Brian Cassise hasn’t been here long. But after three years of residency, the 35-year-old bachelor says he’s found a lifelong home in Saline – perhaps a place to set down roots.
Cassise, an engineer at Toyota in York Township, is one of four candidates running for three chairs on Saline City Council this November. He’s joined on the ballot by incumbent Jack Ceo and candidates Jim Dell’Orco and Kevin Camero-Sulak.
In a lunchtime conversation at Carrigan Café last week, Cassise spoke of two motivations for running for Saline City Council.
“I’m not from Saline, so I don’t know a lot of people in town. I saw this as an opportunity to get involved, while helping to ensure that Saline stays the awesome place it is,” Cassise said. “And, I’d like to be more involved in the decisions that are made.”
Cassise grew up in White Lake Township and attended Walled Lake schools. He developed a passion for working on cars and went to Kettering University. In 2006, he began working at Toyota and was hired to work full-time. He began in Kentucky and learned his job was being transferred even further when he learned he could return to Michigan to work at the York Township facility. He looked at 32 homes in two days before finding his future home in The Arboretum subdivision.
“When I found the home, I knew it was where I wanted to be,” said Cassise.
It’s a nice, safe, well-kept town. It’s close to his work. But he saw more.
“It has a small-town feel, with strong family values,” Cassise said. “It’s a place where people know each other and the community can thrive, as a whole.”
Cassise wants to keep it that way. While he says he’s not anti-growth, he said city council needs to make sure developments aren’t about population density and maximum profits.
“It should be about what’s best for the community and the residents,” Cassise said.
When Cassise was asked about areas where Saline could improve, he pointed to a specific topic and a broad topic.
“I think we need better parking downtown. We have great events and restaurants. Oktoberfest is awesome. It’s easy for me to walk down here. But I think we need better parking so more people on the outskirts can enjoy what we have,” he said.
In a more broad sense, he thinks the city’s decision-making and communication with residents can be improved. He pointed to the 207 Monroe Street development as an example.
The Monroe Street development was the catalyst for fellow candidate Jim Dell’Orco. Like Dell’Orco, Cassise has experience “fighting city hall.”
After buying his home in 2016, Cassise was surprised by city’s tax assessment.
“It was too high. It was not worth more than I paid for it,” Cassise said.
He went to the city’s board of appeals. The next year, he went back to the board of appeals again. This time, he was granted some relief, but he wasn’t satisfied, so he took the city to the Michigan Tax Tribunal. As a result, the taxable value of his home was reduced by more than $15,000.
“Saline is a great place but some of the property taxes, relative to the surrounding areas, are skewed,” Cassise said.
Cassise said the dispute with the city wasn’t central to his decision to run for council.
“I would not say it was a motivator. But it did make me curious about how things are done,” Cassise said.
In fact, Cassise pulled a petition to run for office two years ago. He was told then that he didn’t meet the residency requirements, and that he should try again a year later. Last year, Cassise pulled the petition again. He garnered the needed 75 signatures and turned them into the clerk, only to learn that he was 13 days short of the residency requirement.
This year, there are no residency requirements standing in the way of Cassise’s candidacy. He’s looking forward to the November election.
“I’d be one of the best candidates. If I don’t know an answer, I’ll stay quiet and I’ll go find out the answer,” Cassise said. “I know I’ll do my best and, when I need to, I’ll stick my neck out and do what’s best for the city.”