Detroit council begins interviews to fill vacant seat

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — City Council members on Wednesday kicked off a series of interviews with candidates vying to fill the panel’s vacant at-large seat.

The council was slated to talk Wednesday with four of 16 candidates selected from a pool of 135 applicants submitted in December. The vacancy was created by second-term councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins, who resigned in the fall to lead The Heat and Warmth Fund, a Detroit nonprofit.

Council members drilled applicants on skills, views on policy, and the changes in Detroit as it has emerged from the largest municipal bankruptcy in the nation.

First up Wednesday was Beverly Kindle-Walker, a legislative assistant to Democratic Wayne County Commissioner Tim Kileen.

President Brenda Jones questioned Kindle-Walker about her view on the changes that the council has experienced while enduring emergency management and Chapter 9.

Kindle-Walker, who previously ran for a seat on the council, says she believes there’s a lot of public uncertainty and that elected leaders in Detroit don’t have much leeway.

“We have to deal with what’s before us at this point,” she said. “We’re out from under certain (financial) obligations...”

Debra Walker, a former senior manager for the Chrysler Corporation, was the second Detroiter to face questioning from the city’s council members. The bid for office is Walker’s first.

Member Mary Sheffield quizzed Walker about her stance on a controversial ordinance proposal that would require some developers to commit to certain benefits for residents and city-based contractors.

“We are all in this together,” Walker responded. “For us to grow and sustain, the residents have to have a large stake in those developments all the way through.”

Candidates expected on Wednesday afternoon are Tyrone Carter, a former candidate for city council and retired executive lieutenant from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Department, and Paula Humphries, a former 36th District Court judge. Kenneth Donaldson, a fifth selected applicant, has withdrawn.

Remaining interviews are anticipated on Thursday as well as Jan. 28 and 29.

Others advancing include several former contenders for council seats, including John Bennett, the Rev. David Bullock, Adam Hollier and Roy McCalister Jr.

Wayne County Commissioner Bernard Parker and Fred Durhal, who waged an unsuccessful campaign for mayor against Mike Duggan, are also in the running.

In addition, Janee Ayers, Dustin Campbell Frazier Kimpson, Wanda Redmond, Robert Thomas, David Nathan also get further consideration.

Under a process adopted by the council late last year, each member was able to nominate up to three candidates for interviews to fill the $76,911-a-year post.

Once interviews conclude, the council is expected to implement a run-off voting system to narrow the pool to three.

The system will require members to vote for three candidates, assigning each with a rank from first to third choice. The candidates receiving the top three scores will be considered for appointment.

The candidate would then be appointed by a two-thirds majority, or six votes.