Grafstein to face Gault in Democratic primary for county board

MacLean files as Republican candidate for general election

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published May 3, 2024

 Madison Heights Mayor Roslyn Grafstein, left, will be competing with incumbent Oakland County Commissioner Ann Erickson Gault, D-Troy, middle, in the Democratic primary Aug. 6 for District 3. The winner will then compete with Republican challenger Douglas MacLean, of Madison Heights, in the November general election.

Madison Heights Mayor Roslyn Grafstein, left, will be competing with incumbent Oakland County Commissioner Ann Erickson Gault, D-Troy, middle, in the Democratic primary Aug. 6 for District 3. The winner will then compete with Republican challenger Douglas MacLean, of Madison Heights, in the November general election.


MADISON HEIGHTS — Roslyn Grafstein, the mayor of Madison Heights, has announced she is running for a four-year term on the Oakland County Board of Commissioners.

She will be competing as a Democrat in the Aug. 6 primary election with Ann Erickson Gault, D-Troy, who was appointed by the board to fill the vacancy left by the late Gary McGillivray in District 3, which includes Madison Heights, Hazel Park and parts of Troy. McGillivray died on Nov. 3, 2023, and Gault took office on Nov. 16.

McGillivray, 71, had been a resident of Madison Heights.

Grafstein said that after six years on the Madison Heights City Council, she is ready to take her advocacy for the community to the county level. She is currently about six months into her second two-year term. If she is elected to the commission, the remaining six members of the City Council would appoint one of their own to fill the vacancy.

“It’s important to note that historically, Madison Heights has had a representative at the county, but currently, we don’t have any representatives from our city at any higher levels of government,” Grafstein said.


The decision to run
Grafstein said she has been a dedicated volunteer since her kids were in preschool. With her youngest now graduating high school, she feels she will have more time to commit to public service.

“I want to serve the entire community, which includes not only Madison Heights but also its neighbors to the north and south. We’re all connected, and we all affect each other. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for awhile,” Grafstein said. “I’ve been on a few task forces for (the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments), and something that often comes up is we need to work together as a larger community, support our neighbors, and look at the metro area as a whole.”

Grafstein first became mayor of Madison Heights in 2020 when she was appointed to fill a vacancy left by the previous mayor, Brian Hartwell, after he became judge of the 43rd District Court, in Hazel Park. In 2021, she was elected to a full two-year term, and she has continued to hold the office ever since.

But she feels that her first experience leading the city actually came before her appointment. Near the end of 2019, mere months before the start of the pandemic, the city of Madison Heights had an environmental crisis where green-colored ooze leaked onto Interstate 696. The pollution was actually groundwater laced with cancer-causing hexavalent chromium that had welled up beneath the site of the former Electro-Plating Services, where illegal dumping of hazardous waste had occurred.

At the time, Hartwell was abroad, so Grafstein assumed mayoral duties and helped lead a multi-agency cleanup operation that included both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy. She called for and chaired a special City Council meeting to discuss the issue with the public, and has continued to work with city staff and attorneys on remediating the site. The building there has since been demolished.

In March 2020, when the global lockdown began, she helped secure a disinfection protocol for the city’s emergency vehicle fleet, and when COVID-19 vaccines became available, she coordinated with local pharmacies to secure doses and organize vaccination clinics for the city’s most vulnerable.

She also points to feats such as the revival of the city’s Environmental Citizens Committee, which she spearheaded shortly after joining the council in 2017. She helped secure funding for projects such as rain gardens to manage stormwater runoff, and worked with volunteers to launch the Bloom Project, which transforms vacant areas into pollinator-friendly native gardens. The city’s efforts to restore the tree canopy under her watch have also secured it “Tree City USA” status from the Arbor Day Foundation since 2020.

Safety has been another priority for the mayor. Grafstein said that since she joined the council, Madison Heights has increased its police and fire personnel by 20%. She helped restructure the Crime Commission to focus more on education and prevention. She also supported the creation of an ordinance to clean up blight and crack down on crime at hotels and motels in the city.

The mayor said that a recent mental health co-responder program Madison Heights helped broker with neighboring communities is an example of the sort of collaborative work she wants to continue at the county level.

“I feel everyone should have the opportunity to have a safe and clean neighborhood where they can thrive,” Grafstein said. “So focusing on environment and public safety is very important.”

Gault: ‘I’ve hit the ground running’

Gault works as an attorney, specializing in appeals and contract legal writing and research for individual and small-firm lawyers. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Manchester University and a law degree from the University of Toledo. She is also a past chair and member of the Providing Access to Legal Services Committee for the Oakland County Bar Association and does pro bono law work with the Family Law Clinic.

Her appointment to the Oakland County Board of Commissioners in November 2023 came not long after she had been reelected to the Troy City Council, where she had served since late 2019. Gault is a 20-year resident of Troy, where she resides with her husband Tom and daughter Eleanor.

“I was told by one of my fellow commissioners that I’ve hit the ground running,” Gault said of her half-year thus far on the board. “And I appreciate that compliment. I’ve been striving to represent the people of Madison Heights, Hazel Park and Troy, and to honor (McGillivray’s) legacy.”

The board also appointed Gault to fill McGillivray’s seat on the county’s Parks Commission.  The parks were near and dear to McGillivray’s heart, and Gault said she is pleased to have overseen improvements in the county parks system, including the recent playscape at Green Acres Park in Hazel Park. She said she’s also pleased by the collaborative mental health co-responder program in which Madison Heights and Hazel Park are participating, and which Oakland County supports.

During her time on the board, Gault has also voted to fund multiple affordable housing projects through the county’s Oakland Together Housing Trust Fund, and she supported a resolution urging the state Legislature to pass a water affordability bill package. She also voted to approve a grant application to the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund that would cover the creation of a new county park in Troy, named Turtle Woods. She also hosted Hazel Park High students for this year’s Youth in Government Day, in February.

Gault said that continuing to enhance and expand the county parks will be a priority for her. She will also be focused on improving mental health care and substance abuse treatment options, and making housing more affordable in Oakland County.

Gault has also proposed to the Oakland County Board of Commissioners that they sponsor the Juneteenth Festival in Madison Heights, and she is leading a policy work group that will promote voting rights and election integrity.

She said she is supporting plans by the Parks Commission to modernize the Bob Welch baseball field in Hazel Park, as well as to rehabilitate the basketball court at Civic Center Plaza in Madison Heights, and to enhance Ambassador Park and the Red Oaks Nature Center.

“And in August, we will begin our budget discussions, where I will advocate for investing in our local communities to improve our public safety and quality of life,” Gault said.

She said her 26 years of experience as a lawyer taught her how to advocate and negotiate — critical skills, she said, for advancing policy and funding proposals on the board. She also feels qualified due to her four years of service as a member of the Troy City Council.

“I look forward to speaking with the voters of my district, and learning more about the issues that matter most to them,” Gault said.


The opposite ticket
Whoever prevails between Grafstein and Gault in the Democratic primary will advance to the general election in November, where they will compete against Douglas MacLean, a Madison Heights resident who is running as a Republican.

MacLean has a long history of service with the city of Madison Heights, including 29 years as an officer with the Madison Heights Police Department. He retired in 1995 and then served on the Madison Heights City Council from 1995 to 1999, when George Suarez was mayor and shortly before Ed Swanson became mayor. MacLean also served for 17 years on the Madison District Public Schools Board of Education, beginning in the late ’70s when he was still a police officer.

“I’ve always been civic-minded, for one thing,” MacLean said of his decision to run for the Oakland County Board of Commissioners. “I would be there on the board to look out for fiduciary responsibility for the county of Oakland, and for the people I’m representing in Madison Heights, Hazel Park and Troy. I would be on the opposite ticket running as a Republican, for what has been a Democratic seat for many years. Really, I just think that it’s time for a change.”

He said he has concerns about recent county investments into mass transit that he feels are prohibitively expensive and shortsighted. He also has concerns about the commission considering property acquisitions in downtown Pontiac with possible plans to relocate county employees there from the county campus on Telegraph Road.

“I don’t think these are necessary expenditures at this time,” MacLean said. “The economy is going through a rough patch right now, experiencing inflation. And I feel we need to be more careful with how we’re spending the taxpayers’ dollars.”