Chris Barnett will take office Tuesday as Orion Township’s new supervisor.
He is one of three new people joining the seven-member board of trustees. The new treasurer is Mark Thurbur; the new trustee is Donni Steel. Returning board members are clerk Penny Shults and trustees Michael Flood Jr., Neal Porter and John Steimel.
Barnett, 34, and his wife Julie have three daughters and have been Orion residents for 14 years. A member of the planning commission, he’s been meeting with department heads and other stakeholders for the past month to prepare for the new job.
“The current board has not adopted a budget yet for next year,” he said. “The new board has been invited and has given input. … We have the benefit of having a pretty smooth transition in all the positions.”
Barnett is a member of Kensington Church and has served as president of the Lake Orion High School PTO and the Oakland Ridge Homeowners Association. He is active in the Greater Oakland Republican Club.
Barnett said being supervisor will be his full-time job. He has spent the last 15 years in business management, operation and sales. He said he wants the township to run more like a business by improving efficiency and keeping up with customer demands.
He said he also has some ideas about managing two relatively new township properties, Orion Center and Wildwood Pavilion, which were built with the expectation that they could pay their own way through rental fees. That hasn’t happened yet.
“These things right now are just overhead,” Barnett said. “I want to be smart about where we put our time and talents.”
Membership at the township’s new senior center, which is housed within the Orion Center, has dropped, Barnett said. An advisory committee has been meeting to come up with recommendations to the new board.
“I’m an advocate for just removing the fee structure for seniors,” he said. “The seniors didn’t have to pay a membership fee (at the old building) and now they do.”
As for the budget, “Generally we’re in pretty good financial shape right now,” he said. “The challenge will be prioritizing what projects we want to take on.”
He said he’s heard a lot of interest in park improvements and wants to see the park and recreation master plan updated. He also wants to improve customer service. “Our customers are our citizens,” he said.
Barnett hasn’t had to look far for political role models. His older brother Bryan has been mayor of Rochester Hills since 2006.
“Bryan actually worked for me for six years before he became mayor, so I was able to be part of the background, his journey,” Chris Barnett said. He said he’s learned that keeping the lines of communication open between elected officials and their constituents is crucial.
Orion residents, he said, can expect a fresh approach.
“I have a lot of respect for (outgoing supervisor) JoAnn Van Tassel, but I have a different leadership style,” he said.