Mayor announces bid for state representative seat

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published February 1, 2016


ROYAL OAK — Jack Salter may be a Republican, but the founder of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland and Macomb Counties said last week that he supports Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison in his plan to seek the Democratic Party’s nomination for state representative.

Salter said he would always vote for Ellison because of the qualities he stands for, regardless of political party affiliation.

“And Jim has integrity in spades,” Salter said.

Salter was one of about 50 attendees at the club, located on East Lincoln Avenue, the afternoon of Jan. 28 to support Ellison as he publicly announced that he is running for the 26th District seat, which will be vacated by current state Rep. Jim Townsend, D-Royal Oak, due to term limits.

Others in attendance included local and state officials, friends and family.

“I just think Jim is going to do such a good job because this is who he is; he is a public servant and we need more of them up there not pushing their own agendas, not doing the infighting, because it has just been such a disappointing Legislature for the last few years,” said Ellison’s wife, Jodie.

Ellison, 64, is entering his 13th year as mayor and said that now is the time to run for state representative.

Ellison called Michigan politics “dysfunctional.”

“So, I decided to take the step in taking all the experience that I’ve garnered and try to move up to Lansing to see if I can’t do it,” he said. “The state desperately needs experienced leaders that can be responsive to all of our residents and committed to investing in the future, and that needs to start right now.”

As a lifelong resident of Royal Oak, the mayor said he feels rooted in the community, but he said he has strong ties to Madison Heights as well. Ellison said he has two children living in Madison Heights and is very familiar with the community.

“I’m glad that running for the 26th District I can represent two cities that are very, very close to my heart,” he said. “And it’s my intent to prove to these people that we can make a difference. I want to be the voice up there in Lansing — much like I’ve done in my history as the mayor — the hands-on, community oriented, getting out and greeting people and then taking all of that up to Lansing and then getting into somebody’s face.”

Madison Heights resident Laurie Geralds spoke on behalf of Ellison during the rally. Geralds served with Ellison on the Stagecrafters board of directors.

“And one of the things I admired most about working with him on the board was the fact that he did not have a personal agenda. … I see that in his leadership in the city,” she said. “I think he would be a great person in Lansing, and I think we probably mostly agree that is desperately needed.”

Ellison said he has also walked in many of the footsteps residents in the district have traveled, losing his job six years ago and facing the reality that his next job would be with a significant pay cut while dipping into retirement savings for daily living.

“I’ve lived that life as many, many people in both Royal Oak and Madison Heights have done,” he said. “I can certainly relate to how tough it is to try and make ends meet when the income you’re used to has disappeared.”

Ellison said the state has to make a commitment to invest in schools, cities and working families.

“It’s time for us to pull together and get this Legislature back to work,” he said.

Chairman of the Downtown Development Authority Jay Dunstan said he remembers the first time he met Ellison more than 20 years ago. Dunstan was trying to figure out a ballot proposal and someone tapped him on the shoulder, introduced himself and fully discussed what the proposal meant.

“Jim is the most balanced person I’ve ever met,” Dunstan said. “To get from point A to point B without any bull, he is the right guy. And I’ll tell you something, he can work with anybody. And I’ll tell you right now, we’ve been through many battles together and I thought Jim has handled himself wonderfully.

“Considering what is going on in Lansing right now, he’s the perfect guy to be part of that because I think he’ll show up and have more experience than anybody in that city.”

Ellison said it was hard for him to think about vacating the mayoral seat, but he knew it was time.

“What is going to be hardest is not being mayor,” he said. “This is my dream job and I’m really going to miss is it. But you know what … I’ve got only so many productive years in my life, so let’s go up there and see if I can make a difference, because I am so, so frustrated with what is happening up there.”

As of press time, the Royal Oak city attorney was interpreting the city charter to determine exactly what will happen if Ellison vacates the seat.

Ellison said that although he would not be revealing names, he does know there are a couple of commission members interested in the job.