By Shelby Stewart
Ortonville-Monday night, Wayne Wills attended his last meeting as village president.
“I am blessed to have been a vital part of our community over the past eight years as its president,” said Wills. “I wish my successor much success in her endeavors over the nest two years.”
Wills has been a part of the community since the late 70s, when he was Lion’s Club president. He went on to serve on the village planning commission, the Brandon Township Fire Board, the Brandon School Board, the Brandon Athletic Boosters, the administrative council at Ortonville United Methodist Church and Clarkston United Methodist Church, and finally on the village council starting in 2010.
During his years as president, the council covered many tough issues, such as trails, chickens, and community wide sewage treatment, which all sparked debate among the council and the citizens. One thing he found never sparked an issue, which was the invocation he holds at the beginning of all public meetings.
“It brought a sense of calming to the room which helped control contentious topic at least a little less volitle,” he said. “Incidentally, never one complaint in eight years, only encouragement.”
He also states that George Washington used prayer in a similar manner, to calm people and encourage morality.
“It is my hope and prayer that this might continue,” he said.
The difficulty of the position has weighted on him, and says that the hardest part is finding all sides of an issue.
“All issues have two or even three sides, right, wrong and the truth,” he said. “Determining the truth and keeping emotion out of the equation is a challenge, and I think that’s the case in any level of government.”
When looking at the important issues in the village, Wills has done his best to look at those three sides of every issue and make an informed decision, including on the issue of trails
“Although walkability throughout the village is a worthy goal in order to improve public health, it became bogged down,” he said. “Since there were those who did not wish to become part of a Lapeer regional or statewide trail system.”
More recently, the council tackled the issue of chickens in the village, an argument that spanned months in 2017.
“The presence of chickens became a hot issue caused mainly by very few residents wanting their chickens to be free range, which is not acceptable in a dense village neighborhood,” he said. “Although now resolved, the topic consumed much valuable council time on tasks.”
An ongoing issue in the village is the discussion of sewers, and it has been an issue that Wills has discussed and debated at length over his eight years serving the village.
“The possibility of community sewers has been a topic filled with emotion,” he said. “On one side was the desire to help our environment and provide community growth potential. On the other side was the reality of a solution which would be unaffordable to install and maintain. This obstacle combined with the spirit of independence and self reliance was also tempered, maily by the village’s low population density, small geographic footprint and lack of business tax here. In the end, it proved to be just too much for our citizens to afford. Moving forward, much evaluation has been completed to assist a future generation on such systems when the state mandates a community wide system. Such research archives may be helpful in the decades ahead.”
It wasn’t all debate and issues however, as Will’s favorite part of being village president was working with the DPW.
“Working with our exceptional DPW director Bob Hauxwell and his assistant, Mike Pokorzynski,” Wills said when asked about his favorite part of his position. “And, most recently, our current village manager, clerk and treasurer.”
The decision to not run again came from his health and his wife, both of which suggested he explore other endeavors. He will however still be a member of the Downtown Development Authority. He wishes his successor much luck in the next few years.
“One, keep an open mind, two, always listen to all three sides of any topic,” he advised for the next president. “Quite frankly, you’ve got people who are very passionate about their side of an issue and storm into a meeting and take over the meeting if you let them when in reality there’s another side. So to bend to with wishes of the proverbial squeaky wheel may not be in the best interest of the community.”