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Michigan Municipal League

Press Release


Matt Bach
Director of Communications
Michigan Municipal League
(734) 669-6317; C: (810) 874-1073;


Michigan Municipal League Foundation Announces Scholarship Recipients

John Barr Leadership Education Scholarship Provides Opportunities to Elected and Appointed Municipal Officials

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Michigan Municipal League Foundation is pleased to announce the recipients of the John Barr Leadership Education Scholarship.The scholarship covers up to $1,000 each for municipal managers and elected officials to get training to help their communities.

The recipients are:

  • Joe LaRussa, newly elected to the Farmington City Council

  • Aaron Stephens, newly elected to the East Lansing City Council

“I intend to soak it all up,” said LaRussa, who plans to attend the League’s Convention in Grand Rapids this September.

Working in what he called a “mature community,” he said, means he plans to attend sessions that focus on redevelopment, reinvention and placemaking. It’s an opportunity he couldn’t otherwise take advantage of because of the current economic climate.

“Now, more than ever, donors’ contributions are definitely making a difference,” LaRussa said. “So many municipalities are struggling with finances. Training and professional development are some of the things that could get delayed or cancelled because of financial troubles.”

Stephens was 21 and in college when he applied for the scholarship. Hehas since graduated and works in communications for a political organization, but welcomes the chance to attend the League’s Newly Elected Officials Academy Weekender program, where he’ll learn about financial management, leadership skills, legal issues, and planning and zoning.

“We definitely need more young people in local government, getting involved in their communities,” Stephens said. “I am still constantly learning about my city and what it means to be on the City Council. This training will be essential to doing my job effectively.”

The John Barr Leadership Education Scholarship was established in March 2017 with a generous $10,000 investment from MML Foundation Board Member and Ypsilanti City Attorney John Barr. The scholarship was created from his vision to provide local elected and appointed officials the knowledge and skills they need to lead and govern their communities. Matching donations from MML members, Foundation board members and DTE Energy matched an additional $10,000.

“Training and education are a large part of the key to good government,” Barr said. “The MML and affiliates offer wonderful opportunities for both training and education. My hope is that this scholarship initiative will encourage more public officials to increase their knowledge and understanding of the best practices of local government.”

Five yearly, one-time scholarships of up to $1,000 for nonpartisan training of local elected or appointed officials will be awarded. The training must have a leadership component and practical application to the individual’s role as a public official in municipal government.

“Communities can’t afford to offer professional development or leadership training,” MML Foundation President Gisgie Dávila Gendreau said. “Our donors’ generosity means we can help make communities better.”

Applications for the next round of scholarships will be accepted through Nov. 30, 2018. For more information, including an application form, visit and click on the John Barr Leadership Education Scholarship.

The Michigan Municipal League Foundation helps create and maintain vibrant communities in Michigan by funding placemaking projects and educating community leaders and advocates. We recognize that communities are economic drivers, so the Foundation plays a key role in connecting communities to opportunities to help them grow and thrive

For additional information, contact the League’s Matt Bach, director of communications, at (810) 874-1073 (cell); (734) 669-6317 (office) and

About the League: Michigan Municipal League is dedicated to making Michigan’s communities better by thoughtfully innovating programs, energetically connecting ideas and people, actively serving members with resources and services, and passionately inspiring positive change for Michigan’s greatest centers of potential: its communities. The League advocates on behalf of its member communities in Lansing, Washington, D.C., and the courts; provides educational opportunities for elected and appointed municipal officials; and assists municipal leaders in administering services to their communities through League programs and services. Learn more at




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