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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Kids in the Hall

Honoring Lansing’s “resident stateswoman”

by Andy Balaskovitz
Alfreda Schmidt and Mayor Virg Bernero. Andy Balaskovitz/City Pulse
Monday, Sept. 10 — Seventeen friends, Lansing City Council President Brian Jeffries and Mayor Virg Bernero flanked Alfreda Schmidt on the floor of the Council chambers tonight, paying tribute to a woman who’s dedicated much of the past 40 years to public service.

At a public ceremony Wednesday night, the Southside Community Center — which Schmidt played an “integral” role in starting, Bernero said in a statement Friday — will be named in her honor.

“This is just our small token we wanted to do just to say, ‘Thank you,’” Bernero said tonight. “You are a leading citizen and Lansing’s resident stateswoman.”

Bernero, a Democrat, noted that Schmidt, a lifelong Republican, “Transcends partisanship and, really, transcends politics. With Alfreda, the question always is: ‘What is the right thing to do?’”

Schmidt served six years on the Board of Fire Commissioners in the 1970s, three terms on the City Council and two terms on the Ingham County Board of Commissioners. She’s also served on several Lansing-area boards and commissions. She served on the Council until she was unseated by Sandy Allen in 1993 and lost her reelection bid against Allen four years later.

A humbled Schmidt was grateful for the recognition. Her closing remarks were a refreshing take on an increasingly bitter and partisan political climate.

“Politics, right or wrong, Democrat or Republican, it doesn’t make a difference: You just need to do it the right way,” she said.

“You never, never do anything alone. There isn’t one of you in this room who hasn’t made a difference. I want to thank you for the opportunity of just working with all of you,” she said.

Jeffries recalled first encountering Schmidt when he was an Ingham County commissioner in the mid 1980s. He was serving on the Ingham County Fair Board — Schmidt on the City Council — when Schmidt “took control” of a meeting on an issue involving the Ingham County Fair Queen.

“The same tenacity and resolution you brought to that issue back then, you bring to all issues today,” Jeffries said. “It’s that sense of wanting to do good for others and help them out that seems to direct you even today.”

A resolution unanimously approved by the Council reads, in part: “She has proven to be a legendary figure that epitomizes the values, dignity, and generosity of a visionary leader.”

In other tribute news, the Council recognized the second annual Tejano/Latino Music Festival in honor of Cesar E. Chavez, which takes place in the honorary plaza named after the civil rights activist in Old Town. Check out Wednesday’s edition of City Pulse for more on Chavez’s contributions to Lansing and the history of the Hispanic community here.
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