Taylor wins re-election as Sterling Heights mayor

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Mayor Michael Taylor will serve a four-year term in Sterling Heights after wining re-election Tuesday by defeating former council member Ken Nelson in unofficial election results.

Taylor won 63% of the vote with all precincts reporting, while Nelson won 37%, according to results posted on the city's website. Mayors used to serve two-year terms until voters recently approved a change to the four-year term.

Ken Nelson, former Sterling Heights councilman, left, and Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor.

"I owe a debt of gratitude to the voters," Taylor said late Tuesday. "Tonight the residents of Sterling Heights won. This election proves the city wants a mayor with a positive message who will keep the city moving forward."

The part-time mayor oversees a city with about 500 full-time city employees and a budget of around $228 million to serve 134,346 residents. The mayor's post pays $42,500 a year. The city has a full-time city manager.

The campaigns focused on spending. Nelson said there was too much of it, while Taylor touted his record of investments in the city. 

Taylor, 38, said he is proud of his accomplishments, which include the city's overhaul of its park system through a voter-approved millage, $400 million in road improvements since 2013 and remaining Michigan's safest big city, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics.

The city continues to have low taxes, responsible spending as well as investment in public safety, roads and parks to make Sterling Heights a "welcoming community for everybody," Taylor said.

Taylor said he wants to focus on the redevelopment of the Lakeside Mall, the inside of which he said is too big and needs to be transformed. There are also plans to update the master plan for the Old Van Dyke corridor, possibly add cultural attractions like a museum and slow traffic to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, he said.

Nelson, 71, a former city council member and Vietnam War veteran, said he wants to get back into the game of city government and rein in spending. Millions of dollars have been spent in the city in the last decade from voter-approved property tax millage increases to improve parks and roads, hire more police and construct new municipal buildings.

Nelson, a semi-retired associate real estate broker, has been critical of Taylor's support for city spending and what he calls Taylor's "arrogant" approach to public service.

Nelson said he does not support the hiring of a diversity, equity and inclusion consultant at the city, and alleges the police department uses critical race theory in its training. Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski said CRT is not part of police training.

Nelson wanted to seek a three-year moratorium on new capital projects and spending. He also argued the city is being overdeveloped and would like to slow down new housing and focus on making repairs to neighborhoods where trees have done damage.

Macomb County twice backed Republican Donald Trump for president. Municipal elections in Michigan are nonpartisan.

Taylor, 38, who said he has no political party affiliation, voted for Joe Biden in Michigan's Democratic primary election in March 2020. He was first elected to the Sterling Heights City Council in 2009 at the age of 26. He is a partner at the law firm Kirk Huth, where he is also head of its estate planning and probate division.

Voters trickled in and out of precincts across Sterling Heights on Tuesday, including Geoff Gariepy, who not only voted for Taylor but stood outside a precinct for hours to pitch for his candidate.

Gariepy said he has closely watched Taylor since he was elected to the City Council in 2008.

"I watched him evolve from a guy hard on the right with Republican values to a guy who sees both sides of the issues now and can reach a reasonable conclusion in the middle," Gariepy said, holding a fistfull of Taylor's campaign brochures outside a city precinct.

Voter Jazmine Early says she voted for Nelson because she believes a change is needed.

"He (Nelson) has experience, he is a former council member. He has been working in a business background. He has a better demeanor than the mayor. I think he is open to listening, even if you disagree with him," Early, 51, said. "Ken wants to do good for our city."