Two current trustees square off for treasurer spot

By: Nick Powers | Fraser-Clinton Chronicle | Published June 18, 2024

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Democrats Tammy Patton and Mike Keys will face off for Clinton Township’s treasurer position in the August 6 primary. The two candidates currently serve on the Clinton Township Board of Trustees.

A press release announcing Patton’s candidacy states she’s concerned with “transparency and fiscal responsibility.”

“I am honored to run for the position of Treasurer and excited for the opportunity to contribute to the continued growth and prosperity of our community,” Patton said in the release.

Keys’ press release emphasized fiscal responsibility and transparency, too, adding his past experiences managing budgets.

“I am excited to announce my candidacy for Township Treasurer,” said Keys in the release. “With my experience in governmental finance and community advocacy, I am committed to ensuring sound financial management and fostering inclusive development initiatives that benefit all residents of Clinton Township.”

Current Township Treasurer Paul Gieleghem, who is also a Democrat, said while he’s not formally endorsing anyone, he is planning to vote for Keys.

Keys and Patton have often been on opposite sides of issues.

Patton has been a bipartisan member of the board, occasionally voting with its more conservative members: Supervisor Bob Cannon, Trustee Dan Kress and Clerk Kim Meltzer. One recent example of this is the vote to award Andiamo Pasta & Chops one of the township’s Class C liquor licenses. Trustee Julie Matuzak and Keys vocally opposed the license going to the restaurant chain and were joined by Gieleghem in the final vote. Patton broke ranks and voted to award the license, which led to its approval.

Another recent example was Patton’s vote in favor of Dan Kress for township’s Election Commission. The vote bumped Matuzak off the commission in order to keep the balance of members from different parties. It would give the commission a representative from both sides of the aisle with Meltzer, who is a Republican.

“Although we’re both Democrats, we do have different priorities,” Keys said.

Patton looks at collaboration as a strength. Throughout her career, she mentions working with people from government to education to veterans organizations.

“To be successful, you have to build relationships with other treasurers, other board members, banks, investment advisors, and so on,” she said in a statement.

Gieleghem said a knowledge of financial markets is helpful when creating an effective investment strategy for the township within the confines of state law, specifically Public Act 20. He said that this act outlines what investments a municipality can make with treasury funds.

“It can only be the safest investments, but they still come with some risk,” Gieleghem said. “Therefore, you need to be able to balance risk.”

Keys, who is currently a financial analyst for Oakland County, recognizes the importance  of the public act and how it has shifted. He said he ultimately wants to continue building off the foundation Gieleghem has laid.

“For a long time, it was seen as you can only invest in these very long-term investments because they’re safer,” Keys said. “Whereas, over the last ten years I would say, counties and municipalities have amended that policy. I’ve worked with them to do that to allow for more short-term investments that bring a larger yield to the township in a safe way.”

Patton cites her military service in the U.S. Army as the key to her adherence to protocols, such as those laid down by the state.

“Treasury work must follow the criteria laid out in PA20 (Michigan Public Act 20). My military experience enhanced my understanding of and ability to adhere to protocol. Something that is ingrained in me and carries forward in my everyday life,” Patton said in a statement.

Patton emphasizes that her unique experience would make her a successful treasurer.

“Much of this is about leadership skills, NOT technical skills,” she stated in the release. “My business and military experience have provided me with ample opportunity to demonstrate leadership whereas my competitors may not have those experiences.”

Gieleghem said it’s important for a treasurer to know how state law works.

“You have to be able to read, understand, interpret and comply with state tax laws,” Gieleghem said. “A lot of statutory compliance in this job.”

He said a working knowledge of how things work at different levels of government is also a key part of the position.

“Having strong, collaborative relationships with both the finance department and public works will allow me to understand how to invest in a manner that ensures the funds are available when we need them,” Patton said.

Keys is also comfortable working with different layers of government to be successful.

“Not just familiarity inside of policy, but also working with those departments that have to administer that policy,” Keys said. “Whether it be the treasurer’s office at the county level or the actual administrative departments under the executive.”

Whoever wins in August will face off against Mike Aiello, a Republican, in the general election. Aiello is running uncontested in the Republican primary.