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Cover Story

We Just Got Elected! Now What?

 

By Matt Bachelected

They have a variety of backgrounds—a newspaper editor seeking a career change, an administrative assistant in the auto industry, a law student, a funeral director, and a pediatrician—just to name a few.

But they all have something in common. They are the new faces of local government in Michigan. There’s a famous line at the end of the movie, “The Candidate” starring Robert Redford. The film focuses on Redford’s character running for U.S. Senate and at the end (spoiler alert) he wins and Redford’s character asks his campaign advisers “What do we do now?”

That’s exactly how Jeremy Moss felt after being elected November 8 to the Southfield City Council at the young age of 25.

 “It was kind of like the dog who chases the car and then what does he do when he catches the car,” said Moss, who works for the Michigan House of Representatives. “Even just being involved in city hall, at least I know the key players, I know a lot of personalities at city hall, I know the issues just from having lived in the city all my life. I don’t feel that much at a disadvantage, but it’s a different perspective that I’m being exposed to.”

It’s not unusual for candidates to spend so much focus and time on the campaign and running that they’re not really sure what to do or how to start once elected.

Fortunately, in Michigan, local government officials—newly elected and experienced leaders—aren’t in this alone. They have the Michigan Municipal League to help learn all the ins and outs to being elected officials. The League offers resources and training on everything from the parliamentary procedures to running a meeting to understanding budgetary issues. For the latest League training sessions go to mml.org.

Dave Fredrick, clerk for the city of Yale, was among a group of recently elected/appointed officials to attend a series of newly elected officials (NEO) training offered by the League throughout the state.

Fredrick is editor of the Huron County View newspaper and has more than 25 years experience in journalism. He’s been to countless government meetings as a journalist, but attended a NEO training in Marlette November 15 because he knew he still had much to learn about being an elected official. “I’m very open to learning new things,” Fredrick explained. “A city clerk’s role is obviously very different than the role of a journalist.”

Teri Nusz never imagined she’d get involved in local politics. But the mother of three and administrative assistant in the auto industry found herself attending more and more council meetings in Akron—a small village in the Thumb of about 400 people. At first she had concerns about a local property project then she started asking about more things. Finally she was asked by fellow residents to run and she did and she won.

Moss of Southfield said becoming the city’s youngest councilmember required a lot of campaigning and door knocking, but he dreamed of getting into politics since age five, at least that’s what his grandmother told a local newspaper following his election.

“I’m excited,” Moss said. “There are a lot of challenges ahead but I bring a very different perspective than those who are on the council right now. I’m the youngest by far—I’m 25 and our oldest councilmember is 91—the oldest councilmember in the state of Michigan. We have the oldest and the youngest and every age in between.”elected2

Stacy Krause is a third-year law student at Thomas Cooley Law School and was newly elected to Portland City Council. A Portland native, Krause has always been interested in serving her community and has served on local non-profit boards and was on the city planning commission.

“Portland is a vibrant community,” Krause said. “We like to offer our residents as many things that contribute to quality of life without it being a tax burden. That’s why our Cool Cities designation and our Main Street program does a really, really good job in seeking out grant money.”

Krause, who has a teenage daughter and two teenage stepsons, also saw the value in showing her children the importance of being civically engaged. She even used election night as an educational opportunity.

“My daughter went up with me to watch the election results come in at city hall. I thought it might be a nice civic opportunity for her to see local politics in action. When I saw that I got enough votes, first I was standing next to the mayor so he hugs me, but then next thing I know, I just get grabbed by my daughter and she’s says ‘Congratulations mom!’ She was so excited. I thought for a teenager to be that excited to see that process is very exciting.”

Like Krause, many of those recently elected or appointed to their local city or village boards did so out of love for their communities.

Jeff Domenico, a life-long resident of Battle Creek, got elected to the city commission by ousting a three-time incumbent. It’s his first time in the political arena.

“I’ve always been very passionate about the city,” said Domenico, a mid-level manager for Denso Manufacturing Michigan. “There’s so much going on right now, we got a big downtown renovation with private funding—$85 million. They are doing so many good things and I just want to be a part of it and get involved. It’s just very, very exciting  to me.”

Denise Lawrence, a legal secretary, also ran out of love for her West Branch community and sought election on a platform of change.

“I wanted to make some changes and I wanted the residents of the city to have a voice, and I’m that voice. I’m hoping to bring a woman’s perspective. It’s been a man’s board for a long time and now there’s a girl in the clubhouse.”

Matt Bach is communications director for the League. You may reach him at 734-669-6317 or mbach@mml.org.

 

 

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