City Council candidates set priorities for Lansing

Several challengers emerge as primary election approaches


Eight challengers — including a late arriving write-in candidate — will face off against four incumbents for seats on Lansing’s City Council in the Aug. 6 primary election. And each of them has voiced some big ideas.

President Carol Wood and Patricia Spitzley will appear on next month’s primary ballot alongside three challengers for two at-large spots. The four top finishers will run for the two at-large seats in the nonpartisan Nov. 6 General Election runoff.

Councilwoman Jody Washington will face four challengers in the city’s 1st Ward. The two candidates getting the most votes in the primary will run against each other Nov. 6.

Councilman Adam Hussain will slide unopposed into another four-year term in Lansing’s 3rd Ward.

Questions sent to each of the candidates revealed key details about their priorities if elected to the City Council. City Pulse aggregated those responses over the last week with the goal of creating a more informed electorate.

At-Large Council Member: Carol Wood

Age: 68, Neighborhood: Genesee

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Wood was raised in Lansing and was reelected to her fifth term on the City Council in 2015 following an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2009. She has also served on and chaired every Council committee and owns and operates her own neighborhood-oriented consulting firm. Wood also serves as executive director for RSVP of Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties, a volunteer-based program that assists retirees.

She’s running on more than 30 years of community service and feels it’s important to provide wisdom, stability and a “voice of reason” to the City Council. She wants to continue to build on nearly two decades of progress and said the city’s economic future — and its swelling unfunded pension liabilities — are her largest priorities.

“I am an independent voice for residents and businesses with over 19 years of elected service and 30 years of neighborhood involvement,” Wood added. “I believe in a comprehensive approach to moving Lansing forward.”

Patricia Spitzley

Age: 54, Neighborhood: Lewton-Rich

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Spitzley was elected to the City Council in 2015. She has degrees from Lansing Community College and Central Michigan University, as well as a law degree from Michigan State University. Spitzley works as a manager at Racer Trust with a background in environmental regulation, policy, legal affairs and community outreach.

She said she’s running to “continue to move this city forward” by protecting retiree pensions and addressing unfunded liabilities while simultaneously rerouting more revenues toward enhancements to neighborhoods, sidewalks and public safety. Her biggest issue: Addressing unfunded liabilities while protecting retiree pensions.

“I deserve your vote because I have proven that I come to City Council meetings prepared to address the issues of the meeting,” Spitzley added. “I am a tireless advocate for the residents of the City of Lansing, making sure their tax dollars are spent responsibly.”

Terry Eagle, Age: 62,

Neighborhood: Colonial Village

Political Affiliation: Democrat-leaning independent

Eagle is retired and serves as a disability services advocate and ombudsman for small businesses and those with disabilities. He has a bachelor’s degree and has worked for Lansing Hospitality Services and the Community Mental Health Authority, among other jobs since moving to Lansing in 1981. Eagle also serves on the Downtown Business District Advisory Board and the board of the Waverly Schools Education Foundation.

He’s running “to make a difference in the quality of life for residents and businesses to reside, work, play, and have and raise a family safely in Lansing.” One major issue he plans to address? Affordable housing — largely through beefed up housing code inspections and the demolition and replacement of unsafe buildings in the city.

“I possess the vision and ideas needed to attract and retain residents for present and future generations of families and single professionals,” Eagle said, adding he can “fully devote the time required to address and advance to progressive resolution of the issues that are of concern and important to all Lansing residents and businesses.”

Yanice Jackson-Long, Age: 41

Neighborhood: Northeast Lansing

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Jackson-Long attended Lansing Public Schools and works as a clerk for the Ingham County Treasurer’s Office. She has college degrees in broadcast journalism and business administration and serves in leadership roles for the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council, the Lansing branch of the NAACP, the Potter Park Zoo and the county’s Cultural Diversity Board. She previously worked for the county drain commissioner, Lansing’s Human Resources Department, the Michigan Coordinated Campaign and The Chronicle News, among others.

She’s running for the City Council to “be a voice for all people” no matter their race, gender or socioeconomic status. Jackson-Long also said she wants to bridge “gaps” in the community to ensure everyone has a seat at the table. Her biggest priority: Push economic development to curb growing rates of poverty within the capital city.

“I deserve your vote because I’m here as a public servant, not a politician,” she said. “I’m someone who will still connect with the community after election day because serving others is my joy.”

Julee Rodocker, Age: 49

Neighborhood: Old Everett

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Rodocker, 49, is a lifelong Lansing resident and an electric materials buyer at Consumers Energy. Rodocker has a bachelor’s degree in agricultural and natural resource communications from Michigan State University and retired after 22 years at Meijer. She’s a commissioner for the Lansing Police Department and previously held positions on city’s Human Relations & Community Services Board and the Lansing Board of Water & Light.

She’s running for City Council to “create a safe community” through the promotion of equality, diversity, inclusion and policies that support “everyday Americans.” She also favors flexible approaches to development and as a Democrat, supports public education, healthcare for all, workers rights and consumer protections.

Rodocker did not identify an issue to address in Lansing if elected, instead generally advocating for improvements to city policies through oversight and collaboration alongside her fellow City Council members.

“I have extensive corporate management and grassroots community leadership experience,” Rodocker said. “I have developed effective partnerships and programs that have helped businesses and communities grow.”

Dan Ross, Age: 41

Neighborhood: Pleasant Grove

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Dan Ross, who missed the deadline to file for the election, is running a write-in campaign for an at-large seat. A lifelong Lansing resident, Ross runs a concierge service and provides a range of services on the Uber platform. He’s also a vocal participant in the Black Lives Matter movement in Lansing.

He’s running for City Council to give a genuine voice to the community and engage with local residents. Lansing, he said, needs “unity” and a “fresh mindset” to carry the momentum forming downtown into other neighborhoods around the edges of the city. One big issue? Bridging the divide between police and residents.

He said he wants police to “look at people as part of the family. We live in a time where we don’t even know our own neighbors. That’s not healthy at all, and we need to change that. I’m all for getting back to the days when it took a village to raise a child. Nowadays, the village is lost. Unity is the key to carry us through.”

Ross thinks “the system” runs Lansing. His write-in campaign is about giving it back to the people, he said.


Lansing City Council Portraits Monday March 24, 2014 at the Lansing City Council Chambers.  KEVIN W. FOWLER PHOTO
Lansing City Council Portraits Monday March 24, 2014 at the Lansing City Council Chambers. KEVIN W. FOWLER PHOTO

First Ward Council Member

Jody Washington, Age: 62

Neighborhood: East Village

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Washington was elected to the Council in 2011 and 2015. She’s a full-time grievance and litigation specialist at the state Department of Corrections. She has also served in various leadership positions including appointments to the East Side Neighborhood Association, the East Village Condo Association, Lansing for Cesar E. Chavez and the city’s Fire Board of Commissioners. She has also chaired several Council committees.

She’s running for the Council because she loves Lansing and has the “relationships, knowledge and work ethic to continue to move the 1st Ward and Lansing forward.” Her biggest priority upon re-election: Addressing the more than $700 million in unfunded pension and post-employment benefits liabilities lingering over the city budget.

“Lansing is headed for some tough times and tough decisions will need to be made. Experience matters more than ever,” Washington said. “I have the experience and the proven record to continue to move us forward.”


Brandon Betz, Age: 28

Neighborhood: Armory Alliance

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Betz is a senior analyst with Anderson Economic Group with a focus on public policy and economics. He has multiple degrees in economics and a background in experimental economics, tax policy, research on statewide workforce programs and workforce development. He volunteers on the board for the Young Professional Alzheimer’s Advocates of Lansing and on the sponsorship committee for Grand River Connection.

He’s running in solidarity with the “working class and the poor” as part of a “movement for real change,” he said. That change includes making the Lansing City Council more accountable to local residents — not necessarily developers and corporate interests. His biggest issue: Giving citizens a real voice in economic policy.

“I’m the only candidate who is standing up to corporate developers, big money interests and the political establishment,” Betz added. “I am fighting for the real people of Lansing.”

Scott Hughes, Age: 49

Neighborhood: Eastside

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Hughes is the juvenile justice and community outreach coordinator for the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Michigan State University and an expansive background in political consulting. Hughes previously worked to garner votes that ultimately passed East Lansing’s recent income tax proposal and has served as vice chairman of the Ingham County Democratic Party.

He’s running for the City Council with a desire to “ensure opportunities for all” and to combat the “real world impact of inequality” in the criminal justice system. He also wants to ease student loan debts by expanding the Lansing Promise scholarship and allowing all children to attend two years of community college for free.

“I’m a progressive Democrat,” Hughes added. “If elected, I will work to protect basic services (including road repair) and expand opportunities, so the people of Lansing have universal access to the American dream.”

James Pyle, Age: 41

Neighborhood: Groesbeck

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Pyle attended Lansing Public Schools and has worked as a real estate agent — currently for Century 21 — for 15 years. He bills himself as a neighborhood advocate and has been involved with efforts to improve the local community for years, including an appointment to Mayor Andy Schor’s transition team on the Neighborhoods and Public Safety Committee, as well as volunteer work at the Allen Neighborhood Center.

He’s running because of his concern for ongoing development plans in Lansing and because he is “saddened by the fact that so many neighborhoods throughout this city have been forgotten about.” If elected, he wants to enhance code enforcement to bring more local buildings up to higher standards while keeping families in their homes.

“My goal will be to improve the quality of living for everyone, not just the businesses on Michigan Avenue,” Pyle said. “I am willing and able to work with the communities to achieve this goal, as I have done in the past.”

Farhan Sheikh-Omar, Age: 24

Neighborhood: Creston

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Sheikh-Omar, a Kenyan refugee, ran a failed primary campaign for Michigan’s 68th House District against Rep. Sarah Anthony last year. He also studies political science at Lansing Community College, plans to transfer to Michigan State University and works as an assistant teacher for Ingham Intermediate School District.

He’s running for the City Council to “give voice to the voiceless.” He wants to listen to all sides of an issue, communicate with supporters, opponents and colleagues and focus on retention, expansion, attraction and leadership. His biggest priority: Enhancing infrastructure — including road repairs and other improvements.

“I will always be a public servant and never a politician,” Sheikh-Omar said. “Your voice will be heard.”

Third Ward Council Member

Adam Hussain, Age: 37

Neighborhood: Colonial Cooperative

Political Affiliation: Democrat

Hussain was first elected to the City Council in 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in secondary education, a master’s degree in educational administration and works as a social studies teacher at Waverly Community Schools. He’s a voting member of the Southwest Action Group and serves on the Colonial Cooperative Board of Directors. He has also held positions with the Lansing Park Board and the Colonial Neighborhood Watch.

He’s running for the City Council because there is “much work left to do” in the 3rd Ward to help address infrastructure, corridors and commercial districts, neighborhood connections and improvements to public services and safety. His biggest priority, like his fellow incumbents, is addressing unfunded liabilities.

“I have worked tirelessly during my time on Council and have advocated fiercely for the things that matter most to those I represent,” Hussain said. “I am still learning and certainly have made mistakes along the way, but if given another four years, I will continue to grow my understanding of the issues that are important to those I represent and endeavor to move said issues forward.”


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