Michigan Townships Association

Educational Sessions

Our educational sessions are designed for township elected and appointed officials and your entire township team, from communities of all sizes, to enhance your knowledge, skills and effectiveness as a leader, regardless your level of experience. Topics address statutory duties, and a variety of concepts, trends and current issues in township government. Sessions that part of the Conference On-Demand package are denoted with a (session recording assistance provided by Shumaker Technology Group). Schedule is subject to change. Additional sessions will be added; watch MTA publications and website, and consult your program on-site for the final schedule.

Tuesday, April 23

Business Solution Sessions –                              11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

These sessions, presented by MTA Allied Service Providers, provide information about various aspects of products and services available to assist townships. 

What are the implications of Michigan’s new energy laws? Hear how Consumers Energy plans to work with their township partners and customers to achieve our clean energy goals while making sure our communities benefit. 

Speakers: Representatives from Consumers Energy

Get ready to test your township knowledge know-how in a face-off like never before! This fan-favorite session is back with an exciting game show twist, where two teams compete for ultimate bragging rights. You—the game show contestant—will have the chance to showcase your individual knowledge of township law and the opportunity to learn something new along the way. The game board is based on some of the most important questions township officials are asking. Can you answer before our team of expert attorneys weighs in with the answer? Visit fsbrlaw.com/mta to submit a township question for the chance to have it answered live during the show.

Speakers: Attorneys from Fahey Schultz

Get a practical perspective on some of the timely hot topics facing Michigan townships in 2024 including—but not limited to—marijuana, wind and solar energy, environmental issues, special assessments, zoning and land use, and compliance and changes to Michigan’s employment law. While anyone may attend, lunch is guaranteed only to the first 100 who RSVP to jleuvoy@fosterswift.com.

Speakers: Attorneys from Foster Swift

Partnering with the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, the Par Plan will provide details on how the Michigan Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission’s accreditation program can assist local law enforcement agencies improve accountability, transparency and insurability.

Speakers: Representatives from Michigan Township Participating Plan

Review how to utilize the provisions of Act 188 of 1954 to undertake certain public and private improvements, confirm a special assessment roll, address potential Michigan Tax Tribunal benefit challenges, and finance public improvements using special assessment bonds.

Speaker: Mark Nettleton, Attorney, Mika Meyers PLC

Hear from a seasoned local prosecutor about the role of a municipal code enforcement officer and prosecutor, and the benefits of having a strong code enforcement program in your township. Best practices for pre-ticket enforcement will also be covered, along with gathering evidence and how a case is prosecuted after a ticket is issued. Establishing and properly utilizing a municipal civil infraction violations bureau will also be discussed.

Speaker: Lisa Hamameh, Attorney, Rosati, Schultz, Joppich & Amtsbuechler, PC

Concurrent Educational Sessions –                      1 to 2:15 p.m.

Blight affects all townships, big and small, rural and urban. From overgrown weeds to dangerous structures, we’ll discuss ways your township can be proactive in the blight fight. Take away tools for your enforcement toolbox, including penalties for violations and tips for clean-up. Ensure that your township continues to be a beautiful place to live, work and play.

Speaker: Seth Koches, MTA Legal Counsel, Bauckham, Thall, Seeber, Kaufman & Koches, PC

Townships receive revenues from several sources. Some, like revenue sharing and allocated millage, are provided by law for township general operations. Others, like special assessments and fees, are options that township boards may consider using to cover specific costs. The township board makes important policy decisions about which revenue sources it will use, and board members should understand your options and the ways different revenues may—or may not—be used.

Speaker: MTA Staff Attorney Catherine Mullhaupt

We’ve all said something at a meeting, in an email or on Facebook that we wish we had said differently. Gain insights from an experienced municipal litigator on how such communications can negatively impact you and your township in litigation. Learn what you can do to reduce the risk of it coming back to bite you in court, how to handle the records, and some suggestions on how to avoid getting yourself into this situation in the first place.

Speaker: Michael Berger, Attorney, Rosati, Schultz, Joppich & Amtsbuechler, PC

The 2023 legislative session year was exceedingly busy with many changes—positive and negative—for township government. With the 102nd legislative session now more than halfway complete, learn the priorities for the balance of this year—from the governor and the Legislature to MTA, and those seeking to lessen local authority. What are the policy and budget issues in store? How has the change in power in the House and Senate impacted action at the state Capitol this session? How will this impact townships and the upcoming November 2024 elections? Discover the answers to these questions and more, including how they may impact your community and your residents. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn to navigate the issues and challenges of today’s political landscape, including how your experiences and voice can influence both current and emerging issues.

Speakers: MTA Government Relations Staff

Whether you’re considering restoration, renovation or a complete rebuild, you can’t afford to miss this session! Regardless of the scope of the project, the process is quite similar; the biggest difference is the zeros. Join us for an overview of typical project phases, structures and insights into the steps. We’ll review common challenges and offer tips for efficiency in your next project.

Speakers: Scott Reynolds, AIA, NCARB, Architect, Kojaian Management Corporation, and Planning Commissioner, Orion Charter Township (Oakland Co.)

Teams, decisions, projects and results get stuck when there is lack of trust in our working relations. Regardless of what caused the breakdown, as leaders we need to take accountability for fixing it, even when we feel others are not reciprocating. This session will focus on how to re-establish trust when board relationships are broken. We’ll address the need for psychological safety in the boardroom, as well as the three steps required in conflict resolution.

Speaker: Susan Radwan, Owner, Leading Edge Mentoring

The Michigan Office of Rural Prosperity (ORP) was created to facilitate state efforts to build long-term prosperity in our rural communities. One of six in the nation, the ORP strategically focuses on key rural priorities like housing, workforce, infrastructure and community capacity building. Learn more about the ORP’s initiatives to support rural communities, including implementation of the Roadmap to Rural Prosperity, which will be released in early 2024 following extensive statewide engagement with community leaders across rural Michigan.

Speaker: Sarah Lucas, Director, Michigan Office of Rural Prosperity, and local leaders from our rural communities.

This peer-to-peer panel picks up where expert discussion left off in last year’s briefing on road issues. Participants are encouraged to contribute by bringing your own experiences to share. Please remember that this discussion conveys the experience, advice and opinions of your fellow officials who may have handled similar situations in their own townships; it should not be construed as formal MTA or legal advice.

Moderated by MTA Executive Director Neil Sheridan; panelists to be announced.

It’s no secret, popular lake communities experience vacation rental impacts—noise complaints, increased boat traffic, septic system stress, absentee owners, loss of community, and pressures on the housing market. These trends make regulating vacation rentals a necessity. Learn how one township created a model shortterm rental certification program that continues to evolve and improve, and how the program resulted in some surprising community benefits that reach beyond simply controlling rentals.

Speakers: Christopher Patterson, Member, and Jacob Witte, Attorney, Fahey, Schultz Burzych Rhodes PLC; Clair Karner, AICP, Planner, East Bay Charter Township (Grand Traverse Co.); and Leslie Sickterman, AICP, Planner, Long Lake Township (Grand Traverse Co.)

Have you ever wondered if your board meetings comply with the Open Meetings Act? Well, wonder no longer! Join us as we review ways to ensure your meetings are in compliance and areas in the act where there is often confusion. Start attending, calling and posting your meetings with confidence.

Speaker: Michael Selden, MTA Director of Member Information Services

Drug testing rules have changed significantly since the legalization of marijuana in Michigan. Did you know the Michigan Department of Transportation approved an oral fluid test for marijuana? Or that Michigan’s Civil Service Commission now excludes testing for marijuana under certain circumstances? If you haven’t already considered reviewing and modifying your drug and alcohol testing policy, now is the time! Gain insights into all the recent changes and the impact on your township. We’ll also discuss the nuances of background checks.

Speakers: Mark Koerner, Attorney, Foster Swift

Concurrent Educational Sessions –                      2:45 to 4 p.m.


Delve into the realm of best practices and optimal utilization of BS&A software and get valuable insights for enhanced operational efficiency. You won’t want to miss this unique opportunity to engage in a dynamic panel discussion and gain firsthand knowledge and expertise. Explore the best strategies, get your questions answered by the experts, and elevate your understanding of governmental outsourcing and BS&A software.

Facilitator: Rod Taylor, Senior Manager, Government Consulting Group, Maner Costerisan

Speakers: Adam Frost, Manager, and Heather Farmer, Government Finance Specialist, Maner Costerisan; and Jason Hafner, Chief Customer Advocate, and Lauren Hirn, Manager, BS&A Software

Emergencies are unpredictable. They can happen to anyone, anywhere, at any time. Advanced prep and planning for how you’ll respond to the media frenzy is a must. And what you say is just critical as how you say it. We’ll offer insights into the realities of crises based on reallife experience and preparedness tips that help ensure you’re messaging the situation appropriately.

Speaker: Hayley Bierkle Burns, Partner, River Strategies

Cleaning up and reinvesting in “undevelopable” land creates many benefits for your community. It can increase your tax base, facilitate job growth and reduce blight while improving and protecting the environment. Get a review of the steps you can take and the friends you could make to assist you with cleaning up contaminated lands in your community.

Speakers: Marvin Radtke, MTA District 8 Director and Supervisor, Green Lake Township (Grand Traverse Co.); and Anne Jamieson-Urena, Director, Grand Traverse County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority

The Right to Farm Act (RTFA) and Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices (GAAMPs) seriously complicate your zoning ordinance and public nuisance prosecutions. It’s becoming increasingly more common for landowners to assert defenses under the RTFA in response to local ordinance enforcement action. Many times, their “defenses” try to justify activities that have nothing to do with farming. Learn what the RTFA protects, the scope of the GAAMPs and how they impact your ordinances. We’ll review common myths and misconceptions both landowners and townships may have regarding right to farm.

Speakers: William Fahey, Member, and Kyle O’Meara, Attorney, Fahey Schultz Burzych Rhodes PLC; and Kevin Beeson, MTA Treasurer and Supervisor, Pine River Township (Gratiot Co.)

Surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes, Michigan has 3,288 miles of coastline, more than 10,000 inland lakes, and over 35,000 miles of streams and rivers. This good fortune brings a variety of challenges for townships striving to ensure the safe and reasonable use of these water resources. From the misuse of “road ends” or dedicated shoreline areas to congestion or overcrowding of lakes and shorelines, join us for a review of options to lawfully address these challenges. We’ll explore funding for treatment of aquatic nuisances, special watercraft regulations and more.

Speaker: Ron Redick, Attorney, Mika Meyers PLC

Human trafficking and sextortion are second only to drug trafficking as the largest trans-national crime. Evidence shows that young men, women and children are being extorted and sold in every area of our state and throughout the world every day. This eye-opening session will demonstrate how to identify vulnerabilities, risk factors and warning signs that might be happening in your community. We’ll share underlying causes and effective strategies for prevention and response so your township can join the fight to help eradicate these awful crimes.

Speaker: Terrie Godde, EMS Continuing and Specialty Education Coordinator, Division of EMS and Systems of Care, Bureau of Emergency Preparedness, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

In today’s world, there are so many ways to provide and receive information. As a result, we are constantly inundated with news, current events and other data. Information overload is a real phenomenon that can render us unable to make decisions. Managing information, and the many ways it spills into our lives, (radio, television, print media, websites, email and mobile apps) becomes critical. Join us as we explore options and best practices for connecting with those you serve, based on the type of information you wish to share.

Speaker: Judy Bigney, MTA Member Information Services Liaison

Are you looking for ways to turn down the heat in your township meetings or public hearings? Are controversial, emotionally charged meetings keeping you from holding productive discussions? Learn steps you can take and policies you can make to better manage rising tempers and temperatures so you can get your township team back on track during meetings.

Speaker: Seth Koches, MTA Legal Counsel, Bauckham, Thall, Seeber, Kaufman & Koches, PC


Is a millage election in your township’s future? As townships grow and revenue sources become more limited, an understanding of voted millages can help township officials finance much-needed programs and services. We’ll discuss whether to use a new millage or a renewal, mandated elements of a millage ballot question, tips for scheduling millage questions, and how far a township board can go to promote a ballot question.

Speaker: MTA Staff Attorney Catherine Mullhaupt


Threats to the health and safety of your community comes in all shapes and sizes. Listen in as panelists review current challenges and opportunities impacting your township’s public safety team. Please remember that this discussion conveys the experience, advice and opinions of your fellow officials who may have handled similar situations in their own townships; it should not be construed as formal MTA or legal advice.

Moderated by MTA Executive Director Neil Sheridan; panelists to be announced.

There is no “i” in team, but you’ll find more than one “c.” Confused? We’re talking about clarity in roles and vision, contribution based on strengths and weakness, commitment to what matters (and why!), and conflict resolution that allows every team member to voice their concerns. Come to this session for clarity on how you can collaborate with your team on these constructive and critical components of teams.

Speaker: Nancy Ohle, President, Professional Training & Development Resources


Wednesday, April 24

Plenary Sessions –                                              10:15 to 11:30 a.m.

Hear directly from the Secretary of State’s office and state Bureau of Elections on the hot issues in Michigan elections. We’ll share guidance and updates on the changes and new requirements brought about by Proposal 2022-2 and its implementation statutes, early voting lessons learned from the presidential primary, and more.

Speaker: Kristi Dougan, Manager, Training and Elections Assistance, Michigan Bureau of Elections, Michigan Department of State


Expanding on his keynote address, Paul Epstein will unpack his transformative team building strategies to help you cultivate grit and resilience in your own community. He’ll provide a blueprint for building an environment that maximizes belonging and contribution to inspire service and impact. You’ll identify new ways of confidently approaching team turbulence that will foster a willingness to come together, make better decisions faster, set aside misunderstandings, and manage issues with vision and unity.

Speaker: MTA 2024 Conference Keynoter Paul Epstein


You won’t want to miss this review of the renewable energy legislation, update on where we are now and what’s on the horizon. Learn how this new legislation sets statewide land use standards for wind, solar and battery storage facilities and what’s next with local siting. We’ll offer insights into the various options available to your township, the impact on your township’s ordinances as well as the ability to address public safety and infrastructure considerations.

Speakers: Rob Thall and Catherine Kaufman, MTA Legal Counsel, Bauckham, Thall, Seeber, Kaufman & Koches, PC

Concurrent Educational Sessions –                      1 to 2:15 p.m.

Roads are a vital component of our society because we depend on them to move goods and people across the nation. There are over four million miles of public roads in the U.S. While roads can appear basic, there is more than meets the eye with this massive infrastructure network. Learn the science of how roads deteriorate and how to stop or slow down this deterioration, and tools that can help you develop a strategy for working with your road commission on the local roads in your township.

Speaker: Tim Colling, Ph.D., PE, Director, Center for Technology & Training, Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering Department, Michigan Technological University

Would you characterize your township hall as a positive work environment? Now more than ever, creating and maintaining a dynamic and diverse workplace is just as important to the success of your township as effectively managing that team. If you’re not fostering a positive environment, you’re not even in the game, and you run the risk of losing good people whom you’ve already invested in! Gain insights into the factors that influence satisfaction and productivity, as well as conflict resolution strategies to bridge departmental gaps and encourage collaboration. We’ll even outline the unique values and communication styles of today’s multi-generation workforce.

Speakers: Mary Gladston-Highland, Founder, and Christina Wichert, Principal Consultant, Spark Group Consulting

When there’s a hot topic on the ballot— perhaps a millage increase or a marijuana ordinance—townships and their elected officials can find themselves unsure of what they can lawfully say or do. Can the township respond to incorrect campaign statements? Can township board members advocate for a certain vote during public meetings? This session is a deep dive into the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, specifically Section 57. We will address how public resources can (and cannot) be used in connection with campaigns, what policy making officials can say, and how townships can minimize the risk of campaign finance complaints.

Speaker: Laura Genovich, Attorney, Foster Swift


There is increasing interest from emergency responders to carry a firearm while on duty. In some cases, the practice occurs without the knowledge of elected officials. This discussion targets the toughest questions, including: Does a conceal carry permit entitle personnel to carry a firearm? Should personnel be permitted to carry a firearm? What about the Second Amendment? What are the pros and cons of allowing the practice? What is the liability exposure? Find out the answers in this topical discussion.

Speaker: Pat Nelson, Risk Control Representative, Michigan Township Participating Plan, and former Fire Chief

It’s been nearly a “nickel” since Michigan legalized recreational marijuana. Townships varied in their regulatory approach as consumers did with their demands. How has cannabis shaped your community? Are you considering changing your approach to regulation or administration? Join us as we outline the proper way to roll with the changes.

Speaker: Catherine Kaufman, MTA Legal Counsel, Bauckham, Thall, Seeber, Kaufman & Koches, PC

Learn the ins and outs of how townships may lawfully borrow money under Michigan’s strict municipal finance laws … and how to keep your township out of trouble! How can your township borrow money for equipment (police cars, fire trucks, water meters) or capital improvements (water, sewer, town hall, fire station)? What about short-term cash flow needs—can you borrow for that? Can your local bank help with borrowing needs? Do you need state Treasury approval before you borrow? Get the answers to these questions and more in this enlightening municipal finance presentation.

Speaker: Steve Mann, Attorney, Miller Canfield

Delve into how technology has changed litigation, particularly with the advent of social media and cell phones. Join us as we explore common pitfalls to avoid and offer insights into how these issues commonly play out in formal lawsuits. Take a thought-provoking journey through the digital age’s legal complexities and learn how to navigate them successfully.

Speaker: Thomas Beindit, Attorney, Rosati, Schultz, Joppich & Amtsbuechler, PC

Your Township is at Risk! Cybersecurity risks remain a threat to communities across the state. Get an update on the state’s efforts and learn how your township can participate in the State and Local Cybersecurity Grant Program. We’ll help you identify the next steps in reducing cybersecurity risk and securing your township’s information systems and assets.

Speakers: Michelle McClish, Senior Security Consultant, Michigan Cyber Partners, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Protection, Michigan Department of Management, Technology & Budget; and Brandon Smith, Cybersecurity Intelligence Analyst, Cyber Section, Michigan Cyber Command Center, Michigan State Police

Learn about the proposed 2024 Policy Platform from a panel of MTA directors who serve on the MTA Legislative Policy Platform Committee. Committee chairs will discuss the proposed changes and receive feedback from members attending. This session allows delegates to learn the rationale behind the proposed changes as well as get questions addressed prior to the Annual Meeting, where the proposed policy platform will be formally introduced.

Speakers: Members of the MTA Board of Directors and MTA Government Relations Staff

Do you know what the roles and responsibilities of the clerk or treasurer are? How about what reports each office is responsible for? What’s important about the way the clerk and treasurer interact on a regular basis? This session will provide a fun, interactive format where laws, best practices and myths will be discussed. Come test your knowledge!

Speakers: Cindy Dodge and Judy Bigney, MTA Member Information Services Liaisons

Is your township prepared for a Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) inspection? Did you know that fines can be significant? Get a review of MIOSHA laws, rules, regulations and fines, including insights into assessing your township’s current safety programs and policies. You’ll walk away with tips and tools that will help keep your township out of the danger zone, including a MIOSHA inspection checklist.

Speaker: Lawrence Kosmalski, Principal, Archangel  Safety

Concurrent Educational Sessions –                        2:45 to 4 p.m.

How can your township be prepared for another onslaught of requests for voting records? This session is a boot camp on what is—and is not—a public record subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), focused on the surge of recent election-related FOIA requests.

Speaker: Laura Genovich, Attorney, Foster Swift

Typical township leadership teams are made up of hard-working, honorable, conscientious people with a genuine intent to serve. However, municipal leaders across the nation are reporting a growing need to figure out how to work together in respectful and productive ways to achieve results for the communities they serve. Identify team development strategies, detours to avoid dysfunction pitfalls, and techniques for working together to avoid and/or manage “that guy” who appears to have a need to intentionally disrupt, usually for self-serving reasons. Understand the stages of development all teams experience and actions that need to be taken in each to stay focused on collaborative results.

Speaker: Marilynn Semonick, Chief Exploration Officer, The Success Studio

Don’t miss this peer-to-peer discussion of challenges and opportunities facing full-service townships. Participants are encouraged to contribute by bringing your own questions (or ideas!) to share with the panelists. Please remember that this discussion conveys the experience, advice and opinions of your fellow officials who may have handled similar situations in their own townships; it should not be construed as formal MTA or legal advice.

Moderated by MTA Executive Director Neil Sheridan; panelists to be announced.

Looking for a fresh take on your community engagement efforts? Struggling to determine what really matters most to your residents? Some residents don’t know they live in a township, much less that your volunteer needs exist. And some officials get used to simply holding public meetings when they want input from their residents. Stepping out from behind the lectern and sitting down with residents builds relationships and can take your engagement further than a town hall meeting ever could. Hear how one township’s innovative method resulted in excellent feedback and several new local government advocates.

Speaker: Gordon Gallagher, Manager, Spring Lake Township (Ottawa Co.)

Strategic planning provides communities with a road map for long-term success and sustainability. The budget process is the tool that enables the prioritization of limited resources, allocates and allows informed decisions based on data and analysis. This session will tie these critical processes together to help your achieve long-term success.

Speaker: Rod Taylor, Senior Manager, Government Consulting Group, Maner Costerisan

Water infrastructure is critical to your community’s households and businesses and the pressure is building on municipalities to provide and upgrade it. But how do you determine what you need or when you’ll need it? We can help! Immerse yourself into this discussion to learn more about improving and upgrading this critical community infrastructure, including a brief review of current sources of state financing and funding flowing in from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Speaker: Mickey Bittner, PE, Regional Director, Wightman

Lawsuits can be intimidating, especially when you’re unfamiliar with the procedures. Join this session for a comprehensive introduction to the litigation process, from understanding the fundamental terminology to navigating the path toward case resolution. Don’t miss the opportunity to gain essential knowledge as a municipal officer, enabling you to confront legal challenges with confidence.

Speaker: Heather Sumner, Attorney, Rosati, Schultz, Joppich & Amtsbuechler, PC



Immerse yourself in a wealth of knowledge as industry thought leaders explore the intricacies of property tax collection. Gain invaluable insights into best practices, enhancing transparency and streamlining processes during this dynamic panel discussion. You won’t want to miss this  opportunity to engage with the experts and elevate your understanding of property tax collection practices.

Speakers: Heather Farmer, Government Finance Specialist, and Angie Stoneham, Associate, Maner Costerisan; Courtney Nicholls, Finance Director, Delta Charter Township (Eaton Co.); and Molly Crorey, Deputy Treasurer, St. Clair County



In an age of oversharing on social media and fiery political disagreements, townships are under more pressure than ever to monitor what’s being said online and take action when it presents their township in a bad light. Navigating these complicated and often frustrating issues can land even seasoned township officials into hot water. Join us for a discussion about free speech, and get tips for managing your township’s website and social media, including how the public and your township team engage.

Speakers: Helen “Lizzie” Mills, Member, and Chad P. Karsten, Attorney, Fahey Schultz Burzych Rhodes PLC


As a township official, your community depends on you to weigh in on traffic safety issues, and your local perspective is critical. Learn the factors that influence speed limits and resulting crash outcomes. We’ll review Michigan’s 2023 Hands-Free Law, including what constitutes a violation. Walk away with tips on how your community can become a traffic safety partner to help combat increasing accident rates.

Speaker: Sandra Enness, Statewide Diverse Populations Traffic Safety Outreach Coordinator, Office of Highway Safety Planning, Michigan State Police