City of Saline residents will elect three council members in the Nov. 7 election. Unfortunately for voters who prefer choices on their ballots, there are only three candidates.
Incumbents Linda TerHaar, Jack Ceo and Heidi McClelland are each seeking re-election.
Although the election is uncontested, The Saline Post asked each of the candidates to submit answers to several questions. They were kind enough to provide answers, and they follow below.
We hope you’ll use their answers and follow these issues over the coming months.
Meet The Candidates
Family: Husband, Bruce Westlake; stepchildren and their spouses; grandchildren
Career: (retired) Librarian, Shapiro Undergraduate Library, U of Michigan
Volunteer: Board Member and Book Shop Committee Chair with the Friends of the Saline District Library, Board Member with the Saline-Lindenberg Freundschaftsverein, Financial Secretary for Northside Presbyterian Church (Ann Arbor)
Relevant Government Experience: Council Member for nearly 7 years, including nearly 3 years as Mayor Pro Tem; various City of Saline commissions, committees and task forces; City of Saline representative on the Washtenaw Urban County Executive Committee.
John (Jack) Ceo, Jr.
Family: Married to Pam. We have two grown children, John, III, and his wife Crystal and their two sons, Jack and Ryan; and Christina, and her husband, Andrew.
Career: Retired after 26 years with Ann Arbor Police, 12 + years with Saline Police, and 5 years with the Washtenaw County Public Safety Radio System.
Volunteer: Coached with Saline Area Youth Baseball; am the Chair of the Saline-Lindenberg Sister City committee; was on the Finance/Administration Commission at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church; have served on the Arboretum neighborhood condominium Board; and, I am on the Ellenwood Landing Yacht Club Board.
Relevant Government Experience: Served in the US Army for 3 years; I have served in two police municipal police departments for a total of almost 38 years; I was on the Saline School District Board of Education for 7 years; I have served on the Saline Planning Commission for a number of years; and, I have completed two years as a Saline City Councilmember.
Family: Husband Scott, 3 children Quinn, Avery, and Kaleigh
Career: Photographer at Heidi McClelland Photography
Volunteer: Christ Our King Lutheran Church, Saline Area Schools, Foundation for Saline Area Schools, ChadTough Foundation, Various other community groups.
Relevant Government Experience: Saline City Council Member for the last 2 year, Serve on the Parks and Recreation Commission, Youth Council, Arts and Culture Commission, Member of the Saline Main Street Design Team and Community Foundation Task Force Workgroup Vice Chair..
Why are you seeking election?
Linda TerHaar: Service as a City of Saline Council Member is one of the ways I believe I can contribute effectively to the community. As a 22-year resident with nearly 7 years of experience as a Council Member, I believe I am able to provide useful, sensible, and principled perspectives to the work of keeping our community a superb, welcoming place for everyone.
Jack Ceo: For the same reason I first sought this office successfully two years ago – I believe that my experience and reasonable approach to problem solving will continue to make a positive contribution to the Saline community.
Heidi McClelland: I believe the key to a successful City and Community is volunteerism and participation in the process of government. I have enjoyed serving the citizens of Saline as Councilmember for the last two years and look forward to being able to continue to serve in this capacity. I am ready to serve and represent my fellow citizens and neighbors.
Taxes vs Infrastructure
The city faces substantial infrastructure needs. At the same time, Saline’s municipal taxation rate is creeping higher and higher. Do you envision supporting a tax increase to meet those infrastructure needs?
Linda TerHaar: Infrastructure can be funded in a variety of ways, and there are many factors to consider. It’s a complicated picture. I prefer to have Council look at all the possibilities and choose the most efficient, effective one(s). City staff and our advisors have done very well in the past assembling and presenting various options for us. I’m confident they will continue to do so. The city’s property tax rate has not been increased since 2013 and I would support an increase only if there were no better alternatives.
Jack Ceo: Residents want and expect many things from government – clean, fresh air; safe, efficient roadways; proper police and fire protection; sufficient parking in the business areas; well-maintained parks, and recreation spaces – the list goes on. All these things come at a cost. When the roof blows off the Rec Center, do we close it? When the roads wear out we are expected to repair them. When the air smells foul, and the source is our Waste Water Plant, we are expected to deal with it, and eliminate the odors. Thus far, the City’s excellent staff has brought us a balanced budget without a tax increase by effectively matching the existing resources against the needs. If in the future, those needs become too great to be met with existing resources, some form of revenue increase would be necessary.
Heidi McCelland: It would depend on the circumstances at hand, but I think it is paramount to maintain as low a tax rate as possible while still providing the quality of service that residents expect. We have responsibility to make sure that roads are maintained, safety standards are met and City services are available to all of our residents. Will a taxation rate increase be necessary at some point to maintain the quality of services that our residents expect? Perhaps, but such decisions would come only after thoughtful analysis of the needs of our residents.
Transparency and Openness
Transparent, open government is considered an important ideal in democratic government. Council has passed an ethics policy encourages confidentiality in government affairs and an electronic policy that some council members believe quashes civic engagement. What steps can council take to ensure open, transparent government?
Linda TerHaar: Balancing transparency and requirements for confidentiality in some circumstances is a challenge. On balance, I think Council and staff do pretty well with it. I am not one of the members who interpret the electronics policy as quashing civic engagement. I do not at all understand it to inhibit my ability to reach out to community members for input on city matters, and I will continue to do that.
Jack Ceo: There are laws that protect some of the information that City Council must deal with occasionally. The ethics policy and the electronic media policy that we have recently adopted ensure, in part, that we do not run afoul of those privacy concerns. In my view, there is nothing in either policy that would restrict the public’s access to information that should be available for transparent government activities.
Heidi McClelland: Transparent government is definitely critical in a democratic government. I as an individual councilmember I will continue to be as transparent and open to talking and informing residents at an individual level as I was prior to the policy that was put in place. I am but one of the whole though and I see this policy as only limiting how I can speak for the City as a whole. I am not the City as a whole, but a representative. Confidentiality is also critical to certain areas of government and it is no question that the law in those matters must be followed. I see this policy as enforcing only what is already under the law. If I am at the grocery store or speaking on social media my transparency and confidentiality about city business should be the same. I will continue to engage with residents and the press with my opinions and ideas as an individual councilmember and maintain confidence when the law calls for it.
City Growth and Expansion
The City of Saline Master Plan calls for growth of the city’s borders. What do you think of expanding the city’s borders? How should the city proceed?
Linda TerHaar: Any consideration of growth, whether it is by expansion of the city’s borders or by infill, has to begin with evaluation of our ability to provide city services. If the city isn’t able to provide services, it should not expand until service capacity is available. Recognizing that change is not always popular, I do think it is in the city’s best interests to continue to be open to considering careful, responsible growth in housing and in commerce.
Jack Ceo: Do I support growth of the City? Yes, I do, in most circumstances. If a project does not seem to be in the City’s best interest, I would not support it. A recent example is the denial of the annexation of the Andelina Farms project. Without the City providing essential utility services, it was not something I could support. Generally, though, I believe that if the City does not accept reasonable growth, it is doomed to decline.
Infill question, and neighborhood concerns: People become very accustomed to the peace and serenity that the vacant property near their homes affords them. They are understandably disturbed when a change comes. That is human nature. Council is governed by laws and ordinances that dictate how a potential developer must proceed when building a project. If they meet those laws, Council has no choice but to approve the project. Otherwise, it would be deemed a “taking” of the rights of the property owner. I do believe in asking potential developers to work with neighborhood concerns, and where possible, amend their plans to take those concerns into consideration.
Heidi McClelland: We need to make sure that we can provide the same quality of service for new residents as we do for the existing. I think when it is wise and makes financial sense to expand the city's borders we should do so. There will always be differing opinions on infill and more or less commerce. I think looking at issues with all residents and services in mind and researching the pros and cons by bringing all parties to the table is key to making good decisions on growth. Quality of life for all citizens though should be paramount to any decisions made in this regard.
Downtown Parking has been an issue with merchants for years. Some say parking will reach a crisis when Smokehouse 52 opens its doors. How can the city get in front of this issue?
Linda TerHaar: Parking is an issue for which nearly everyone thinks they have the perfect answer; the answers can be wildly different. In my opinion, the city will probably never reach a state where there aren’t complaints and dissatisfaction about parking. I am pleased with staff’s efforts now to expand downtown parking capacity by working with owners of non-city lots, and by increasing on-street spaces. I continue to think that the city would benefit from expert analysis of present and future downtown parking needs.
Jack Ceo: Council addressed this very issue at last night’s Council meeting. We have been engaged in on-going conversation on the issue since Saline Main Street made a presentation on the topic about 2 months ago. Last night we rescinded a number of old traffic control orders that limited parking on McKay and Henry, freeing up more space for parking. The City Manager has also been in talks with several churches in the business district to see about utilizing their lots during weekdays. By seeking cooperative partnerships with people/institutions that own existing parking areas, we hope to increase parking availability. The City Manager is also going to talk to our engineering firm to see if they would update the parking study they did in 2002, to check if there are any changes in what they had then recommended. We are working to try proactively, and, at least cost, to increase the parking inventory in our downtown area.
Heidi McClelland: I think the city staff is already being proactive on this by looking at the Saline Main Street studies and considering another study to research what best practices are in this matter. I don’t think there will be a perfect solution but I think it is critical that we are able to provide parking for downtown businesses, to maintain a healthy commercial center for residents to find services, goods, and entertainment downtown.