2016-12-29 / Front Page

3 Look Ahead

Escalated roles for three public officials
By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff


SUSAN OCH is already hard at work in her position as Leland Township supervisor. A resident since 1989, Och has also been a casino dealer for 25 years and is president of the Lake Leelanau Community Association, a title she’ll hold until February. SUSAN OCH is already hard at work in her position as Leland Township supervisor. A resident since 1989, Och has also been a casino dealer for 25 years and is president of the Lake Leelanau Community Association, a title she’ll hold until February. Susan Och’s first brush with local government was at the age of 13, when her father organized workshops with urban planners in an effort to prevent demolition of historic brick storefronts in her hometown of Lockport, N.Y.

They lost the fight. The downtown buildings were destroyed, but Och learned a valuable lesson.

“You don’t always win, but it’s worth it to build community,” she said.

Och is bringing her lifetime of community service, as well as her love of Leland Township to her new position as supervisor.

Och gets things done quietly.

She gave up a trustee seat when she ran for the same position four years ago, losing to Cal Little. Even so, she remained involved in government, serving on the Parks and Recreation Commission.

She was the impetus in getting life rings, rescue boards, life jackets and signs telling people what to do if they’re caught in a rip current at eight township beaches. She also presented information this past summer on beach safety at conferences in Grand Haven and Cleveland, Ohio.

She has also continued to work on an assessment of township streetlights, something she started as a trustee. At that time she figured out the township was being charged for streetlights that didn’t even exist. Her work led to a Consumer’s Energy refund to the township of $7,920.

Now she’s figuring out the best way to transition the lights from hi-pressure sodium to LED, which would in the long run save money.

“I can’t drive through a township without looking up at the lights,” Och said.

She says it’s important not to waste energy or money.

“You don’t get the spend the same money twice,” she says.

Och has also been busy doing an assessment of all of the township’s sidewalks, some of which she says have heaved to “skateboard-ramp levels,” keeping an eye on the water level in Provemont Pond and figuring out a way to slow down traffic as it goes through Lake Leelanau on M-204.

But Och says it’s not her agenda that’s important.

“Local government at its highest form is being responsive to what people want,” Och said. “It’s helping people make the kind of community they want to live in.”

After meeting in Hawaii, Och and her husband Richard moved to Leelanau County in 1989. She had visited here as a child, but it was located halfway between Minnesota, where he grew up, and her native New York.

“And it’s a nice place to raise your kids,” she said.

The couple has three adult children, the youngest of which is in college.

Och says she doesn’t see herself as a mover and shaker.

“I’m more subtle than that,” she said, likening government work to housekeeping.

“It’s not glamorous,” she said. “It needs to run smoothly and economically. And you have to keep the citizens engaged.”

People can also channel their disappointment in the national presidential election into work at the local level, where they may find they can have more of an effect.

“This really impacts your day-to-day life.”

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