Detroit voter guide: Here’s the 411 on City Coun...

Detroit voter guide: Here’s the 411 on City Council candidates

With four open seats on the ballot, the November election could usher in significant changes for the city’s legislative body.

detroit city council candidates 2021 election

With four open seats on the ballot, and two candidates who are implicated in an FBI corruption probe (though one is running unopposed), the Nov. 2 election could usher in significant changes for Detroit City Council. Detroit voters will be asked to vote for a candidate to represent their council district, as well as two council members at-large.

Detroit City Council acts as the city’s legislative body, setting the policy agenda and voting on city ordinances. City Council members serve full-time and are required to meet every day for 10 months of the year. City Council members receive an annual salary of $82,749, while the Council President is paid $94,000. 

Here’s a primer on the candidates running for City Council. Get to know them in more depth before you fill out your ballot with candidate surveys from WDET and the Detroit Free Press.

Candidates for two at-large council seats (one open seat)

Four candidates are running for two at-large seats on Detroit City Council. At-large members are not tied to a specific council district and are voted on citywide.

Incumbent Janee’ L. Ayers is a past vice president of Metro AFL-CIO. Ayers served a partial council term in 2016 and a full term in 2017. Ayers, along with Councilman Scott Benson, was subjected to an FBI raid in August as part of an investigation into corruption in city government. She said her top priorities for the next four years include financial responsibility and management and creating opportunities and removing barriers for returning citizens.

Nicole Small has worked as an HR professional for Ford Motor Company and served as vice chair of the Detroit Charter Revision Commission. Her platform includes adoption of a water affordability plan, increased pension investment and offering tax credits to overtaxed homeowners. She wants to restrict access to home repair funds for seniors, persons with disabilities and low-income Detroiters. 

Mary Waters teaches at Wayne County Community College District. She previously served on the Detroit Charter Commission, represented District 4 in the state House from 2001 to 2006 and previously lost her campaign for an at-large seat in 2017. Her platform includes adoption of a Majority Budget reflecting citizen priorities, ending water shutoffs, public safety reform and more.

Coleman Young II, son of renowned former Detroit mayor Colemen A. Young, served 12 years as a state legislator where he helped pass a law to give women paid maternity leave with job security in the public and private sectors. He lost a challenge to Mayor Mike Duggan in the 2017 mayoral race. He founded the Coleman A. Young II Educational Foundation, which provides STEM training for at-risk youth. 

City Council District 1 candidates

Incumbent James Tate is running against Krystal Larsosa, a self-described child- and youth-development professional who earned her degree in criminal justice from Eastern Michigan University, for the City Council seat representing District 1. 

Tate has served on City Council since 2009. He chaired the council’s Planning & Development Standing Committee over the past four years. His signature efforts include leading development of the city’s recreational cannabis ordinance and its equity measures to prioritize legacy Detroiters, though the program has been challenged in court as possibly being unconstitutional and is currently placed on hold. Larsosa’s platform centers the environment, public safety and economic development, including reparations. 

City Council District 2 candidates 

In District 2, incumbent Roy McCallister is running against challenger Angela Whitfield Calloway, a Detroit native and Detroit College of Law grad who raised four children in the city.

McCallister has served on City Council since 2018. He’s held several positions in law enforcement at the city and federal levels. The Detroit Free Press endorsed McCalister, who its says has been a “mature and reasoned voice on the council.” Calloway’s website cites a number of “issues” including overtaxing of Detroit property owners, redistributing Detroit Olice Department funds, restoring Citizen District Councils and more.

City Council District 3 candidate (unopposed)

Councilperson Scott Benson is running unopposed in District 3. Benson has served on council since 2014. Benson was also subjected to an FBI raid in August as part of an investigation into corruption in city government, along with Ayers.

City Council District 4 candidates (open seat)

Two candidates are running for the District 4 seat vacated by former council person Andre Spivey, who resigned in September after pleading guilty to federal bribery charges. His seat has been empty since his resignation. 

M.L. Erick, a former reporter for the Detroit Free Press, Channel 4 and Fox 2 Detroit, and a 22-year East English Village resident, is campaigning on a platform centered on opportunity, safety and accountability. Latisha Johnson works as an unpaid executive director for the MECCA Development Corporation and lists her policy priorities as including public safety, water infrastructure, Stellantis plant orders and more. 

City Council District 5 candidate (unopposed) 

Councilperson Mary Sheffield is running unopposed in District Five. Sheffield has served on council since 2014. Sheffield’s signature policy initiative, “The People’s Bills,” are a sweeping set of proposals that first rolled out in 2018 and aimed to address major “socioeconomic and human rights issues” facing Detroiters, like housing and water affordability.

City Council District 6 candidates (open seat)

Both  candidates for the District 6 council seat, Gabriela Santiago-Romero and Hector Santiago, are newcomers. Earlier this year, current D6 representative Councilwoman Raquel Castañeda-López said she wouldn’t seek a third term. 

Santiago-Romero, who was endorsed by the Detroit Free Press, is running on a platform that prioritizes public safety, workers’ rights, environmental justice and more. She is a research and policy director with organizing group We The People Michigan. 

Santiago’s (no relation) platform focuses on community health, economic opportunity, neighborhood safety and more. He has led a workforce development program for the last decade.

Editor’s note: Santiago-Romero was an Emerging Voices fellow with Detour Detroit in 2019.

City Council District 7 candidates (open seat)

Two candidates are running for the District 7 seat vacated by Gabe Leland, who resigned in May after pleading guilty to charges of misconduct in office. 

Fred Durhal works as a Community Liaison with the Michigan State Housing Development  Authority (MSHDA). His platform emphasizes neighborhood stabilization, economic development and city budgets and policies that center residences. Regina Ross is president of the District Seven Community Advisory Council and a teacher in the Detroit Public Schools. She is most concerned with quality of life, and aims to work on that issue through community benefits paid to neighborhoods by businesses.

Nina Misuraca Ignaczak is a contributing editor for Detour Detroit. She is the founder and executive editor of Planet Detroit, a digital media startup that tells Detroit’s environmental stories while building a community of engaged readers who are informed and empowered to act personally and publicly. She is an award-winning freelance journalist who writes, edits and produces stories about the environment, place and identity. Her recent work has been published by Detour Detroit, Belt Magazine, HuffPost, Detroit Free Press, WDET, Crains Detroit Business, Business Insider, Curbed Detroit and Model D. Prior to her career in journalism, she worked in urban planning in the local government and nonprofit sectors. She has a Master of Science in Natural Resource Ecology and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Twitter: @ninaignaczak