TUESDAY, Jan. 8 — Overcoming the sentiments she expressed two years that a candidate for reelection should not be president of the Lansing City Council, Carol Wood accepted a second term as the Council’s head last night.
Wood was chosen, by a 6-2 vote, to remain at the helm for another year. At-large Councilman Peter Spadafore was unanimously chosen vice president.
Councilmembers Kathie Dunbar and Brian Jackson voted against Wood’s nomination, citing a need for fresh perspectives. Dunbar also addressed statements that Wood previously made about the ability to impartially serve as the Council’s president while simultaneously launching a reelection campaign.
“She plans to seek re-election, and in her words, that disqualifies her for leadership,” Dunbar explained.
Wood’s term expires at the end of the year, along with Adam Hussain, Jody Washington and Patricia Spitzley. None of them has filed to run, but Wood said Tuesday she plans to seek a sixth term.
And the Council’s leadership positions could prove to be particularly meaningful during the upcoming election cycle. The president helps sets various committee structures and controls the city government agenda, ultimately deciding what specific issues land on the Council’s radar and what issues can be delayed until the polls close.
In 2016, when Dunbar was running for president, Wood questioned Dunbar’s ability to serve as president the next year, when she was then also running for re-election. Wood told City Pulse that Dunbar’s nomination would create “questions” of whether the president was acting in the best interest of the city or a reelection effort. Dunbar was not chosen as president.
Wood emphasized that she personally wouldn’t accept the presidency while running for another term. But despite her past misgivings, Wood had no problem ringing in another term as president as this year’s election approaches. She said her colleagues encouraged her to take the post, and she doesn’t envision any problems.
“They said they felt with my integrity, I would be able to handle this in a professional manner,” Wood said. “Based on the fact they didn’t see a problem with it, I decided I would go ahead. I wouldn’t do anything to create an atmosphere where the presidency could be used as a campaign tool. That wouldn’t happen.”
Dunbar lost her bid for the presidency at a time when the Council was more evenly split into factions that roughly divided as pro-Wood vs. backers of then Mayor Virg Bernero. Dunbar was on the side of the latter.
Dunbar wanted to give Wood a dose of her own medicine as the tables turned this year. Support from a differently constituted Council, however, ultimately secured what will become Wood’s fourth term as president.
“If that’s the stance you’re going to take, we’re going to live by that,” Dunbar said before the divided vote. Spadafore, for his part, said the president should only be selected based on the skills they bring to the table.
“Outside circumstances” — like an upcoming election cycle — shouldn’t play a role in the Council’s decision. It should instead only be about leadership experience and the ability to drive city progress forward, he contended.
“It’s not like there are any war powers associated with that position,” Spadafore added.
Councilwoman Jody Washington served as vice president over the last year. She previously opposed Spadafore’s nomination to fill her seat but opted to support him at yesterday’s meeting. While Hussain — her son — was her initial preference, Washington said she reached a compromise “for the sake of the city and moving forward.”
The vice president is paid $25,140 annually and serves largely a placeholder who can manage meetings in the absence of the president. Spadafore said the position will allow him additional opportunities to learn about the managerial aspects of the presidency without the burden of actually managing that additional information.
Wood will receive a $26,640 salary in 2019. The other six councilmembers will make $24,640.