Kurmmell Knox selected to fill vacant Roseville City Council seat

Will serve as council’s first African American member

By: Brendan Losinski | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published May 21, 2021

 Knox

Knox

ROSEVILLE — Roseville Planning Commission Chairperson Kurmmell Knox was selected unanimously to fill the city’s open City Council seat at the council’s regular meeting May 18.

A real estate broker and attorney, Knox is the first African American to sit on the council.

“I feel excited,” Knox said. “I feel that it presents me with an opportunity to have an impact in terms of bringing diverse thought and a different perspective as having lived my life as a member of an underrepresented class. It provides me with an insight that most council members aren’t familiar with. Anytime you can bring that different perspective, it brings value.”

In terms of goals and priorities while on council, Knox said he hopes to continue much of the progress he had been working toward for the city while on the Planning Commission.

“My background is that I spent the last few years as a member of the Planning Commission. It’s been sort of my passion in terms of the city of Roseville, so I want to continue to help it transition the city into the future,” he said. “I think we are at a crossroads, and I think one of the things I would like to continue to work toward is bringing more of a downtown to the community and bringing new developers to the city. This gives me hope in the direction we’re moving in.”

Knox was the top selection of Mayor Robert Taylor for the position, as well as the other five council members — Mayor Pro Tem Jan Haggerty and Council members Catherine Haugh, Colleen McCartney, Bill Shoemaker and Steven Wietecha. Knox beat out five other candidates being reviewed by the council for the position.

Taylor expressed his confidence in Knox stepping into the role of councilman.

“He is a very loyal person to the Planning Commission. It’s a nonpaying position, but he’s been on it for more than 10 years,” said Taylor. “He runs the meetings well, he is a trained lawyer and real estate agent, so he will help us out in a number of areas. He’s very knowledgeable and familiar with the legal aspects of matters we deal with, so I think he will be a phenomenal guy for the city.”

He also expressed his satisfaction that there is finally an African American person on the council but believes that Knox is best judged by his actions and record, which Taylor described as “excellent.”

“He comes from a great family. His wife and family are wonderful people, and he is a great guy,” said Taylor. “He’s the first Black council member in the city of Roseville. I don’t know if we’ve ever had an African American resident apply since I’ve been mayor. His selection shows he’s part of the community. I know he doesn’t want to be judged because he’s an African American male; he wants to be judged by what he does.”

Knox added that the weight of being the first African American to sit on the council is something important to him but that he hopes it is a steppingstone to a more equitable attitude in communities such as Roseville.

“To be in a day and age where we’re still talking about firsts is still surprising to me, but the significance of being the first in this case isn’t lost on me. I hope to make inclusion the norm and not an outlier. Hopefully, we’re moving to a place where it’s not an issue anymore,” he said. “For a long time, Roseville has had a reputation, as many Detroit suburbs have had, that people who look like me aren’t wanted. During my time here, that has not been my reality; it has been very welcoming. I’ve been treated with respect and kindness in my 22 years (in the city). Other people may have had different, and maybe more negative, experiences, but I think we should all have the opportunities to be included in the conversation.”

Knox will have to step down from the Planning Commission in order to take up the City Council seat.

“He has to step down as chair of the Planning Commission,” Taylor said. “They will be picking a new chairperson. We are looking for applicants to fill the empty seat on the Planning Commission. Hopefully, we’ll be able to pick someone in the next few weeks. They meet twice a month. We have a lot going on with the downtown development area downtown, so we want to find someone really quick.”

Council members in Roseville earn an $8,700 annual salary.

The council seat was left vacant following the resignation of former City Councilman Charles Frontera on April 28. The resignation followed months of scrutiny into Frontera’s life after he was arrested in 2020 during a raid on his home by the Michigan State Police.

He was formally charged in October with one count of possession of less than 25 grams of crack cocaine and one count of maintaining a drug house. The first charge is a felony; the second charge is a misdemeanor. On May 5, Frontera appeared in 16th Circuit Court via Zoom and pleaded guilty to the possession charge as part of a deal with the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office to have the second charge dropped. The possession charge is punishable by up to four years in prison, and he is scheduled to be sentenced at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 14.

Frontera was first elected to the City Council in the 2015 general election. He was reelected in November 2019 to a second four-year term. The Roseville City Council had 30 days following Frontera’s resignation to find a replacement to serve until the general election in November. Knox said he is planning to run to retain the seat in the November 2021 election. The partial term on the ballot will run until Nov. 13, 2023.

Following Frontera’s resignation and the selection of Knox, Taylor said the city is eager to move on and get back to business.

“I want the community to know that we will continue to move in the right direction and work with the citizens of Roseville and continue to promote people of ethics, whatever their code of ethics may be,” said Taylor. “We’re a family city; we’re a city that works for residents. We want to stay away from controversy, be transparent and work with our citizens. I think the selection of Mr. Knox is evident of that.”