Safety, maintaining services highlight candidate forum

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published October 7, 2013

FARMINGTON HILLS — Nine City Council candidates shared their viewpoints on how to make the city a better place during a nearly packed League of Women Voters Oakland Area candidate forum at City Hall Oct. 1.

The candidates, incumbent Michael Bridges and newcomers Valerie Knol, Erik Lindquist, Christopher McRae, William A. Miller III, Steve Schwartz, Samantha Steckloff, George Varghese and Thomas P. Wolverton, are in the running for three four-year-term City Council seats during the general election Nov. 5.

Moderator Andrew Nickelhoff, former president of the Council of Homeowners Association, kicked off the forum, while timed-audience questions were asked by Council of Homeowners Association member Norene Yuskowatz, League of Women Voters Oakland Area member Eva Packard, and Committee to Increase Voter Participation member Deb Kendzierski.

During the more than two-hour meeting, candidates answered questions on what they would change in the city if elected, what they would achieve during their term, what the city should be saving money on in the next four years, and other related topics.

During the opening statements, candidates centered their answers on how they would maintain city services, quality of life and safety, and how they would bring savings to the city.

They were asked if they are active in their own neighborhoods and how they would promote city involvement with their neighbors.

Many of the candidates said it is vital to look out for neighbors, and Neighborhood Watch is important.

McRae said the Council of Homeowners Association plays an important role in moving the city forward.

Steckloff said the Council of Homeowners Association and cooperation with neighbors is important in creating that “sense of home.”

“Farmington Hills is a pioneer in how cities and neighborhoods are created,” Steckloff said.

Varghese said cooperating with neighbors and offering assistance are worthy activities. He said many seniors in subdivisions don’t have cars, and it is important for the youth to lend a hand by offering to drive them around.

Wolverton said he encourages people to come out to a few meetings and learn about the way city government works. 

The second question focused on what unique qualities the candidates would bring to City Council.

Varghese said he brings his experience as a program director and certified project management professional to the table, which leads him across the United States to bring savings to companies.

Lindquist said that as a member of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals for the past six years, he not only has an understanding of city operations, but he has deep roots in the city as a third-generation Farmington Hills resident. He added that he has management skills and “real-world experience.”

Miller III said he wants to bring fresh ideas to the city.

“I’m not a part of the current politics,” he said. “I’m not a lawyer or business owner; I’m a working person for the voice of the community.”

Schwartz said he is an attorney in labor relations, a certified mediator, and is “used to bringing opposing sides together and solving difficult problems.”

He also has 35 years of municipal experience from being a current planning commissioner to former assistant city manager of Birmingham.

Steckloff, a Wayne State University Enrollment Management coordinator, said being a millennial gives her a new perspective to take a look at problems while being able to budget accordingly.

Bridges said being on the council for five years gives him the ability to understand the city’s budgetary process and issues facing the city.

Knol said working in the auto industry and management for more than 10 years gives her experience to deal with budgets, manage employees and understand how city government works.

Candidates were asked what they think the city should save for financially in the next four years.

Bridges said the city should be looking at saving money for future water and sewer enhancements, and ensuring that special assessment districts for local roads are funded.

Knol said the city’s capital improvements plan should be continually reviewed, updated and followed. She added that saving for sewer and road upgrades is “critical,” as is funding retiree pensions.

Lindquist agreed in a follow-up statement about the need to save for future road replacement and sewer drainage.

Others said public safety, nonmotorized transportation and an emergency fund are projects that the city should be saving up for.

In closing remarks, Thomas said his degree in counseling and law makes him the best City Council candidate.

Bridges said continuing to maintain Farmington Hills’ safe city designation, AAA bond rating and city services make him the man for the job.

Knol said she has a record of strong management skills and would work toward keeping the city safe and maintaining its roads, and water and sewer systems.

Lindquist said he would improve property values and work to make the city better.

McRae said he strives to improve city services.

Williams said he would work with residents, not over them, and bring a new perspective to the table.

Schwartz said his 35 years of municipal planning, along with local government experience, make him a good choice for a seat on City Council.

Steckloff said her small town values and fresh perspective make her an ideal candidate.

Reruns of the forum will be shown on Bright House Channel 8 and will be available at

For more information on the upcoming election, visit