A look at the 36 Lansing Charter Commission candidates


Lansing voters will decide on May 7 which nine of 36 candidates will serve on the Charter Revision Commission. Absentee ballots will be mailed starting March 28. Here is a look at the candidates who responded to a City Pulse questionnaire. (The five-digit numbers after candidates’ ages represent their ZIP codes.)

Jazmin Anderson, 32, 48912, equitable economic development director at LEAP. Former event manager for Downtown Lansing Inc. Founder of Stay Rooted, an online plant shop. Lansing native.

“I’m deeply rooted in Lansing and passionate about our community’s future. With a strong foundation in community engagement and economic development, I’m eager to bring a fresh perspective to the table. My experience at LEAP and Downtown Lansing Inc. has equipped me with the tools to navigate complex challenges and foster positive change. I aim to bring fresh perspectives to optimize governance, provide strategic oversight and ensure inclusive engagement. Together, we can build a charter that reflects everyone’s needs and fosters a thriving, responsive Lansing.”

Layna Anderson, 37, 48912, digital communications manager at Michigan State University since 2019; former communications and marketing manager at Downtown Lansing Inc. for five years.

“I spent five years working for Downtown Lansing Inc., a quasi-governmental organization for the City of Lansing. During my tenure with DLI, I encountered the charter from a municipal employee perspective. Having encountered the city charter as both an employee and a resident, I have a unique viewpoint. I enjoy my current role working in communications at Michigan State University but have been missing being more involved with the city. This commission opportunity called to me. Review and revision of the charter can catapult Lansing into the future and help the city become an equitable, accessible, and efficient municipality.”

Dedria Humphries Barker, 71, 48912, writer, author and educator, City Pulse columnist.

Lansing resident since 2005.

“Dedria Humphries Barker will use her leadership and communication skills to work collaboratively to guarantee a framework for good decision-making, digital performance, excellent follow-through, and adequate taxation to support a budget that protects the public interest, the public peace, health and safety.  She will bring her presence and energy, talents and gifts, to ensure that the Commission’s work is clear and understandable to the people who govern and live according to the Charter of this great city, the anchor of Mid-Michigan, the state Capitol.”

Joan Bauer, 74, 48910, 68th District Democratic member of the Michigan House of Representatives, 2007 to 2012. At-large City Council member, 1995-2006. Former director of volunteer services, Ingham Regional Medical Center. Lansing native.

“The charter commission provides the opportunity to thoughtfully review the current charter and recommend any changes that could better serve our residents and strengthen our city.  It is important that commission members give thoughtful consideration to all the issues, keep an open mind, seek public input, and research models of governance both in Michigan and nationally.  I am a longtime Lansing resident who loves our city and is committed to public service. I am running because I feel my past experiences as a Lansing City Council member and state representative would be of value to the commission.”

Elizabeth Driscoll Boyd, 72, 48911, former press secretary for Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and public information officer for former secretaries of state, Candice Miller and.  Richard Austin. Founded a public relations agency in 2012. Lansing native.

“The city charter will guide Lansing’s future, and that is why commissioners must conduct a review that is thorough, thoughtful, transparent and without regard for special interests.  I am a life-long resident of Lansing with degrees from Michigan State University and decision-making experience based on having worked with statewide elected officials of both political parties.  While I have often wanted to seek public office, my professional and personal commitments have stood in the way.  I now have the time to serve and that is why I am seeking election to the charter commission.”

Ben Dowd, 41, 48906, associate director, Community Economic Development Association of Michigan. Former banker for 15 years. Served eight years with the Old Town Commercial Association, five as president. Resident for nine years.

“My goal of serving on the commission is to ensure there’s an open voice for all citizens and for the elected group to not get held up on areas of dissatisfaction that the charter has no affiliation with. Many folks have very specific special interests and motives to be elected. Mine is to use my knowledge and skills to effectively work through a process and assist the community with creating the charter that best represents Lansing’s needs. I’m interested in ensuring that the charter is within accordance with state and federal laws and that it is inclusive in language.”

Randy Dykhuis, 67, 48933, retired CEO of Michigan Library Consortium and executive director of Midwest Collaborative for Library Services. Founder of Capital Area Friends of the Environment. Resident since 2008.

 “I am passionate about good governance and making local government more transparent, just, and democratic. As a seasoned nonprofit leader, I bring strong leadership skills and a commitment to collaboration. In short, I listen well and pay attention, which makes me an ideal choice for the charter commission. I believe the Lansing charter is basically sound but needs a few tweaks. First, the appointment process for boards and commissions should be more transparent and give city council a stronger role. Second, we should look at the number of wards and whether at-large seats on city council serve residents well.”

Michele K Fickes, 58, 48912, Lansing native with professional experience in real estate, communications and events. Formerly banking marketing director.

“I have the passion and skills to make Lansing government more efficient, accessible, transparent, and responsive. I will keep what’s right and fix what’s wrong. I am an entrepreneur who was born and raised in Lansing, and a third-generation eastsider who loves Lansing. I am well qualified for the commission by having a MBA from Northwood University. I know research and am data-driven. I will offer my abilities to this community, contributing immeasurable ideas to its structure and working to shape Lansing’s future.”


Britt Houze — no response.

Monte Jackson II, 30, 48933, commercial real estate appraiser and attorney. Lansing Planning Commission member, 2020 to present Board of Zoning Appeals since 2023. Lansing native.

“My decision to run reflects my commitment to being an active participant in shaping the future of Lansing. I seek to streamline bureaucratic processes and enhance local democracy through charter revision. This endeavor allows me to take part in tailoring solutions to contemporary issues, fostering transparency and accountability in municipal affairs. I aim to modernize structures where appropriate, aligning them with evolving community values, while also preserving the aspects of the city charter that have been effective.”

Brian Jeffries, 69, 48911, lead attorney for Michigan State University’s Student Legal Services program for over 40 years. City Council member, 2003 to 2013, twice as president. Ingham County commissioner, 1983 to 1992. Lansing Community College trustee, 1997 to 2003. Resident for 46 years.

“We have a personal responsibility to improve our community.  I exercised that responsibility serving Lansing as county commissioner, community college trustee and City Council member.  Knowledge and experience gained through community and neighborhood service, practicing law and hands-on understanding of how local governments operate and govern make me uniquely qualified. This is an incredible opportunity to serve the people of Lansing and shape the city’s future. My goal: produce a charter that moves Lansing forward as a welcoming city for all individuals; maintains a strong workforce; prioritizes public health and safety; and is well secured financially.”

Samuel Klahn, 27, 48912, masters in social work student at Michigan State University. Eastern High School valedictorian, 2015. Lansing resident since early childhood.

“The city charter — like all documents — eventually runs into problems. No one can predict the future. It’s critical that the people on this commission have two things. Firstly, a commitment to represent the people of Lansing with integrity. Secondly, professional skills and experiences to create a document that thoroughly addresses every issue of city government in order to allow Lansing residents to live, work, play, and raise families with dignity.”

Tim Knowlton, 70, 48915, retired attorney of 40 years. Everett High School and Michigan State University graduate. Resident since 2000.

“Lansing is my hometown, and I would like the charter to improve the city’s governance structure and be more democratic.  I support a nine-member City Council with at least five wards, with no firm view on the division of Council between ward and at-large members.  I support ranked-choice voting of elected city officials, which I think the state Legislature can be persuaded to authorize. I am inclined to support the continuation of the current strong mayor system.  I will work cooperatively with other commissioners.”

Jesse Lasorda, 64, 48910, retired Lansing School District employee of 23 years. Former vice chair, Ingham County Historical Commission, and Historical Society of Greater Lansing board member. Resident for seven years. 

“My purpose for running is to be laser-focused on quality-of-life issues that have been ignored for decades. As a neighborhood advocate, I have seen and heard from Lansing citizens in regard to crumbling infrastructure (which includes governmental bodies). My goal is to have a more adaptive city government that doesn’t move at a snail’s pace regarding change, and most importantly accountability.”

Guillermo Lopez, 74, 48910, retired employee, Lansing Human Relations Department, 1984 to 2014. Lansing School District Board of Education member since 2000.

“I am passionate about giving the community the best service possible. I want to have a review of each of the chapters on the City Charter so as not to leave any part of the charter unevaluated. The most important, in my view, are the strong mayor’s position to a weak mayor/ strong Council position and evaluating the current ward and at large positions on City Council. I come with an open mind, ears and eyes on these matters. I want a chance to come up with the best possible recommendations for changes or to keep as is.”

Heath Lowry, 31, 48915, staff attorney, Michigan Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. Legislative director for former 8th House District Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, 2017 to 2019. Westside Neighborhood Association board member.

“I am in this race because it is a chance to build a Lansing that listens. I have the expertise to deliver a Lansing that lifts all its residents. That vision starts with building a community-driven and responsive government in our foundation, the city charter. In Indigenous circles, we often discuss the Haudenosaunee Seventh Generation Principle, which guides decision-makers to build solutions that provide for the next seven generations. I live by this philosophy and will bring that to the commission. With that informing my way, I will advocate for a process and revisions that are community-centered, transparent, and future-focused.”


Erica Lynn — no response.

Derek Melot, 58, 48910, former editor, Lansing State Journal, Bridge Michigan. Communications director, Michigan Association of Counties. Resident since 2002.

“A governing document requires periodic review and potentially alterations. The charter is overdue for such a comprehensive review. Should I be elected to the commission, my three principles would be: transparency, responsibility and accountability. A major factor in the disengagement of many city voters – as reflected by municipal election turnout rates – is they do not see who is responsible for city action (or inaction) and do not think they can hold anyone accountable. The goal in the coming year should be to answer questions: Who is responsible? How are they held accountable?”

Douglas VanBuren Mulkey, 48912, general manager at the People’s Kitchen since 2021.

Through conversations with community leaders, neighbors and friends, I decided to seek a seat on this commission to serve the community I love! As a lifelong resident of the greater Lansing area, I hold deep roots to the community and am invested in seeing us thrive.

Alongside my fellow commissioners, I look forward to researching and debating revisions to the charter and intend to build consensus to improve the charter for residents of Lansing.

My work as a board member with Michigan Pride and a Managing Partner of The People’s Kitchen both highlight my leadership values, charitable fundraising, dedication to community development, and small business values, which all will be an asset to the commission’s objectives. 

Jerry Norris, 57, 48910, CEO and founder of the Fledge.

“As the CEO of the Fledge, I’ve demonstrated my ability to lead an organization that serves a broad spectrum of the community, addressing not just entrepreneurial needs but also social and cultural ones. This role has honed my leadership skills and my ability to listen to and work with diverse groups, qualities that are imperative for a member of the City Charter Commission. If elected, I would bring these qualifications to bear, ensuring that the city’s charter serves as a foundation for a governance system that is innovative, inclusive and reflective of our community’s values and needs.

Ted O’Dell, 58, 48915, former legislative aide for state Sen. Don Koivisto, 1993 to 1999; House legislative assistant from 1989 to 1992. Served as Beaverton’s city administrator in 2000. Former UniServ director for the Michigan Education Association. Resident for 17 years.

“My goal is to construct a City Charter that will put citizens first. It is important that we, as the capital city, lead by example and become a model-modern city that views itself as more than a post-industrial community of government workers. I want to create a city that embraces future technologies in a way that will attract new businesses while supporting those that exist and to create a community of inclusion, diversity and place-making. Lansing may be the seat of state government, but we must work to build a future where we are also the crown jewel of Michigan.”

Stephen Purchase, 40, 48910, communications director, Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights. Former executive and president, H Inc. Urban Development. Legislative director for House District 20 Rep. Marc Corriveau, 2007 to 2009. Resident since 2006.

“Lansing has been my chosen city for 18 years. I’ve been fortunate to serve our community in many volunteer roles, including as chair of the Lansing Fire Commission and Lansing School’s Parent Advisory Committee and on the City Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity. The Charter Commission is a great opportunity to wrestle with essential questions about how our city government is best structured to serve and be accountable to Lansing residents. I’m ready to bring my experience as a collaborative consensus builder to help the commission propose a charter that will stand the test of time.”

Muhammad A. Qawwee II, 56, 48906, U.S. Army veteran; a pharmacy technician at Sparrow Health, 30 years. President, Sparrow’s UAW Local 4911, 2019 to present.

“I am running for the Lansing City Charter Commission to ensure that our charter reflects the values, aspirations, and needs of our diverse and dynamic community.  My motivation to run is to be a vital part of enhancing the effectiveness, transparency and accountability of our local government.  By being elected, I hope to be an invaluable part, along with the other board members, to shape the upward direction of our city and local government.”

Mitch Rice, 66, retired mental health and addictions counselor; former Coldwater City Council member. Lansing Board of Zoning Appeals member, 10 years. Resident, 12 years.

“I care about my city. I see it as a way to contribute to help the City of Lansing review its governmental structure and processes to meet residents’ needs in the next 15 to 20 years. The charter is 46 years old and our community and society have changed. Key areas to consider include: unsheltered people, LBGTQ, community involvement, affordable housing, retaining a skilled workforce, to name a few. I hope the promote better cooperation with elected officials, professional governmental workers, citizens and the nine-member Charter Commission.”

Justin Sheehan, 42, 48910, executive director, Lan­sing Promise, 2015-present. Former legal and policy program manager, Michigan Community Resources, six years. MSU graduate.

“Lansing is my hometown. It’s where my wife and I are raising our babies. And it’s best days are still ahead. Getting this Charter right provides us a clear path toward effective decision-making, allows us to see accountability as a tool for innovation rather than a weapon, and clarifies the roles and responsibilities of those we rely on to lead. Getting this Charter right means that we as a City have a stronger foundation upon which to build for future generations. Belief, listening and trust will be the currency of this process. Time to get this right — together.”


Stan Shuck  -- no response

Lori Adams Simon, 55, 48910, chief of staff, 10th House District Rep. Nelson W. Saunders, 1990 to 1997. Former DEI director,at Sparrow Health. Contract and control specialist, Michigan Department of Community Health, 15 years. Lansing Board of Ethics member, 13 years, twice as president. Founded SimonSez Consulting, a DEI coaching firm, in 2020.

“My purpose has always been service to my community, and I decided to run for the Charter

Commission because of my immense desire to make a positive difference in my community.

I am an independent thinker, and I will approach the review process with an open mind while fostering collaboration, respect, and transparency. My goal will be to educate Lansing residents about the charter so they can constructively contribute to the process, and to ensure that the process is transparent to create a governance structure that is reflective of the desired aspirations of city residents and is equitable for all.”

Corwin Smidt, 44, 48911, associate professor, American politics and research methods, Michigan State University. Resident since 2008.

“I am a political scientist at MSU who believes that charter revisions provide a great opportunity to strengthen Lansing government and help our elected leaders and civil servants become more effective at serving its residents. I am passionate about Lansing and want to see it flourish. I also approach reforms with healthy scientific skepticism, and I remain cautious in supporting unproven reforms or too many changes at once. Institutional changes do not work without the buy-in of our civil servants and, most importantly, the public. The City of Lansing needs a tune-up, not a tear-down!”


Miranda Swartz – no response.

Simon Terhaar, 30, 48910, software developer in security for insurance companies. Lifelong Michigander; and resident, four years.

“As a younger progressive candidate for the Charter Commission, I look to shift Lansing and those in public office into more transparency in the decisions they make. I am looking to deal with our housing problems in ethical ways with strong policies that positively affect individual citizens. Finally, structuring our city to increase social supports is much needed. I am looking forward to changing Lansing for the better in a collaborative and evidence-focused manner.”

Julie Vandenboom, 49, 48906, program reengineering specialist, Michigan Health and Human Services Department, 15 years. Lansing resident since 2000.

“Lansing can be a city for all of us. I’ve lived in the Lansing area since the third grade, and in the city’s working-class neighborhoods since 2000. My son came up through Lansing schools, graduating from Eastern in 2019. My current professional focus is on building and implementing processes to meaningfully include traditionally under-represented populations in policy-making. This skill set will allow me to serve Lansing’s community through the charter revision process. Our city is rich with diverse voices. I will ensure that all residents are heard and represented, regardless of background or circumstance.” (94w)


Jody Washington — no response.


Jason Wilkes — no response.


Keith Williams — no response.

Ross Yednock, 49, 48906, legislative liaison for the Michigan Insurance and Financial Services Department and a former MEIC director at the Community Economic Development Association of Michigan. Greater Lansing resident since 2003.

“Lansing voters are frustrated. That’s why after 40 years they voted to form this commission. If special interests or personal agendas win out, then fair, effective and equitable change will lose. Commissioners must intentionally engage Lansing residents, focus on the issues sewing distrust in the current charter and explore options that can create a framework to revitalize our neighborhoods and communities, especially those neglected for far too long. I may not be your first choice, or even in your top five, but vote for Ross4Lansing.com with one of your nine votes and I’ll make sure your voice is heard!”

Nick Zande, 22, 48910, Lansing native, City Council “regular,” early advocate of charter revision commission. Unsuccessful Council candidate, 2023.

No statement.

Charter, Candidates, Lansing, Field, Revision, Commission, Politics, Local, Mayor, Government, Election


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