Birmingham’s new mayor discusses goals of communication, dedication

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published December 5, 2023

 Mayor Elaine McLain has recently been named as the mayor of Birmingham.

Mayor Elaine McLain has recently been named as the mayor of Birmingham.


BIRMINGHAM — At a City Commission meeting Nov. 13, Therese Longe officially passed the gavel to Elaine McLain. Longe nominated McLain to serve as mayor and was backed by a unanimous vote of the City Commission.

During the meeting, Longe shared some words in support of McLain.

“In addition to her significant experience and training, Mayor Pro Tem McLain’s skills are well-suited to the role of mayor. Importantly, she understands and respects the roles and duties of the commission and city government,” Longe said in the meeting. “She’s focused on process transparency, communication and teamwork, all skills that will be helpful in leading the commission. She listens respectfully to every resident and stakeholder who appears before the commission, and she’s always prepared and ready to offer thoughtful perspective. So there’s no question in my mind that Mayor Pro Tem McLain is qualified and ready to assume the position of mayor, and so I proudly nominate her as such.”

McLain is a daughter of immigrants who landed in Detroit and moved to Birmingham before she was born. At the time, people in their small community questioned their decision to move to Birmingham because it was so far away.

She said both of her parents would respond that they went “because they have great schools, because we can walk everywhere,” as her mother didn’t drive, “and because we are going to be included and feel good about our family and meet new people.”

As an alumna of the Birmingham Public Schools system, McLain attended Adams Elementary School, Derby Middle School and Seaholm High School. Growing up in Birmingham, she was involved in her community through activities such as gymnastics and music.

After graduating high school, she lived at home as she commuted back and forth to college to become a nurse. She is a psychiatric nurse by training.

She eventually retired to raise her three children. However, she decided to go back to work once they grew up.

“I wanted to do something, not just to put on my resume, but something I felt good about given the fact that so many people were so great to my parents when they started fresh here,” McLain said.

This mindset led her to become involved with the Birmingham Area Cable Board, which she was chair of for about 15 of the 16 years she was on the board. She was the first female and the youngest person to be chair. At the time, they did not have a lot of interaction with other governmental agencies, so they joined the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors. During her time on the board, she went to every conference and met people from all over the United States.

“I was a suburban mom who wasn’t working outside the home and trying to figure out how and why telecommunication law is what it is and how it could be better for us on the ground trying to educate our kids and connect with our parents,” McLain said. “And I figured it out and it just goes to show that learning more and having a lifelong learning path is not only invigorating, but extremely contagious, and the people around me were so excited that I was excited that they began to join and do similar volunteer activities in the city and the communities that they live in.”

McLain has served on several boards, including the NEXT senior center board and the Women Officials Network Foundation. She also volunteers as a substitute for Meals on Wheels through the senior center.

She was elected to the City Commission in 2021 and was named mayor pro tem in 2022.

When McLain ran for office, she said she decided to do it without any assistance. She ended up consulting with a professional who said they would help her come up with a tagline.

“I said, no, I’m not a politician. This is a nonpartisan office. I will create my own content. And all my content is my own work product, and whether it fails or whether it succeeds, I will be proud that that is my work product. It is my voice,” McLain said.

She said she took minimum contributions, and the association with other outside legal influence is not her style.

“My style is that I am my own content provider and I collaborate with others to solve problems,” McLain said.

As a city official, she said, her values are civility and respect first; transparency, government and decision making second; and collaborations with the public and stakeholders third.

“On our commission, we have a mix of experience in so many different areas, and we as a group are passionate about what we do and we are very passionate and committed to making it happen as a team,” McLain said.

McLain said she is personally interested in infrastructure and connectivity for all.

“When you were elected, it’s not about you,” McLain said. “You are a member of a team of seven. So while I stepped up to leadership, and I’m proud to do that, it’s not about what I think should be done. It is about what is best to be done for the citizens as a whole, and that is guided by the city manager and the commission.”

McLain said she is looking forward to being out in the community meeting with and answering the public’s questions.

“I am happy to say that I waited long enough to run for office that I am not currently full-time employed, and I can consider this volunteer position my priority and spend as much time as I can in the community at public events, at private events and doing what is called for,” McLain said. “My goal was never to run for office to get my face on the wall or cut a ribbon,” McLain said. “My goal was to honor my parents’ memory in the town that I grew up in and be a good example. And I hope that we will do that as a team. I really believe we will.”