Zachary Ackerman

The Next Chapter

Friends,

A wise man once told me that, “When you’re in elected office, people say you’re either a hero or a jerk. Once you retire from elected office though, everyone agrees that you’re wise.”

It is time for me to get wise and close this chapter of my life. It is with many emotions that I am announcing that I will not be seeking reelection this November. 

I was elected at 21-years old and, by the time I leave office, will have served the residents of the Third Ward for nearly a quarter of my life. When this all began, I set out with some very concrete goals; most of which we have accomplished:

  • A comprehensive roads plan to spend our infrastructure dollars smarter;
  • Direct intervention in the Gelman lawsuit to keep our drinking water safe;
  • A massive zoning reform to aggressively incentivize affordable housing in our downtown; and
  • Stable funding for climate action.

For me, it’s time for the next set of goals.

Let me say that this is the best job in the world. I grew up here – Ann Arbor is my hometown. Together, we are going through a lot of change. The University is growing, companies are thriving, and more-and-more people want to live here. That creates friction and pain. More commuters means more traffic at rush hour and old houses have become new apartments. But, most importantly, housing is more expensive for the people who can afford it the least.

Tackling these challenges requires hard decisions. And, in 2020, we have two paths to follow: We can run from change – cower and bury our heads. But, the change will come all the same. By 2050, 89% of Americans will live in cities. These are national trends. We are not unique. Or, we can embrace change – challenge the ways we have done things for the last 70 years. We can innovate and become a model:

A small Midwest college town that became a leader in disrupting decades-old zoning practices with racist roots, finding creative ways to fund our community’s affordable housing needs, reducing carbon emissions by getting cars off the roads, making our infrastructure safer, and balancing our budget at the same time. These are lofty goals, but I have seen firsthand that we have the ability to accomplish each of them – if we let ourselves.

For the last four years, I got to work on these challenges – in the hometown that I love.

But more than that, I got to serve people – real people, trying to live their lives and raise their families and enjoy their sliver of the American dream. I got to help grandmothers plant trees and college students install electric vehicle charging stations. I got to help install sidewalks in an underserved neighborhood and expand a community center.

I am optimistic that our community will lean into change. If not now, soon. My generation needs it – because the world is on fire and things cost way more than they should. I know that probably sounded more like a campaign announcement than a retirement speech, but I am so excited for what our city can be.

But, these are the challenges for a new leader.

So, what comes next for me? I promise something exciting. But it’s too early to say with confidence yet. I will keep you all posted.

As I close this chapter over the next eight months, I will reflect on all that I can be grateful for: I am grateful to the people of the Third Ward who took a chance on a 21-year-old kid – twice. I am grateful for the public servants here at City Hall who work day and night to keep us happy and safe. I am grateful to mentors who have shown me the meaning of honor and courage. I am grateful to my colleagues, past and present, who dedicate a significant part of their lives to the service of others.  I am grateful to God and the recovery community for a second chance at a better life. And, I am grateful to my family and wonderful girlfriend for love and support along the way.

Most importantly, thank you for being my neighbors.

Sincerely,

Zachary Ackerman