Whitmer touts new leadership at inaugural party

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News
While visiting with retired state Rep. Alma Stallworth, left, and Andella White, second from right, both of Detroit, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, greets longtime friend, supporter and Wayne County commissioner Joe Palamara, right,  at the Inauguration Celebration in the Grand Riverview Ballroom at Cobo Center in Detroit on Jan. 1, 2019.

Detroit — The promise of fresh statewide leadership for the new year ahead whipped up a celebratory mood Tuesday night at the inauguration party for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at Cobo Center.

More than 2,500 supporters attended the black-tie event inside the Grand Riverview Ballroom, many dressed in tuxedos and long gowns, vying for a chance to see, talk or take a photo with Whitmer and the throngs of national and local politicians who came out for the event.

The thump and roar of a live band dominated the ballroom starting at 7 p.m. as couples and groups moved between food and drinks and conversations and dancing.

Around 8:30 p.m., Whitmer took the stage and thanked the crowd for their support and their work toward getting her elected. She spoke for about one minute.

"Alright, Detroit. Alright, Michigan. I want to thank you — thank you for being a part of this," Whitmer said.

"We want leadership that creates opportunity for all of us," Whitmer told the jubilant crowd. "Let's have some fun tonight and tomorrow let's roll up our sleeves and fix the damn roads."

Whitmer attended the event with her husband Marc Mallory as well as Lt. Gov Garlin Gilchrist II, from Detroit, state Attorney General Dana Nessel from Plymouth and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

Whitmer thanked Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan for delivering Detroit and being a partner to her.

"I am going to be a partner to you," Whitmer told Duggan.

Duggan said 180,000 Detroiters voted for her and Gilchrist.

“Governor I know Lansing is your home, but I hope Detroit is where your heart is going to be,” Duggan told Whitmer.

Members of Congress attending the party included U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn. 

Robert Roscoe and his friend Charmaine Kennedy were among the attendees to get Whitmer's attention for a photo early in the evening.

Roscoe, a precinct delegate and school board member from Eastpointe who was in one of Whitmer's TV campaign commercials, said Whitmer is the most approachable governor he has ever met.

"She is a woman of her word. I really think she is going to fix the roads," Roscoe said.

Miranda Reynolds was excited to be attending the celebration after working as a volunteer on Whitmer's campaign last year as a college student at Michigan State University. Reynolds and her father grinned ear-to-ear as they posed for a photograph before heading into the party.

"She is such a strong female. I like everything she stands for," The Brighton resident said.

"I'm here," Gregory Reynolds said, "because this is my daughter's dream come true to be here."

David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers Michigan chapter, attended the celebration with his wife Alice Audie-Figueroa, after attending Whitmer's swearing in ceremony in Lansing Tuesday morning. He said it was important to celebrate the new leadership coming into the state.

"We have a lot to do concerning a number of issues. In public education we have an awful lot to do," Hecker said. "The last eight years have not been kind to public education as far as state policy goes. We are looking forward to working with Gov. Whitmer and leadership in the House and Senate to turn things around."

Lorraine Richmond of Detroit said she had two reasons to attend Tuesday's ball: To celebrate Whitmer and watch as her 17-year-old son performed as a drummer with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

"I'm also here to see about the change we are embarking upon in the state of Michigan. It was a win-win," Richmond said.

Earlier in the day at her swearing in ceremony in Lansing, Whitmer called for compromise and cooperation among Michigan officials after becoming the state’s 49th governor and the leader of a divided government.

“We might live in divisive times, but Michigan’s problems are not partisan,” the East Lansing Democrat said from the Capitol steps Tuesday, before twice repeating: “None of us can afford to compromise Michigan’s economic future because we won’t compromise with one another.”

The former Senate minority leader promised to be “a governor for everyone” just before noon New Year’s Day. Whitmer won Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties on her way to a 9 percentage point victory.