Born, raised and elected

Ellison wins mayoral bid for seventh term

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published November 3, 2015

 Ellison speaks during a Ford Arts, Beats & Eats press conference in June 2014.

Ellison speaks during a Ford Arts, Beats & Eats press conference in June 2014.

File photo by Deb Jacques


ROYAL OAK — It is safe to say Jim Ellison knows a bit about Royal Oak.

He has lived here all his life, served on numerous boards and commissions — including the City Commission from 1991 to 1995 — made a successful run at mayor in 2003, attended myriad local events, attended Royal Oak schools and has called the community home with his wife and children.

On Nov. 3, Ellison was re-elected to serve another two-year term as mayor. Ellison ran unopposed.

Royal Oak City Clerk Melanie Halas said that since there were no official write-ins, any names written on the ballots would not be counted.

The 2015 election was Ellison’s seventh run at mayor and his fourth election running unopposed.

“There are two schools of thought,” he said in an interview prior to the election. “Either I’m very popular and people like me and I can’t be beat, or no one else wants the job. So it’s one of the above.”

Ellison said he chooses to take his unopposed status as a compliment and said that he keeps track of how many residents cast their ballots in his favor.

“I still take those numbers to heart, and I still try to get good numbers, because I use it as a gauge of if people are still satisfied,” he said.

Ellison said his political experience throughout the years brought with it a tremendous learning curve.

“My first two years I was mayor, it was all gathering information and learning how to do the job,” Ellison said. “The second two years, it was using the information I gathered and applying it, and the third two years was grabbing it and going with it. And the more I stay, the more I get.”

The mayor said he decided to run again because he wants to keep the momentum going.

“In my 12 years, we’ve done a lot of good things, and the city that we’re in now is far different from what it was 12 years ago, and there is still stuff to do, and I want to keep the momentum going,” he said. “The group we have up there (City Commission) is a good group, and I want to keep it intact and keep making progress.”

Throughout the years, Ellison said, he’s seen many changes: a complete shift in the culture and environment of the downtown, an effort to attract and retain families, a complete change in the function of the City Commission, and an uptick in new construction.

“It’s a great, positive place to be,” he said. “We’re a community now where people look to see what is going on.”

Ellison said one of the biggest occurrences during his tenure as mayor will be the change in contracts — getting away from defined-benefit plans for city workers. He also discussed the accomplishment of weathering the 2008 downturn, with thanks to the residents for approving the police millage.

The mayor said he’s happy with the progress made downtown to make Royal Oak a destination spot.

“Being born and raised here, I remember a time when there was nothing going on,” he said. “The shops were all closed and there was nothing going on.”

The pattern of retailers changed, and the city’s momentum started rolling from there.

Ellison said he is proud of the city’s ability to keep its parkland. He said there was a temptation a while back to divest of some of the underused parks, and now — due to Ford Arts, Beats & Eats — Royal Oak is able to improve some of the parks.

“I wanted to keep the city relevant,” Ellison said. “We needed to stay in the discussion; we needed to stay in the forefront of communities.

“We are in competition with every other community around here for residents, and I just wanted to make sure, whatever we did, that we kept Royal Oak relevant.”

Ellison’s priorities for his next term include getting more involved in state-level politics.

“I’m just very frustrated with what is happening up there,” Ellison said, adding that he hoped to open up the lines of communication and get a better dialogue going.

Ellison said that part of his role is to be accessible to people.

“The mayor really is the face of city government, and I’m a firm believer that people want to see their government, and I consider myself a very hands-on mayor,” he said. “I try to go to events as much as I can, and I want to be approachable, and I want people to feel free to come up and talk to me, ask questions, or give me a complaint, or pat me on the back or whatever.”