Students registered to vote in East Lansing have a chance to vote in the Nov. 5 East Lansing City Council election, and in an effort to best introduce our audience to the candidates, The State News will host a candidate series releasing interviews with additional candidates in the coming weeks.
The city council oversees numerous projects that affect both Michigan State students and other city residents. From new housing units to monitoring what businesses enter the city and dealing with infrastructure issues, city council has many responsibilities.
Three seats are up for grabs to six candidates. Each are four-year terms. The candidates running are incumbent Mayor Mark Meadows, incumbent Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann, Lisa Babcock, Jessy Gregg, John L. Revitte and Warren Stanfield.
Following the election, the new city council will decide a mayor and mayor pro tem among themselves.
Student Warren Stanfield III aims for a seat on the city council
"We need to bridge the gap between Michigan State and East Lansing local government," Stanfield said.
Warren Stanfield III is a political science and pre-law student at Michigan State University. Stanfield enrolled in the fall semester of 2017 after graduating from Walled Lake Central High School.
Stanfield said his passions lie with aiding students from disadvantaged backgrounds, a primary reason he is running.
He said one priority item was to establish a review board on how to handle situations that occur on campus.
He spoke to helping disadvantaged students, and finding ways to reduce MSU's high attrition rate.
“If there’s nothing that the city can do about that from an economic standpoint, I no longer believe in government," he said. "That’s why I’m running.”
Stanfield said he approved of the city's current legislative agenda, and that he likes the direction development in the city of East Lansing has been going.
"Mayor Meadows and the city manager have done a wonderful job with some of this downtown development," he said.
Stanfield said he doesn't believe his youth to be a roadblock to his ability to govern or a valid criticism to his credentials as a candidate.
“Students my age that look like me built this city and if it wasn’t for students my age that look like me, you wouldn’t be here,” Stanfield said. “No one would live in East Lansing if it wasn’t for Michigan State University. Michigan State University wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the young students like me.”
Stanfield’s bid as a student isn’t unprecedented, in 2017 Aaron Stephens was elected as a senior at MSU. Beyond that, a student has only been elected one other time to the city council.
While Stanfield respects what Stephens accomplished, he said he knows they are two very different candidates.
“We’re totally different people,” Stanfield said. "There are a lot of complexities that go into winning a seat.”
Stanfield said he observed that there is a much-needed voice not routinely present in East Lansing City Council meetings, a voice he hopes to provide.
“When you go to a neighborhood council meeting, what do you see?” Stanfield said. “You see 40-to-60-year-old
white people and they’re talking about these communities and minorities in ways that a group of white people would talk about them. They’re not intentionally racist, but there’s nothing you can do about it.”
He said the five other candidates in the field are middle-aged WASP's, or White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, used to refer to Americans whose ancestors came from Northern Europe.
“Are 80% of the people on that campus middle-age WASPs? Are 90% of the people in Bailey neighborhood middle-age WASPs? ... Can they be spoken to on the same issues by these other candidates?” he asked.
Stanfield's political experience includes work as a legislative aid in the state senate, a job he says has taught him plenty of skills that will will transfer to city council if he’s elected.
“I think you need a skilled legislator in every form of government.”
Stanfield's mother owned a nonprofit, My Sister’s Keeper, while his father owned a restaurant, Young’s Barbecue, before being diagnosed with cancer. He said they would regularly feed the local homeless population.
“It’s just something that’s been in my blood," he said. "Service.”
Editors note: This story was updated to reflect the election date as Nov. 5 2019