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Wednesday, October 23,2013

No one up for challenging Swope

Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope running unopposed for second term in a row — he must be doing something right

by Andy Balaskovitz
Since being elected Lansing’s city clerk in 2005, Chris Swope has successfully lobbied to cut the number of required annual City Council meetings in half, consolidated voting precincts to save money and transitioned to a paperless form of getting Council information out to interested residents.

In 2011, he was named City Clerk of the Year by the Michigan Association of Municipal Clerks. Perhaps these laurels help explain that, for the second time in a row, Swope is running unopposed to keep his job.

“I work hard to do a good job,” he said. “I hope people are happy with the work that I do.”

Indeed, the future looks good for the 46-year-old, who has been mentioned as a possible successor to the Mayor’s Office after Virg Bernero. “I’ll see what opportunities present themselves in the future,” Swope said, not denying the speculation.

Swope, the first openly gay elected official in Lansing, served five years on the Ingham County Board of Commissioners before defeating former City Clerk Debbie Miner in 2005. For two years, he was the executive director of LGBT rights advocacy group Michigan Equality. In addition to his time in elected office, Swope worked for 12 years in the Michigan Legislature as a policy analyst for the Senate and a benefits administrator for the House.

Last year, Swope put his hat in the ring to replace former Ingham County Clerk Mike Bryanton. When former state Rep. Barb Byrum announced her own bid for the job, Swope withdrew his candidacy, avoiding what could have been an expensive Democratic primary for the job.

“Barb is a friend. I thought she was a great candidate,” Swope said. “My personal time commitments made it so I didn’t think I could devote enough time to a successful campaign at that time.”

In his next term, Swope wants to continue saving money in his office’s budget, provide more information to voters before elections and possibly decrease the amount of business regulating the city does. (“We have ordinances that say we regulate pool halls and bowling alleys. I’m not sure of the reasoning behind why we regulate those,” he said.)

Despite his efforts to get information to voters, this year’s primary saw turnout around 10 percent. However, that’s not necessarily on him or his efforts.

“It’s the candidates that motivate the turnout and what races are on the ballot,” he said. “You can ascribe that to the fact that the mayoral contest is not all that contested.”

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