The Next Chapter
Someone once told me that, “When you’re in elected office, people either love you or loathe you. But, once you retire, everyone agrees that you are wise.”
It is time for me to get wise and close this chapter of my life. With much thought and many emotions, I am announcing that I will not be seeking re-election.
I was first elected at the age of 21. Come November, I will have served the people of Ann Arbor’s Third Ward for nearly a quarter of my life. When this all began, we set out with a few bedrock values and handful of concrete objectives. As I look back on the past five years, I am proud of what we have accomplished together. While those same bedrock values will carry forward, it’s time for the next set of goals.
Before I go, let me say that this is the best job in the world. I grew up here – Ann Arbor is my hometown. Serving the community that raised me has been the greatest honor of my life. Together, we are going through a lot of change. The University is growing, new research and industries are emerging, and more-and-more people want to call Ann Arbor home. These dynamics create friction and pain. More jobs and higher enrollment have meant more commuters and more demand on the housing we have today. We feel and see the effects – more traffic at rush hour and old houses giving way for new apartments. But, the greatest impact of these changes is also the most important: Housing has become more expensive for the people who can afford it the least.
Tackling these challenges will require hard decisions. Here, 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. Or, we can embrace change – challenge the status quo that has dominated the past 70 years, innovate, and be a community of leaders.
Imagine a Midwest college town that challenges decades-old zoning practices with racist roots; builds housing in which kids, regardless of the parents’ means, can access opportunity. Imagine this college town eliminates carbon emissions; provides safe water and roads. Imagine if we did all this while balancing our budget and winning awards for financial discipline. For decades, we have been told that no community, no state, no nation can accomplish all of these visions. But, I have seen firsthand that we have the ability to accomplish each and all of them – if we let ourselves.
For the last five years, I had the privilege to work on these challenges. But, more than that, I had the privilege to serve real people, trying to live their lives, raise their families, and enjoy their sliver of the American Dream. I got to help grandmothers plant trees and college students install solar panels. I got to help build sidewalks in under-served neighborhoods and expand a community center. I got to partner with brilliant City Staff to tackle thousands of issues in creative ways.
I am optimistic that our community will lean into change. My generation will need change because the world is on fire and things cost way more than they should. 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. While it’s too early to share details, I promise to keep you all close.
Finally, as I look back on this chapter, I reflect on all that I can be grateful for: I am grateful to the people of the Third Ward who elected a 21-year-old kid, not once but twice. I am grateful for the public servants at City Hall who work day and night to keep us happy, healthy, and safe. I am grateful to mentors who have shown me the meaning of honor and courage. I am grateful to colleagues, past and present, who have dedicated so much 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. I am grateful to my family and wonderful fiancé for their love and support along the way. Most importantly, I am grateful to have neighbors like you.