Lansing Mayor Andy Schor moves forward with the agenda he campaigned on: an agenda that brings everyone in Michigan’s capital forward, together.
It’s hard to miss the bustling David Hollister City Hall in downtown Lansing, but venture into the building far enough and you’ll find a refreshing nest of political movement. As the elevator opens to reveal the ninth floor, you take a right turn and gaze past the walls displaying plaques of well-deserved recognition to see the mayor’s office.
The unassuming ninth floor of City Hall is where newly elected Mayor Andy Schor and his staff are found hard at work on behalf of the landscape that surrounds them. Ever since his inaugural speech on Jan. 1, Schor’s new administration has been charging full speed ahead for the capital region.
“We’re unpacking still and getting things on the walls, getting situated while still having meetings back to back to back. We have about 70 or 80 outstanding requests for meetings still — in addition to sitting with department directors to make sure the work that we’re doing implements the vision laid out for voters when I talked about my candidacy,” said Schor. “We’re setting all that up, and it’s going well.”
As winner of the November 2017 election, the excitement among community residents and businesses over Schor is palpable. He already has a beverage aptly named for his likeness, courtesy of the Lansing Brewing Company: Schor Style.
“The excitement of the community right now continues. People were excited during the campaign and after the election during the transition,” said Schor. “They’re looking forward to change. We’re taking the things that have been done well in the past and putting a different leadership style to it.”
Schor is eager to meet the excitement around his administration head on. He’s issued his first executive order for City Council to consider, which will reorganize the Department of Planning and Neighborhood Development, creating the Department of Economic Development and Planning as well as the Department of Neighborhoods and Citizen Engagement.
“We’re hyper focused … to make sure we have strong neighborhoods, vitality and things for people to do when they’re not in their homes,” said Schor.
In addition to reorganization, Schor is gearing up to give his first State of the City address on Feb. 7 and his first budget recommendation to City Council in March.
“I can’t give it away, but we have a lot of things we want to talk about … the state of the city is good,” Schor said. “We’ll be able to talk about what’s been done in the past, where we’re going in the future and how to keep pushing onward.”
A cool and calm personality, backed by several years of experience in the Michigan House of Representatives, Schor remains collected; his path is clear thanks to the robust foundation set by predecessors such as Virg Bernero and David Hollister. While Schor values the advice of those who have already been “through the ringer,” he’s in his element within public service.
“It takes a certain kind of person who is interested in negotiation and discussion, and I’ve always been interested in helping out in public service: being involved in a variety of issues is something that interests me,” Schor said. “Now, there’s a chance to affect not just policy but directly to help the people who live in our city and take it all to the next level.”
While it’s not unusual for mayors to have legislative experience, there were all sorts of backgrounds at the Seminar on Transition for Newly Elected Mayors at Harvard University in late 2017. However, Schor was the only mayor-elect from Michigan out of more than 20 new city executives.
Presented in partnership by the Harvard Institute of Politics and the U.S. Conference of Mayors every two years, the three-day, nonpartisan program provides intensive training on communicating with the media, municipal management and finance, hot topics like the opioid crisis and more in urban policy. The hosts covered air travel and lodging. Schor paid all other expenses.
“There was good information that was shared and important for me to know, plus I got to meet several other mayors across the country … a chance to really meet these folks and have people to call if I need to, as well as to learn about some of the power we have on the federal level to advocate for our cities,” Schor said.
This year marks an interesting year to hold a secured office, with nationwide midterm elections looming this November. Schor hopes to demonstrate why people can truly believe in their representatives, although the charged atmosphere in Washington D.C. can be discouraging or motivating — it depends on who you talk to.
“People vote for a variety of reasons. Some people vote because they believe it’s their obligation. Some people don’t vote because that’s their choice … we have democracy: the ability to elect our leaders or fall back and let representatives be elected for them,” said Schor.
As Schor readies for a term that will extend beyond 2018, it’s been business as usual for his wife, Erin, and his children, Ryan and Hannah. Schor juggles his hats as husband, father and public figure with a familiar expertise, from spending quality time between meetings to attending his daughter’s gymnastics meets.
“The kids are probably getting tired of people asking about it because, for them, things are still normal,” said Schor. “It’s really important to keep striking that work-life balance chord.”
But Schor sees the future with starry eyes; not just through his children but through the next generation of leaders that will inevitably rise from the precedence engraved by those before them.
“Whether they did vote, didn’t vote or didn’t care, Lansing’s time is now,” said Schor. “I don’t do anything just for someone who has supported me … I do what’s best for Lansing. And, hopefully, the people who supported me did so because they believe I can do what’s best for Lansing.”
Whether someone’s pursuit of happiness means running for office, making a business plan or simply finding a job to raise their own families, Schor envisions a Lansing with room for everyone and a government that will enable prosperity to permeate at an eye level.
“I’m optimistic for the millennial generation, but I hope they don’t look away from government as something that can’t improve communities and help people in need. That’s what governments are for,” Schor said.