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Hartwell defends position as mayor of Madison Heights

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published November 5, 2019


MADISON HEIGHTS — In the general election Nov. 5, voters in Madison Heights handed Mayor Brian Hartwell an overwhelming victory over his challenger, Johnnette Eggert.

The incumbent mayor garnered 83.11% of the vote (3,972 votes), while Eggert took 16.61% (794 votes), according to unofficial results from the Oakland County Clerk’s Office at press time.

The two candidates were running for one two-year term.

Hartwell, 37, an attorney, has lived in Madison Heights his entire life. He served on the Madison Heights City Council from 2007 to 2015, at which point he was elected mayor, a role he has continued to serve since then.

He campaigned on improving public safety, including the hiring of another 911 dispatch aide, two police officers and three firefighters. He is also focused on developing the city’s downtown district and promoting code enforcement efforts to keep the town clean.

Eggert, 50, has lived in Madison Heights for 20 years. She works in the health care industry and as a substitute teacher. She also serves as the CEO and chief superintendent of the John and Minnie Wulu School System in Monrovia, located in her homeland of Liberia, West Africa. She also serves as the CEO and president of the John and Minnie Wulu Foundation USA.

She previously made an attempt for the Madison Heights City Council in 2017. In her bid for mayor of Madison Heights, she pledged to pursue lower taxes and greater accountability.

Eggert said that while she didn’t win in the end, the process of meeting residents and learning about their concerns made it all worthwhile.     

“I don’t even have enough words — it was just an amazing experience,” Eggert said. “The residents have so much to say about what they’re looking for in the city.”     

She said that recurring concerns among residents include Madison Heights becoming known as “Marijuana Heights” as it embraces medical marijuana businesses. She said that many residents also feel concerned that the city’s two school districts divide the community between north and south. Eggert said many people wish for one school district to bring everyone together. She also said that the senior citizens in the city want to age comfortably in place, and to do so, they need the city to reach out more with lawn care, snow removal and other forms of assistance. Improved trash pickup is another request that she heard from residents.

Eggert said that she reached out to Hartwell the night of the election and congratulated him.     

“He was so appreciative, and he complimented me on running and being positive, not negative,” Eggert said. “I just shared some ideas in terms of ways to hold the city together. Brian really is an inspiration for this city.”  

Hartwell said that the city is already addressing many of Eggert’s concerns regarding senior citizens by bringing in more senior housing, redeveloping 11 Mile Road to be more accessible to retirees and seniors so they can age in place, and expanding programs at the Active Adult Center.

“Maybe the city needs to do a better job communicating those things,” Hartwell said.

He said that he feels his win by over 80% of the vote validates the direction that the city is taking.

“In recent years, the council and I have focused on redevelopment and bringing in new businesses that are bringing in hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in investment, which has helped every corner of the city,” Hartwell said. “The council has also been brave to bring in new administration at City Hall. We’ve empowered our new city manager and development director to be creative without fear of losing their job if they make a mistake. We’re really seeing the benefits of that progressive vision of running a city.

“The council and I will continue to find ways to save money,” the mayor continued. “We respect the taxpayer. And just because there’s more funding through (Proposal MH) doesn’t change our role to be efficient in delivering services.

“The most important thing we can do is bolster public safety and make sure we live in a safe and clean community,” he said. “You will see City Council hire new firefighters, police officers and a 911 dispatcher, which will have the result of lowering response times and boosting morale in our departments, preventing employee burnout and workplace injuries from overworked first responders — that’s key.

“And we will also keep our foot on the accelerator of redevelopment. We face competition from our neighbors in Troy, Royal Oak, Warren and Hazel Park. We need to attract and retain businesses, so you’ll see programs for marketing our city, to help bring more jobs and investment,” Hartwell said. “It’s not a necessary role of council, but it’s what defines us as the City of Progress.”