By Paul Rozycki
Saying “We need leaders that show a genuine dedication to the public, whether or not it is easy or convenient for them,” John Cherry became the third Democrat to declare his candidacy to replace term-limited Phil Phelps in Michigan’s 49th state House district. On a snowy Saturday morning, he greeted a crowd of several dozen supporters at the Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 370 with his formal announcement.
Though he hails from a well-known Genesee County political family, his entrance into politics didn’t come without some trepidation.
Cherry told a story of the time that he and his fiancé, Teresa, were visiting Peru, her native country, and found themselves in the midst of an anti-corruption demonstration — in a nation where corruption is common. After watching the demonstration, Teresa said she hated all politicians, that they were all corrupt and only concerned about themselves. Cherry paused and said “Honey, you know that I have a lot of politicians in my family, right?” Her response was, “I know, and you don’t know how lucky you are that I like you!”
They are now married, and Cherry said that he will have to be certain he meets her high expectations of public service.
Phelps, the current 49th district representative, introduced Cherry at the event and endorsed him for the position.
In his announcement, Cherry outlined the key elements of his campaign—a prosperous middle class, stronger communities, support for families and a healthy state. In his brief presentation he said he would work for more jobs and educational opportunities to support a middle class families, would work to direct more state funds to local communities and schools, support programs to aid families caring for both children and elders, and work for a healthier state by cleaning up contaminated industrial sites and working for dependable clean water for all communities.
However, the overriding theme of his announcement was the importance of public service. He cited Dale Kildee as a model and said that Kildee, “often described the role of government and public servants as the protection of the dignity and integrity of each individual. He was right.”
He said, “Right now we have too many leaders who are too concerned about petty games, their future career, or their personal image, and not focused on genuine public service and getting the job done for the citizens they represent.”
His political roots run deep. John Cherry is the son of State Representative Pam Faris and Lt. Gov. John Cherry Jr. Genesee County Treasurer Deb Cherry is his aunt. Though he had been involved in political campaigns from his earliest days, he attended the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and earned a degree in natural resources, reflecting his interest in the outdoors and the environment. However, politics would lead him to earn a master’s degree in public policy from the U of M as well.
After graduating and moving back to Flint, he took a position with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and held several positions there. He is currently the department’s performance management coordinator.
After he married Teresa Villacorta in 2012, they started the Flint Coffee Company, which imports coffee from Teresa’s Peruvian parents. The two roast the coffee beans locally and sell it to local Flint groceries, cafes and restaurants, as well as on their website.
When the voters of Flint decided to revise their city charter in 2014, Cherry ran for the Flint Charter Commission and was elected in 2015, emerging as the top vote getter. He served as vice-chair of the commission and frequently met with the media and public to explain the new charter. The charter was approved by a 2-1 margin and took effect at the start of 2018.
The 49th district includes the East Court Area and the southwestern part of the City of Flint, the cities of Swartz Creek, Flushing and Mount Morris, as well as Flint and Mount Morris Townships. The largest number of voters in the district are in Flint and Mt. Morris townships. The district is strongly Democratic, typically giving Democrats about 65 percent of the vote. The primary election is Aug. 7 and winner of the primary will advance to the general election on Nov. 6.
The other Democratic candidates who have filed for the seat are former Flint Mayor Dayne Walling, and community activist Lashaya Darisaw. East Village Magazine has offered, or will offer, coverage to all the candidates of both parties who file for the race. The filing deadline in April 24.
EVM political writer and commentator Paul Rozycki can be reached at email@example.com.