Mills Township supervisor named officer of the year
By Julie Williamson
For the second year in a row, a Mills Township leader has been named officer of the year.
Township Supervisor Daniel Bloom recently was recognized as Township Officer of the Year by the Midland County Township Officers Association.
In 2006, Mills Township Clerk Maxine M. Brink was recognized as Midland County Township Official of the Year.
Bloom said he learned of the award Dec. 6 at the MCTOA 45th annual Christmas banquet, where he was given a plaque to remember the occasion.
"I was completely surprised. It was one of those experiences where someone starts reading your list of accomplishments and you slouch lower and lower in your chair," he said, laughing.
Joking aside, Bloom's accomplishments are many.
"Anytime anyone recognizes you for outstanding duty you feel honored and humbled at the same time. You read about all the negative things in the paper ... but for the most part there are good things being done. The government bodies are doing things for the good of the people."
Bloom was a trustee in 1999 when then-Mills Township Supervisor Walt Witty was tragically killed. After Witty's death, Bloom was appointed supervisor and has remained in the position ever since.
"He taught me how to get things done," Bloom said of Witty. "He taught me valuable things about obtaining grants, the budgeting process and state laws. When I accepted the plaque the first thing I said was, 'I learned from the best.'"
Mills Treasurer Sara Pitch was one of those who nominated Bloom for the honor.
"He's just a really strong leader. Every meeting, every event goes smoothly. He's very professional and very courteous," she said. "He always responds, he follows through with e-mails and letters. He's grateful. He makes sure to thank everyone for their input."
Blooms major accomplishments as supervisor include the completion of a one-mile walking track in Mills Township Park; overseeing the purchase of a new fire truck for the township last year; and helping to make the North Midland Family Center $4.3 million project a reality.
Perhaps Bloom's largest accomplishment was making headway on the water project, which had been in the works for four to five years.
"We put in 18 miles of water line, working with the City of Midland and Larkin Township to obtain water feeds for Mills Township," he said.
Although some residents were opposed at first, the majority now seem happy with the water, Bloom said.
"When you get into issues such as water some people hold things very close to their heart and are opinionated about it. Some adamantly want water, some adamantly don't want it. I have had no complaints about it. In the winter people aren't hooking up because of freezing. We still have another feed line that is going to be put in from Larkin Township," he said.
According to Bloom, a 2008 goal is to bring high-speed Internet service to Mills Township. Although Mills Elementary School has a high-speed connection, most of the township is on dialup.
"There is good and bad with communications and the Internet, but I have to believe most people use technology for good," he said.
He also recently finished a five-year recreation plan to get grants from the Department of Natural Resources, and plans to construct a splash park for children in the Mills Township Park are in their infancy. He hopes to make headway on that park in 2008.
A lifelong resident of Mills Township, Bloom always has been interested in local government.
"A lot of times you can sit and complain about things. However, you can take the opportunity to do things and make a change. You never want to forget who you are representing," he said.
In addition to his duties as township supervisor, Bloom has worked for The Dow Chemical Co. for 31 years as a master electrician.
Despite his busy schedule, he and his wife still find time to ride motorcycles and snowmobiles and spend time with their grandchildren.
"I like helping people. I really do enjoy it. You're only one vote on the board. You have got to have a good board to get things done," he said.
Gerri Gray 'wonderful' regular at Mills Senior Center
By Kris Winterton
Gerri Gray cares about the Mills Senior Center and about the people who gather there. They are her friends and neighbors.
"Gerri is wonderful," said Senior Center Coordinator Pam Hutchins. "She does everything and anything. She's the president of the advisory board for seniors here, and she brings needs to the attention of the staff. She helps with parties -- she and others help with the food."
"I'm usually at the center five days a week," Gray said. "I go there around 10 o'clock and play cards before lunch. A puzzle is set up, and anyone who comes in can work on it. I love to quilt, crochet and knit. A woman who wanted to learn to quilt was referred to me, and I'm helping her. Every Thursday several of us work on quilts."
Gray helps with lunch preparations, doing tasks such as wrapping silverware. After lunch she helps clean up.
Spending time at the Mills Senior Center has helped her through some tough times, Gray said. "I enjoy the seniors very much," she said. "It gets me up and out of the house. We have a good time. People there are very friendly. The main objective is to keep in touch, to get together. We think about everyone if they're not there."
The Mills Senior Center is one of six meal sites for Midland County Senior Services. Some people who are interested in going to the center for lunch might not have transportation. Gray has been making sure such people have rides. She either goes and picks people up herself or arranges for someone else to do so.
In 1998 Gray retired from MidMichigan Medical Center, where she served as a ward clerk. She was employed at the medical center for 30 years.
"My parents were ill at the time," she said, "and I was spending a lot of time with them. My husband was ill, too." Gray and her late husband, Jerry, frequented the senior center together, enjoying meals and activities there.
"We went to the big dinners," Gray said. "These people are all neighbors. We grew up here."
A large family keeps Gray's life interesting -- three daughters, one son, seven grandchildren and a 3-month-old great-grandson. Three of her children live in Midland County. Hobbies she has enjoyed through the years include raising Leader Dogs, being a 4-H leader, teaching Sunday school and many years of volunteering with the Midland County Fair.
Every year during fair week Gray can be found working in the exhibit office.
And then there's Red Hat Society. She participates with an active group that does lots of activities centering on music. The women join other Red Hat groups for musical events in Frankenmuth, and they frequently attend local concerts.
"It's mostly Mills people (in our Red Hat group)," she said. "It's a fun group. Ethel Fath is our queen mom."
As for the senior center, Gray said working with Hutchins is great. "We put in suggestions for things we're interested in doing, and Pam arranges it," she said. "We've done crafts -- made bird houses and had a woman come and teach us (techniques) for painting on things."
By the time Gray goes home on weekdays, usually around 1:30, she has enjoyed socializing, sharing a meal with friends and helping other people be a part of that experience. She hopes even more people will come to the senior center and take advantage of what it has to offer.