Millennial Matters: An Interview with Sterling Heights Mayor Pro Tem Michael Taylor
Recently, mayors, city officials and Millennials from throughout metro Detroit came together for the semiannual meeting of the Millennial Mayors Congress. The Congress adopted a protocol calling for an increase in Millennial representation on local boards, committees and commissions, and elected a new presiding officer: Sterling Heights Mayor Pro Tem Michael Taylor.
At 26 years old, Taylor was the youngest person to be elected to City Council in the 41-year history of Sterling Heights. In his 2011 reelection, Taylor received the highest number of votes out of all candidates. With that track record, we’re thrilled to have him as presiding officer. After the meeting, we followed up with him to get the scoop on his experience, his work and his ideas for Millennial Mayors Congress.
Q: What encouraged you to run for City Council at such a young age? Can you tell us a little bit about your role as a member of Council and as Mayor Pro Tem?
One of my favorite college professors was the Vice Mayor of Kalamazoo. Her classes gave me a great understanding of the impact an individual can have on local policy. At 25 years old, recently graduated from law school, I was ready for a new challenge, so I decided to run for office. The voters rewarded me, and I always remember that my main role on council is to be their voice. I also have an obligation to enact new policies that provide services more effectively and efficiently.
Q: You became the City’s representative to the Millennial Mayors Congress in 2010. Can you speak to why you became involved?
The Millennial Mayors Congress is really a brilliant concept. Putting elected officials together with young people to work together to bring about regional change through local action is exciting to me. It’s exactly why I wanted to serve on council in the first place. As the youngest elected official on my council, it was a perfect fit.
Q: The Congress just adopted a protocol calling for increased Millennial representation in local government. Do you think it’s important to have Millennials at the table, and, if so, why?
Millennials grew up and came of age in a world much different than our parents or grandparents. We also make up a significant voting bloc. However, most of the people who are shaping important long-term public policies—like energy and transportation—are not from our generation. Millennials cannot expect to see the policy changes we want unless we are at the table providing those solutions.
The Congress is no longer a fledgling group and needs to come into its own if it is going to have a significant regional impact. In order to do this, I think we have to do three things. First, under Emily’s leadership, we have a renewed focus on our core mission of taking coordinated local action in order to bring about regional change. We need to maintain this focus. Second, the Congress needs to recruit new communities and branch out. Finally, I’d like to see more opportunities for Congress members to meet informally with each other, get to know each other, form strong relationships and share ideas. If we have a focused Congress with more member communities, and participants who have great relationships with each other, our policy impact is going to be felt throughout metro Detroit and beyond.
Q: As a Millennial, what do you feel that you gain from your involvement in your city? What recommendations would you make to someone who wanted to get involved?
Aside from my family, I’m more proud of my work on council than anything else I’ve ever done, personally or professionally. It is incredibly rewarding to work in a capacity where your sole focus is on improving the lives of other people. I encourage everyone, especially young people, to get more involved in their communities. The best and easiest way to do that is simple: just show up. Come to a meeting, share your opinion on an issue that is important to you, and the rest is easy.