Meet the candidates for East Lansing City Council

Twenty-two candidates apply to fill two vacancies

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WEDNESDAY, July 29 — This weekend, the East Lansing City Council will be whole again.

The three remaining members of the East Lansing City Council will select two people Saturday to fill the seats left vacant on the City Council following the recent resignations of Ruth Beier and Mark Meadows. Candidate interviews will continue throughout the week with a final selection expected to be made at a virtual public meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The City Council will select which candidates they would like to interview and finalize interview questions at 7 tonight. The first round of public interviews begins at 5 p.m. tomorrow and continues at 9 a.m. Friday. Deliberations and selections are slated for 10 a.m. Saturday.

All meetings will be held electronically and broadcast online and live on Channel 22.

Twenty-two eligible candidates submitted applications for the vacancies earlier this month. City Pulse pulled details from each of those applications online. Here’s a preview of the candidates:

Adam DeLay is a department analyst at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services with a bachelor’s degrees in social relations and journalism from Michigan State University. He previously served as deputy director for constituent services for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office, assistant for U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow and as a Lansing Township trustee.

“We, as a nation, state, and community are currently experiencing levels of civil unrest not seen since the 1960s. As a country, we only get one shot at something like this every 50 years or so. We cannot waste this opportunity by only doing the bare minimum for racial justice. We need radical policy changes at all levels of government. We must totally rethink the role and structure of law enforcement within our community, and we shouldn’t stop there,” he said in a statement.

Andrew Neumann is a senior FOIA coordination officer for the state of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from MSU and a master’s degree in technology management from Davenport University. He also served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps.

“These are difficult times we are facing. Beyond the global crisis, the city itself seems embroiled in a failure of confidence in its leadership. I want to work to bring back a sense of honor and integrity to the city while continuing to promote open mindedness and diversity,” Neumann said.

Donovan Golich is a law student at Michigan State University and former social studies teacher at Grosse Pointe Public School System with a bachelor’s degree in political science from Ohio State University. He also served as an intern for a U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

“I understand the importance of having an ethical and high-functioning government. I realize the delicate nature of crafting public policy, and even more so the need to be mindful of the collateral effects of policy-making,” Golich wrote in his application. “I recognize the importance of being mindful of communities and persons who have been disproportionately affected through policy-making, and the crucial nature to right the wrongs of the past.”

Bezil Taylor is a co-facilitator for the Racial and Social Justice Collaborative at Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in social work from MSU. Taylor has regularly volunteered and also interned for State Sen. Stephanie Chang.

“I believe every person should have a fair and equitable opportunity to engage and participate in our civic duties as citizens. I also believe we all have a responsibility to advocate for the most vulnerable people in our society. I would like to bring a diverse voice to the City Council, as I am a social worker, researcher and policy analyst focused on social justice issues,” Taylor wrote.

Chuck Grigsby is an administrator at Great Lakes Learning Academy. He’s a member of the city’s Human Rights Commission and has served in a variety of other advisory capacities and committees for East Lansing. Grigsby also volunteers as a youth tutor and basketball coach.

“If appointed, Grigsby will be East Lansing’s first African American councilperson,” he wrote. “Grigsby has protected the rights and human dignity of all people. With his commitment to making a difference, and making an even greater contribution to his community, Grigsby is running for council. Chuck has passion and expertise in giving back to his community.”

Dana Watson is a health educator at the Ingham County Health Department with a bachelor’s degree in communication from MSU and a master’s degree in human and social services from Walden University. She serves on board for the Capital Area Housing Partnership, the East Lansing Planning Commission and is a volunteer for the Lansing People’s Assembly, among other roles.

“I am a mother of three and I bring experience as a co-parent, public health worker and person of color,” she wrote in her application materials. “I advocate passionately for those who are underserved and underrepresented. I have chosen opportunities that utilize my negotiation skills and I can use the skills as a city councilperson. I come to the table with my own ideas.”

Daniel Bollman is the principal architect at East Arbor Architecture and has master’s degrees in business administration and architecture from the University of Michigan. Bollman has served in a variety of volunteer capacities over the last 13 years, including on the Historic District Commission and as chairman of the East Lansing Planning Commission, among other roles.

“East Lansing is facing immediate and long term consequences as a result of the present COVID epidemic, its possible financial impact, and the imminent return of thousands of MSU students,” he wrote. “The departure of two veteran members of City Council has created a possible gap in Council’s familiarity with planning and zoning issues. My professional skills and volunteer efforts give me the experience that will complement the expertise of the City Council.”

Effie Alofoje-Carr is a project specialist at the Ingham Intermediate School District and has a bachelor’s degree in humanities from MSU. She also served as outreach coordinator at Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan and volunteers at local churches and other community groups.

“I want to take action, in spite of barriers and challenges I have experienced. As a mother I feel a responsibility to create social change as a part of what I pass on. As a wife, my husband and I dream of a better world but often feel stuck on next steps to take to create it,” she wrote.

Eric Pardini is a director at Public Sector Consultants and has a bachelor’s degree in environmental policy and economics from MSU. He’s also a participant in the city’s Emerging Leaders program and has volunteered and donated to various local nonprofit groups, he said.

“Our community is going through a lot of transitions with all the new development downtown, our continuing financial woes, and the looming questions of how and when things will get back to ‘normal’ post-COVID-19,” he said. “The recent shakeup of city council is evidence that our city is ready for a different approach and instead of remaining on the sidelines, I've decided to take action. If appointed to city council, I will commit to conducting myself with decorum, treating my fellow council members and constituents with respect, and operating in a transparent manner.”

Flemming Mathiasen is retired and has a background in business management. He’s also a master gardener, has served as a member of the city’s officer compensation Commission, participated in the Emerging Leaders program and graduated from the Citizen Police Academy.

“I believe that the city is going through some major times and in these times, we the people need to step forward to be part of the solution,” Mathiasen wrote. “I bring a level head, a calm presence to a group and I am not afraid to roll up my sleeves and get the job needed done.”

Janeile Cannon is a retired senior communications technician for the state of Michigan and studied journalism at Bay de Noc Community College. She devotes her free time to volunteering for various community groups like AARP, St. Vincent DePaul the Michigan Democratic Party.

“I think we are finally on the march toward acceptance of people for what is in their heart instead of continued suppression by the mantle of prejudice and hatred generations have born on their tired shoulders,” she wrote. “Finally, I think we are ready to fully embrace non-traditional families such as transgender or non-binary families, people with mental health challenges, older people with much reduced resources, formerly incarcerated persons, and families struggling with substance abuse issues as people worthy of helping and loving as our neighbors.”

Jennifer Carrera is an assistant professor of sociology and environmental science and policy at MSU and has a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Illinois, among other college degrees. She recently resigned from Lansing Mayor Andy Schor’s Diversity and Inclusion Council and has previously volunteered with her therapy dog at local nursing homes and area hospitals.

“I think it is each person's responsibility to work in service to their community in order to maintain a just and democratic society. City Council serves an incredibly important role for the community, with its responsibility of establishing local laws in the governance of the city. As we sit in unprecedented times, I believe positive change for our nation will happen through the hard work of communities at the local level,” Carerra wrote.

Jill Young is a consultant at Young Medical Consulting and has no educational credentials. She serves as treasurer for her neighborhood association and was concessions coordinator for the East Lansing High School Boosters Association for eight years, among other community roles.

“Although I do not have specific experience in city politics, the various roles I have had as a group or organization leader on a local level and on a national level have given me invaluable skills that most do not have,” she wrote, noting she’d like to represent local senior citizens. “That is what being on the City Council would mean to me. To serve, to listen, to discern and to make decisions, hopefully with consensus, for the betterment of the local community and its citizens.”

John Monberg is an academic specialist at MSU and has a Ph.D. in science and technology studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, among other college degrees. At MSU, he has worked with hundreds of students to research, design, code and develop public deliberation spaces across Greater Lansing including with Our Michigan Avenue and Smart City Citizens.

“I have a deep understanding of the difficult decisions communities are required to make to succeed in the new economy,” Monberg wrote. “East Lansing is undergoing a major transformation that promises a successful future, but this transformation will require coordination across zoning policies, transportation systems, housing density, economic investments, and community groups with very different visions of the future.”

Joshua Ramirez-Roberts is a Doordash delivery driver who studies social relations and public policy at MSU. He’s a lifelong resident of East Lansing, volunteered for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s campaign in 2016 and will intern with State Rep. Alex Garza.

“With a large percent of our population being students, and as a student myself, I believe it is important to see that represented on the City Council,” his application reads. “Over the course of my life, I have been able to watch our downtown grow and transform into a more modern and inclusive space and, in my view, students should have input as to where we go in the future.”

Nichole Biber is a library paraprofessional at Pinecrest Elementary School and has a master’s degree and Ph.D in English from Grand Valley State University MSU, respectively. She’s also an environmental activist and longtime ally to grassroots civil rights movements for social justice.

“At this time of undeniable, large-scale upheaval, local relationships will determine how our community will respond to sweeping change,” she wrote. “Faced with uncertainty, our collective focus will determine whether we are merely applying band-aids to increasingly inadequate systems, or if we progress with the determination to find new opportunities for resiliency.”

Peter Dewan is an insurance salesman at Lyman & Sheets Insurance Agency and has a bachelor’s degree in public administration from MSU. He has lived in East Lansing for decades and served on the city’s Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, the Downtown Development Authority, the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and other community roles.

“The citizens of East Lansing deserve stability and accountability from their local government. On many fronts, there is much at stake, and I believe that our leadership needs to set the tone where public discourse is not just welcomed but encouraged,” he wrote in his recent application.

Rod Murphy is a presenter for the Michigan Attorney General’s OK2SAY program in its Consumer Affairs Bureau who also works part time for the online studying program Quizlet. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English and creative writing, respectively, from MSU. Murphy is also a city recreation commissioner, spent 25 years as a volunteer coach for youth soccer and served as a board member for East Lansing Public Schools for nearly 10 years.

“I have training in the restorative justice model. I have helped students of all ages learn conflict resolution. I am neither afraid of nor put off by disagreements, even public ones, because I know how to keep the focus on what is right, not who is right,” he said. “We need calm, competent leadership and I am willing to provide that to the very utmost best of my ability.”

Ron Bacon is a therapeutic area manager for Genentech Roche and has master’s and bachelor’s degrees in organizational leadership and criminal justice, respectively, from Saginaw Valley State University. Bacon also serves as secretary of the Greater Lansing MLK Jr. Commission and chairman of the city’s Human Relations Commission, among other roles.

“Above any qualifications, I have a deep and abiding love for the ‘East Lansing Family.’ We are a community of many first that can forever be a source of great pride,” he wrote. “We are also a community seeking a practical way forward in the face of rapid social and economic change. I am not the complete answer, but I do believe that I will bring a perspective that draws us closer.”

Sarah Savage is a surgical technologist at Sparrow Hospital and is pursuing her master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Siena Heights University. She was involved in student government groups in high school and has since volunteered for local nonprofit groups.

“I believe that community and community resources are the foundations of a healthy and flourishing city. I am a huge advocate for mental health wellness and I believe it is what a community (especially the youth) should be focusing on,” she wrote. “When we teach our youth about mental health wellness, they grow up to be an asset in the community. With these skills, we can learn how to communicate effectively, and find the right resource for community issues.”

Scott Sowulewski is a human resources director for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international and human relations from MSU. He was a staff director for the Michigan Senate, worked in the Department of Labor and Employee Relations for MSU and served on the alumni board for James Madison College.

“I have seen first-hand that people too often do not make the time to be involved or volunteer for public service, yet they expect and trust that those who do will have the experience and judgment to collaboratively represent their interests. For me, this would be an opportunity to bring together a wealth of experience in human resources, community involvement and leading a broad-based public entity toward a new future-state,” Sowulewski wrote in his application.

Simon Zagata is a staff attorney at Michigan Protection & Advocacy Service in Lansing and has a law degree from William & Mary Law School, as well as a bachelor’s degree in professional writing from MSU. He also previously served as a law clerk at Michigan’s 49th Circuit Court.

“The world is currently at a turning point with coronavirus and racial justice,” he wrote. “This presents an opportunity that cannot be wasted, especially in East Lansing. As the home of a world-class institution, we can be an example for other cities. This starts with listening to black residents in how we can create a more just city. During coronavirus, it starts with creating a cohesive plan between the city and the university for a safe return to business and school.

Check back for continued coverage as the City Council candidate pool is narrowed to finalists.

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Diane Revitte

John Revitte’s name and information are missing from this article. See ELI article July 28, 2020 “With 23 Residents Applying...”

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