From left, Grosse Pointe City Councilmen Terence Thomas, Donald Parthum Jr. and John Stempfle take the oath of office Nov. 18 at the Neighborhood Club.

From left, Grosse Pointe City Councilmen Terence Thomas, Donald Parthum Jr. and John Stempfle take the oath of office Nov. 18 at the Neighborhood Club.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran


City swearing-in makes history

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 22, 2019

 Grosse Pointe City Municipal Court Judge Russell Ethridge is sworn into office Nov. 18 at the Neighborhood Club for what will be his final term. He has been the City’s judge for more than 20 years.

Grosse Pointe City Municipal Court Judge Russell Ethridge is sworn into office Nov. 18 at the Neighborhood Club for what will be his final term. He has been the City’s judge for more than 20 years.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

 Former Grosse Pointe City Councilwoman Sheila Tomkowiak takes the oath of office to become the City’s second female mayor Nov. 18 at the Neighborhood Club.

Former Grosse Pointe City Councilwoman Sheila Tomkowiak takes the oath of office to become the City’s second female mayor Nov. 18 at the Neighborhood Club.

Photo by K. Michelle Moran

GROSSE POINTE CITY — The swearing-in of Grosse Pointe City’s elected officials this year was both joyful and bittersweet.

Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Julie Arthurs administered the oath of office to newly elected Mayor Sheila Tomkowiak; City Council members Donald Parthum Jr., John Stempfle and Terence Thomas; and Municipal Court Judge Russell Ethridge in front of a standing-room-only crowd Nov. 18 at the Neighborhood Club, in advance of a City Council meeting that night.

Ethridge ran unopposed Nov. 5 for his final, four-year term as the City’s judge. Because of age restrictions on judges, Ethridge, 66, can’t run again.

He said he’s served as the judge since 1998, and while a lot has changed over that period, “the one thing that hasn’t changed is my love for the community.” Ethridge thanked the residents and the council for making sure the court always had the resources it needed.

“I thank all of you for your support,” Ethridge said.

Tomkowiak is only the second female mayor in the City — she beat incumbent mayor Christopher Boettcher, who was running this year for a second two-year term. Grosse Pointe City is the only one of the Grosse Pointes to have ever had a female mayor; Susan Wheeler was the first, serving in the mid- and late-1990s.

“I’m overwhelmed by everyone who’s here,” said Tomkowiak, who had family and friends who traveled far and wide to see her sworn in. “It’s so touching.”

Also drawing a large group of friends and relatives was Thomas, the first African American man to serve on a council in the Grosse Pointes, and the first African American candidate elected to a council in the Pointes. Sierra Leone Donaven, the first African American to serve on a city council in the Pointes when she was appointed to fill a vacancy in Grosse Pointe Farms in 2018, lost her bid to retain that seat during a contested council election this fall.

Thomas thanked his family and friends for their support, including a sister who flew in from New York to see him take the oath of office.

“Engaging in public service is never easy, but it is when you have support,” Thomas said.

Parthum has been on the council for 12 years, and Stempfle, now the longest-serving current council member, has been on the council for 16 years. The council members were elected for four-year terms.