By Rosemary K. Otzman
In the Nov. 4 election, eight candidates are running for four open seats on the Belleville Area District Library Board.
Each term is for four years beginning Jan. 1 and there is no remuneration.
Four new candidates have joined together to run as a slate: the Common Cents Library slate. They are LaChelle Reed Caver, Bernard A. Grant, Phillip Miller, and Tanya Stoudemire, all who are running for elective office for the first time.
The four remaining candidates are incumbent Mary Jane Dawson, incumbent Joseph Monte, former board member Paul Henning, and newcomer Sharon C. Peters.
The candidates cooperated by filling out Independent information forms so their backgrounds and thoughts could be shared with the readers.
LaChelle Reed Caver
LaChelle Reed Caver, 41, of Sumpter Township, has lived in the library district from 1995 to 1999 and then again, since March 2002, 12+ years.
She is an attorney and is married to DeRonald Caver and they have two children Zaria and Savion.
She graduated from Denby High School in 1991; Michigan State University with a BA in Business Administration, Pre-Law in 1995 and from Wayne State Unversity with a Juris Doctorate in 1998.
This is her first bid for elective office. She was appointed and served on the Sumpter Township Board of Review from 2005 to 2007.
Caver is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, American Bar Association, and Wayne County Probate Bar Association. She enjoys reading, bowling, and traveling with her family.
When asked why she was running for this office, Caver said:
“The reason I am running for Trustee is to increase community involvement, improve transparency, and to promote accountability in the oversight and operations of the Belleville Area District Library (BADL).
“After attending several Library Board meetings and observing the current board, administration, professionals retained by the library push their failed attempt to pass two millages that would have cost the local taxpayers millions of dollars with very little public input; I decided to work with a group called the Common Cents Library Committee (CCLC).
“Initially I joined the committee to help with defeating the two millages and later decided to join a slate of informed professionals to work together to bring competence to the delivery of library services and capital planning in the community. The other members of the slate include Bernard A Grant, Phillip Miller and Tanya Stoudemire.
“The Common Cents Library Slate’s top goals include restoration of transparency in discussions, increased community involvement in developing service and capital plans, and greater accountability for staff, hired professionals and service delivery.
“By assembling a team with nearly 50 cumulative years with public finance experience, including over a decade with a public library system (Stoudemire) and capital planning (Miller), nearly 30 years of architecture/community planning (Grant) and construction (Miller), and an experienced lawyer that serves children and seniors as a key element of her practice (Caver), the Common Cents Library slate brings the skills and understanding to the library board to serve the community.”
Bernard A. Grant
Bernard A. Grant, 54, of Van Buren Township, has lived in the district for one year. He is the father of Riley, Ariana, Meghan, and Brian.
He is a Project Manager/Architect of Hamilton Anderson Associates, Detroit.
Grant earned a Bachelor of Science in Architecture in 1984 and a Bachelor of Architecture in 1985.
He has never run for elective office before but he was appointed to the Dearborn YMCA Board of Directors.
He is a member of Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) at Tyler Elementary School, The Artists’ Society of Dearborn, and enjoys outdoor sports.
“The reason I am running for Trustee of the Belleville Area District Library is to offer my professional architectural and construction experience to a Board in need of improving the decision process of evaluating the community’s Library Building needs,” Grant said.
“After attending Library Board meetings it became apparent to me that critical steps in the new building evaluation and site selection process were not clearly defined and implemented. After years in development, the public still had unanswered questions regarding the new proposed library – information had not been clearly communicated in a timely manner.
“The Belleville Area District Library is an important social and educational center within the community. The community needs to be made part of the decision process through accountability, transparency, and community involvement.
“In order to deliver these three important factors, the Common Cents Library Committee slate was formed. I am a member of the Common Cents Library Committee slate. The other members of the slate include LaChelle Reed Carver, Phillip Miller, and Tanya Stoudemire.’
When asked about his goals, once elected, Grant said:
“It is imperative that the taxpayers have representation on the Library Board. As a professional of the design and construction industry for over 25 years I have found that an important aspect of designing and constructing a new building or improving an existing building is integrating the owner, in our case the taxpayers, into the project team.
“I have been implementing this practice for many years. Well-informed owners (taxpayers) make well informed decisions — community involvement is vital to a strongly supported District Library. My goal, and a goal shared by the Common Cents Library Committee slate, is to become the taxpayer’s representation through community involvement, information sharing, and accountability of all involved.
“The Common Cents Library Committee slate provides the potential for the Belleville Area District Library Board to gain new board members with varied professional backgrounds. Our slate has nearly 50 years of combined public finance experience, over 30 years of combined architectural, planning, and construction experience, and years of law experience. The Common Cents Library Committee slate of Bernard A Grant, LaChelle Reed Carver, Phillip Miller, and Tanya Stoudemire will bring the skill and understanding to the library board to better serve the community of Belleville and Van Buren and Sumpter Townships.
Phillip Miller, 43, has lived in the library district off and on for 30+ years. He and his wife Rasheda Devaney Miller and stepdaughter Maria have purchased a house in the city of Belleville.
Miller is the Deputy Finance Director for the city of Oak Park. He earned his BS and MPA in Public Administration from Western Michigan University.
This is his first run for public office, but he had been appointed and served as chairperson for the Van Buren Open Spaces Committee.
Miller belongs to the Belleville Area Council for the Arts, Belleville Rotary Club, Citizens for Better Government, and St. Stephen Elementary School Parent Guild. He enjoys outdoor sports, motorcycles, and construction.
“The reason I am running for Trustee is to increase community involvement, to improve transparency, and to demand accountability in oversight and operations of the Belleville Area District Library (BADL). After studying the current board, administration, professionals retained by the library, and their failed attempt to pass two millages that would have cost taxpayers in excess of $50 million with very little public input, and absent of Government Finance Officers Association best practices, I decided to work with other local leaders to establish a group called the Common Cents Library Committee.
“Initially the committee was organized to defeat the two millages and later repurposed to identify, recruit and form a slate of informed professionals to work together to bring competence to the delivery of library services and capital planning in the community. The other members of the slate include LaChelle Reed Caver, Bernard A Grant and Tanya Stoudemire.”
As far as goals: “The most pressing issue for the Belleville Area District Library board is improved oversight for the quality and availability of services in a facility that is sufficient and well managed.
“The current library board has wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on its failed attempt to build an extravagant facility on the lake while the existing building suffers deterioration from deferred maintenance and insufficient services because of misdirected resources that should have been available for operations.
“The Common Cents Library slate’s top three priorities include the restoration of transparency in discussions, increased community involvement in developing service and capital plans, and greater accountability for staff, hired professionals and service delivery. If we are successful in these goals, the library could become the cultural epicenter of the three communities.
“By assembling a team with nearly 50 cumulative years with public finance experience, including over a decade with a public library system (Stoudemire) and capital planning(Miller), nearly 30 years of architecture/community planning (Grant) and construction (Miller), and an experienced lawyer that serves children and seniors as a key element of her practice (Caver), the Common Cents Library slate brings the skills and understanding to the library board to serve to the community.”
Tanya Stoudemire, 51, of Van Buren Township, has been living in the library district for 11 years.
She is married to Adrian Phillips and they have three children – Kyron, Evan and Blake – who are all high school students.
Stoudemire is Income Tax Manager for the City of Detroit. She earned her BA in Economics and Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University.
This is her first run for elective office, but she was appointed by two different City of Detroit Finance Directors as their alternate Trustee for the Police and Fire Pension Board.
Stoudemire said she enjoys boating on Belleville Lake with her family and supporting her children in their various extra-curricular activities, including the Belleville High School Marching Band, P&P Dance, and local theater in the surrounding community.
She is running for this office because: “I want to become more involved and give back to my community. I was recruited by the Common Cents Library Committee because of my past library budgeting experience. I am running as part of a slate with LaChelle Reed Caver, Bernard A. Grant, and Phillip Miller.
“My goal is to proudly serve the community by increasing community involvement, improving transparency, and providing accountability in the operations of the Belleville Area District Library.”
Not running as a slate are the following four candidates.
Mary Jane Dawson
Mary Jane Dawson, who turns 67 on Oct. 14, is a resident of the City of Belleville and the current chairman of the Belleville Area District Library Board of Trustees.
She has been living in the library district for 26 years.
She is married to Rick Dawson and they have adult children: Jim Baird, Scot Baird, Jason Baird, Brad Dawson, Ryan Dawson, and Burke Dawson.
She graduated from Mercy High School in 1965 and Washtenaw Community College in 1986, with an Associate Degree in Nursing. She retired as a Registered Nurse in 2000.
Dawson ran and was elected to the Belleville Area District Library Board in 2010. She had been appointed as a member of the first Belleville Area District Library Board by Mayor Richard Smith and was unanimously endorsed by the Belleville City Council in 2010.
Dawson is a Belleville Area Historical Museum Trustee, and belongs to the Belleville Area Chamber of Commerce, Friends of the Belleville Area District Library, Belleville Yacht Club, Van Buren Eagles Aerie 3996 Women’s Auxiliary, Life Member of VFW Women’s Auxiliary, Life Member of STAR Touring and Riding Association, and volunteer at various community and organizational events.
She enjoys reading (especially authors of mystery or political-intrigue fiction and non-fiction history), crocheting/knitting, gardening, boating (especially when her grandchildren are with them), Civil War history and battlefield sites, volunteer activities for specific local groups, and family time with her husband, their children and grandchildren, and their Moms, who are ages 95 and 101.
When asked why she is running for reelection to this office, she replied:
“I have been active in library issues for the last 10 years or so; starting out as a member of the Friends of the Library and eventually holding the office of President of the Friends group for two terms. In April of 2010 the Fred C. Fischer Library was officially removed from the control of the Wayne County Library System per authorization of the Library of Michigan. The new name, Belleville Area District Library, and the seven-member appointed board officially took effect on April 17, 2010. I was one of the original appointed board members and successfully kept my seat in the November 2010 General Election.
“Per the 2010 District Library Agreement, agreed to by the elected officials of Belleville, Sumpter Township and Van Buren Township, the BADL Board was charged to come up with a plan to build a new main library and also to find a location for a satellite facility. I believe that the residents of this library district deserve a library that can offer the technology, space, and other resources that residents of other districts enjoy. I would like to continue my service to the residents who live within the library district in order to see such a building plan come to fruition.”
As to goals, Dawson said: “The most pressing issue in my opinion is coming up with a building plan for the new library and satellite that the residents living within the district will approve and endorse when put to a vote. The current library is not large enough to provide the necessary room for tutoring, quiet studying, multiple small and large group events, and computer use, let alone book and media storage. Furniture, carpeting, shelving, etc. are outdated. Public computer space is limited due to the overall square footage of the building. Since the library is obviously not going to be moving any time soon, a priority list for repairs and updates for the current library building needs to be made.
“My primary goal is to develop a plan (with community input and support) for building a new main library and renovating an existing site for the satellite location within the next 12-18 months. Although the statistics and consultants told us what was appropriate for the population and geographic configuration of the library district, the majority of those who voted in the August Primary Election felt the cost was more than our community could afford.
“I am aware, as is the rest of the board, that any new building project needs to have a much smaller impact on our wallets. I invite all residents to share their ideas and opinions with me and other board members as we continue forward with a new plan. We already have data we can use to come up with a more palatable building plan that voters are more likely to approve. Downsizing the scope of the building plan would also decrease the amount needed for an operating millage.
“An additional goal would be to develop a plan, with other board members, library staff, and residents to provide ongoing library services to senior residents: possibly to include, but not be limited to, basic computer classes that could be held outside of the library itself.”
Joseph Monte, 72, of Van Buren Township, currently serves on the district library board. He has lived in the library district for 41 years.
He is married to Karen Ann and they have grown children Joshua Monte and Jessica Tyrell.
Monte is a retired school teacher and principal with the Van Buren Public Schools.
He earned a BS from Eastern Michigan University, an MA in Education from Antioch College; and a Master’s Degree in Elementary Administration.
The only time he has run for office is for the district library board.
Before the first library board election, Monte was appointed to the board by Van Buren Township. He also has served on the Board of Zoning Appeals and Economic Development Corporation for VBT.
He is a board member for the Volunteer Missionary Movement USA, and serves as vice president of St. Stephen Parish. He enjoys woodworking.
When asked why he is running for reelection, Monte said:
“I am running for office to:
“1. Continue to promote our local library, and its services, as an important part of our community.
“2. Follow through, as an elected member of the Belleville Area District Library, to continue to work through the process of community engagement towards building a new library and satellite library.”
Concerning goals, he said: “My goals are to actively engage members of our community to see what they would like to see in an updated library and satellite library – items such as what facilities they would like to have, which would determine the size of the library facilities, its location as well, and very importantly, what they will be willing to pay in the form of a tax increase. I believe that when people are engaged in the process, they will feel more vested in the process.
“That being said, another goal is to take part in the building of a library(s) structure in the near future.
“In addition, as a former educator, another goal is to support the needs of students of all ages, to continue to have access to the library,” Monte said.
Paul W. Henning
Paul W. Henning, 53, of Van Buren Township, was one of the original library board members appointed. He now is running for an elected seat on the board.
Henning, a communications specialist, has a bachelor of science in Written Communications/Music from Eastern Michigan University.
He is married to Cynthia and they are the parents of Derek, Daniel, Joshua, and Samantha.
He said he enjoys reading books and cinema of all kinds, and spending time with his family. He also enjoys music and new technology.
When asked why he is running for this office, he replied:
“I was one of the original appointees to the library board when the Belleville Area District Library was created. When it came time to run for office to keep my seat, I was unable to run at that time. I am able and willing to take a seat with the Belleville Area District Library now.
“There is much to do with the library and I feel my eight years’ experience with Van Buren Public Schools puts me in a unique position to help. I have experience in community relations and communications that would be advantageous to the library, promoting unity throughout the community.
“Also, I grew up in Belleville and have many fond memories of walking to the library on summer days to check out a book. I am very interested in keeping the library relevant for many generations to come.”
When asked of his goals, Henning said, “I have three goals:
“1. To unify the tri-communities of Belleville, Sumpter, and Van Buren in support of their library offering relevant services to the community. It is their library and the offerings should meet their needs.
“2. Keep the library relevant to the 21st century. A library is no longere a storehouse of knowledge in stacks of bbooks, knowledge comes in many flavors from books, CDs and DVDs to podcasts, e-readers and computers. I would like to see the Belleville Area District Library ready for the next wave of information no matter what the form will be.
“3. Update the facilities. It is no secret that the library building is aging and needs a lot of work to keep it standing. We may even need a new building. That is up to the community to dictate what that building might be. I worked on the monumental task of funding a new high school when I was employed by the school district. I would like a chance to take my experience and help the community tell us what the ‘right size’ is for the library, whether it is an update to the current structure or a new location. It is up to the people.”
Sharon C. Peters
Sharon C. Peters, 63, of Van Buren Township, has been a resident of the library district for seven years.
She is married to Melvin T. Peters, Ph.D., and they have grown children Troy Peters, Sani Peters, and Haile Peters.
She is the founder of Claytor Peters Consultants, consulting in child advocacy, state government relations and children’s policy, 2008 to present. She is a retired non-profit executive and was CEO of Michigan’s Children – statewide child advocacy organization in Lansing, 1996-2008.
Peters earned a BA from Michigan State University in 1971; an MA in Anthropology from MSU in 1977; and completed course work for a Ph.D. in Anthropology at MSU, but the degree is not completed.
She has served in elective office, being elected in 1993, serving 1996-2000 on the Lansing School District Board of Education. She served as Treasurer and President of the Board.
She was appointed to the Council for Labor and Economic Growth, State of Michigan, Member (gubernatorial appointment) 2006-10; Michigan Teacher Tenure Commission, Member (gubernatorial appointment) 2003-09; and Assistant Secretary of State, State of Michigan (appointment by Secretary of State) 1985-89.
Peters is a member of the Friends of Belleville Area District Library; member of Trinity Episcopal Church, Belleville; board member Southwestern Wayne (County) Democratic Club; member of NAACP; and enjoys church projects, early childhood services, and reading.
When asked why she is running for this office, she replied: “For me, libraries are the foundation of life-long learning, and by extension, civic engagement. The Belleville area is a wonderful community that has impressive library services which have far outgrown their existing cramped space.
“I have experience in public policy-making and education, and I want to put that to work to build a Belleville Area District Library (BADL) system that really meets the 21st century information technology needs of the community. Surrounding areas, like Ypsilanti and Canton, have libraries that serve the needs of their population; the Belleville area deserves the same. I have a vision, informed by my travel to other areas, where I noticed the use of the library as a civic hub, where the community came together and young families with baby strollers met up with each other — what a wonderful addition to the informational resource a library offers!”
Peters said she has the following goals once elected:
“1. Identify an affordable option to meet the mandates of the Belleville Area District Library agreement. The City of Belleville, and townships of Van Buren and Sumpter fashioned a visionary inter-governmental agreement in 2010 which set forth the parameters of a library system to serve their populations. The current BADL board put forth a plan to the community that was deemed too costly by the voters in August 2014. The BADL board members elected this fall, unified with the remaining members of the board, will need to re-engage the community in fashioning a new plan.
“2. Act as good stewards of the existing BADL resources to operate a system of the highest possible quality within the confines of current funding and space limitations.
“3. Identify ways to better engage the changing and ever-more diverse population of the BADL service area in the varied services of our district library. We must formulate an affordable vision that offers our community much needed public space for community gatherings, programming for children, youth, adults and senior citizens, as well as necessary upgrades to our BADL holdings of books and information technology.”
By Rosemary K. Otzman