(Crystal A. Proxmire, 10/12/2011)
Over 60 senior citizens turned out for the October 12, 2011 Ferndale Seniors Candidate Meet and Greet, held at the Kulick Community Center (1201 Livernois). The candidates were given five minutes each to speak, and then got to answer questions and enjoy cake with some of Ferndale’s most long-standing residents.
Dave Coulter, the current Mayor who is running for the same position, gave his introduction first. He reminisced about his friendship with Gerry Kulick, the namesake of the center where the Seniors hold their semi-monthly meetings and many of their activities. “When I moved to Ferndale 20 years ago the first thing I got involved with was the task force to build a senior center. Gerry Kulick led the group and one thing I really admired was that she insisted that it be a “community” center and not just a ‘senior’ center,” Coulter said.
“When I was here last year, as a County Commissioner, we talked about the possibility of the center closing, but we fought hard to keep it open. This is one reason I supported the Headlee was because we need a place for people to come together.” He pointed out that when a major power outage occurred earlier in the summer, Kulick was used as a cooling center. He also said that if there is one thing he can accomplish in the next two years it would be to “do an even better job of reaching out to the communities around us and look for more ways we can work together.”
Ray Willis was up front about his newness in the political arena when he spoke to the Seniors about wanting their vote for Mayor. “I sometimes wonder why I am running as mayor against someone who has so much experience. I think he would make a great senator, and I hope you’ll vote for me so we can help move him help,” Willis said. He explained that when he ran he expected there to be multiple candidates, and was surprised it was just he and Coulter. He introduced himself to the seniors, letting them know that he was born in Ferndale at Ardmore Hospital, went to Grand Valley State and was part of the Army Reserves. After college he owned a small restaurant in Grand Rapids. “It was just a small restaurant, but you learn a lot running your own business,” Willis said.
He also talked about his construction work, saying that one of the reasons he went into business on his own was because he didn’t like the way some companies were building homes so quickly and cheaply. His business is not his income at this time. “At this time in my life I’m working part time on weekends. I take care of my son Richie and I have lots of time to work for the City,” he said. Willis delivers pizza and cares for his son who has special needs. He said that his main motivation for running is that as Mayor someone may listen to him and help bring the State Fair back to Detroit. He also said that he’d like to see Ferndale promoted in other places the way tourist destinations like Mackinaw are.
Mike Lennon began his introduction by passing along news that his mother, a well-known senior in the community, would not be attending the meeting. “She’s tired of hearing me talk,” he said. Lennon is running for his third term on City Council. He retired from the Ferndale Police Department in 2002. “Before I retired, I told my dad I would run for office, and the first thing he said was ‘Mike, you gotta pay attention to the seniors.’ And he is right. You seniors have carried me through a couple elections. I served the city for 20 years and this is what I really love to do. I love getting phone calls and being able to help.
He said he is running because he doesn’t feel like his work is done. “We have work on Livernois corridor and the Hilton corridor, and Eight Mile I don’t even know where to begin,” he said. “Public safety is always an issue. But we balanced the budget for two years. We won’t be cutting any more police, and if they try to take anything away from the Rec. Center I will be kicking and screaming.”
Dan Martin pointed out that he lives about two blocks from the community center. He said that he moved here 7 years ago and is running because he is concerned with what Ferndale is going to look like in the future. He listed the ways he’s gotten involved to help shape that future, and gave reasons why he wanted the seniors’ vote for Council. “By day I work at Blue Cross Blue Shield… I work with multimillion dollar budgets. There is nothing easy about Blue Cross budgets and there is nothing easy about city budgets,” he said. One thing he said he believed in is “that philosophy and methodology of working together.”
‘We need to keep the city vibrant and a place where people want to live. From people who have been here six months, seven years, sixty years or more… we all need to work together. I’ve seen some changes in the neighborhoods. People have struggled and you can see that. We used to have a vibrant block club program. …I also believe in funding of code enforcement. It can be uncomfortable when we get those letters. But we need code enforcement to protect our investments and it will be essential in the rebuilding of the neighborhoods.” He added that “fresh voices are essential. With Kate moving off it gives us an opportunity to do that.”
Sherry Wells, also running for Council said she is officially a member of the seniors off and on the past few years. “I’ve taken advantage of the delicious meals and good company. If I stay active it helps keep my mind going, so you are helping me, and hopefully that will help me with running the city.” She mentioned some of her involvement with the seniors, including a monthly theatre group. She has also been a writer for a local magazine called Ferndale Friends, sharing “information about recycling, legal matters, and what the Rotary has been doing.”
Wells spoke of being on the Charter Revision committee several years ago. “I didn’t get paid, but I paid babysitting for three years so I could work on the charter revision. I saved our city money by providing legal services on that campaign,” she said. “I’d read my daughter a bedtime story and then stay up for hours.” Well said she’d been to DDA [Downtown Development Authority] meetings for the past year and been involved on the parking committee. She said that if there is one thing she would accomplish it would be to make sure that the city is run without having to increase the milage rate.
Later that afternoon the candidates also participated in the Ferndale Area Chamber of Commerce candidate question and answer session, and a story will be up on that later.
There will be one more forum held by Citizens for a Fair Ferndale, which will be at the Ferndale Public Library (222 E. 9 Mile) on Sunday, October 23 at 1pm.
Each candidate has a page on our website, and there are prior stories about the election. View all this and more on our election page – https://oaklandcounty115.com/category/voter-info-2011-general-election.