Candidates for Madison Heights City Council include incumbent as write-in

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published August 11, 2021

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MADISON HEIGHTS — A familiar name is missing from the ballot this November for the Madison Heights City Council, but he is still running — as a write-in.  

Mark Bliss, who has served on the council since 2013, had his petitions certified by the city, but was not included on the ballot because of a technicality at the county regarding a late fee. But he is still seeking another term.

The development came to light when the ballot was recently finalized, revealing five other candidates running for council, as well as the two contenders for mayor.

“The technicality is unfortunate, and my heart sank when I heard the news, but it doesn’t change that I’m running for reelection, and it certainly doesn’t change my commitment to this community my family has called home for 60 years,” Bliss said in an email. “My dad always told me everyone gets knocked down, but it’s how you get back up that matters.”

Bliss’s father, long-time local volunteer Tony Bliss, recently died due to post-COVID complications. When asked if that affected his headspace, causing him to miss the deadline, Bliss said, “I’m not making excuses, but there was certainly a lot going on at the time — I just dropped the ball on it.”

The council candidates are competing for three seats. Each seat is a four-year term.

The candidates on the ballot for council include incumbents David Soltis and Bob Gettings, and challengers Toya Aaron, Sean Fleming and Quinn Wright. All five were contacted by email. Gettings did not reply.

“I am running for City Council because I believe in our city,” said Aaron, 50, a volunteer coordinator and city resident of 13 years. “I feel we need real solutions to real problems. I desire to accomplish a safer city by bringing the community back together.”

“I’m running to bring my experience as a volunteer, a veteran and as a commissioner (on the Human Relations Equity Commission and Historical Commission) to help lead the city,” said Fleming, 49, a telecommunications professional who has lived in Madison Heights for 22 years. “I’d like to enhance our parks and recreation programs and library programs, making them more inclusive to seniors and disabled residents. I’d like to improve cultural diversity. I’d also like to create a fair but effective code enforcement department, and work with the Chamber of Commerce to help small businesses. I also want to help maintain our well-trained and professional first responders.”  

Wright, 40, is a financial advisor who has lived in the city for 15 years. He also serves on the Human Relations Equity Commission.

“As a husband and father of three, I want to make Madison Heights an even better place for my family, and yours,” Wright said. “I will use my business expertise to support long-term planning that includes everyone in our city, with the goal of keeping our neighborhoods safe, advocating for affordable housing, and continuing to grow and build our community.”

Soltis, 54, who joined the council in 2013 alongside Bliss, works in healthcare marketing and has lived in the city for about the same time he has served on council.

“I am running again to continue the enormous work and progress we have achieved in the last eight years to make Madison Heights a great place to live and raise a family,” Soltis said. “I have always proudly championed for our seniors and children and will continue to do so. And I will continue to take a common sense approach to governing, as well as fiscally responsible leadership.”

Bliss, who helped spearhead such initiatives as the strolling music festival Trail Tunes and the city’s Information Technology Advisory Committee, said that the council has made progress in expanding police and fire, investing in infrastructure and attracting new restaurants and economic development, but the pace has been slower than he’d like.

“There’s much more to do,” Bliss said. “Honestly, what I’m most proud of, and what I’ll double down on (if reelected) is my work in creatively bringing the community together during the pandemic,” he said, referencing the Trail Tunes event he co-chaired and the drive-through Holiday Tree Lighting he helped spearhead. “If people write in ‘Bliss’ at the bottom of the ballot, I’ll keep working hard for the city, making sure every tax dollar is invested where it’s most impactful, and putting my own time and effort into bringing the community together.”

In addition to the race for the Madison Heights City Council, there are also two candidates running for mayor. One is the incumbent, Madison Heights Mayor Roslyn Grafstein, who is serving a partial term by appointment to the vacancy left by the previous mayor, Brian Hartwell, after he became judge of the Hazel Park 43rd District Court.

The other candidate for mayor is William Mier, a trustee on the Lamphere Public Schools Board of Education. Mier, 62, works as a computer software manager and has lived in the city for more than 30 years. He is the treasurer on the Lamphere board, where he has served since 2013.

“The reason I am running (for mayor) is I want to continue to give back to the community,” Mier said. “I want to make sure Madison Heights is a place where families feel safe to come and play, and where seniors that helped shape this city feel that it is still their home, as well. I would look for ways to reduce the crime rate and increase recreational opportunities for families and seniors.”

Grafstein, 51, a business consultant, moved to Madison Heights from Toronto in 2004. Prior to her appointment to mayor by the council last year, she had been serving on the council since 2017.

“I find it profoundly gratifying to be of service to my community,” Grafstein said. “I want to continue my strategic planning with existing and potential businesses interested in expanding and developing in Madison Heights, increasing our property tax base and creating jobs for our community, making it an even better place to live. Another focus is continuing to work with our Police Department to identify funding resources and facilitate even more partnerships with outside agencies, similar to the new High Risk Response Team we formed with HAVEN earlier this year, to improve the safety and well-being of all our residents.”

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