Poynter resigns as Harper Woods mayor, Kindle chosen as replacement

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published August 20, 2020

 Kenneth Poynter

Kenneth Poynter

 Valerie Kindle

Valerie Kindle

HARPER WOODS — After 23 years as the mayor of Harper Woods, Kenneth Poynter has resigned from his position.

The resignation comes after Poynter made some controversial remarks to city employees and elected officials, stating he understood “why people become white supremacists.” The statement caused an uproar that brought calls for Poynter’s resignation.

“Like many of our community members, I was gravely disappointed to hear of Mayor Poynter’s incredibly disturbing and racist comments,” 1st District State Rep. Tenisha Yancey said in a press release. “There is truly nothing in this world that can serve to justify white supremacy, and for Mayor Poynter to suggest otherwise is absolutely unacceptable. Serving our community as an elected official is an immense responsibility that should not be taken lightly. With his hateful comments, Mayor Poynter has exposed himself as an unfit leader for this moment.”

Poynter made the remark following fallout from his wife tearing up a sign that read “f--- the police” at a protest outside Harper Woods City Hall regarding the death of a Harper Woods woman, Priscilla Slater, while in the custody of the Harper Woods Police Department. Poynter and his wife received death threats after the confrontation.

Poynter released a brief statement in response to his resignation.

“I have been a member of the Harper Woods community for a lifetime,” he said. “During that time, I have been elected to the school board for nearly 15 years and have been your mayor since 1997. I love this city, its employees and the many citizens I have met, so it is with regret that I resign my position as mayor and say farewell.”

Poynter was asked to vacate his office by city administrators.

“The city administration and their employees needed to be separated from that comment from the mayor. The mayor understood that and he resigned,” said acting City Manager and Finance Director John Szymanski. “We have a new start. We are going to go forward and we are going to keep the peace. Everybody is going to be treated the same way. We will handle our problems as needed.”

City Council member Valerie Kindle was selected by her fellow City Council members as Poynter’s successor at a special meeting held Aug. 10. She has served as a member of the council since 2012.

“Ms. Kindle was elected by the body of council members at (the Aug. 10) special council meeting,” explained Szymanski. “Nominations were taken and Ms. Kindle was voted by her fellow council members to fill the interim period as mayor for the unexpired term of the former mayor.”

Kindle said that while she is honored to represent the people of Harper Woods in this new capacity, she cannot find any joy in the turn of events.

“I can’t be excited and sad at the same time,” said Kindle. “I am happy that my colleagues felt that I was someone that could help bring our city together. I am glad they had that confidence in me, and all I can say is that I will continue to serve the people of Harper Woods to the best of my ability, as I have since 2012. I hope the community will come together and move forward to improve the quality of life for everyone in Harper Woods.”

She added that she has always considered herself a friend to Poynter and believes it is a shame his tenure as mayor ended in this way.

“I am disappointed that I came about being appointed because of Mayor Poynter’s resignation,” Kindle said. “I think it was a very poor choice of words, but it was not something he meant from his heart or that he was a white supremacist or believed in any way in white supremacy. That’s not the man I’ve known for more than 20 years.”

Kindle will complete the remainder of Poynter’s term as mayor and a replacement for her seat on council will be selected by the other council members out of all those who apply in September.

“She’s the mayor until November 2021. She fulfils the entire unexpired term that she is replacing,” explained Szymanski. “There’s going to be another special selection to fill Mayor Kindle’s council seat. Candidates interested in filling the vacancy are encouraged to submit their applications to the city clerk by Sept. 4. From those applications, the City Council members will determine by a majority vote who will complete the unexpired council term.”

Kindle said that because of the sudden nature of her appointment as mayor, she doesn’t have any immediate goals, but will continue to work for the residents of the city.

“This was an unexpected appointment,” she said. “All I am trying to do right now is understand what we need to do as a city. We have so many challenges, mainly our financial challenges, and I need to work with our financial director and acting city manager so that the investors we have do not get skittish and still support our city.”

She wants to reassure her constituents that the city of Harper Woods will continue to move forward despite the events from the last several weeks.

“We as a community need to continue to be unified that all of us moved here or stayed here because of the quality of life we have here,” she said. “I want to thank Mayor Poynter for his years of service to our community.”