Incumbents prevail in Southfield race for mayor, clerk and council

Southfield Sun | Published November 3, 2021

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Voters showed support for the incumbent mayor, clerk and council members during the general election in Southfield Nov. 2. 

The candidates for the mayor of Southfield were current Mayor Kenson Siver and challenger Tawnya Morris, competing for a four-year term. 

Siver defended his seat, receiving 8,891 votes, while Morris received 6,710 votes. There were 21 unassigned write-ins.  

The candidates for city clerk of Southfield included the incumbent, Sherikia Hawkins, and the challenger, Wendy Webster-Jackson. They were competing for one four-year term. Hawkins received 9,585 votes, while Webster-Jackson received 5,087. There were 38 unassigned write-ins. 

The candidates for the Southfield City Council were incumbents Lloyd Crews, Jason Hoskins, Michael “Ari” Mandelbaum and Linnie Taylor, and challengers Ryan Scott Foster, Charles Hicks, Robert Vance Patrick and Jay Reid. There were four open seats. The three highest vote-getters received four-year terms, while the fourth highest receives a two-year term.

The incumbents all prevailed, with Taylor receiving 10,198 votes, Hoskins receiving 8,827 votes, Crews receiving 8,555 votes and Mandelbaum receiving 8,080 votes. 

The runners-up were Hicks, with 7,920 votes; Reid, with 3,831 votes; Patrick, with 2,807 votes; and Foster, with 2,635 votes. There were 103 unassigned write-ins. 

The mayoral candidates

Siver, 75, the mayor from 2015 to present, has lived in Southfield for 54 years. He is a retired teacher and deputy superintendent of the Southfield Public Schools, with a bachelor’s degree from Oakland University, and master’s and doctorate degrees from Wayne State University. Prior to becoming mayor, he had been a council member since 2001. He is a founding member of the Southfield Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Task Force and the Southfield Parks and Garden Club. He has also written three books on the history of the city and edited the 30th anniversary book on the Martin Luther King Jr. Task Force.

Siver previously said that his goals for the coming term include pushing for infrastructure improvements, improving place-making, overseeing the revitalization of the Northland Center property, attracting and retaining businesses, reducing blight through code enforcement, better meeting the needs of seniors, protecting the environment, and focusing on issues related to diversity and social equity. He also sees expanding housing access as another key issue.

Morris, 53, has lived in Southfield for 27 years and served as a member of the City Council from 2015 to 2021. She is the president and CEO of the Abayomi Community Development Corporation, a faith-based nonprofit in northwest Detroit. She has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Michigan State University, and a master’s degree in health services administration from the University of Michigan.

Morris previously said that she led the City Council in a vote last year to amend the city charter to return primary election voting to Southfield. In 2019 she wrote a resolution to make hiring processes more inclusive, and in 2017 she wrote a resolution to help homeowners avoid losing their homes to foreclosure. She is also engaged with the Northland Center project.

Other top priorities for her were the creation of a Utilities and Infrastructure Commission to hold companies accountable for power outages, floods, roads, sidewalks and sewer repairs, including the creation of a service-level agreement based on performance, by which rebates and credits are tied to the number of outages; and improving quality of life by redeveloping vacant and dilapidated strip malls, adding more boutique food chains and fine dining establishments.

 

The clerk candidates

The current city clerk, Hawkins, 40, has lived in the city of Southfield for more than 10 years. She has a master’s degree in political science, a bachelor’s degree in communication, and a certificate of diversity and inclusion from Cornell University. She has more than 17 years of experience in local government, including 10 years as a city clerk.

During her first term as city clerk, she led voter outreach and education efforts that drove record turnout in multiple Southfield elections. She also said that she streamlined processes to make basic services available online, such as public participation in City Council meetings, and Freedom of Information Act requests.

She previously said that community engagement would be a top priority for her if re-elected, and that she also wants to continue improving ease of access for residents seeking information from the city, including public records.

The challenger for city clerk, Webster-Jackson, 49, has lived in Southfield for 12 years and is a podiatrist, with a doctorate in podiatric medicine from the New York College of Podiatric Medicine. She previously described herself as an educated business owner who has managed a medical office for over 20 years.

She campaigned on election integrity, maintaining accurate records of city meetings, efficiently fulfilling Freedom of Information Act requests, and conducting voter outreach efforts that would include more voter registration drives.

 

The council candidates

Crews, 46, an incumbent, has lived in the city of Southfield for 12 years and is currently employed as a professor at Oakland Community College in Royal Oak and Southfield, where he teaches political science. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in political science from Clark Atlanta University, and his doctor of philosophy in educational leadership and policy studies from Wayne State University. 

Prior to his time as a tenured faculty member, he spent 14 years as an executive director and dean of academic and student services, where he helped students pursue their degrees. Crews has also served on various boards, including the American Heart Association and the Boys and Girls Club of South Oakland County, as president of the Southfield Rotary Club, and more.

He previously said he plans to implement a director of diversity, equity and inclusion for the city who would work to conduct climate studies and provide training to all employees, as well as outreach to the community to make the city more sustainable. 

Another goal is implementing a policy on Community Benefits Agreements, which would ensure that new development and redevelopment will bring benefits such as job opportunities for residents, financial support for parks and recreation, and training programs for youth and adults. And the Northland Center redevelopment is another top priority.

Foster, 41, was born and raised in Southfield, and currently works for Vehiship Transportation Service. He has a bachelor’s degree in history from Ferris State University.

He served as a police officer for two years in the Detroit Police Department and for six years in the Dallas Police Department. He previously said that he understands local government and the challenges of city politics. He also pointed to his time running a Little League football organization for three years, which he said helped him refine his budgeting skills and his ability to manage multiple things at once.

Infrastructure, public safety and parks were top priorities for Foster. He wanted to improve the condition of roads, implement park upgrades and see more community policing models.

Hicks, 49, has lived in Southfield for 30-plus years. Currently, he serves as the director of technology, innovation and process improvement at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Prior to that, he was the director of purchasing for Wayne County, where he managed $1.5 billion in annual spending. He is a 1989 graduate of Southfield High, and earned his bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Michigan and a master’s degree in business information technology from Walsh College.

He is currently serving his third year as the president of the Southfield Public Schools Board of Education. He was first elected as a trustee to the school board in 2016. Hicks said that his top goals are to support and improve public safety efforts, to enhance and add city services, to attract and retain homeowners, to attract and retain businesses, and to address power outages and road issues.

Hoskins, 37, an incumbent, has lived in the city of Southfield for seven years. He works as a legislative director for state Sen. Jeremy Moss. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Eastern Michigan University, a master’s degree in public administration from Eastern Michigan University, and a juris doctor from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

Hoskins previously said that serving on both the council and working in the state Legislature has allowed him to better advocate for Southfield in Lansing. 

He campaigned, in part, on developing a downtown area that he hopes will rival many suburban cities in the region. He also wanted to craft a community benefits ordinance that requires developers to give some sort of benefit to the community when they receive a tax benefit. To this end, Hoskins had been working with members of the community and a nonprofit specializing in the matter to shape the policy.

Mandelbaum, 39, has lived in Southfield for 26 years, and in Oak Park for 13 years prior to that. He works as a compliance analyst for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, where he has been employed for 16 years. He has a master of business administration degree from Wayne State University and a project management certificate from Lawrence Technological University.

In his six years on the Southfield City Council, he has served two terms as president pro tem. He said that he joined the council in 2015 after six years serving on Southfield’s Total Living Commission, where he worked to improve the quality of life for residents. In addition to the council, Mandelbaum currently serves as the chairman of boards and commissions, and as a member of the Finance Committee, the Northland Redevelopment Committee, and as the council representative on the Southfield Non-Profit Housing Commission.

He is also a member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Task Force, and in 2014 he was named an Oakland County “Elite 40 Under 40” by then-County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. He was nominated in 2016 for the “Igniting the Flame” Award by American City and County Magazine as an up-and-coming leader in the public sector.

Mandelbaum previously said he wants to continue strengthening the local economy through adaptive reuse and redevelopment of buildings to meet the city’s growing needs. This includes overseeing the redevelopment of Northland Center, as well as adding more jobs for residents, and adding more small and minority-owned businesses throughout the city.

Mandelbaum also said that he wants to make the city more “responsive” by implementing more training for all city employees, including police and fire, on the topics of diversity, equity and inclusion. He also wants the city to continue focusing on road and sewer infrastructure repair, and to be transparent in government spending, as well as seeking resident input when making decisions. Providing first responders with new training and equipment is another goal.

Mandelbaum also wants to see more “family-friendly programming for young and old,” including more opportunities for youth outdoor recreation, such as basketball courts and upgrades to park equipment. Enhanced pedestrian safety amenities around neighborhood schools and parks is another priority, as is working on AARP certification for the city, and updating zoning laws to better reflect the habits of modern society.

Patrick, 58, is a challenger for the City Council. He is a lifelong resident of Southfield, and currently works as a general contractor for commercial and residential renovations. He is a graduate of Southfield High School with two associate’s degrees from Oakland Community College, and a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University.

While he is new to politics, he is no stranger to service, having been president of the Friends of Belle Isle Aquarium and serving on the board of the Belle Isle Conservancy. He is the current president of his homeowners association, a role in which he feels that he has made his neighborhood a cleaner, safer and better place to live.

He previously said that, if elected, he wants to focus on the four P’s: parks, police, potholes and people. He said he learned a great deal taking a leadership role restoring and reopening the Belle Isle Aquarium and that he wants to apply those lessons to governing the city.

Reid, 25, has lived in Southfield since he was 2, and has been employed with the city of Southfield for seven years, in which time he has held various positions operating city business and assisting residents. He is a graduate of Southfield High School who majored in public administration, political science at the University of Michigan.

His top goals included improving unity in the community by building a stronger connection between the schools, City Hall and the library; helping seniors by holding landlords responsible for mismanaged apartments and promoting a senior center with more senior activities during the day; and promoting more family-friendly destinations and programs, including mentoring programs that help prepare today’s youth for the working world.

Taylor, an incumbent, has lived in the city of Southfield for more than 30 years and is currently the corporate payroll manager at ThyssenKrupp Materials NA. She holds a master’s degree in human resources management. She has also served on the city’s Planning Commission and Library Board.

She previously said that she continues to be an advocate for greater transparency in local government, and she is committed to engaging all stakeholders — residents, businesses and civic groups alike. She wants common sense government policies and legislation, which she said includes supporting equity, inclusion and sensitivity training for police officers, firefighters and paramedics. She also supports the use of innovative technology and multimedia concepts to help connect residents, and to promote the community and build its reputation.

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