Spadafore: Lansing’s next City Council president?

First-term member says he's ready for job

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After a year at second-in-command, Lansing City Council Vice President Peter Spadafore this week announced a desire to take the gavel from Council President Carol Wood for a seat at the helm of the City Council in 2020.

“I’m interested in the presidency,” Spadafore confirmed. “I believe the last year working alongside President Wood has given me the experience and knowledge to do the job. If my colleagues see fit to put their faith in me and elect me president, I’d be honored and thrilled to serve.”

Spadafore, 34, was elected at-large to the Council in 2017. He was previously president of the Lansing School Board.

Wood, at the first City Council meeting of 2019, was chosen by her colleagues in a 6-2 vote to remain president for her second year. Spadafore — after some closed-door tension before the vote — was unanimously elected vice president, nabbing the position from now-outgoing First Ward Councilwoman Jody Washington.

The City Council will meet for its first organizational meeting in January to elect its new leaders. And while Spadafore is, so far, the only member to publicly seek the presidency for next year, he’s garnering some early support from other Council members.

Councilman-elect Brandon Betz said he has pledged his support to Spadafore because of his “willingness” to work collaboratively and find progressive solutions to various issues facing the capital city in the next year.

Patricia Spitzley, who was elected to her second term as an at-large member, said she is not seeking a leadership position. She said she’d also support Spadafore for president because he’s “definitely qualified” after serving as the president of the Lansing School District and participating in several different committee appointments for the city of Lansing.

Spitzley also said it’s unlikely that Wood would seek a third year as president. Wood hasn’t returned calls, but a review was unable to find a City Council president who remained at the helm for more than two consecutive years.

“I always favor having new leadership once in a while,” Spitzley added. “It’s important to have other Council members take those positions. It’s good for the city,” and Spadafore would make a “good president. I’d really like someone who hasn’t been a president in the past. It’s a good opportunity for him.”

Councilman Brian Jackson hasn’t given the leadership selection much thought, but said he wouldn’t be surprised if his colleagues have already privately formed an election plan ahead of next month’s meeting. He said everyone — including himself — is qualified to serve as president and hasn’t made any decisions on his vote.

Both Jackson and Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar, however, voted against Wood’s second year as president in January after citing a need for “fresh perspectives.” Dunbar didn’t return multiple phone calls, but her and Jackson’s stances seems unlikely to change should Wood look to maintain the presidency for yet another year.

Councilman Adam Hussain also said he isn’t seeking a leadership position but is open to it. He offered to support “many” of his colleagues for the presidency — including Spadafore — and anticipates that City Council will continue to see “new faces” in leadership positions over the next few years.

“Leadership is about ensuring teams stay together, working on problem solving important issues and empowering respective members of teams to use their significant talents to drive the ball down the field,” Hussain added. “Consequently, I think it’s important for teams to choose those individuals who will lead.”

Councilman Jeremy Garza, who hasn’t served in a leadership role, didn’t return a call for comment.

The presidency also carries more than just ceremonial gavel authorities. Spadafore, if elected president, would be empowered to appoint committee members and control the city government agenda, ultimately deciding what specific issues land on the Council’s radar and what issues can be delayed — perhaps indefinitely.

The vice president and president are also paid more than other Council members. The vice president is paid $25,140 annually and serves largely as a placeholder to manage meetings in the president’s absence. The president earns a salary of $26,640. The other six Council members earn $24,640 annually.

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