City leadership looks ahead

Lathrup Village makes city history with first African-American mayor pro tem

By: Jessica Strachan | Southfield Sun | Published November 26, 2013

 Incumbents Maria Mannarino Thompson, Bruce Copus and Frank Brock take their oath with City Clerk Gloria Harris-Ford after being re-elected to Lathrup Village City Council in the Nov. 5 General Election. Brock was also re-elected by council to serve as mayor, which he has done for more than two decades.

Incumbents Maria Mannarino Thompson, Bruce Copus and Frank Brock take their oath with City Clerk Gloria Harris-Ford after being re-elected to Lathrup Village City Council in the Nov. 5 General Election. Brock was also re-elected by council to serve as mayor, which he has done for more than two decades.

Photo by Donna Agusti

SOUTHFIELD/LATHRUP VILLAGE — Following the Nov. 5 election, newly elected leaders across the state are setting goals and envisioning what they can accomplish for their city in their next term.

For Southfield and Lathrup Village, elected officials who took their oaths last week were all incumbents and recommitted to the work they’ve already started and hope to expand on. In Lathrup Village, incumbents Frank Brock, also mayor, Maria Mannarino Thompson and Bruce Copus were re-elected to City Council. On Nov. 18, the council voted to re-elect Brock as the city’s mayor for another two-year term.

He has served more than two decades as mayor but says the vision is an ever-evolving one and there’s still plenty of work to be done in his career.

“Five years ago, we established a vision that we want to create a more traditional downtown feel for Southfield Road and rejuvenate our business district, and that’s still the vision,” he explained. “But you know, that vision was kind of conceived just about the time the economy took a downturn and property values began dropping, which made it difficult for a lot of cities to do things as quickly as they’d like to do.”

Brock said that as things pick back up in the economy, it’s time for leaders to fine tune that mission and make sure it’s still what citizens think administration should do.

Brock added that he was proud to see Councilwoman Kelly Garrett elected as the first African-American to hold the position of mayor pro tem.

“It’s a little piece of history for Lathrup Village,” he said. “She’s a great young lady with a lot of ideas and a lot of energy. I know she was quite moved to be chosen.”

In Southfield, council incumbents Ken Siver, Myron Frasier, Joan Seymour and Donald Fracassi were all re-elected.

Frasier, who won the most votes, said his priority on council will be taking measures to ensure Southfield is a safe, secure and attractive city. Siver, who was most recently council president, said he will focus on the budget, marketing the city and its events, and maintaining rental properties. Seymour’s priorities include hiring more safety personnel as the economy picks up, she explained, supporting responsible accounting practices and vigorous code enforcement. Fracassi lists redevelopment and continued quality city services as his goals.

On Nov. 18, Southfield City Council also unanimously voted Jordan as the new council president and Fracassi as the president pro tem, both nominated by Seymour.

Jordan, who has been on council for 15 years, president four times, and was most recently council president pro tem, said she will be focused on bringing agendas to the table that push Southfield ahead.

“The year coming is especially important because we have to increase our economic vitality in our community, make sure businesses that are present remain, attract new businesses and make sure we stay in the forefront of southeastern Michigan and the No. 1 business address,” she said. “We don’t want to be No. 2; we want to be No. 1. We have some challenges, but we have a great team in place.”

She added that her top goal will also be to have an inclusive, welcoming council.

The vote for council president and pro tem was originally supposed to be held Nov. 12, but Jordan was absent from the meeting, leaving a tie between Jordan and Siver as president, and Fracassi and Moss as pro tem.

Frasier, who originally voted to re-elect Siver as president, noted at the meeting that he had nothing against Jordan’s leadership but was concerned that she regularly missed council meetings — such as that one, when she was in Atlanta, Ga., filming for a reality TV show.

Jordan said she was with her 25-year-old daughter, who was appearing on the TLC show “Say Yes to the Dress” to choose her wedding gown.

“If I have to decide between a family commitment and council meeting, I’m going to choose my family,” Jordan said. “This was a once-in-a-lifetime event.”

She added that she doesn’t feel her attendance is an issue, though as a full-time working mother on council, other members might not be able to relate, she said. Nevertheless, she affirms she wouldn’t have been elected this time or the other four times if she did not have the leadership skills needed for the job.

Southfield Mayor Brenda L. Lawrence, who has been serving as mayor since 2001, ran unopposed in the election and enters her next four-year term.

She said her top goals include finding remedies for aging roads and infrastructure, seeking new revenue sources for the city and collaboration opportunities for shared resources, and continuing to grow on the economic development front after surviving the recent crisis.

At the 2013 inauguration and council meeting, Lawrence offered congratulations to those who had been re-elected, saying it was a “fresh and new opportunity to do the things we take our oath to do.”

“The work that we have to do to keep this city a place that we’re proud to call home requires all hands on deck,” she said, adding that she knows each council member well and has seen their passion for the city.

Lawrence ended by noting that she couldn’t do the work of mayor alone, and she takes pride in the community she serves, working alongside not only those who are elected and paid to see the city progress, but the citizens; she extended a thank-you to the community members and everyday people for their crucial role in making Southfield what it is.

“Those of you who are invested and take care of your property — those of you who keep an eye on your senior citizens or look out for the child walking down the street. Those who come to these meetings and hold us accountable. Those of you who voted, most of all.”