By Ed Jacques, LEJ Editor
Harry Valentine has learned a lot in his 27 years as a deputy with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department. Fortunately for Washtenaw County Deputies, 22 years of lessons came from being actively involved with his local union. When the local association switched from FOP to POAM in 1989, Valentine was recruited to serve on the lo- cal executive board as its Sergeant at Arms. After three years in that capacity, he inherited the presidency in 1992. “I received ‘hands-on training’ from our business agent, Ken Grabowski, that was invaluable,” said Valentine. “I was probably on the phone with Ken every other day ask- ing for his advice.” Valentine’s “teach me” philosophy served him well in those inaugural years as he became a loyal and effective union president. “I could always count on Harry to follow through on all of his local responsi- bilities while establishing a working relationship with the employer” stated Grabowski. “Union leaders that work in large sheriff’s departments like Washtenaw need to realize its many political motivations and Harry picked up on those right away.” Although Valentine has been president and assisted members through several critical incidents and discipline issues, he states that his biggest challenge has been main- taining road patrol throughout the County. Whether it be
threatened layoffs, or the County pricing some of its lo- cal townships out of the contracted police service, Valen- tine has stood tall and helped secure those jobs. “I will bring the same work ethic to the vice president’s position at POAM as I have established as president of the Washtenaw County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, and that is as a loyal employee on behalf of every member,” commented Valen- tine. “I tend to look at things in a long-term prospective and make improvements that will continue long after I’m gone.” Valentine replaces former Saginaw POA President Dan Kuhn in the vice president’s role. Kuhn vacated that po- sition after retiring from the Saginaw Police Department earlier this year. Kuhn served as POAM VP since 2002. He spent eight years on his local executive board, seven of them as its president, after being reinstated after an epic battle with the city’s administration. “I’ve always felt a strong sense of obligation to serve POAM after General Counsel Frank Guido won my job back many years ago” confessed Kuhn. “It has been a labor of love and I am now working directly under Jim Tignanelli, who has spent countless hours representing myself and many members of Saginaw POA.” From his home base in Saginaw Township, Kuhn rep- resents collective bargaining units as far north as Gladwin County, Genesee County to the south, Isabella County to the west, and Sanilac County to the east. Kuhn doesn’t mind the travel. “When you push a squad car around a city like Saginaw for 20 years, it’s kind of refreshing to get on the road and take in some of nature’s scenery along the way.” Kuhn added, “This job presents different challenges every day and I want to provide all POAM members under my watch the same protections that I received as a patrol- man in Saginaw.” POAM’s growth spurt has also created an opportunity for Thomas Funke, who has served on the POAM Execu- tive Board since 1996 and acted as the POAM secretary for the last four years. In late 2010, Funke retired after 25 years with the Livonia Police Department, the last nine years acting as its union president. While working in those capacities, Funke also worked part-time as a business agent representing over a dozen collective bargaining units. Af- ter retirement, Tom was removed from his secretary po- sition and assigned as a full-time business agent. Funke has picked up the majority of new groups joining POAM in 2011 and is close to carrying a full caseload. Funke earned the respect of everyone he worked with in Livonia, including the administration and the City’s poli- ticians. Tom always put his members’ interests first and earned a reputation as a tough, honest and approachable leader in the City. Funke turned down numerous opportu- nities to take promotional exams because he knew that an increase in rank would strip him of his responsibilities and passion for representing rank and file police officers. “I was happy for my good friend Wayne Beerbower when he retired from Farmington Hills PD and was offered a full-time job at POAM,” said Funke. “I’m thrilled that my hard work has created that same opportunity for me.” The secretary’s position at POAM has been filled by Southfield POA President Mark Zacks. Zacks has served on the POAM Executive Board since 2001 and has been his local union’s president since 1999. Zacks has established a reputation for being very ac- tive and outspoken when discussing important law enforce- ment issues at POAM Executive Board meetings. “That won’t change, but I now have to concentrate on logging the minutes and points of order during those meetings so I am in the process of honing my multi-tasking skills,” joked Zacks. “But seriously, Harry Valentine and I both agree that we have some pretty big shoes to fill, but we’re both up for the task.” Zacks also handles the responsibility of being a part- time business agent. His no-nonsense, “call it as he sees it” attitude in negotiations, employer meetings and union ac- tivities have been welcomed by all of the groups he services and in some cases, by employers. He has a reputation as a bulldog in communities like Bloomfield Hills and Linden, where he mobilized employees and citizens to storm local council meetings and saved police and dispatch jobs. POAM President Jim Tignanelli is relieved that his Ex- ecutive Board contains more than enough talent to fill po- sitions when they become available. “The POAM Board has a wealth of experience and I’m just as pleased that our tremendous growth has created some fresh blood in our or- ganization. Our goal is to provide the most comprehensive professional service to our members, and in the process we have created new opportunities for people that want to be part of the team,” bragged Tignanelli.