Flint Council President Herkenroder resigns as of July 1, citing anxiety, depression, and thoughts of self-harm following “abuse,” “vindictiveness and hatred”

By Tom Travis

In the last moments of a contentious council meeting where the council passed a city budget one week after the deadline, Council President Allie Herkenroder (Ward 7) announced  she was resigning as the Seventh Ward council person as of July 1.

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In a phone interview Friday with East Village Magazine (EVM), Herkenroder  said she had experienced “mental and physical concerns” that led to her decision.

“I consider the abuse from council directly [related]to my mental and physical concerns,” she said, audibly crying in much of the conversation. “I had to have a serious conversation with myself. I had to realize that in order for me to be there for my family and to be there just as a human that I needed to take a really strong and hard look at what major stressors were in my life that were impacting my health in such a negative way.”

“It was the decision that I needed to make and I was kind of putting it off,” she said, adding that she was putting off the announcement of her decision to resign so as to not distract from the process of passing of the city’s budget. But ultimately, she said, she  decided that the people of the Seventh Ward, “deserve someone who could be there and show up for them every day in a way that I was no longer able to,”  she said.

Herkenroder said she’d prefer “to keep private” specifics of the mental and physical problems she’s experienced during her time on council. But she said later in the interview, “Anxiety and depression were ruling my life in a way that quite frankly scared me.”

At one point the anxiety before meetings was so overwhelming, Herkenroder said,  that she began regularly throwing up before the meeting.  She described her mental and physical problems and “trauma responses” that even led to the extent of “thoughts of self-harm.”

“It was shocking to me, I couldn’t keep putting myself through that. I can’t keep putting my family through that,” Herkenroder said.

“I feel like I’ve let the ward down. This was probably one of the hardest decisions that I’ve had to make in my life.”

Herkenroder said her traumatic responses to the abuse she received on council began in the Spring of 2022, when she assumed the position of council president. Since she became council president, she noted, the media has often reported on the struggle Herkenroder and other chairpersons have had trying to maintain order during meetings.

Herkenroder was elected to city council in November 2021. In that election, the  turnout for Genesee County was just under 13 percent of the registered voters, but the turnout in Flint was even lower, with most wards showing a turnout below 10 percent, as reported by EVM‘s Political Commentator Paul Rozycki.

In that election Herkenroder came out on top over incumbent Monica Galloway. Herkenroder had 53 percent (745 votes) over Galloway’s 47 percent (671 votes). There were 67 under-votes, presumably for write in candidate Lakeisha Tureaud. The Seventh Ward had the largest turnout in the city with a 15 percent turnout. All other wards were at 10 percent or less.

Herkenroder was elected council president in April 2022 after Councilperson Eric Mays (Ward 1) had served as president for a month. Mays was ousted from that position by the council. Mays has accused Herkenroder and other council members of being part of what Mays says is a coordinated and orchestrated effort to have him removed as council president.

“That is certainly not the case. But after that the vindictiveness and the hatred elevated so bad,”  Herkenroder said.

“I don’t think it would be fair to lay blame on one person” Herkenroder

Herkenroder said she does not place the blame for her demise as council president solely on Mays. “I don’t think it would be fair lay blame on one person. I think the toxic nature of Flint City Council cannot be directed entirely at one person although he’s definitely a factor.”


Councilperson Herkenroder (left) and then-Council President Eric Mays (right) during a 2022 council meeting. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Asked what she wants to say to the voters of the Seventh Ward, “I did my best and I tried to keep going longer than I probably should have. I hope they understand the reason why I made this decision. It was not an easy decision.”

Asked what she wants to say to the remaining eight council members, “I would want them to continually remember why they ran and remember that this office is not just the name on the door. It’s the representation. This job is about the needs of those in your ward, it’s not about them.

“It’s not about them as an individual. It’s about meeting the needs of their wards and other communities respectively. Sometimes that means swallowing your pride and doing what’s best for the residents, even if even it’s not a decision that will impact you know and your ego. Just stop letting your ego lead your actions, just stop.”

Future plans include “taking care of myself”

Herkenroder works for the State of Michigan as a Digital Equity Director for the Michigan High Speed Internet office. She says that her future plans include “taking care of myself.”

About future political aspirations, Herkenroder said, “I’d like to keep the door open. But also, I’m just really looking forward to being able to to reflect and focus on what I need to do to get better and to get healthier. I’m just trying to take it one day at a time.”

Herkenroder said she’ll remain living in Flint. “I absolutely love this town. I’m here for a reason. I could have moved anywhere and I chose Flint.”

As for who is in her family, in previous city council meetings Herkenroder has mentioned she is dating a Genesee County Sheriff deputy.

“I’ve not had the greatest family life and so for me, family is the the people who are there for me,” she said.  Her parents live in Michigan but added that, “For me, my family has always been chosen family. the people who are there for me, and I need to show up for them when they need me and I can’t do that if I’m not well.

Herkenroder added she’s thankful for “an incredibly strong friendship” she’s developed with Councilperson Ladel Lewis (Ward 2). She said she also is “amicable with Eva, Dennis and Judy.”

Asked to reflect on her tenure as a councilmember she said, “I think that I did a pretty good job at chairing meetings, but I know that there’s others who say otherwise.  I think that I did the best I could under the circumstances.

One of the issues “in all of the mess with City Council that comes up generally from one side but not the other is is race,” Herkenroder said.

“I know I have had an incredibly different life experience than others on council,” she said. “I grew up in a time when it wasn’t divided. People who are in my parents’ generation…think that if you don’t like them it’s because of the color of their skin.  But in our generation if we don’t like you it’s because you’re an a–hole.

“I don’t care who you are or what you look like,  if you’re a nice person, if we can get along together if we can choose to respectfully disagree — we can choose to just respectfully disagree.  I think that for me it’s all about the character of people,”  she said.

“One of the things that I have tried to intentionally do is is make sure I recognize that I’m white —  I recognize that I have white privilege. I recognize all of those things and I I also try to intentionally have conversations with people who don’t have white skin, who don’t look like me, who didn’t grow up the same way that I did.

“You have to listen to people’s conversations and you have to understand how systemic racism has impacted people in a way that I will never experience simply because I am not a person of color.

I think that we have to talk about inequities while also understanding that not everything is a race issue — it’s simply not. If what you’re doing is wrong it doesn’t matter what you look like…If you don’t address systemic inequities then you’re never gonna change anything.”

Process for replacing a councilmember

According to the city’s charter, when a vacancy occurs on the city council the remainder of the unexpired term shall be filled in one of the three ways:

1. If eighteen months or less remains in any unexpired term, the city council shall within thirty days appoint a person having the same qualifications for such office to fill the remainder of the term.

2. If more than eighteen months remain in any unexpired term, the city council shall either appoint a person having the same qualifications within 30 days or schedule a special primary election as soon as possible to be followed by a special election to fill the office for the balance of the unexpired term to be conducted in the same manner as is practical for the nomination, primary and general elections.

Or, 3. The person appointed by the city council shall serve until the special election is held and a candidate certified as elected.

“I am disappointed that some council members continue to choose personal ego over service and I’m frustrated that folks don’t see how that’s negatively impacting the community and and the people who live here,” Herkenroder said.’

“When you can’t get through a meeting because you’re arguing about process to change an agenda that’s time ticking away that we will never have back to improve somebody’s quality of life, and it’s time that we will never get back to be able to think about how we can improve systems so that folks can get their garbage cans or so that folks can have water that they can actually afford or so that we can make improvements to our our roads and our infrastructure in a timely manner. — or so that we’re we’re looked at as a place where companies want to come and do business .

“When people see it is functional body of government rooted so deeply in egos and pride and lack of consideration for somebody other than themselves I wouldn’t want to, I wouldn’t want to do business with an organization like that.  I wouldn’t want to work with a a group or a company that didn’t have their stuff together . I mean, that’s impacting people.

“We’re hemorrhaging people left and right — we’re hemorrhaging young people and especially because we can’t remember that there is going to be a Flint beyond our lifetime. We have to keep moving for progressive values,” she said.

Asked how she has changed as a person through her experience on council she said, “I think I’m more jaded. I don’t know if that’s me or my experience talking. I think that we are defined by  how we handle ourselves in adverse situations, and I think that I’ve healed myself pretty damn well for the past year and a half. Obviously I’ve not been perfect but I think that I’m just ready to to be able to be there and show up for my family.”

Asked if there’s anything else she’d like the readers to know she said, “I would say it’s that this city is wonderful and beautiful and one of my favorite places in the world and to continue to find the beauty and the people in Flint despite the fact that there is so much negativity happening in the world around us — but  remember that we are not defined by our circumstances and that each person can make a huge difference and to just be kind.

Editor’s note: Council President Herkenroder reached out to EVM for this interview.

EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at tomntravis@gmail.com

Author: Tom Travis

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