Farmington Hills mayor appoints new member to library board

Appointment brings library board back to full strength

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published September 4, 2020

 Farmington Hills resident Danette Duron-Willner was appointed to the Farmington Community Library board Aug. 24.

Farmington Hills resident Danette Duron-Willner was appointed to the Farmington Community Library board Aug. 24.

Photo provided by Danette Duron-Willner

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FARMINGTON HILLS — The eighth and final seat for the Farmington Community Library board has been filled.

Farmington Hills Mayor Vicki Barnett nominated Kelly Services in-house counsel and Hills resident Danette Duron-Willner to the open seat. While some council members initially voiced concerns about the nominee, council members unanimously supported the mayor’s appointment Aug. 24.

Farmington City Council members appointed two new residents to the library board Aug. 17.

Farmington Hills Council member Valerie Knol brought up concerns that Duron-Willner, who ran for a City Council seat in the November 2019 election, may not be willing to commit to the position long-term if she decides to run for a council seat again. Knol said her experience has led her to believe that those who run for council and narrowly lose tend to come back for a second attempt in the next election.

Council members Michael Bridges and Ken Massey echoed Knol’s comments, but Massey said his concerns were quelled with assurances from Barnett.

Council members Jackie Boleware, Samantha Steckloff and Mary Newlin all supported the mayor’s nomination out of the gate.

“I would like to appoint (Duron-Willner) because of her extensive work with employees and employers, her ability to bring different sides of the divide together, and to rebuild trust and faith with the public in the ability of the library board to function on behalf of the citizen of Farmington and Farmington Hills,” Barnett said Aug. 24, adding that her decision was not a political choice, but a choice she said is needed for the library board “now, today and tomorrow.”

 

Danette Duron-Willner
Duron-Willner has a bachelor’s degree in social and behavioral sciences, a law degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, and more than 18 years of experience as an attorney, but she’d rather be known for the opportunities she’s had that have made a difference or for the problems she solved in similar roles to the one she finds herself stepping into.

Duron-Willner has worked as a governor-appointed commissioner for Michigan’s Hispanic and Latino affairs committee — which has since changed its name; she’s served as a board member for the Anti-Defamation League; she brings to the table a strong background as an investigator for the Michigan Department of Civil Rights; and she’s worked in the public housing market as a community development director.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve had an opportunity to wrap my arms around a community and work to move objectives forward,” she said. “For years, it was the same kind of problem solving that comes with serving on a board, where you have to take into consideration the wider views of the community and what its objectives are.”

Priority No. 1 for her is to do just that — begin listening again.

“I do think that we’re losing sight of how much we have to play an active role in listening to the needs of our community. For some reason, that has been watered down in all of this conversation and unwanted controversy,” she said. “I would like for us to get back to (that).”

Second to that goal is to rebuild the staff and community’s confidence back into the library.

“I’m hoping that by kind of calming the water and letting people think clearly about where we need to move for the future of the library, we’re going to have some good movement now with a very different makeup on the board,” she said. “I don’t want to see this become something where not everybody feels comfortable coming in. Whether you’re an employee or community member, you need to feel confident in this very valuable resource.”

Duron-Willner believes that if the board were able to pare down large objectives into smaller, actionable tasks, the library could begin to return some of its services to the community taxpayers.

“I’m not boiling the ocean in one day,” she said, “but if we can focus on the most basic needs and start from a point of collaboration and empathy on how we move the library resources to align with what the community’s true needs are, I think it will really help dissipate a lot of the strife.”

She said that’s especially important now as students in the community return to school virtually again.

“This whole literacy equation is not just the job of the school,” Duron-Willner said. “It’s not just the job of the parents. It’s the job of the community. The library does provide that bridge to stronger learning habits, stronger literacy and stronger engagement in the community, regardless of a person’s background and ability or inability to pay for resources.”

Overall, she’s excited to take a seat at the table with the other seven trustees, adding that she has “a love for this library that is personal because of how much it has added value” to her own family.

 

Full strength, full steam ahead
Farmington Community Library Board President Jim White is comforted by all eight seats at the table being filled again. While he has yet to meet any of the three newest appointees, he said he’s happy to see they’ve stepped up to volunteer and believes having a board at full strength will help the library move forward.

Just because three new members have entered the room doesn’t mean the issues and contention surrounding the library now magically disappear, and White acknowledges that. He said the issues raised about individual board members, they’re “hopefully going to work out.” Board trustees are still working through past decisions, like the decision to furlough a majority of the library’s staff April 24, and figuring out how to increase services back to what they were.

“We have increased services in the past couple weeks, and we’re looking toward increasing services yet again. After Labor Day, we hope to again start allowing people inside the doors for brief visits,” he said. “I know it’s still far away from what the people want from their library, but this is what all libraries are facing right now, is just trying to keep everyone safe.”

For more information, visit farmlib.org.

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