Detroit deputy mayor retiring, plans return to teaching

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — Deputy Mayor Isaiah “Ike” McKinnon on Wednesday said he’s retiring after decades of public service to return to his teaching career, vowing he will always be one of the city’s biggest boosters.

The 72-year-old’s retirement is effective July 1, and he will return to the classroom in August as a professor of education at University of Detroit Mercy. Despite leaving his high-ranking role in the Duggan administration, McKinnon says he’ll be sticking with Detroit.

“I’m stepping down in this position, but I’m not leaving. Detroit has been and always will be a part of me,” McKinnon, a Lafayette Park resident, told The Detroit News on Wednesday. “I will always love my city.”

McKinnon, who worked for three past mayoral administrations, was tapped in 2013 to head Mayor Mike Duggan’s transition team because of his extensive experience in city government. Duggan then tapped McKinnon to be deputy mayor. McKinnon said he was “somewhat astounded” by the request and agreed.

“Mike Duggan is the right leader for this city at this time to make the tremendous changes that we are going through,” he said. “I knew that he would do great things. I’m certainly happy and surprised that it’s happening so quickly. People are loving the changes that are going on and all of the investment in the city. It’s a great source of pride for me.”

McKinnon occupies the 11th floor office formerly occupied by two previous mayors — Roman Gribbs and Jerome Cavanagh — whom he once served. He was a member of the executive protection unit for Gribbs, who appointed Walter Green as Detroit’s first African-American deputy mayor.

“Who would have thought that X number of years later, I would be in the same spot,” he said. “That stands out for me.”

McKinnon joined the Detroit Police Department in 1965 and rose through the ranks before leaving in 1984 to become a professor. He later served as director of security and fire protection for the Renaissance Center before becoming Detroit’s police chief from 1994-98.

After retiring as chief, McKinnon continued teaching and held positions in the private sector, including serving as director of global security at Compuware Corp. during the relocation of its world headquarters to downtown Detroit.

As deputy mayor, McKinnon, reorganized the city’s Homeland Security/Emergency management section and led faith-based initiatives for the office, including the Adopt-A-Park program. He has also represented Duggan and the city at hundreds of events.

“It’s hard to think of Detroit without Ike McKinnon as part of city government,” Duggan said in a Wednesday statement. “He has dedicated so much of his life and career to this city, and people just love him for the example he has set for so many young people.”

After 27 years of service, McKinnon said “it’s time to go back to the students.” He also will continue speaking engagements to share his story of growing up in the city, life-saving police work, diversity and empowerment.

McKinnon was granted a two-year leave of absence from the university when he joined the mayor’s transition team. He later was granted a six-month extension.

“Dr. McKinnon has been a valuable asset to the city’s resurgence, and we look forward to his return so that he can share his insightful lessons in leadership with our students, faculty and staff,” University of Detroit Mercy President Dr. Antoine Garibaldi said.

Duggan’s office said the mayor has not yet selected McKinnon’s replacement.

The Associated Press contributed