester Area Republican Club. He and his wife Patricia have two daughters.

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