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Diversity was a big winner in Jackson election

Jackson city hall
Posted at 5:32 PM, Nov 03, 2021

JACKSON, Mich. — Jackson elected its first Black mayor Tuesday night, Daniel Mahoney.

“I mean that’s what history says," Mahoney said. "That means I’m going to have to work even harder. Really, when it comes down to it, that means there’s going to be even greater expectation for me to not just be the first black mayor, but to be a great mayor, to provide real change that this community will feel for decades to come.”

Mayor Derek Dobies, who has publicly backed Mahoney said he believes the work done over the previous few years led to his victory.

“I think over the last couple of year we’ve made a lot of progress for the city, south side, with investments in the King Center, with investments in just different infrastructure projects as well as working to create the MLK Corridor Improvement authority,” Dobies said. “Really, bringing some progress that we see downtown out into the neighborhoods and into the city. I think that people saw Daniel as someone who can continue to do that. “

Daniel Mahoney election party
Daniel Mahoney election party

Mahoney’s biggest margin of victory was in Jackson’s Ward 1, where he took 83 percent of its votes.

“I also think there is a certain aspect of the historic nature of electing the city’s first Black mayor and city history that probably compelled a lot of people to get out and vote as a really exciting opportunity," Dobies said. "I think that the first ward, since I’ve been running for mayor, has continued to come out in full force and participate in the local elections here and it did so last night."

Mahoney won't be the only new face in City Hall.

Residents in Jackson’s Ward 3 elected Angelita Velasco Gunn to represent them on City Council.

Angelita Velasco Gunn
Angelita Velasco Gunn

Gunn, who is Hispanic, says she's "really proud to bring that background in history to the Jackson City Council. We have a vibrant, very large Hispanic community I think people don’t always know about. I think that having that diversity is just going to help bring greater voices to the city council

She will also be the fourth woman on the Council joining Arlene Robinson, Laura Dwyer-Schlecte and Karen Bunnell.

“I always think that women’s voices are sometimes stifled or not listened to in lots of areas," she said. "I think that will help kind of balance the power at the City Council level.”

Councilmember Laura Dwyer-Schlecte said she hasn’t had the chance to talk to Gunn yet but is anxious to see what she brings to the table.

“Gosh, we’re going to have a lot of women at Council which is going to be very exciting. That’s going to bring a new perspective, a whole new perspective. I think it should be a good thing,” Dwyer-Schlecte said.

Dobies said diversity on the Council "is something that we should be proud of as a city and continue to make sure that diversity not only is reflected into the future on City Council but within the rest of City Hall, as well as in the rest of our boards and commissions. It was a historic night."

Gunn is the executive director of Jackson’s AWARE Shelter, which serves survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence

“I have now a platform to bring what I call my activist heart. I believe in safety, justice and determination for everybody. Those are my pillars and values that I bring to my work as a domestic violence and sexual assault activist. I’ve been on working for crime victims, domestic violence and sexual assault for almost 40 years,” Gunn said. “It’s that same kind of tenacity and that same care for every citizen in Jackson that I will bring to City Council.”

AWARE Shelter
Jackson's AWARE Shelter

She never ran for office previously and was shocked that she won.

“I was sitting at home kind of waiting to hear what the news was going to be. I kind of resigned myself. I thought, ‘You know what, the other candidate has more experience. He’s run before. He’s got more visibility. I’m brand new. I’ve never run before for any kind of office,'" she said. "I really kind of was just surprised, just shocked and excited. Also just like, ‘Oh my gosh, I got a lot of work to do.’”

The new members will be sworn in on Wednesday, Dec. 1.

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