Ruth Beier: A life of no regrets and aiding her city
An MSU alumna, an economist, mayor pro tem, a mother, a wife and resident in East Lansing for nearly three decades, both on and off the City Council, is tied thoroughly to her to city. A native of Maryland, Beier studied economics at MSU as an undergrad and faced a choice as a high school junior when her parents decided to move to India.
“I had to choose between going to India and going right to college, and one of the only colleges that I could get into without actually graduating was Michigan State,” Beier said.
Beier said she has an affinity for MSU, she played varsity women’s basketball her senior year and called it the most fun she’s ever had. She often takes a walk on campus to feel better whenever she’s down. After earning her master’s degree at Duke University, she moved back to East Lansing in 1990. She decided to settle down with her partner and their family of four children, citing the quality of the area’s schools as the main reason for planting roots.
After they met when she was an undergrad, Beier said she and her partner have been together for nearly 30 years. Though she is openly LGBT, Beier said she feels she represents everyone and doesn’t see her sexuality as a talking point.
“I don’t feel that I relate to people based on my sexuality,” Beier said. “My sexuality, even though I’m open about it, is not public, it’s private, so I don’t feel like that’s something I have in common with people. It’s more — it’s something that ‘is’ and people can deal with it and shut up for all I care, that’s my preference actually.”
Beier has worked with the as an economist and was appointed deputy treasurer for taxation and economic policy for the state of Michigan by then-Gov. James Blanchard.
Following that position, she stayed out of politics until deciding to run for City Council and was elected November 2013. Since then, Beier has used her experience in economics to advocate for fiscal responsibility.
“I’m not really interested in politics, I’m interested in making sure the city is a great place to live for a long time, and I didn’t think it was going in that direction,” Beier said. “The biggest problem I saw was spending money that we didn’t have.”
“We did that with our pension promises, we did that by buying property we couldn’t afford, and we did that by giving away tax revenue to any developer who wanted to develop even if it was something that we didn’t want ... since being elected, I’ve tried to be more thoughtful about all of those things.”
This stance has led Beier to express strong opinions on the , advocating for fewer developer incentives and voting against demolition extensions.
“Very few developers decide to build somewhere because of the tax break, they decide to build somewhere because the economics are good and the tax break is a tiny part of it,” Beier said. “Usually what happens is cities end up losing money for no reason.”
, who has worked with Beier on council since his election in 2015, said he has an excellent working relationship with Beier and called her a terrific council member.
“She’s easy to work with, very informed, very well prepared on every issue and her background as an economist really adds a lot to the ability of the council to dig into some of the financial issues that we’ve been dealing with,” Meadows said.
, elected at the same time as Beier, said she has disagreed with Beier on development incentives through the years but said they now get along well and she hopes Beier is reelected.
“I’ve always had a good working relationship with Councilmember Beier, she’s smart and very pleasant, but now that we are in more agreement on certain things, it’s just a more pleasant relationship,” Woods said. Beier and Woods will both be up for reelection in November.
“As long as I’m here ... I would like to make a shift enough that we start to generate enough revenue to pay all of our bills, to start paying down our debt,” Beier said. “It’s not a very sexy goal, but it’s my goal.”
At 55 years old, Beier said she plans to work at the Michigan Education Association for three to four more years before retiring to become a schoolteacher. Beier said she hopes to teach middle school math.
“That’s actually my passion and I’ve always wanted to do that, but I could never afford it,” Beier said. “When I’m retired I won’t need as much money theoretically, and that’s when I’m going to do it.”
Beier said when she was younger, all her goals were educational. As she aged, her goals revolved around raising her children. Now, she said, her goal is not to have any regrets.
“If there’s anything that I regret that I can change, then I change it,” Beier said. “I regretted not ever being able to be a teacher, so I went back to school and I take classes and one day I’ll be a teacher. I regretted never learning to surf, so I learned to surf ... don’t regret anything you can change, and get over the things you can’t.”