Meet the Candidates: James Suhay Running Because 'I Believe in Libraries'
During the countdown to the Nov. 8 election, Patch will bring you profiles of candidates for the school board, library board and City Commission.
The Nov. 8 election is drawing closer every day, but what do you really know about those names on the ballot?
Patch will interview candidates for the Birmingham Board of Education, the Baldwin Public Library board and the Birmingham City Commission during the ramp-up to the election, bringing you the stories behind the names and the issues they think are important for Birmingham.
For the Baldwin Public Library board, four candidates are running for three open spots: incumbent David Underdown and challengers James Suhay, Robert Tera and Ruth Ploski. Current library board president Michael Earl and Ann Conigliaro, whose terms end this fall, do not intend to run for re-election.
The six-member Baldwin Public Library Board is responsible for controlling the expenditures of all library funds, adopting an annual budget, appointing directors and setting library policies. Board members serve four-year terms. Terms are staggered so that three positions are elected every two years.
The Oakland County League of Women Voters will hold a voters forum and meet-the-candidates night at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in the basement of Baldwin Public Library for those running for the library board.
Family: Jim has been married to his wife Barbara for 41 years. Together they have a 38-year-old daughter Liz and a 34-year-old daughter Amy, both of whom went through Birmingham Public Schools. The couple have lived in Birmingham for the past 33 years.
Occupation: Suhay, now retired, spent more than 30 years in automotive finance and management, primarily at Ford Motor Company. He is also a volunteer management consultant for several non-profits and teaches strategic management and corporate financial management at Oakland University. Before that, Suhay graduated from West Point and served five years in the Army in Vietnam.
Previous elected experience: Since retiring, Suhay has focused his time on community service and has been a volunteer consultant for several non-profits, including Baldwin Public Library, The Community House and the Race Relations Task Force. At Baldwin, Suhay has served on a citzen budget review committee, advised the board on investment strategy for the library trust, and assisted in developing the library's 2011-14 strategic plan.
Why are you running?
According to Suhay, he's running for the library board because he believes in libraries.
"I am a strong believer in the importance of libraries as sources of knowledge and learning and as community centers," he said. "As a passionate supporter of the library, I will work for building its excellence and innovation to better serve the needs of our community."
What would you bring to the library board?
After years spent working for both the city and the library, Suhay said he knows how the library works and knows what needs to be done to help it improve in coming years.
In addition, with more than 30 years spent in financial management, Suhay said his expertise will be critical going forward at Baldwin attempts to balance its budget and plans to stave off further staff reductions and cuts to operating hours.
"I will bring to the board an experienced voice in sound fiscal and strategic management," he said.
What issues are important to you?
Suhay has three priorities should he be elected to the library board. First, Baldwin's annual deficits have to be eliminated, he said.
"Continuing deficits is not a sustainable business model," he said.
To combat the deficit, Suhay plans on using his experience in cost control and business management to improve cost efficiency and make the most productive use of available resources — such as the library's recently-approved self-checkout stations and mechanized sorting system.
Second, Suhay said the library needs to understand and meet the needs of all age groups, whether that be Birmingham's senior community or its youth. "To do this, (the library) must remain on the cutting edge of technology and library science."
Finally, the library's building must be optmized to meet changing user needs, Suhay said. "With book checkout expected to decline, the library may need to be more of a community learning center with more meeting and study rooms, discussion groups and electronic services."