City Councilmember at-large Judi Brown Clarke is likely to become the next City Council president. Brown Clarke, who has been on Council since January 2014, appears to have a five-member majority for the position once the new Council is seated in January. She now serves as vice president.
Councilmembers Jody Washington, Carol Wood, and Jessica Yorko will join Brown Clarke and Councilman-elect Adam Hussain in voting for Brown Clarke, sources said. Yorko is expected to become vice president. Councilwomen Kathie Dunbar, Tina Houghton and Patricia Spitzley have not committed their votes.
The split suggests that Mayor Virg Bernero may be in for a rough ride for the next two years until the next election. Dunbar and Houghton have long been considered supporters of Mayor Virg Bernero, as had been Yorko. Spitzley won with Bernero’s backing. Wood, who ran against Bernero in 2011, has long been considered the leader of the anti- Bernero contingent on the Council.
However, Brown Clarke is vice president, and the Council tradition — with exceptions — has been to elevate the previous year’s vice presidency to the presidency.
Some members said the leadership decision was made once the November General Election results were in. Voters put two new councilmembers on the dais: Hussain, who beat incumbent A’Lynne Boles, and Spitzley, who won an open seat. Boles , who had Bernero's support, narrowly lost.
In January 2015, it took the Council hours to settle on a new leadership team, finally agreeing on Derrick Quinney as president and Houghton as vice president.
After Quinney was appointed to the Ingham County Register of Deed’s post in February, Houghton became president. However, remaining councilmembers were unable to agree on a choice for vice president, leaving that post open for the next month. It wasn’t until Vince Delgado was selected to fulfill the remainder of Quinney’s term, which ends Dec. 31, that Brown Clarke was voted in as vice president.
Houghton will vacate the presidency with the new leadership election in January.
Leadership selection has often been in the past few years. Battles for the leadership roles have lasted hours, sometimes days at time.
Those battles for leadership have played out with Bernero trying to get his choice to lead the body. But Councilmembers said they were “tired” of Bernero’s control of the Council.
That has been seen as aligning the Council into pro- and anti-Bernero camps.
“I know that’s what pundits would say,” said Wood regarding whether an anti- Bernero faction had gained control of the Council. “But all of us have supported Virg’s initiatives at one time or another in the past. Does it mean we will be a more independent Council willing to look at the issues instead of the personalities? Yes. We’re going to expect and demand information in a timely manner.”