By TOM TIGANI
Sunday Times Newspapers
TRENTON — Two longtime public servants will face each other in the November mayoral election.
City Clerk Kyle Stack announced last week that she intends to seek the city’s top job and will oppose current Mayor Gerald Brown, who recently decided to run again after announcing earlier this year that he would not.
Stack said she’s been considering a run for the last couple of years and recently decided to move forward with the idea after meeting with a core group of supporters.
“I’ve got 34 years in with city, the last 26 as city clerk,” she said. “It’s time to let somebody else with some fresh ideas take over, and I’m not ready to give up on working for the city. I just want to do it in some other capacity.”
Stack said she has had petitions on file in the city and county since January, and that her decision was a matter of whether to withdraw them. That decision has been complicated by an issue with the pension she would be due to receive after leaving the clerk’s job.
A ruling last year by the board of the Municipal Employees’ Retirement System of Michigan held that Stack would have been ineligible to receive her clerk’s pension if she left to run for mayor unless she had been retired as clerk for at least two years. She has been seeking a waiver of that ruling from the MERS board that would allow her to retire Sept. 30.
Brown said the situation is part of the reason he decided to get back into the race after saying in February that this would be his last term. He said Stack’s situation “attaches strings or conditions” to her candidacy, and that the ruling is close enough to the May 10 filing deadline for her to withdraw if the MERS ruling on the requested waiver doesn’t go her way. That ruling is expected on May 11.
“I’ve been up front with everything that’s gone on with this,” Stack said Friday. She said MERS officials have informed her attorney that they intend to grant the waiver, and that while she won’t receive written and electronic confirmation until May 11, her attorney has advised her that it was OK to announce her candidacy without fear of having to withdraw.
Brown said other factors played into his decision to run again, saying a lot of supporters have come forward to say that he’s been doing a good job, and that he’s been humbled by the reaction to his re-election bid.
“I’m getting excited about it again,” he said. “I hope they’re with me to the end.”
Each candidate has expressed respect for the other.
“I have no problem with Jerry,” Stack said, “and I’ve offered to work with him in some other capacity if he wins. I just think it’s time for me to move forward. There are some things I agree with him on and some I don’t. I just want to build a team to move forward with of the things I want to do.”
That list includes economic development.
“We’ve got a lot of empy storefronts, like DSC (the former McLouth Steel site) and Riverside Hospital,” Stack said. “We need to look at some of things going on in town with businesses and work on bringing back some communication and unity.”
She cited a long list of involvement in city activities outside the office, including volunteer work with groups like Soroptimists and Trenton Rotary.
Brown said he doesn’t regret his earlier declaration of his intent not to run. He respects Stack’s years of service and said he will run a “high-road campaign.”
Brown also has a long resume in Trenton, starting almost 40 years ago as a police officer, moving up within the department and retiring as chief 29 years later. He has served on the Trenton Public Schools Board of Education before seeking the mayor’s job in 2001.
“I thought, ‘I’ve been doing this for 10 years; maybe it’s time to let someone else have a chance,’” Brown said. “I thought maybe someone else would surface, but for two months it didn’t happen. Then a lot of people approached me, said I did a good job, and, ‘Could you do it again?’”
His platform, he said, is to keep the city as solvent as possible with the economic times that are coming, and that he’s done his best to keep the lid on expenses, going from 204 city employees to 136.
“All our Downriver communities are in a pool of water,” Brown said. “Some are up to their nose, we’re up to our chest. We’re still in danger, but not in danger of expiring. I’m not worried about us getting an emergency financial manager.”
Stack said she hopes to bring some new ideas to the mayor’s position, and believes she’s accomplished some important things as clerk. However, she gives much of the credit to a good staff that has worked hard to move the department in the right direction.
A key member of that staff, Deputy Clerk Trish Gearhart, has announced she will run to replace Stack. Gearhart has worked for the city for 19 years, 15 as deputy clerk. Both are certified municipal clerks by the International Clerks Association.
In addition to the mayor’s and clerk’s seats, November also will see elections for assessor, treasurer and three four-year City Council positions.