State Representative Sherry Gay-Dagnogo is on an appointed mission. As a representative of Michigan’s 8th District, she has a bird’s-eye view on the multi-layered changes occurring in Detroit. As a result, she’s preparing to run for mayor of Detroit in 2021 and potentially become the first female African American Mayor of Detroit.
Your career started at Detroit City Council, then through Detroit Public Schools as a science teacher. How did your passion for the educational system lead to your journey as a State Representative?
Teaching our children was one of the most rewarding learning experiences I’ve ever had. Despite all of the challenges of teaching in a district that was being bifurcated and dismantled with Emergency Managers and the Educational Achievement Authority, I loved my kids, and as a first-generation high school and college graduate that grew up on the northwest side of Detroit, I wanted to fight for them to have a quality education.
As a 2008 Education Pioneers Fellow, I knew that to stop the pillaging of our District, changes had to be made at the state level; hence I sought the path of running for State Representative to weigh in on policy impacting our children. It certainly hasn’t been easy fighting a narrative that Detroiters caused the failures in our District, but I’ve continued to advocate and educate members of the legislature daily on the real history of our District, and the impact of poverty while advocating on behalf our students.
You serve in Michigan’s 8th District, representative of northwest Detroit. What are some critical areas you’ve focused on improving in areas such as Brightmoor and Grandmont-Rosedale?
I serve a diverse area where needs are slightly different depending on where you live. In the Brightmoor community, I’ve continued to build relationships with community stakeholders to address the issues of blight and abandoned homes. I’ve also helped organize community benefits with stores like Meijer, partnered with Gompers School to advance literacy and stem opportunities for our children and provided constituent services to address citizen concerns.
We’ve hosted our Detroit Birthday Celebration for five years, anchored in the Brightmoor community, to instill pride in our city. The celebration also helped to ameliorate blight and board up properties open to trespassing. It also provided our children and seniors with free activities and resources that were brought to the neighborhood.
In our Grandmont-Rosedale community, which I’m a former Vice President of the North Rosedale Park Civic Association, the needs are prevalent in this area. We’re advocating for fair and affordable auto insurance, public safety, small business development, and supporting programs for healthy living and recreation.
In January, you stated that you’re ready to become the next Mayor of Detroit. If you were to win in 2021, you would become Detroit’s first female African American Mayor ever. What magnitude does that hold in your quest to win the mayoral race?
I love the city of Detroit, and I realize that it needs the nurturing hand of a mother. Women lead with compassion and strength, so Detroit needs a leader that will treat all citizens with respect, ensuring equity within the heart of our city and throughout the neighborhoods. The historical aspect of being the first female Mayor holds a measure of significance; however, that in and of itself isn’t the goal. Extending compassion while working collaboratively with stakeholders to ensure those in need of transitioning into the workforce will receive adequate training, transportation, and resources to support their families is key. Making sure our citizens have access to affordable clean water, proper tax assessments, transportation, and workforce opportunities, and attainable housing would hold great magnitude.
Being that you’re a lifelong resident of Detroit, what would be your first order of business if you were to win next year’s mayoral race?
- Selecting a diverse transition team with a cabinet of experts, planners, and community leaders to develop and implement a transition plan with key targets to grow talent and streamline opportunities for a strong and robust workforce.
- Have an audit to determine the projected fiscal stability of our city as the current administration has highlighted that our city could potentially re-enter financial deficits by 2024.
- Re-evaluate our retiree pension plans to determine how we can make our retirees whole.
- Determine ways to hold the State of Michigan liable to pay the City of Detroit its proper rate of revenue sharing as we’ve been shortchanged for years.
Explain your decision to lobby for the pardoning of former Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick.
In working with a Special Assistant to the United States President on Opportunity Zones and other opportunities for development, I organized an Urban Initiatives Breakfast and Meeting with local Pastors, Elected Officials, and Business Leaders. Pastor Ron Griffin, who could not attend due to a funeral, asked me to share with the assistant the importance of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s clemency application, which was already before the President. Pastor Griffin also urged me to see if the assistant could ask if President Trump would consider granting clemency to former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Also, in that meeting, Mayor Hubert Yopp, of Highland Park, and other elected officials echoed that call to action. My relationship with the White House official began to grow, and I was invited to the White House for the National African American History Celebration. In the interim, President Trump commuted the sentences of several officials the week before the event, after which I worked with our stakeholders to write a letter to take with me during my visit. Not fully knowing what opportunities would arise, I attended and ultimately seized a window of opportunity to hand-deliver the letter to President Donald Trump during the celebration.
What would your potential victory mean for Detroit, being that the city is changing by the second with new residential developments, leadership changes, and more?
Having a grounded history of our city, I share in the belief that citizens want a Detroit rich in diversity and character within our neighborhoods. A divided city has no future in a prospering America, and my leadership will lend itself to uniting businesses and neighborhoods towards collective positive outcomes.
My leadership will improve problem areas such as mass transportation, transit-oriented development for neighborhood revitalization, and high-quality early childhood and neighborhood schools, serving as anchors for economic development, which is the next phase of growth across Detroit.
We’ll also lead a turnaround against an exodus from our city, with attainable housing and homeownership, growing neighborhood businesses, and innovation opportunities. We’ll increase our political might working with faith, labor, and community stakeholders to get what we need from both the State and Federal Governments, which has everything to do with attracting new residents to invest and build within our 139 square miles.