Duggan names former state House candidate to key Detroit policy position

Detroit News staff

Detroit – A tax foreclosure prevention advocate has been named policy director for Mayor Mike Duggan.

Michele Oberholtzer, who was formerly director of the tax foreclosure prevention project at Detroit-based nonprofit United Community Housing Coalition, will advise Duggan on local, state and federal legislation and work across city departments to develop policies that impact Detroit residents.

Mayor Mike Duggan appointed former foreclosure prevention advocate Michele Oberholtzer to be policy director for the city.

She replaces Kimberly Rustem, who was recently appointed as the director of the city’s Civil Rights, Inclusion & Opportunity Department following the departure of longtime administration member Charity Dean, the city said in a news release. Rustem led the development of the city’s marijuana programs and she continues to oversee Detroit’s marijuana and business outreach and support efforts.

Oberholtzer starts her new role on April 10. The details of her employment are being finalized but the agreed-upon salary will be $100,000 a year, said John Roach, director of media relations for the city.

"Michele has been a passionate advocate for Detroiters facing foreclosure and housing insecurity and her past work already has helped to shape city policy,” said Duggan. “She has been incredibly impressive in her work and I couldn't be happier that she will be bringing her talent, advocacy and perspective to our administration."

At UCHC Oberholtzer was a project manager overseeing outreach to thousands of Wayne County residents at risk of property tax foreclosure. She was also responsible for facilitating the vetting, purchase, and sale of occupied homes on behalf of residents for affordable rates, successfully overseeing the transfer of 1,200 homes within three years, the city said in a release.

She previously founded The Tricycle Collective, an all-female, volunteer-led nonprofit that raised and donated $120,000 to families with young children at risk of tax foreclosure.

Oberholtzer has a passion for activism and has worked on numerous environmental issue including industrial pollution, water access and renewable energy in Detroit, New York City and South Africa, the city said in a release. 

She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Oberholtzer finished second to Abraham Aiyash, D-Hamtramck, in a 13-way Democratic Primary last year for the 4th District state House seat held by former state Rep. Isaac Robinson, who died in March 2020. She also ran for the state House in 2018. The district includes Hamtramck and parts of Detroit.

"I see this role as a great opportunity to go from the front lines to the fine print, continuing the work I have loved so much at UCHC for policy change,” said Oberholtzer. “This is a time of so much need and possibility; I can't wait to see what we create.”