Adversaries Fueled Success of New Lathrup Village Mayor Kelly Garrett
(Susanna Borgett, Dec. 20, 2017)
Lathrup Village, MI – Lathrup Village’s Mayor Kelly Garrett, the first African American to hold the seat, said it was her adversaries actions that set the stage for the council to vote her in as mayor last month.
While Garrett has served on city council for six years in Lathrup Village, the last six months saw a lot of unrest in the city’s governmental offices. Much of that unrest affected, and was targeted at, Garrett. Andy Potter, who served as city administrator until June 12 when he was fired from his position, questioned Garrett’s ability to serve as Mayor Pro-Tem and also made many personal attacks on her maturity, and even her ex-husband’s conduct with other women (whom she had divorced years before). According to Garrett, Potter wanted her to resign from city council. Garrett was unsure why Potter attacked her personally, presuming that it might have been because she called the administrator out when he wasn’t keeping up with his responsibilities.
“One thing that I do and I do well is that I hold people accountable to what they’re supposed to do,” Garrett said. “And that’s one thing that he wasn’t doing.
“What made me get really emotional is the community rallied behind me, and I think that because I stood up to these bullies for the most part, that was what put me in the position that I am in now.”
Kelly plans to use the next two months to “right the ship” and train everyone in their roles and responsibilities, and put everyone through diversity and sexual harassment training. Starting in February, Garrett hopes the Lathrup Village city council will start strategizing and prioritize goals for 2018. On Garrett’s own goals list, she hopes the council can work with businesses to bring more economic development such as mom and pop stores in the small downtown district of Lathrup Village along Southfield Road between 12 Mile and Lincoln Drive.
As Mayor, Garrett acts as the liaison between the city council and the city administrator, making the mayor position mostly ceremonial. The city administrator answers to the council, and the council creates policies and regulations while the administrator runs the day-to-day affairs of the city.
“Mayor Garrett knows how to strike the balance of proper interaction between elected officials, city staff and the residents,” Interim City Administrator Pamela Bratschi said, “I think she’s off to a good start in terms of elected leadership, along with effective and efficient public service.”
Garrett first ran for the volunteer position on city council because she wanted to give back to her community. She was familiar with politics because during her youth she helped her uncle, the president of AFSCME Local 25, and Barbara Tally, the first black councilwoman in Southfield, in different campaigns. But as an adult, she became inspired to serve her community because of a funeral.
“There’s nothing worse than sitting at a funeral and knowing that someone is making up a story because they did not participate in life,” Garrett said. “And I really think that was my epiphany. That’s what really drives me, to have people say, ‘She gave back.’
“One thing that is important to me is that I want to make sure that kids that might feel as though they are not going to succeed in life – I want them to know that shifts happen. I wasn’t a strong student in high school at all. So when I give speeches it’s very important for me to give back to the younger generation because … I want them to know that anything is possible.”
The fact that Garrett is the first African American mayor of Lathrup Village is particularly significant considering the city’s history. Until the civil rights movement in the ’60s, decedents of “Mediterranean decent” (including African Americans) were not allowed to purchase property in the city. Even though the city is now 61.2 percent African American, Garrett says she still experiences lingering racism in the community.
“There’s people that are still in that mindset,” Garrett said.
The Thursday after she was voted in as Mayor her garage was vandalized. Someone wrote something that looks like the start of a “K” on her garage.
“I’m a strong girl,” Garrett said.
Garrett says that in a great part she was strengthened by the adversity that she has experienced while serving on city council.
“It was poetic justice,” Garrett said. “What they used to hurt me actually made me better. It made me stronger and braver than I’ve ever been.”