Kevin Camero-Sulak, candidate for Saline City Council, isn’t barnstorming around the community, promising big changes and reforms for the city.
Far from it.
Over coffee, during an interview at Carrigan Cafe, the husband and father of two speaks in measured tones, choosing words carefully as he talks about issues often stoke the passions of Saline residents.
Take the issue of growth. Camero-Sulak doesn’t proclaim to be pro-growth or anti-growth.
“I think growth needs to managed carefully and that a city needs to adhere to a master plan,” Camero-Sulak said. “We have a great lifestyle, with great schools, great parks and amenities. We need to preserve that.”
On city issues that have caused dissension among council, Camero-Sulak doesn’t wade into the drama.
“I think one thing we can do to avoid these issues is creating processes and checklists to track projects to help the city manage projects,” Camero-Sulak said.
There don’t seem to be any burning issues driving Camero-Sulak’s decision to run for council - just a desire to help.
“We love the City of Saline. There are so many positive things. I just want to help us improve,” Camero-Sulak said.
Camero-Sulak is one of four candidates running for council, along with incumbent Jack Ceo and Jim Dell’Orco and Brian Cassise. Saline voters will elect three members of council in the November election.
Camero-Sulak grew up in Trenton. He went to Eastern Michigan University to study finance, waiting tables and bartending to make ends meet. One of his last classes was real estate appraising.
“It was interesting. Because you’re going from studying stocks and bonds to something tangible. You’re getting out from behind the desk and getting out in the field,” Camero-Sulak said.
He obtained licenses to do residential and commercial appraising before landing a commercial appraising job for Comerica Bank in Detroit. When his job was downsized, he found work with a commercial and residential appraisal firm in Ann Arbor. About 19 years ago, he launched his own business and finished his MBA in entrepreneurial management. It was about then he moved to Saline.
He still does some appraising but works in lending review and quality control capacity for Amerifrst - a Kalamazoo based company.
Camero-Sulak and his wife bought the house in Saline because of its proximity to the elementary school and because it was a safe and quiet road. Plus, it was still close to his job and everything Ann Arbor had to offer. But he, he says, he truly didn’t realize everything Saline offered.
“It was fortuitous. The schools are great. The Celtic Festival is terrific. We love all the downtown concerts and events,” Camero-Sulak said.
It’s not just events. He’s made many friends children and helping manage elements of the youth soccer association.
“We found ourselves taken with Saline. We feel invested here,” Camero-Sulak said. “We want to retire here.”
He’d been mulling over a run for council for years. He knows many of the council members - like Dean Girbach, Janet Dillon and Heidi McClelland. He said between serving on the board of directors for Ann Arbor’s Tower Plaza, volunteering at Main Street, and pareningt his children, he just wasn’t sure he could commit the time. With his oldest child now in college, the time seemed right, he said.
Asked about why he was a good fit for council, Camero-Sulak he has the right approach and the right experience to help the city.
“I was seeing things that caused me to question how the council and how the city runs. I thought my skillset of commercial and residential appraisal and quality control would really be helpful,” Camero-Sulak said.
He knows the council and staff have had a rocky year. Camero-Sulak said he won’t shy away from asking tough questions of city staff. At the same time, he thinks council can ask those questions without discord.
“I think doing homework before the meetings is important. And when there are questions, they should be concise and to the point, and asked nicely - not in abrasive way,” he said.
There were a couple issues that Camero-Sulak touched on during the conversation. He said the city council needs to make sure the city staff is not stretched too thin. He is encouraged the city is adding staff after a recent organizational study.
“Not to sound negative to builders and developers, but that’s their profession. They’ve been doing it a long time and have a lot of knowledge. Even state governments often don’t have enough experience to match with builders and developers. It’s not always a level playing field. So we need a staff that’s not stretched too thin and that can go through the details very carefully,” Camero-Sulak said.
He talked about the need for processes, checklists and documentation to ensure the city’s interests are met. He also spoke about the need for improved park maintenance,
“I think there probably needs to be a better way to track the condition of things in the parks,” he said.
Affordable housing is another issue Camero-Sulak brings up. He said the city should keep this issue in mind whenever it negotiates with a developer - even if it’s just adding one or two less expensive units to a development.
“Whenever there’s a new development there may be smaller lots that don’t have the trees and that are closer to the front. What about a smaller home there? A ranch or something more affordable?” Camero-Sulak said.