End of ‘divisive politics’? Warren officials look to new era with first female mayor, no Fouts

Warren ― As State Rep. Lori Stone gears up to take the top office in Michigan’s third largest city, succeeding an incumbent who has been a fixture in Warren politics for four decades, she said the fact that she’s breaking ground as the city’s first female mayor is “an incredible honor.”

“I appreciate all the women who have paved the way for me and I hope that I can be a role model so more women see themselves in public service,” she said in a statement.

Stone, who defeated Warren Human Resources Director George Dimas in Tuesday’s election, said it’s been “a steady eight months of work” on top of her job as state representative for the 13th House District.

She thanked her supporters in a lengthy post on Facebook Wednesday, including her dad, who she said “instilled” the courage in her to run. She’ll succeed longtime Mayor Jim Fouts, who will step down after 16 years as mayor and 26 on Warren City Council. He endorsed Stone’s opponent, Dimas.

Stone told The News that her priority as an incoming mayor is connecting with residents and city employees and identifying what Warren’s needs are. She also hopes to start developing projects and plans for the city.

Fouts, a dominant figure in Warren politics for 42 years, on Wednesday said he talked with Stone and agreed to help her as she transitions to her new role. Fouts was barred from running again because of term limits, though he pursued several legal challenges to try to get on the ballot.

He noted that as mayor of Warren, the last important job he has is to make sure Stone is successful.

“I think she can be a successful mayor,” he said. “I hope she is, and I’ll work with her. And I think we’ll have a good relationship.”

Warren mayoral candidate Lori Stone, right, chats with campaign supporter Dan O'Callaghan of Warren, center, during an election night watch party in conjunction with Warren city council candidate Angela Rogensues and city clerk candidate Mai Xiong on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023 at The Gazebo Banquet Center in Warren.

Stone, 43, won 53% of the vote while Dimas had 47%, according to unofficial results.

A former teacher, Stone campaigned on seeking more federal and state aid for the city and consulting with council members. She has served in the Michigan House of Representatives since 2019, but will have to vacate the role soon to become mayor.

Three out of four incumbent Warren City Councilmembers, including Mindy Moore, Jonathan Lafferty and Angela Rogensues, also won Tuesday, despite opposition from Fouts and attacks from a shadowy nonprofit group run by current and former city of Warren employees. Dave Dwyer, Gary Boike and Henry “Hal” Newnan also won.

Lafferty on Wednesday remarked on the “last 40 years of divisive politics” that “people have become used to” in the city.

“That era of those politicians has finally come to an end,” he said. “It’s seen its last sunrise. And they, the residents in Warren, will finally begin to realize that the city council, the mayor, the city government can exist without the divisive politics of the past.”

Lafferty said the “one constant” for the last 40 years has been Fouts, who served on the City Council before being elected mayor in 2007. He said the outgoing mayor has practiced “his own brand of politics.”

Other Macomb races

A number of other municipal races in Macomb County also were up for grabs on Tuesday.

In Eastpointe, former City Council member Michael Klinefelt defeated retired educator Mary Hall-Rayford in the race for mayor. With all precincts reporting, Klinefelt had 69.8% of the vote, and Hall-Rayford, who is also a member of the Eastpointe school board, had 30.2%.

Klinefelt succeeds Mayor Monique Owens, who failed to make the general election ballot after placing third in the August primary.

Owens, Eastpointe’s first Black mayor, was charged earlier this year by the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office with fraudulently applying for a CARES ACT grant in 2020 and receiving $10,000. Owens pleaded no contest to making a false statement, which is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. She is awaiting sentencing.

The end of an era in Warren

Lafferty said Stone “represents the difference between continuing of the ways of the past and what can be — what is the potential for our future as a city.”

“And she offered something that Mr. Dimas could not. She wasn’t tied to anyone in the administration,” he said, referring to Fouts’ administration.

During the campaign, Stone emphasized her ability to respond to community needs. In the Legislature, Stone said she was part of a group of legislators that oversaw the clean-up of the yellow-green liquid that oozed onto Interstate 696 in December 2019.

Fouts on Wednesday speculated that some Warren voters who cast ballots for Stone were Republicans trying to end the Democratic majority in the state House. He also said that Stone is female, and so are many of the people who were elected to the council or who came close.

“I think the female vote was pretty evident as well,” he said.

Fouts also thinks unions were a factor in the election. Stone and Angela Rogensues, an at-large councilwoman who was reelected, were endorsed by the United Auto Workers union, and Fouts said “right now, everybody loves the UAW.”

Stone said she ran the same campaign she has for all of her election cycles. She said her campaigns are largely dependent on direct voter contact, which she said “has really good results.”

“When you knock on someone’s door and you have a conversation, I literally tell them I’m here for my job interview,” she said.

Stone said this approach has resonated both with people who are Democratic voters and individuals who aren’t, but are looking for someone with “an authentic voice” and “a track record of success and integrity.”

Warren elects first Black councilwoman

Small business owner Melody Magee will become Warren’s first Black council member after defeating retiree Charles Perry in District 1. She said her first priority is to schedule a meeting with governmental leaders in Warren.

“It is important that I see what they do and how they do it, and listen to their concerns,” she said.

Magee said her second priority on the council is parks and recreation, an area that she said matters to seniors, people with disabilities and youth. She said she wants the city to come up with programs in which “our kids can now put down the phone for just a little while and become more involved in their community.”

She said she also wants infrastructure projects in Warren to be better coordinated, which would improve the flow of traffic in the city. Lastly, Magee wants to promote diversity and inclusion as a council member. She said Warren is home to a Bangladeshi community, other Asian communities and an African American community.

“So I want us to come together and really work with their concerns,” she said, “because what they do may be different from what we do, but we can come together in order to change things for the better.”

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