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MENOMINEE — After about 11 years in office, the Menominee County Treasurer has retired.

Diane Lesperance first ran for treasurer in 2008, having previously served as treasurer for Menominee Township.

It was Lesperance’s predecessor who first asked her to run for the office.

“I was approached by Linda Schneider who was retiring previously. She said ‘I will be retiring and I really think you should run for treasurer. You were township treasurer, you have your tax business, you know about the process and I think you should give it some thought,’” Lesperance said.

At first, Lesperance thought she wouldn’t be qualified for the office but after Schneider explained the duties of Menominee County Treasurer, Lesperance realized she could do it.

“I felt like I was capable of the job, so I decided to run for it,” she said. “I felt I was definitely qualified, so that’s why I decided to run,” she said.

Some of her qualifications included her previous experience as Menominee Township Treasurer, owning a tax business and being a Level 2 Assessor.

There are several aspects of being treasurer that Lesperance takes pride in. She said she felt that she accomplished several things, including making the office more efficient and she loved to work with taxpayers and help them understand the tax process.

“So many times they come in and they’re overwhelmed and they don’t know where to start on an issue they have, if can be finances or they’re just not sure how to file for different things. I really enjoy meeting with them one-on-one and at least getting them in the right direction,” she said. “So if we weren’t where they needed to be, we could send them where they needed.”

One way Lesperance helped Menominee County taxpayers is by helping homeowners keep their foreclosed property. She said there are a lot of misconceptions about the foreclosure process she wanted to address.

“I was actually able to help people keep their property by working with them,” she said. “People who were in jeopardy of losing their property, I worked with them and helped them find other avenues for them to go to for help with their taxes so they could keep their property.”

One service Lesperance helped taxpayers utilize is the “Step Forward” program, which is offered through the state. This program helps Michigan residents pay their taxes.

“The properties we did end up foreclosing on, I would say 99 percent of them are properties that no one wanted,” Lesperance said. “They wanted us to take them back and sell them so they wouldn’t have to worry about maintaining them anymore.”

She said a lot of these types of homes were passed onto new owners whose relatives had died. Often, the owners lived out of town or felt the property was too run down to be worth their own resources to fix up.

“By selling these properties, I was able to keep the whole process local,” Lesperance added. She said most counties use a business to sell properties, but Menominee County kept everything within the county and sold them locally.

Keeping the sales local helped prevent the property from getting foreclosed again. Lesperance said if the sales are not local, someone from out of state can purchase the property for a low price and not do anything with it and it would eventually be put through the foreclosure process again.

“This way, people locally bought the properties and I could work with them and make sure they had plans to fix it up and flip it, or rent it out or move into it themselves,” she said.

The Menominee County Treasurer’s Office also provided services to local veterans.

“If a veteran is 100 percent disabled or 100 percent unemployable from a service-related injury they can get their property taxes zeroed out, so they don’t have to pay any property taxes,” Lesperance said. “That came in while I was in office, so I worked to get the word out on it and helped veterans apply for the exemption.”

A point of pride of Lesperance’s is extending the treasurer’s office hours, which helps it provide services to taxpayers for a longer period of time each day. She was able to increase the hours of operation without increasing staff hours.

“I was able to keep the office staff to two-and-a-half employees but I was able to increase the hours of operation from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., so we opened earlier and I was able to do that without increasing their hours,” she said.

Lesperance’s last day as treasurer was Oct. 18. She chose to retire in October, rather than wait until her current term is over because she said the the timing is right.

“I thought this was a good time, the county right now is in a good place,” Lesperance said. “We have a good board of forward-looking commissioners, we have a great administrator and overall, I think all the departments are working together well. It is a really good working situation right now.”

The Menominee County Treasurer’s Office staff have worked with her since her first day in office and she had every confidence they would be capable of handling the job duties and helping the new treasurer acclimate herself to the position, Lesperance said.

There were a lot of reasons why Lesperance chose to retire now, but her family encouraged her when making the choice, she said.

“I just turned 70 this year and my family has encouraged me to start taking time to myself and enjoy myself.”

Lesperance wants to spend her retirement traveling and spending time with her family. She will continue to run her income tax business and a beauty shop in her home. 

“I think the area we live in is a great area, we have such a beautiful area where we are. The people that I’ve met over the 11 years and four years in the township, I’ve made so many friends and acquaintances, I’ve heard so many stories that have filled my heart with sometimes sadness, sometimes job but knowing that people are willing to come in and share their stories with us makes me feel like I’ve made so many friends in the years. I will never forget the friends I’ve made.”

On a parting note, Lesperance said she enjoyed her time as an elected official and she wishes she had gotten into politics at a younger age. She encourages young people to take an interest in local politics and become involved in government as soon as they can.

“I wish I had gotten involved earlier because through my 11 years with the county and four years with Menominee Township, I’ve learned just as much about government and it finds a place in your heart. You have a feeling that this is such a wonderful country to live and we need to do everything we can to protect our democracy. Had I done this as a younger age, at some point, I may have gone onto to run for state office because I feel that I have the knowledge of how government works and what changes are needed in the state government, especially on the tax side,” she said.

Lesperance said she wanted to thank Menominee County for putting its trust in her and she hopes she lived up to the expectations of her office.

The new Menominee County Treasurer, Barb Parrett, was introduced at the Oct. 22 county board meeting. She will hold the office until the end of what-would-have-been the end of Lesperance’s term on Dec. 31, 2020. After that time, if she wishes to continue holding the office, she must run for the position and be elected.