After accepting Mayor Mike Duggan’s appointment to serve as the City of Detroit’s director of community and civic affairs at the beginning of his administration, Rev. Dr. Jim Holley is stepping down at the end of June. Holley discussed his decision.
“I’ve enjoyed my appointed role, but I don’t want to lose sight of my mission with my church,” said Holley, who has served as pastor of Historic Little Rock Baptist Church in Detroit for more than four decades. “I also want to do what I can to spark development on the North End where my church is located.”
Holley described his appointment as that of an advisor and liaison who links the mayor’s office with the community, and just as importantly, the community to the mayor’s office. The goal is to improve communications and relationships while identifying viable ways to empower neighborhoods. Thus, Holley worked with an array of community and city entities, including their leaders and stakeholders, to help Detroit neighborhoods and residents witness a renaissance.
Holley, who many have said was a major force in the successful mayoral bid of Duggan, gives the mayor high marks for his leadership and connectivity to the communities of Detroit, and looks forward to still supporting the mayor’s vision for the city’s neighborhoods.
“I’m really proud that the right decision was made by the people of Detroit to elect Mayor Duggan,” Holley said. “This is not anti-anybody, but I’m 100 percent sure that we made the right decision with this mayor. Coming out of this bankruptcy and moving forward, I know that the mayor is committed to not only moving downtown, Midtown, and Corktown forward, but is committed to moving other communities around the city forward as well.”
While Holley is stepping down, he will continue to be an advocate of change in the community, something that he has done since coming to Detroit more than 43 years ago.
“I’ve always been involved in finding ways to help better the community,” Holley said. “I’ve worked with all of the mayors starting with Mayor Coleman A. Young. However, this appointment with Mayor Duggan was the first time that I’ve been a part of any mayor’s administration. I’ve always worked from the outside in, not the inside out.”
Holley cited several areas that are important to the revitalization of the community, which include jobs, blight fight, and access to information for more capital. He points out that communities can’t wait for help, but have to be proactive in leading the way for change. He also feels that any act of empowerment in the community must be inclusive of the 4,000-plus churches in the city.
“If it’s going to happen in the neighborhoods, it’s going to have to happen through the churches. They have to be a big part,” Holley said. “The role that I need to play in the community is to remind pastors and churches that it’s not just about having church. We’ve got to be the church. This is where I can help. The problem is that we have been waiting for the 4,000-plus churches to come on board; that’s not going to happen. So let work with the 300 or the 200, or with the 50 churches to make a positive difference in the community. We must work with what we have. There are at least 30 churches in the North End; if we can just work together that would be significant. That’s the role that I need to play, where if we can do it on the North End, other communities will do what we are doing.
“Many times, we (the community) believe that someone else is going to come in to save us. What we have to do is form leadership and organize ourselves so that we can do the same thing that they are doing downtown, in Midtown and in Corktown. It starts house-by-house, block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, and I’m hoping to see how I can be an example to others to move things forward.”
“Rev. Holley is more than committed to Detroit and its forward progress,” said Rev. V. Lonnie Peek, Jr., during his (Peek’s) hosted segment of “Making a Difference” which airs on WDIV-TV/Channel 4. “He is not one of those people who says, ‘Somebody should do something about…’ He is that somebody. He states his mind and is constantly in motion thinking about who can he help or how can he make a greater impact.”
For Holley, the greater impact is being rooted in the community, knowing what’s needed and finding ways to empower the underserved.
“I just feel that I can do a much better job for the community from the outward in, versus from the inward out,” he said. “I’ve felt like a fish out of water. I need to get back in the water.”