By Sara Salam
In November, Monique Owens became the first Black mayor of Michigan’s Eastpointe.
Prior to her election as mayor, Owens served as a councilwoman for two years. Owens is the first African American elected to either position.
Her journey to this post has been nothing short of eventful.
Back in 2017, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a suit in which it argued that Eastpointe violated the Voting Rights Act. The suit claims Eastpointe systematically denied its African-American residents the opportunity to elect people who look like them by holding citywide votes for its city council seats. In contrast, cities like neighboring Detroit divide the city into districts, which then elect their own representatives.
One outcome of the lawsuit was Owens’s election to the Eastpointe City Council. Subsequently this past November, she was elected mayor. She narrowly beat fellow City Council member Michael Klinefelt, earning 1,648 votes to his 1,629 votes—a 19-vote victory.
Currently, about 30 percent of Eastpointe’s 32,000 residents are African American. According to the U.S. census, African Americans made up 4.7 percent of the population in 2000.
Owens is the first African American elected to either position.
Owens moved from Clinton Township in Macomb County to Eastpointe about ten years ago. She started her career as a clerical employee in the Detroit Police Department and later as a Wayne County Sheriff deputy.
She first got into politics when she applied to finish an Eastpointe council member’s term following their death. She applied again when a council member resigned a month after they were elected.
After her election to the Eastpointe City Council in 2017, she developed a greater desire to serve as mayor.
“I want people to own their own homes, be proud of where they live at and invest more into the city,” Owens said in a statement.
She also wants to work with police to lower crimes and bring more recreation parks to the city.
A community once named East Detroit, Eastpointe changed its name in 1991 per voter choice as a means of distancing itself from the negative connotations associated with its Motor City neighbor.
Owens wants to help educate Black people about politics and public policy that she was not taught as a child.
“I want to write a children’s book to teach kids about public policy at a young age,” she said. “When they get to a certain age, they will know what a councilperson is, what a mayor is—and become that.”