Saturday, July 24, 2021

EL Mayor Aaron Stephens announces resignation a year after coming into his position

July 13, 2021
<p>East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens poses for a portrait in a courtroom in the 54B District Court Feb. 1, 2020. Stephens resigned from his position as mayor on July 13, 2021 at a City Council meeting.</p>

East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens poses for a portrait in a courtroom in the 54B District Court Feb. 1, 2020. Stephens resigned from his position as mayor on July 13, 2021 at a City Council meeting.

Photo by Matt Schmucker | The State News

East Lansing Mayor Aaron Stephens announced his resignation from his position during the Tuesday City Council meeting. The resignation will be effective Aug. 11 following the submission of a formal resignation that he said he will be turning in to the city clerk’s office on Wednesday.

The reason for his resignation, Stephens said, is that he will be attending Harvard Kennedy School of Public Policy for his master’s degree. 

Stephens was appointed as the mayor on July 14, 2020, following an unexpected resignation by then-Mayor Ruth Beier and fellow Council Member Mark Meadows during a virtual city council meeting.

Both Beier and Meadows stepped down from their position effective immediately after a vote from the Council called for the termination of then-City Attorney Tom Yeadon’s contract, effective in October 2020.

“So a year ago, almost to the day, I was unexpectedly thrust into my role as mayor of the city of East Lansing,” Stephens said during the Tuesday meeting on Zoom. “At that same meeting — from which the image of my shocked face is still sent to me as a joke by my family — I announced I will be not be seeking reelection. In that instant, I did not know what my next step will be. I just knew that I needed to rise to the occasion at that moment and serve in the best way that I could because my community needed me.”

Stephens said he initially decided to further his education after his term for mayor would end this year. At that time, he applied to a school that offered online learning with the expectation that this is what school would look like for the near future.

At the end of this spring, Stephens said he found out that he got into his dream program at the Harvard Kennedy School. The arising issue was that the school announced in-person classes for the coming fall. Stephens said he explored serval options — including deferring his admission — but due to his personal financial situation, deferring was not an option for him. 

“This is a hard decision for me, one I struggled with for a while, and I sincerely hope that (the) members of the community will understand,” Stephens said.

Stephens’ program will begin in late August. Therefore he said he will be stepping down from his position because he will be unable to attend four regular and two discussion-only meetings before his term is over. 

Stephens’ position was set to end following the city election that will take place on Nov. 2.

Once Stephens’ term ends on Aug. 11, current Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg will be appointed as the Mayor of East Lansing. The council will then appoint a new mayor pro tem for the term.

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