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The Power of Love and Pontiac Pride: Randy and Brenda Carter

The Power of Love and Pontiac Pride: Randy and Brenda Carterwaterwork

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Dec. 27, 2014)

Those who meet Pontiac City Councilperson Randy Carter and his wife Pontiac School Board Trustee Brenda Carter cannot help but notice the passion they have for their city or their spirit for uplifting others. Together they are an unstoppable force of love and leadership that has helped hundreds, if not thousands, of people find their place in a city rumbling with change.

The past sixteen years have been spent side by side, yet looking forward together. Their holidays have been spent in service – packing care packages for the needy, reaching out to the homeless to get them into programs, collecting coats for kids.

Thanksgiving meant 1300 cans of green beans and baskets for over 600 needy families. And the sidebar01sponsorbest part of Brenda’s winter is working with neighborhood children to create a float for the Holiday Extravaganza Parade, from which they distribute thousands of dolls and stuffed animals to children in the crowds.

“Every child leaves there feeling special. We don’t care where you’re from, you’re one of ours,” Brenda said. This year the children picked the theme of female super-heroes and wanted Brenda to be Elsa from the movie Frozen. Her daughter Randi joined her on the float, dressed like an angel. They and other volunteers helped keep over a dozen children well-stocked with stuffed animals as they went alongside the float handing out the toys. When the parade is not in progress, the kids serve on a Board of Directors where they get to talk about problems in the community and work on solutions, like cleaning up parks and identifying kids who are having troubles but may not feel comfortable speaking up.

Besides helping kids, Randy and Brenda coordinate with grown-ups to keep the city clean and ctechadconnect people to resources. This is particularly true in the 4th district where they have teams of “special agents” who can be called upon do what needs to be done. “Special agents are people who do things and don’t care about getting the credit,” Randy said. “They’re the people who live in the district and take care of it because it’s the right thing to do. There’s one man, called The Mayor, who cuts every vacant yard in an eight block area. We have 13 neighborhood groups who are always on the watch, and in District 4 we have an unofficial policy that graffiti gets removed within 24 hours. So there are special agents who do that.”

The Carters themselves could also be special agents, but they also are very visible. People know where they can turn if they have questions about the city, need to be connected to an organization or business, or if they just need a mentor or a good neighbor. Randy Carter is a City Councilperson representing the 4th District since 2009, and Brenda has been a School Board Trustee since 2010. The list of organizations and projects they are involved in would triple the seed22_Angela_Fisherlength of this article, but one thing is for sure, if there is something good happening in the community there’s a good chance the Carters are connected to it somehow.

But how did such a dynamic team come together?

One could argue it was destiny. At least at the time that their paths first crossed, multiple signs were there.

The year was 1998 and Brenda had just transferred to the GM in Pontiac from Detroit, working as an engineering analyst. One evening at the American Legion Post 20 she was approached by “the cutest guy there,” who bought her a beer and started talking about his collection of beer steins.

Brenda had a collection of them as well.lisa schmidt law

And the coincidences grew from there. Both worked in engineering for GM and both had a strong ethic of being involved in business and community organizations. Brenda joined the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks in 1975 where she held various local and state positions (including State Directress of Education) and national positions (including Grand Trustee, Grand Auditor and Grand Directress of Public Relations). In 1997 Brenda (along with Phile’ Chionescu and Asia Coney) organized the now historic Million Woman March, which led to an international tour of speaking engagements. Randy’s history with the Elks is also quite impressive. He is a Past Director of Civil Liberties for the Michigan State Association Elks and the Assistant Director for Education for the Michigan State Association Elks.

Another coincidence struck them that first night. Randy and Brenda both drove the exact same chazzano game adkind of car – the same year Pontiac Grand Am Quad 4, with a manual transmission. Both red. It did not end there.

“She was the most beautiful lady. After talking some I knew I had to have her phone number. This is the best part,” Randy said “When she gave me her phone number it was the same phone number as mine with just the last digit one-off.”

Since then the couple has married and together they have six children and seven grandchildren.

As elected officials, their work has made a difference. As a City Councilperon Randy has helped guide Pontiac back on course to financial independence as they come off a time of Emergency Financial Management. Randy Carter and his colleagues have had more struggles than a typical City Council as they’ve been “unearthing bodies” of years of questionable administrative decisions and a community hit hard by the decrease of industrial jobs in Michigan. Through seed017_darlene_bignottiendless hours of reviewing documents, making tough decisions and working through a sometimes contentious relationship with the State, Randy says they have “met and exceeded the demands” of the State. “We were put in a situation where we had to get it right or be dissolved,” he said.

Equally challenging have been the problems tackled by Brenda Carter and the Pontiac School Board. She and her colleagues have been working with the State, and have come up with a plan to be out of deficit in three years. Programs like music, art and sports are making a comeback in the schools, and their revival has become a model for other deficit-districts around the country.

As each year passes the Carters realize they need to be on the lookout for young people who will get involved and fill their shoes. “I got my Masters at OU [Oakland University] and I met a lot of millennials who want to see change, not group-think,” Brenda said. “We need to prepare the next generation for what comes next, and show them what they can do if they are brave enough to go against things.”


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