By Tom Travis
City Council elected Candice Mushatt to represent Flint’s Seventh Ward Wednesday night. According to the city’s charter , the council had until July 30 to choose a successor for former Seventh Ward Councilperson Allie Herkenroder who resigned as of July 1.
Mushatt has recently worked as a Community Education Advocate for the City of Flint teaching fire safety throughout the city. Mushatt brings previous work experience from working in former Mayor Karen Weaver’s administration as communications director.
From five to four candidates
As of last week there were five Seventh Ward residents contending for the council seat: Doug Matthews, Mercedes Kinnee, Candice Mushatt, Shannon Searcy and Ira Gilbert. All candidates were present at last night’s meeting however Gilbert left the meeting and did not participate in the candidate panel for the interviews.
The panel of four remaining candidates sat at the head of the council meeting area. Seven council members were present, Councilperson Eric Mays (Ward 1) having been ejected earlier in the meeting after receiving two warnings for disruptive behavior.
The candidate interview process included two rounds of questioning from the seven councilmembers. In the first round each councilperson was given five-minutes to ask each candidate questions followed by a two-minute round of questioning.
Mushatt prevails with five votes
In the end there were two rounds of voting to choose the new councilperson. In the first round Councilpersons Ladel Lewis, Quincy Murphy, Judy Priestley voted for Candice Mushatt. Councilperson Jerri Winfrey-Carter and Dennis Pfeiffer voted for Shannon Searcy. Councilperson Tonya Burns voted for Mercedes Kinnee and Eva Worthing voted for Doug Matthews.
Mushatt was successful in the second round of voting with her five winning votes coming from Lewis, Murphy, Priestley, Pfeiffer and Worthing. Both Winfrey-Carter and Burns voted for Searcy and Kinnee, respectively again.
Mushatt was supported by five family members who sat through the nearly five-hour council meeting. Her family came to give her hugs and after the vote was announced that she had won.
Letter of interest from Mushatt
Each candidate submitted an application for the position of Seventh ward councilperson. Below is the “letter of interest” submitted by the newly elected Seventh Ward councilperson, Candice Mushatt.
Dear City Clerk and Council Members:
I am writing to express my sincere interest in serving as the Seventh Ward City Councilperson. With a strong background in public service, community engagement, and effective leadership, I am confident in my ability to represent and advocate for the residents of the Seventh Ward.
My professional experience has provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the diverse needs and concerns of our community. As a former Public Information Officer for the City of Flint, I played a vital role in navigating a complex crisis, ensuring accurate information was disseminated, and engaging with residents during a challenging time. This experience has instilled in me a deep sense of responsibility to serve my community and work tirelessly to address the issues that matter most to its residents.
In addition to my role as a Public Information Officer, I currently serve as the Director of the Flint Community Water Lab, where I actively collaborate with local officials, community organizations, and residents to promote water safety and ensure the well-being of our community. Through my work as an on-air personality for a local radio station, I have developed strong relationships with community members and gained valuable insights into their concerns and aspirations.
Furthermore, I have served as a board member of the Genesee Conservation District, where I contributed to important decisions regarding environmental conservation, land management, and agricultural practices. This experience has deepened my understanding of sustainability and the importance of responsible stewardship of our natural resources.
My tenure as a legislative staffer for the Michigan House of Representatives, coupled with my contract communications work for the National Wildlife Federation and the African American Mayors Association, has equipped me with a comprehensive
understanding of policy-making, effective communication strategies, and the importance of advocating for diverse communities.
If given the opportunity to serve as the Seventh Ward City Councilperson, I will be a passionate advocate for our community’s needs, an accessible representative for all residents, and a champion of transparent and accountable governance.
I will work diligently to address key issues, such as infrastructure development, public safety, equitable access to essential services, economic development, blight, community education, and environmental conservation. I believe in fostering collaboration and actively engaging with community members to ensure their voices are heard and their concerns are addressed.
Furthermore, my experience in budget management, successful grant writing, and growing the Flint Community Water Lab will be valuable assets in supporting the economic development initiatives of the Seventh Ward.
I have a proven track record of effectively managing budgets and securing grants, which has allowed me to expand the resources and capabilities of the Water Lab, making a tangible impact on the community.
I am eager to contribute my skills, experience, and passion to create positive change and improve the quality of life for the residents of the Seventh Ward. I believe that my diverse background, community-focused mindset, and commitment to transparent and inclusive decision-making make me an ideal candidate for this position.
Thank you for considering my application. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss my qualifications further and explore how my vision aligns with the goals of the City Council and the needs of the Seventh Ward. I look forward to the possibility of serving our community in this important role.
Questions covered an array of topics
Councilperson Winfrey-Carter asked Mushatt, “The city is hurting in so many ways and has been divided racially for years. how would you work to heal the city?”
Mushatt said, “Stop saying we don’t see color. Race is a social construct. The reality is that we’ve all been born into that construct. We can all see each other’s color. That will be part of the solution, seeing that we are different …. and in knowing that our skin and our complexion does not make you the person who you are.”
Mushatt said her focus is “equity … we have to see each other, embrace each other and then make sure we all get the same things.”
What’s Flint’s greatest need?, asked Winfrey-Carter. Mushatt responded economic development, blight, and crime.
“So for me it all boils down to that we are able to care for our families in a way you want to provide for ourselves and that comes from having an economy that provides for everyone.”
How would you handle tense situations in council meetings?
Burns asked Mushatt how she would handle the often tense situations that occur in council meetings. Burns referenced cuss words sometimes being hurled at each other and how she would she try to deescalate the situation. Mushatt responded, “We’re all adults right?”
Mushatt noted if she were chosen to serve on council she would be the youngest and said she would expect some “maturity” to be displayed by all. “I would expect councilmembers to maintain themselves. Nobody coming to council meeting, to do city business, should get cussed out and called stupid or told to shut-up. We are humans and we all have breaking points. We are all strong personalities but it starts with respect.
How would you respond to constituents as a councilmember?
Pfeiffer asked Mushatt other than attending council meetings what she sees as her responsibility as a councilperson. Mushatt said, “To be responsive to residents when they call and they have concerns … I am sitting here for the opportunity to serve my community and specifically the Seventh ward. It would be up to me to be responsive and to get the residents connected with who they need to be.”
Worthing asked Mushatt, “What is your best quality that makes you the right candidate for the Seventh ward?”
“Integrity. I am who I am no matter what. Since my time in high school I’ve wanted to volunteer and work to do things in my community,” responded Mushatt.
Councilperson Priestley asked Mushatt, and all the candidates, about their experience with social media and the plethora of negative comments that can come to council through different platforms.
“I’m all about respectful dialogue. But to get in the weeds of hate speech, it’s not something I’ve ever done. I don’t plan on doing that because that’s just not the person that I am,” Mushatt said.
Councilperson Eric Mays ejected from meeting before candidate interviews
Councilperson Eric Mays (Ward 1) was ejected from the council meeting after nearly an hour and half of being embroiled in a showdown of points of order, points of information and appeals to the ruling of the chair. Council Vice-President Ladel Lewis gave Mays two warnings for disruptive behavior. Mays walked out of the council meeting with two Flint police officers. While exiting the council meeting Mays stopped to address the audience.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at email@example.com