Editor’s note: This story has been updated to note that Tonya Burns, one of the original group who filed by the deadline, was found not to have the 600 valid signatures required. See below for further detail.
By Paul Rozycki
Flint’s first mayoral election under its new charter got off to a robust start as four candidates filed to run for mayor this year. They are Incumbent Mayor Karen Weaver, Greg Eason, Sheldon Neeley, and Don Pfeiffer.
The filing deadline was 4 p.m. Tuesday April 23, and several of the candidates filed their petitions with the city clerk just before the final hour.
Candidates had until 4 p.m. on Friday April 26 to have their petitions verified or withdraw. Though Sixth Ward resident Tonya Burns, president and CEO of Global Security Protection alarm company, turned in her petitions just ahead of the deadline on Tuesday, with the intent of running, she failed to have the required 600 valid signatures.
All three challengers – Eason, Neeley and Pfeiffer — have run for mayor before.
Incumbent Mayor Karen Weaver was the first to announce her run for reelection. Several weeks ago she kicked off her campaign with a rally at Vernon Chapel A.M.E. Church. The first woman to be Flint’s mayor, Weaver was first elected in 2015, when she defeated Mayor Dayne Walling, in what some consider an upset election. She later survived a recall attempt in Nov. 2017, outpolling 17 challengers, after a controversy over trash hauling contracts. She has raised more than $250,000 for her reelection campaign. As part of her campaign she has highlighted her attempts to bring national attention to the Flint water crisis, by working with state and national officials and inviting celebrities to the city to speak about the water crisis. She also saw the end to Flint’s oversight by the Receivership Transition Advisory Board (RTAB) in 2018.
Greg Eason served as city administrator for the City of Flint for more than two years during the Walling administration, and is currently senior consultant for Visions Unlimited Consulting. He has also been president and CEO of the Center for Progressive Learning, Center for Banking Education and Jobs Central. He ran for mayor in 2009.
Sheldon Neeley, who served on the Flint City Council representing the Sixth Ward for nine years, and is currently a member of the state House of Representatives from the 34th District, filed his petitions more than a week ago. He is considered by many to be Weaver’s major opponent. Neeley is in his third term in the state House, and is term-limited. He served as chair of the Black Caucus in the legislature. He introduced legislation that provided for the Flint Promise, a program to create a tuition-free college program for Flint students and the Good Job Skills Package, which he said played a role in Lear Corporation coming to Flint. In earlier years, he served as union president of his broadcast engineer’s local at ABC-12, and worked for 10 years as a community school counselor. He has run for mayor before, losing in the primary in 2007. He has said that restructuring city hall is most important to deliver the needed services to the people of Flint and restore trust in the city government.
Don Pfeiffer, who has run several times for mayor in past years, also filed his signatures within the last half hour before the deadline. He ran for mayor in 2011 and 2017, and was candidate for the state House in 2013. He has worked in the past with the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union) and currently is the owner of the technology consulting company. He also joined the effort to rebuild the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. As part of his campaign he said, “I have seen firsthand what true devastation is; we are not even close to that, if New Orleans can come back from Katrina stronger than ever, we too can fix our local issues.”On his website he said, “The city has declined during this administration more so than the last. The roads, blight, lack of new business, water prices, and poisoned water are still major issues.”
The top two candidates in the Aug. 6 primary will advance to the general election Nov. 5. Because of the transition to the new charter, the person elected will serve only a three-year term, until 2022, though there have been attempts to modify the charter. After that time, as required by the city charter, the mayor will be elected every four years, at the same time as the governor.
EVM Staff Writer and political columnist Paul Rozycki can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.