Councilwoman Mary Sheffield may be in for a tough fight to keep the District 5 seat because she is being challenged by a well-known leader in Wayne County politics.
Wayne County Commissioner Jewel Ware wants to unseat Sheffield, who in 2013 was the youngest person ever elected to Detroit City Council at age 26.
Unlike some other council races, the 62-year-old Ware is not directly attacking Sheffield. Instead, she argues that she is an experienced leader who can deliver city services for her constituents.
“I know that I have the experiences and the contacts to deliver services for the citizens in District 5,” Ware said. “I have my finger on the pulse of government operations.”
Sheffield, who also has a high-profile name as the daughter of civil rights activist the Rev. Horace Sheffield III, said she is most proud of her accomplishments with housing in Detroit.
“I think I’ve served the city with integrity with compassion and dedication,” Sheffield said in an interview.
One political expert says it’s hard to say which candidate has the edge since both Sheffield and Ware are well-liked in the community.
Sheffield has the advantage of being the incumbent, having a prominent family name and support from both seniors and young people, said Mario Morrow, CEO of Mario Morrow & Associates.
Ware has a strong senior citizens base in the neighborhoods and churches, and recently increased her campaign efforts, Morrow said. The absentee vote will likely be split, he added.
“This election will be based on who can get their voters to the polls and actually vote on Election Day,” Morrow said.
Ware and Sheffield skipped the primary as they were the only two candidates vying for District 5. The district covers a diverse mixture of the city, from a portion of prosperous Midtown, the Boston-Edison Historic District and the city’s downtown and riverfront to low-income neighborhoods.
Sheffield, 30, recently proposed an “inclusionary housing” ordinance that would require developers to set aside a percentage of residential housing units for low- and moderate-income residents. She said the ordinance is meant to push back against perceived gentrification in the city.
She was also active in saving the Senior Home Repair Program that the city planned to eliminate before Sheffield took office. Sheffield said she has gotten $2.5 million allocated to the program in the past four years. In 2018, she would look to hike the amount to $10 million in an effort to serve more homeowners.
If re-elected, Sheffield said she will focus on passing a water affordability ordinance for Detroiters.
Sheffield has been endorsed by the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO, among other groups.
Ware has served on the Wayne County Commission since 1994, with a stint as chairwoman from 2003-2008. She currently serves as the commission’s vice-chair pro tempore.
As chairwoman, Ware managed the county’s $2.14 billion budget, approving contracts, and adopting resolutions and ordinances. She is endorsed by Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and state Sen. Ian Conyers, D-Detroit.
The county declared a financial emergency in 2015 under Evans and entered a consent agreement with the state of Michigan to get its finances back on track following the voters’ ouster of former Executive Bob Ficano.
The District 2 commissioner is active on the county’s Veterans and Senior Citizens Task Force and works to help families avoid foreclosure by connecting them with property tax assistance programs.
Ware said she wants to focus on keeping the city’s budget intact and eliminating waste. She also wants to bridge the gap between Detroit residents and city services.
“When I am working through community outreach, I do run into residents that are not aware of all the services,” Ware said.