Albion, Michigan News | August 22, 2020 | Albion, MI
• Question 1: How long have you resided in Albion?
• Question 2: What is your favorite place in Albion?
I have several favorite places in Albion – each one for different reasons. When I need to contemplate a key decision, meditate or relieve stress, I go to our city parks where the river runs through. My favorites are Rieger Park, Barnes Park and McClure Park. When I’m seeking spiritual guidance or simply recharging my soul, I turn to several of our local churches – St James Episcopal, First Baptist and St Paul’s Lutheran. When I want to have a cup of coffee, conversation and relax with friends and neighbors, I head to Stirling Books and Brew. I’m fortunate to have four lovable, loyal and likeable pug dogs (Angus, Winston, Henry & Helen). Our favorite place is Albion’s Dog Park.
Question 3: Why are you running for re-election?
My record is one of results and a willingness to tackle tough challenges and lead to move Albion forward. We cannot settle for “Good enough” if we want to improve Albion. Being mayor is a full-time job which demands being available and responsive to the public pretty much 24 X 7. I am retired and available to respond to residents ’ inquiries and questions every day at all hours. Albion is in the midst of many changes and many evolving challenges. Our future depends on having strong leadership that will set challenging goals and push hard for our city to achieve those goals. Because many of our local organizations are in a state of change, it is important to maintain some continuity – consistency. The full economic impact from COVID-19 has yet to be determined. But going forward, relationships at the local, county, state and federal level will be even more critical to successfully compete for resources.
Question 4: What made you want to run for mayor initially?
I initially ran for mayor because I was asked to do so by several people and many, many of us in Albion recognized in 2018 changing leadership was essential for the future of Albion. However, no one else was willing to step up & take on the challenges and, quite frankly, put up with the abuse and personal attacks. I ran because I care about Albion, am willing to persevere and believe we each need to be the change we want to happen in order to move Albion forward.
Question 5: In what ways do you want to see Albion grow as a community?
I am committed to Albion literally growing – increasing our resident population; expanding economically through more small businesses in Albion’s downtown and along Austin Avenue, Eaton Street, and Michigan Avenue, as well as competing for mid-sized and larger employers to locate here in the greater Albion area; improving Albion’s appeal as a destination location by promoting our recreation opportunities with the trail system & Kalamazoo River, improving our parks and increasing public art. For the latter, we need to find innovative ways to support and promote our local arts, culture, and music.
Question 6: What goals will you seek to accomplish if re-elected?
-Establish – implement the City Task Force to Identify and Eliminate Systemic Racism. I have asked Haley Snyder, our Acting City Manager, to represent the City of Albion on that Task Force.
-Completing the review and analysis of racial equity within our city hiring and promotion practices which I initiated months ago, is but one example of the committee’s scope of effort.
- Sustain local food distributions for our community. The transition of the Food Hub causes uncertainty in food security which is a critical community health need. I have reached out to numerous organizations to find a solution to sustain our food distribution capabilities for Albion. I will continue to work for solutions until the uncertainty is gone and the future of the service is secure.
- Establish – implement the City Task Force to Identify and Eliminate Systemic Racism. I have
asked Haley Snyder, our Acting City Manager, to represent the City of Albion on that Task Force.
- Establishing a comprehensive infrastructure renewal & sustainment plan for city streets, sidewalks, utility infrastructure, signage and facilities has been near the top of my priorities since joining the city council in Dec. 2018. Plan development began in 2019 and should be completed by the City in the first quarter of next year. During my tenure as mayor, we have completed a PASER assessment of all city streets, inspected all local bridges, initiated efforts to assess removal of various city dams, established a plan for bringing our sidewalks into ADA compliance at all intersections, and are working hard to find funding solutions to repair the Albion Street Bridge. We will continue to improve our streets just as we have on Irwin Ave, North Street, and Austin Ave. I am particularly proud of initiating and leading efforts for refurbishment of N. Clark St this year in addition to leading council st nd rd efforts to identify and designate specific funding for refurbishment of 1 , 2 , 3 , Hartwell & Wilde Streets next year. Without identifying specific funding and locking it in, anything else would just be a political promise.
- Identify development projects for the old Dalrymple School site in Precinct 3 and the Union Steel site in Precinct 4 are goals for the next couple of years. Guiding our council in finding realistic solutions to accomplish big projects demands effective leadership. Holding bake sales to raise $250,000.00 just isn’t realistic. But by working with the County Treasurer and County Landbank officials, we were able to get Union Steel demolished during my first term as Mayor.
- Establish a “North Albion Gateway”
- Develop and implement an updated 5-Year Master Parks and Recreation Plan to improve city parks and establish vibrant city recreation programming which supports ALL of the community including youth, adult and seniors; sports, dance and theater, chess, bicycling, aerobics and much more.
- Continue increasing access to health care in our community. We have come a long way increasing access during my first term with the opening of Oaklawn’s Extended Care Facility, Senior Care Partners -PACE Facility, Oaklawn Physical Rehabilitation Facility, Grace Health Dental Services, and COVID-19 Testing. More opportunities are emerging. I am building ever stronger partnerships with the Albion Health Care Alliance and Summit Point Mental Health Services. I am working with AHCA in their efforts to improve eye care services, particularly for seniors. I am delighted that Henry Ford Allegiance is actively seeking to further expand health care services in Albion as well.
- Establish a COVID-19 Memorial to remember our family members, friends and neighbors who perish from COVID-19.
- Construction of a minimum of one new housing development; currently there are three solid housing projects in early exploratory planning stages.
Months ago, I took the first steps to establish the “
barriers that disadvantaged youth face, particularly young men of color. I am committed to see full implementation of MBK in the months and years ahead.
Corridor Improvement Authority (CIA) to facilitate capital improvements and promote economic development along the Austin Avenue – Eaton Street commercial districts.
- Establish an Albion Junior Achievement program to inspire and prepare our young people to succeed in a changing economy. We must develop future entrepreneurs from within our community.
- Increase local support for and increase public celebration of successes at Harrington Elementary and the Opportunity High School. Our community must step up and embrace these schools, support them and our students who go there. Their success demands it.
Question 7: How will you reach out to voters?
Whether residents are voters or among those who choose not to vote, my primary method of reaching the community is being in the community, being involved in local organizations and events that support our community and producing actual results for the community. I have asked the local organizers of Community Unity to create a community newsletter. I will continue to submit editorials to the local newspapers and will resurrect the concept of Community Planning Councils which LaTonya Rufus terminated. The best way to reach constituents is by being available, engaged, and responsive to their needs.
• Question 8: What type of civic activities in Albion do you participate in?
I deliver Meals on Wheels each month; organize and oversee Albion’s Community Unity Community Service Day each September; host Saturday community suppers at St James Episcopal Church twice each year, volunteer for Food Hub Distributions & organize Senior Supplemental Food Distributions; volunteer at annual Charitable Union school clothing distributions; participate in Harrington Elementary and Opportunity High School events; contribute resources and volunteer for fund raising events with Kids N Stuff Museum, Albion Friends of Animals, Albion Men Who Give and Albion Historic Society Gardner House Museum; set out and return 4 trash containers weekly and perform winter snow removal for the ISMON HOUSE where I sit on the board of directors; participate in the annual Juneteenth Celebration, donate resources and participate in collection and distribution of back to school supplies; remove snow on the North side of West Erie St from Superior Street to Clinton Street to ensure public has pedestrian access to Parks Drug Store; Dunk Tank volunteer for Back the Blue and other community events; participate-support multiple other community events such as Darrington’s Gift (Darrington Lovelace Foundation) dinner, NAACP membership events, and more.
• Question 9: How will you expand your involvement in the community?
Promoting Community Partnerships with local civic organizations and businesses to maintain our parks and enhance recreation opportunities which improve our community’s quality of life.
Continue expanding collaboration with the Albion Ministerial Association and individual local churches to provide alternative youth recreation and academic learning centers. During my first term I sponsored a series of billboard displays publicly recognizing and thanking some of our local organizations for their substantial service and contributions to Albion; Women’s Philanthropic Organization, Oaklawn Medical, Citizens to Beautify Albion and others. I will continue to seek out opportunities to recognize and celebrate the successes of our organizations and individuals in our community. Expand our community’s Juneteenth Celebrations each year.
Question10: What did you learn from your first term in office as Mayor of Albion?
I’ve learned that if you want to do it right, being mayor is a full-time job. To serve the community you must actually be involved in the community. There are approximately 8500 people who live in Albion – many for their whole lives. But being involved in the community and living in the community are not the same;
WHAT you do is more important than where you live or how long you have lived there. Mayors must seek out partnerships both inside and beyond the city limits. Partnerships will not come to those who wait – and effective mayors must work hard to strengthen those partnerships on a regular basis. Every day brings new opportunities and challenges which often pivot on existing relationships. You need to research issues and invest the prep time BEFORE council meetings. People’s concerns don’t take holidays. Constituents are as varied and as different as you can imagine. You can’t please everyone and there will always be a small handful of vocal critics who will find fault and disagree with anything and everything you say or do. But thankfully the vast majority are people who truly do want what is best for all of Albion.