I was raised by Civil Rights activists in central New Jersey during the 60’s and 70’s. My father completed his law degree by attending night school when I was four years old. My father then became the only Democratic attorney in the county bar association in a county that consistently voted 90% or more Republican. Despite this, he was successful because he represented the working class people in our county. Later in his career he was a municipal judge. I often sat in his court room after school, working on my home work and listening to the proceedings in his court. After court was over, I asked endless questions of my father that he patiently answered. I learned a lot about our society in that court room and from my father.
Our parents bestowed the principles of doing what is right for the greater good even when it was difficult. My father’s father was a union organizer and helped organize US Steel Works in Joliet, Illinois in the 1920’s in the teeth of the Pinkertons and their vicious attack dogs. Then, when I was 8 years old my eldest sister sued our local school board under Title IX, because the football coach refused to allow the girls’ softball team access to the fields to practice for the State Championship. Here we are on the 50th anniversary of Title IX, which paved the way to give girls access to equal opportunities, especially in sports.
My formative years left an indelible mark on me and the way I live my life. I have spent decades advancing women in their careers. In the organization I have been head of for 34 years, women consist of half of our executive positions and many of these women are pioneers in their areas of expertise. I am also proud of recruiting our former State Senator Alma Wheeler Smith to join our board years ago when she left office. This remarkable woman has been Chair of our board for many years!
When I moved to Washtenaw County 28 years ago I worked to meet the various community leaders to learn what the local communities needed. What I discovered was that red lining in Ypsilanti and some surrounding areas was a major problem and I worked with our team to eliminate that problem. I partnered with the Ministers Alliance and Washtenaw Home Buyers, a nonprofit and we created a home ownership and home mentorship training program that put 100 families in homes as first time home-buyers, with down-payments as low as 3% and credit scores as low as 460, and 100% of those mortgages paid in full!
Along the way I also worked with the Ministers Alliance to create a nonprofit 501c3 that received grants to provide literacy programs for children and adults and after school enrichment programs for children.
Home ownership is the path forward for inter-generational wealth creation. When your friends and neighbors discuss affordable housing what they are really saying is that they want an affordable home they can own. Preferably in a safe neighborhood where they can raise a family. By owning your own home you create stability for your family and your future. So I have been writing the federal government for years and meeting with elected and appointed officials trying to encourage them to fund the HUD 234d Multi-family loan for home ownership. Housing developments are a lovely concept and we need more housing here in Washtenaw County, but home ownership is what we should be striving to provide the community.
Over twenty years ago, in addition to my day job, I used to be the head of the economic development agency for the northern half of Michigan, from Bay City to Manistee north, including all of the Upper Peninsula.
That entity, Northern Michigan Business & Industrial Development Company, was a public private partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), which put up $3 million or nearly half of the risk capital. With $6.5 million of risk capital, we leveraged a total of $274 million of investment into a total of 27 firms and created 800 base economic jobs. The investors did well! Some of the profits were donated to a second fund in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business Development Division, and that non-profit created another 200 base economic jobs. So $6.5 million of risk-capital created 1,000 base economic jobs. Each base economic job generally creates 2 additional jobs in the region, so $6.5 million created a total of 3,000 jobs, plus or minus, or about $2,166 per job created. These were permanent jobs, not temporary jobs. It was all verified to the MEDC with IRS payroll filings and audited financials for each of the investee entities. We materially lowered the unemployment rate of the area we were trying to help and totally transformed some cities where we made major investments, like Cheboygan (where the unemployment rate dropped from 21% to 7% because of a successful project we backed) and Menominee (where we increased the city’s taxable property base by 40% because of a single project we backed).
What I am hearing from the constituents is that they want elected officials who can solve problems not create problems. Our elected officials need to be fiscally responsible. Municipal services should be efficient and reliable.
I ascribe to the philosophy of Servant Leadership. Taking that approach has afforded me the opportunity to work with an incredible and dynamic team of individuals in our organization. With them we have achieved great success! That success in the private sector has afforded me the opportunity to run for Washtenaw County Commissioner for District 2! Thanks to the support of my wife and children I have been out in the community for three months knocking on thousands of doors to find out what you the voter is thinking. I am interested in learning about your experiences with county government and hope that I can earn your vote on or before August 2nd.