By Tom Travis
For the first time in Flint’s history, the city council is majority female. Of the six female councilpersons four are serving for the first time: Ladel Lewis (Ward 2) Judy Priestley (Ward 4), Tonya Burns (Ward 6) and Allie Herkenroder (Ward 7) joining re-elected Councilpersons Jerri Winfrey-Carter (Ward 5) and Eva Worthing (Ward 9).
Quincy Murphy (Ward 3) and Dennis Pfeiffer (Ward 8) join the currently longest-serving councilperson Eric Mays (Ward 1).
Low voter turnout elects a new city council
With most wards reporting below 10 per cent voter turn out, the city council begins another five-year term. The number of votes cast in the city council election last week was 6,551. There are 75,552 registered voters in the City of Flint, according to Genesee County Elections records.
Council’s first meeting cancelled after County Clerk Gleason says the swearing-in was “invalid”
However, the new council unexpectedly, it turns out, will have to wait to begin their work. In a late Monday afternoon press release, the City Clerk’s office announced that Monday evening’s initial council meeting was cancelled.
Genesee County Clerk John Gleason told a local TV news agency this afternoon today’s swearing-in ceremony was “invalid” because the results have not been certified. The Genesee County Clerk’s office will not certify the results of last Tuesday’s election until Wednesday of this week, Gleason said.
Gleason asserts that the swearing-in ceremony will need to be conducted again after the county has certified the election. The new council was supposed to meet for their first meeting this evening, hours after the swearing-in ceremony.
Judge Guinn leads oath of office
Judge David Guinn (67th District Court) led the oath of office as all nine councilpersons stood with their right hand raised and recited the oath.
A crowd of about 150 gathered in the third floor council chambers for the ceremony. Former City Council President, Attorney Carl Bekofske, was the master of ceremonies and introduced area dignitaries and local state and federal level politicians, some of whom spoke at the ceremony.
Singer Breana Anderson, 27, sang a rousing and reflective Star Spangled Banner. Anderson sang with her vocal coach Glen Holcomb of The Flint Institute of Arts.
Speaking to the newly and re-elected female councilpersons, Cleora Magee, past chairperson of the 2017 Flint Charter Revision Commission, said, “Ladies, our young women will be looking upon you as role models and you have this great opportunity to demonstrate how ethical services to the community is rendered.
“Gentlemen, we also need your undivided leadership to help shape our young men by providing positive governance and direction,” she added.
In her comments, Deb Cherry, Genesee County treasurer and past county commissioner, state representative and state senator, offered advice to the audience and new council members: “A true leader unites people, they do not divide, does not find fault but finds remedies, does not sow hate but cultivates love. I wish that for all of you.”
Local pastor Rev. Alfred Harris of Saints of God Church and President of the Concerned Pastors for Social Action prayed the invocation. In his prayer he recalled the poignant question of the late Martin Luther King Jr. “What are you doing for others?” Rev. Harris prayed that the new council members would reflect on that question as they serve.
Rep. Kildee offers advice and encouragement
U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee said, “Sometimes the choices we make, at any level of government, are by definition imperfect. And very often we can only measure the quality of the decisions we make not by whether or not they completely solve a problem but if those choices allow us to make progress.”
Kildee, mentioning the recent $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed last week by congress said, “Much of the focus of that bill was borne out of experience, not just cities like Flint, but much of what we put into that infrastructure bill is borne out of the painful experience our community has gone through. What happened here….was a warning to the rest of the country.”
Other area dignitaries were present
Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson, Mayor Sheldon Neeley, City of Flint Chief of Police Terrence Green, Deputy Fire Chief Carrie Edwards-Clemons, State Senator Jim Ananich, and some of the Genesee County Commissioners and former City Council members including Monica Galloway (Ward 7), who was defeated by Allie Herkenroder, and Santino Guerra (Ward 3), who chose not to run again and was replaced by Quincy Murphy.
The presentation of the United States flag and the pledge of allegiance was conducted by Dr. George Washington Carver/Leo R. Crow VFW Post No. 8236 and their commander William Saines.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.