Jones narrowly re-elected as Detroit council leader

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

The Detroit City Council narrowly voted Tuesday to re-elect Brenda Jones as president after a series of deadlocked votes injected unexpected drama into the process.

It took two 15-minute breaks, a two-hour recess and seven separate tallies of who should be the next president for Jones to win with a 5-4 vote.

“My colleagues have spoken, the citizens have also spoken,” Jones said during the meeting. “I will continue to serve the city of Detroit to the best of my ability.”

Jones was supported by council members Gabe Leland, Mary Sheffield, Roy McCalister, Scott Benson and herself in the final vote.

The council initially voted four times Tuesday morning for the president seat. Each round resulted in a tie between Jones, Spivey and Sheffield.

“I think we need more than 15-20 minutes,” Councilwoman Janee Ayers said. “We need a real recess.”

After the two-hour recess, the council members voted another three-way tie and then decided to rank their preferred candidates for council president. As a result, 57-year-old Jones and 43-year-old Spivey became the top contenders for the seat, eliminating Sheffield from the race.

Jones won the seventh and final vote.

The 30-year-old Sheffield subsequently was voted president pro tempore or the No. 2 on the council with five votes over Ayers and council member James Tate. Spivey wasn’t nominated despite nearly getting selected council president.

“While it is true that a number of positive transformations are happening in Detroit, it is also true that not enough of the change we see is impacting the daily lives of average Detroiters in a positive and meaningful way,” Sheffield said in a statement. “In my new role as council president pro tempore, I look forward to working with Council President Brenda Jones and my colleagues to move the needle more towards prosperity for all Detroiters.”

Former council member George Cushingberry had been president pro tempore.

“It was very intense,” Jones said after the meeting.

“But you know what? I thank God, I thank my colleagues, I humbly thank my colleagues with the intensity of what we went through today.”

The re-elected president said her top priorities this term will be ensuring Detroit’s neighborhoods are included in the city’s revival and continuing her work on skilled trades, military veterans and human trafficking.

She is also considering hosting a monthly media day.

“I look forward to working just as hard and moving this city forward in the next four years,” Jones said.

Political observers have named Jones as a viable candidate for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District after U.S. Rep John Conyers resigned last month.

Jones said Tuesday she has not made a decision.

“I continue to pray every day and what God leads me to do is what I follow,” Jones said.

A special election to fill Conyers’ seat is set to coincide with the primary and general elections this year.

Eight city council members returned to their seats this year while McCalister is the only newly elected member. He replaced Cushingberry, who was defeated in the primary election and attempted a write-in campaign in the general election.