Berkley residents elect city’s first Black council member

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published November 16, 2023

 Clarence Black is the first Black City Council member elected in Berkley. He, along with other officials elected Nov. 7, was scheduled to be sworn into office on Nov. 20, after press time.

Clarence Black is the first Black City Council member elected in Berkley. He, along with other officials elected Nov. 7, was scheduled to be sworn into office on Nov. 20, after press time.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


BERKLEY — For the first time in its history, Berkley will have a Black City Council member.

Clarence Black was one of three people elected to the Berkley City Council on Nov. 7. Incumbents Ross Gavin and Greg Patterson won reelection. All will serve four-year terms.

“I’ve always told people everywhere that I go that it is, I think it’s the best community in metro Detroit,” Black said of Berkley. “I’ve raised my family here, this community has seen me through a divorce, the passing of my mom, my deployment, it welcomed me back from my deployment. All of my best memories of my life are here, and so I’m just so proud and honored (to be elected).”

Black said it’s unfortunate that Berkley has never had a Black council member before himself, but when the city was given the opportunity, the residents voted for him.

Black also stressed that he didn’t think this moment was about him and that he didn’t want this moment to be about “making history.”

“This is really about Berkley wanting a new voice. It just so happens that the voice is the first African American (on council), but this was really about them saying, ‘Hey, we want a different voice, we want a different direction and we want different leadership,’ and I think that’s really all about them,” he said. “(The residents) came out and they spoke and they were heard, and I am just honored to lead them.”

Black, a resident of Berkley since 2008, is a major in the Army Reserve. He has been serving with the Army Reserve for 13 years.

He is on active duty, which is something Black said he has to work with as he begins his term because, hypothetically, he could be called to serve in any part of the world. Black also felt that his military experience will be a benefit as he takes his seat on council.

“I’m a military man. That’s what I do for a living,” he said. “I don’t take it lightly. Leadership is the central, most important thing we do. I don’t care if you’re the leader of a family or leader of a company. To me, when you have that leadership as part of your title or your DNA, it comes with some pressure and some responsibility, and it’s an honor. It really is.”

Black said that becoming the first Black council member was on his mind as the election approached, and he said he was happy for everyone to get past that history and move forward.

“I hope I’m not the last, but it’s not something that we have to talk about anymore,” he said. “We’re not talking about the first of anything … and I think that beautiful things happen when you get rid of that. I think it’s a phenomenal honor. It is not something that I take lightly, but the true testament of what it means will be when we have the second and then when we have the 30th. So it really is about opportunity, and ‘opportunity’ not just being a word.”

There were four candidates on the ballot. Black received 2,102 votes, while Gavin got 2,282 votes and Patterson won 2,226 votes. Incumbent Michael Dooley was unable to keep his seat on the council with a total of 1,495 votes.

“I’m very appreciative that my neighbors were willing to give me a full four-year term to continue working on their behalf as an independent voice using my municipal knowledge and experience to continue to guide our great city,” Patterson said.

Gavin was honored that the residents gave him another term on council.

“It’s been a true honor, frankly, to serve the last six years, and I’m excited about the potential and the possibilities that the next four years can bring, and certainly very much looking forward to working with the mayor and all members of council to keep our city moving forward together,” he said.

Bridget Dean will continue as mayor in Berkley after she won a two-year term. She ran unopposed.

In Huntington Woods, Bob Paul ran unopposed to win another four-year-term as mayor. Incumbent Michelle Elder and newcomer Jessica Jacobs Steinhart also ran unopposed to win four-year terms as commissioners.