New faces outnumber old in Lansing at-large races

4 at-large contenders running to replace Wood and Spitzley


The Lansing City Council stands to lose a combined 30 years’ experience when Carol Wood and Patricia Spitzley retire at the end of the year.

Wood, the current City Council president, is calling it a career after 24 years. Patricia Spitzley, who took office in 2016, also chose not to seek reelection. Both were serving in at-large positions, leaving the seats up for grabs in the Nov. 7 election.

The top four out of eight candidates who ran in the Aug. 8 primary are vying for these two spots: Tamera Carter, who came in first with 26.8% (5,673 votes); Trini Lopez Pehlivanoglu (20.4%, 4,308 votes); Jody Washington (18.8%, 3,968); and Missy Lilje (2,097, 10%).


Washington, 66, who represented the city’s 1st Ward from 2012 to 2019, is the only one with prior City Council experience. She was defeated for reelection in 2019, 55% to 45%.

“What really spurred my desire was the fact that we are losing the two incumbents, and they are taking years of experience and knowledge with them. Love them or hate them, they are taking a lot with them,” Washington said. “I knew that if we didn’t get somebody with experience that 50% of our Council would have barely a year-and-a-half to no experience whatsoever.”

The majority of the 21,138 total primary voters didn’t seem to share that concern, however. Despite their lack of Council experience, they favored Carter, a branch manager at Lake Trust Credit Union, and Lopez Pehlivanoglu, a resident of the city’s southwest side who has worked at the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs since 2021.

Lopez Pehlivanoglu
Lopez Pehlivanoglu

Carter, 40, holds a master’s degree in organization leadership and is on the boards of the Impression 5 Science Center and Downtown Lansing Inc. Her keystone issues are gun violence, public safety, housing insecurity and homelessness, economic development and equity and inclusion. She did not respond to calls and emails requesting comment.

Lopez Pehlivanoglu, 42, is the daughter of Lansing School Board member Guillermo Lopez and an Everett High School graduate with 17 years’ experience working in county and state government. If elected, she hopes to address neighborhood safety, promote economic growth and development and financially empower residents.

“I have four kids, and when my two older boys were attending Everett High School, they were placed on lockdown more times than I care to tell you,” Lopez Pehlivanoglu said. “These kinds of things happen all the time, and it’s just really alarming to me. I like what I’ve seen with the city creating partnerships where some of these groups work directly with youth in town. I want to support more of those efforts.”


Lilje, 47, the only candidate to be endorsed by Mayor Andy Schor, suspended her campaign in September due to family health concerns, she said. However, she said she serve if elected. Lilje is the CEO of Happendance, a nonprofit dance education organization, and works as a paraprofessional at Ingham Intermediate School District by day. She’s been on the Lansing School Board since 2016.

Schor also intended to back Carter, but she rejected his endorsement and campaign donations.

Despite her place in a field of qualified newcomers, Washington, an employee of the Michigan Department of Corrections who’s also active with the local homeless populations, still believes her experience is the best answer for Lansing.


“It seems like at this time, we are doing many things just by knee-jerk reaction,” Washington said. “I think we’re at a crossroads, and it could either go really good, or really south.”


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

Connect with us