Sterling Heights firefighter earns state rep seat

By: Cortney Casey | Online Only | Published November 7, 2012

Henry Yanez plans to retire from his job of nearly 18 years with the Sterling Heights Fire Department come January, when he takes office as the newly elected District 25 state representative.

But as the clock edged past midnight and Election Night turned into the morning after, Yanez was already joking that he wouldn’t be able to field interview requests for much longer. After all, he had his shift at the fire station to cover later that day.

With no incumbent in sight due to a census-prompted redistricting, Yanez, 55, and Republican contender Sean Clark, 31, made their play for the open state rep seat, which covers portions of southern Sterling Heights and northern Warren.

Yanez came out on top, triumphing with 20,768 votes (51.4 percent) to Clark’s 19,612 (48.6 percent), according to unofficial results from the Macomb County Clerk’s Office.

The two candidates gathered with friends, family and supporters at local watering holes — Yanez at The Pub on Hall Road, Clark at Roger’s Roost — to await the numbers, which continued to trickle even after the presidential race had already been decided.

“Obviously, it feels good; it was seven months of hard work,” said Yanez after Clark called to concede, solidifying the victory. “A lot of people put their faith in me, and I got a lot of support.”

Yanez — who made an unsuccessful bid for Candice Miller’s congressional seat in 2010 — said he doesn’t think his stance on any one issue pushed him over the edge, but he noted that Proposal 2, concerning collective bargaining, and pension taxes seemed to be big issues in union-dominated District 25.

Calling himself “just a blue-collar kid from a blue-collar family,” Yanez said he feels at home with the people in the district, seeing as he grew up nearby, in Madison Heights, and his father worked for Ford Motor Co.

“The people who live in Sterling Heights and Warren are the same people I grew up with,” said Yanez, who has resided in Sterling Heights for five years. “I think I have a good, solid feeling for the people who live in this area.”

Yanez said his first order of business upon taking office is “get my feet solidly planted on the ground in Lansing,” then talking to civic leaders in Warren and Sterling Heights to see how he can be most helpful at the state level.

Among campaign goals noted in his recent candidate profile included fighting for the cities’ “fair share” of revenue sharing money from the state, to ensure high levels of public safety; restoring full funding to K-12 education; and repealing the pension tax.

Clark, a sales manager for J & J Fleet and Fire Truck Service, listed reform for Michigan’s “outdated regulatory structure,” a phase-out of the personal property tax, increased infrastructure investment and a streamlined education system among his priorities on his candidate profile.

The Warren resident could not be immediately reached for comment on the election results.