Ferndale Councilperson Melanie Piana Awarded Fellowship at Harvard

Ferndale Councilperson Melanie Piana Awarded Fellowship at Harvard

Ferndale, Detroit, MI – Scott Benson, Detroit City Councilmember, and Melanie Piana, Ferndale City Councilmember, have been named Taubman Fellows and will attend the prestigious program for Senior Executives in State and Local Government at Harvard University this summer.

Administered through SEMCOG, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, Taubman’s Fellowship for Executive Excellence provides local public officials with demonstrated leadership an opportunity to broaden their awareness of effective approaches to public-sector problems.

“This program is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity for local government leaders to broaden their perspectives by interacting with colleagues from around the world,” said Robert S. Taubman, Chairman, CEO, and President of Taubman Centers, Inc. “The experience truly enhances the way elected local officials serve the residents of Southeast Michigan.”

“We are honored to have worked with The Taubman Company for the past 28 years,” said Kathleen Lomako, Executive Director of SEMCOG. “We are truly grateful for the company’s commitment to regional excellence and for making it possible for 48 local leaders to experience this program.”

The 2018 Taubman Fellows have strong records of local government leadership.

Scott Benson is currently serving his second term as the Councilmember for the City of Detroit’s 3rd District. In the 3rd District, he activates social support resources for more than 97,000 residents. As a member of City Council, he approves the city’s annual $1 billion budget, contracts, and writes and approves city ordinances. He chairs the Public Health and Safety Committee, is vice chair of the Planning and Economic Development Committee, and trustee for the General Retirement System. He established the Senior Task Force to advocate for and identify senior issues. Acknowledging the challenges of the city’s recent bankruptcy and resultant emergence, Benson is cognizant of how important it is to grow the tax base and develop the workforce. At Harvard, he looks forward to “enhancing negotiation and leadership skills, as well as be exposed to cutting-edge public private partnership techniques.”

Melanie Piana is serving her third term on Ferndale City Council, overseeing an $18 million budget and 135 employees, and delivering government services to 22,000 residents and thousands of businesses. As a part-time elected official, this position complements her full-time job as deputy director of Jefferson East, Inc., which is tasked with growing Detroit’s East Jefferson corridor. Active in SEMCOG and the Michigan Municipal League, Piana will become MML Board President later this year. She says, “My vision is a strategic regional response that focuses on inclusive economic growth that expands equality of opportunity for everyone.” She sees the upcoming Harvard experience as an extraordinary training opportunity to challenge her own leadership in the public sector, think critically about new models, and learn from others, with the end goal of implementing urban policy that results in stronger communities.


SEMCOG is the only organization in Southeast Michigan that brings together all governments to solve regional challenges and enhance the quality of life for the seven-county region’s 4.7 million people.
To learn more about what SEMCOG does, click

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