Birmingham swears in new commissioners
By Kevin Elliott
Three new Birmingham city commissioners were sworn into office on Monday, November 8, as the Oakland County Board of Canvassers certified election results earlier that day, permitting commissioners-elect to begin their terms and clearing the way for a potential recount.
Commission candidate Anthony Long was narrowly defeated in this year’s election, losing to incoming commissioner Andrew Haig by just six votes. Long announced his intent to request a recount, but is required by state election law to file the request after election results are certified. He filed a request for a recount on Tuesday, November 9.
On Monday, Haig and fellow incoming commissioners, Elaine McLain and Katie Schafer, were sworn into office as city commissioners. The new commissioners then joined the incumbents in electing a new mayor and mayor pro tem.
“I think my friend Therese (Longe) has the experience and temperament, honesty and integrity that we want and need in a mayor,” said commissioner Clinton Baller in nominating Longe for mayor. “During her 15 years on the parks board, nine of them as chair, and over the past two years as (mayor pro tem), she has shown that she’s organized, level-headed and brings both clarity and thought and expression to her public service.”
The new commission voted unanimously to appoint Longe as mayor. Longe had recently served as mayor pro tem, which essentially serves as mayor when the mayor is absent or recused.
“I’m honored and humbled,” Longe said. “I promise to serve with integrity, transparency and respect, and to listen and be responsible and accountable.”
Commissioner Brad Host nominated outgoing mayor Pierre Boutros to serve as mayor pro tem. That nomination was seconded by Baller, who said Boutros would now be the most experienced commissioner on the new council, and commended the work he and Longe had done while serving in the two positions.
Commissioners Long, Haig and Schafer replace long-serving commissioners Rackeline Hoff, Mark Nickita and Stuart Sherman, who have more than 50 years cumulative experience serving on the city commission, including terms as mayor.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege, as well as a personally enjoyable and rewarding experience to serve as a Birmingham commissioner for the past 20 years, including three years as mayor,” Hoff said. “Last week as I walked through city hall and observed the photos and dates of all the elected city officials in the city since 1875, I came to the conclusion that I’ve earned the distinction of being the longest serving commissioner ever in Birmingham. I said longest serving, that doesn’t necessarily mean I’m the oldest.”
Sherman said the evening was a moment to “celebrate the past and look forward to the future.” In that sense, Sherman imparted words of encouragement for incoming commissioners.
“You now, along with commissioner Boutros, Longe, Baller and Host, represent our great city. Please take good care of it,” Sherman said. “ As you participate in so many meetings and take on tasks and make decisions, I hope you’ll always remember that you represent all of the residents, and all of the business owners, the neighborhoods, downtown – everything. Personal agendas need to be left at the door… an open mind is best suited for this table and making decisions here.”
Nickita also thanked his fellow commissioners, city staff and the public for working to enhance Birmingham over his nearly quarter-century of service to the city. Likewise, he encouraged a spirit of unity.
“A unified Birmingham is one that has success for all,” he said. “A divisive one is problematic and doesn’t get us anywhere. We need to remember that clearly and move forward with that mind set as a goal.”
Birmingham city commissioners serve four-year terms. The commission meets twice each month on the second and fourth Monday nights, at 7:30 p.m. at city hall. Commissioners are paid $5 per meeting.