Living in the OC: 53 years of service … and counting.

August 17, 2016
Long-time Grant Township Clerk Bill Wagner.

Long-time Grant Township Clerk Bill Wagner.

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‘Living in the OC’ is sponsored by Springstead Law Offices, with locations in Hart and Fremont, 231-873-4022 (Hart),

By Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

GRANT TOWNSHIP — Bill Wagner, 80, has been the township clerk since 1963, and he was recently re-elected to the position during the primary election earlier this month, beating out two Republican opponents.

With 53 years of service to the community he loves, Bill takes his job seriously. But he handles his duties with a sense of humor and a deep sense of care for the people he serves.

SpringsteadVertical_091015“I started as a young man with all the old timers,” Bill said. “Now, I’m an old man with all the young timers.”

“I enjoy talking to people and helping people,” he said. “I figure that’s what you’re here for.”

A 1953 graduate of Montague High School, Bill was drafted in 1959 during the Korean War. He served in the US Army for two years, with one year in Korea. “It was a 27-hour flight across the Pacific,” he recalled. Wagner gained the clerical skills he still uses to this day while serving his country. As a clerk typist, he was able to type 60 words per minute on a manual typewriter.

Bill, who never married or had children, worked as a farmer with his father, Herman, on 120 acres on their Grant Township farm where they raised chickens and other livestock, along with grain, corn and wheat. Bill continues to farm, but not as actively as he once did, he said.

“When I came out of the service in 1961, the clerk Raymond Wybenga asked me if I wanted run.” Bill, then age 27, decided to go for it, and he has never regretted that decision in the five-plus decades of his tenure.

Over the years, this “old timer” has seen many changes in local government. The township budget has grown from $6,000 to almost $600,000 in the last 50-plus years. Bill is extremely proud of the board’s success over the last several years to improve township roads. “There have been at least 35 miles of road improvements over the years,” he said. “We had some horrible roads.”

Bill is also proud of the township’s fire department, which is run by long-time chief Roland Brooks. Brooks, who has been the chief for 35 years, has been on the department for 52 years. “He’s extremely dedicated,” Bill said of his colleague.

The fire department and township offices are housed in a large facility on Oceana Drive that was constructed in 2000. Bill recalls when the department was once located in a small brick building on Winston Road. The building, which still stands, is located just east of the Wesco convenience store.

Amazingly, Bill is not the longest-serving township board member, locally. Shelby Township’s Bob Pochyla, who did not seek re-election in the primary, has served for 61 years, Bill said.

Born and raised in the Rothbury-area, Bill learned about community service from his father who served on the township board for 15 years and the school board for 28 years. Bill has also put in many hours as the township assessor, serving in that capacity from 1984-2014.

“We have wonderful people here,” Bill said. “I would never want to live anywhere else. This is a wonderful community.”