Current Mayor Pro Tem and city councilmember Dana Watson was first told she could run for council by a supervisor at her job at the Ingham County Health Department or ICHD.
Watson’s supervisor told her that those working on city commissions were eligible to apply, and that a heavy background in public policy was not necessary to be involved in the community.
Now, Watson is seeking a four-year term on the city council and aims to address concerns over equity, housing and environmental issues.
Watson grew up in the Chicago suburbs and moved to East Lansing to attend Michigan State University. She studied communications with a specialization in interpersonal and organizational communication. She also has obtained a masters degree in human and social services from Walden University in recent years.
Watson worked at a nonprofit that worked with people with disabilities, and later as a health care coordinator. In 2009, Watson began working for the ICHD, where she has been since.
“I've been involved in East Lansing communities since moving back in 2008, and I've always been a community activist and just evolved with what's going on,” Watson said.
In 2015, Watson was appointed to the Human Rights Commission. She moved on to the Planning Commission and the Emerging Leaders Program, the city’s year-long course on civic engagement.
Last year, after two vacancies appeared on the council, Watson applied and was appointed in August 2020. Now, with her term up, Watson is running for a four-year term.
“A year is a long time, but also a short time, and there’s still work that I’d like to do,” Watson said. “I’ve enjoyed supporting the community in this position.”
Watson plans on bringing a perspective of equity to issues in East Lansing.
“A lot of my background is in equity practices,” she said. “I work in a program that works to reduce infant mortality rates for Black and Latinx people who live in Ingham County, and so seeing things with an equity lens, whether it’s health, or who we employ, or who we decide to rent to, is something that I’ve gained knowledge in.”
Watson said that she is proud of East Lansing’s progressiveness on environmental issues, and that she would like to continue this forward motion. She referenced the city’s recent ban on coal tar sealants, coatings used on parking lots, driveways and blacktops that could potentially cause harm to both the environment and to residents.
“We implemented policy for that, and encouraged other communities to do the same, and I was proud to be in the city and to be involved with that because of the harm that the coal tar does,” Watson said.
Watson said that she would like to draw more attention to increasing composting and recycling in the city. She said that the pollinator community (such as honeybees) is important to her, as well as the different kinds of plants that thrive in the region.
Watson said that cultivating a healthy community overall by tuning in to both mental and physical health is also important to her.
Watson identified housing as a key issue.
“People’s ability to be able to afford to live here is important to me," Watson said. "I know how much it took for me to be able to remain in East Lansing. We employ all sorts of incomes, and so I believe that we should offer all sorts of housing for folks.”
Watson looks to employ her voice and a lens of equity to become an agent of change for East Lansing.
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“I think it’s time to broaden the walks of life of who’s elected for city council, and I think that the voice that I have to offer is something that’s important for our community and belongs with the city council,” Watson said.
The full candidate listing can be found on the City of East Lansing website.
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