Whos Smiling Now - Manley Chockley Otto Chick 2016 campaign advert

By David Gordon

A divided Board of Trustees on Feb. 28 voted 4-3 to advertise for a new township manager. The four Trustees voted as a block, rebuffing protests from the Supervisor, Clerk and Treasurer and dismissing opposition from the public.

Supervisor Marlene Chockley noted that 61 emails were received by the Board regarding a manager; 54 against, 7 in favor.  Trustee Jacki Otto, who has led the charge for a manager, said the residents’ emails were statistically insignificant.

At “Call to the Public” during the last few meetings, a large majority of residents also spoke against hiring a manager.  

Supervisor Marlene Chockley claimed she could run the township without a manager and save at least $50,000 in the process. “We have more important projects to spend taxpayer money on,” she said.

Former manager Howard Fink left on Jan. 5th. He was the first and only manager Northfield has ever employed and had a $153,000/yr. budget, which paid for his $83,000 salary, his assistant and the part-time controller.

Only 3% of Michigan townships employ a manager, according to the Michigan Township Association. In Washtenaw County, there are 20 townships and only Scio Township has a manager, recently hired at $98,000 plus benefits.

Neither a cost-benefit analysis nor an assessment of Fink’s performance was done by the Board prior to the vote, despite numerous requests from the public.

In other news, the Board continued haggling about the $920,000 non—motorized path, a project that began in 2010.   It is now stalled because two homeowners are negotiating for higher easement payments than the Board will approve.

Trustee Tawn Beliger claimed the homeowners were “bullying the township” and Otto called it “extortion”, but other board members questioned why the easements hadn’t been locked up years ago.

A decision on how to deal with the impasse was postponed until the next board meeting.

Lastly, Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Tim Hardesty retired and will be replaced by long-time employee Dan Willis.


I sent emails to all Board members asking them two questions:

  1. Why did you vote either for or against hiring another township manager?  
  2. What impact did this have on your vote that a total of 61 emails were received, with 54 against and 7 in favor of a manager?

Links to their responses are below. Five of seven Board members replied. Trustees Jacki Otto and Wayne Dockett did not.