Mayor Michael Taylor, center, cuts a ribbon with community leaders and residents at the Sterling Heights Community Center in February. Despite the building closing for periods due to COVID-19, city officials have listed its completion as one of the year’s highlights.

Mayor Michael Taylor, center, cuts a ribbon with community leaders and residents at the Sterling Heights Community Center in February. Despite the building closing for periods due to COVID-19, city officials have listed its completion as one of the year’s highlights.

File photo by Donna Agusti


Not all news was negative in Sterling Heights in 2020

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published December 16, 2020

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STERLING HEIGHTS — It’s easy to focus on the bad news that took place throughout 2020 — there was so much of it, especially COVID-19, its cancellations and the economic fallout. But Sterling Heights officials and community leaders recently shared some silver linings to the year that might otherwise be overlooked.

Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor said the thing that makes him happiest this year is “how the community came together and really showed our spirit, and we weren’t going to let this ruin our local businesses and our local restaurants.”

Taylor praised the Parks and Recreation Department for using creativity to provide services despite the Community Center’s limited use due to COVID-19, as well as other challenges. He also praised the police and fire departments for being “phenomenal.” He called attention to the Inside Out program, which helped some businesses set up temporary outdoor service areas to compensate for restrictions on things like indoor dining.

“It was great to see businesses adapting and staying open to provide the service for our citizens,” he said. “As challenging as this year was, we have plenty to be thankful for and to celebrate still. It’s going to be challenging to start the next year. I think we showed what we’re made of, and I’m proud to be part of it.”

Sterling Heights Parks and Recreation Director Kyle Langlois pointed to other positive news: this year’s completion of two of the last projects to come from the Recreating Recreation initiative.

“We were able to open up our much-anticipated Community Center, which was certainly a great feat,” he said. “We were also able to finish construction and open up our nature trail over at Delia Park that leads to Beaumont Hospital.”

In terms of the economy, Luke Bonner, the city’s senior economic development adviser, said some things went right in 2020.

“Home sales were incredible all year. New home construction was incredible. Those are two very positive things,” he said. “FCA was very profitable this year, which led to SHAP, in particular, (having) higher truck sales and good supplier productivity.”

Bonner said this year also gave the city a chance to do more economic development planning, as well as go through a master plan for the Corridor Improvement Authority. He added that the Velocity Collaboration Center built a new coworking space that could attract remote workers in the next year.

Stacy Ziarko, the president and CEO of the Sterling Heights Regional Chamber of Commerce, said this year’s troubles helped put a spotlight on the hundreds of small businesses that occupy Sterling Heights.   

“We gained a new and even greater appreciation of the small businesses that make up Sterling Heights and Macomb County,” she said. “We all gained a new appreciation of them and want them to be here, to make our community grow and be prosperous.”

When it comes to law enforcement, Sterling Heights Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski said “there was negative light cast upon law enforcement agencies across the United States.” But he said 2020 was also a year when police departments nationwide closely examined themselves to determine what they did right and how they could improve.

He mentioned how Sterling Heights committed to following national best practices and becoming a fully accredited agency. He added that the city’s use of force policy now aligns with the U.S. Department of Justice’s model.

“We heard loud and clear from our residents that they want more transparency and connections with their Police Department,” he said in a text message. “We have listened and are making changes every day.”

He added that those changes include ordering body cameras for all patrol officers, increasing community outreach programs in elementary schools and increasing involvement in drug overdose treatment programming.

“So many ugly things happened in 2020, but out of the ashes came a renewed sense of community and people wanting to work together to make things better for everybody, and I firmly believe that is what has occurred and will continue into 2021,” he said.

“Reform can usually only occur in times of crisis, and 2020 was that year.”

Find out more about Sterling Heights by visiting www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2489.

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