This is the fourth and last in profiling a series of women candidates running for the Michigan State House of Representatives. As voters we have an amazing opportunity to realize something special on Tuesday and that is electing more women to the State House, something I believe is essential to moving the state forward.
After spending a short amount of time with Margaret Guerrero DeLuca, the Democratic candidate for the 82nd State House District that encompasses all of Lapeer County, where she was born and raised, one word kept sticking in my head: ENERGY!
And I mean energy to burn.
The former Imlay City Mayor and Commissioner, she is only the second Mayor in their history, Margaret can easily stake a claim that she has been able to transcend conventional wisdom on many fronts. The last female mayor in Imlay City was elected in 1976. She is the first Hispanic mayor in Imlay City history. Her involvement in community based projects is well known and in the community of Imlay City and County of Lapeer where Margaret Guerrero DeLuca doesn’t take no for an answer to anything. After you read her bio, you’ll see that it’s obvious that her credentials have perfectly prepared her to represent the people of Lapeer County in this rural but important House District.
Her passion for issues is obvious, and we will get into some of those issues in just a minute, but what I found particularly comforting and empowering was her optimism and thorough knowledge of city government and the impact the decisions Governor Snyder has had on this and many other communities.
She describes herself as a moderate Democrat and despises partisan politics. But, as a politician, she understands all too well the challenges Party labels and has critical experience reaching out to “the other side”. She is also unafraid to call out people and policies that have a negative impact on her constituents and has a proven track record of righting wrongs and fighting for reasonable compromise.
Yes, she is a realist, but she readily embraces the higher ideas that create opportunities for all people in her District and across the state. Her opponent, Todd Courser, considered by both Democrats AND Republicans to be as toxic and as extreme as any Tea Party candidate that there is in the state, cannot, in this writer’s opinion, be elected to the State House.
She knows it, the Democratic Party knows it and yes, even the Republican Party knows it. Now it’s up to us to stop it.
We started off talking about her entry to politics, and like many local leaders, Margaret Guerrero DeLuca saw a need to create organized activities for the children in Lapeer County, and more specifically Imlay City.
DeLuca: I have always considered myself a public servant, whether it was through coaching, mentoring. I have just always been very engaged in my community. Myself and my husband and my cousin, and it took us three years to get it off the ground, but we created a Pee Wee cheerleading and football program because we knew that our children were lacking positive activities to do and it has been successful for the past 18 years. It was wonderful to see lots of other small communities around us mirror what we did. I have always had a calling to help people.
Margaret’s elevation to politics was actually not what she did but what she didn’t do. An opening on the City Commission was available by virtue of someone stepping down and she was asked if she would allow herself to be nominated to fill that post. But, as she was just starting her family, she declined the offer. Six months later, however, all of that changed.
DeLuca: After turning down that opportunity I kept getting approached by people encouraging me to run, telling me that I would be great. In May of that same year I decided to run. I really enjoyed learning the different aspects of the community and I had always been a volunteer and now I was in a different capacity, figuring out all the ins and outs of local government and how they decided to fix this road, do that sidewalk. I found it fascinating. It was always very interesting being on the inside and seeing how decisions were made.
I have always tried to bring the humanitarian side of me to politics so that everyone in the community would know they had representation. I have always enjoyed championing for people, so politics was the next logical step.
I come from a corporate background where I began as a customer service representative. When I left five years later I was a Senior Project Manager, and seeing how local government made decisions, it wasn’t making any business sense. I tried incorporating my business background into decisions that were being made and at first I was shunned for it and one Commissioner who had been on the Commission for 16 years actually said to me, “This is a government and not a business.” I stayed on course and some of the way decisions were made benefitted from my business background. I also stayed very involved in what I considered my humanitarian efforts.
Imlay City has also become a racially diverse community and the Hispanic population has grown steadily in the last 15 years. Margaret Guerrero DeLuca saw an opportunity to be more inclusive and created events and opportunities that would bring the community together and did so very effectively.
DeLuca: I have always tried to bring the humanitarian side of me to politics so that everyone in the community would know they had representation. I have always enjoyed championing for people, so politics was the next logical step.
Margaret’s tone changed considerably when I mentioned gridlock.
DeLuca: I am tired of people digging their heels in the ground and not seeing any progress and any change with people drawing a line in the sand and then saying you are an R and you are a D and we can’t work on this together. I told my husband I am sick of this as I am watching our State fall apart and our infrastructure is literally crumbling at our feet. Nobody seems to want to sit down and talk about legislation and it’s being pushed through without bipartisanship input.
Margaret Guerrero DeLuca on education:
DeLuca: I have been a substitute teacher for the past four years and have worked in every school and school district in Lapeer County. I have seen first hand the improvements that need to be made. I see where a school needs technology, updating of equipment and many other things that cannot be addressed because the money is not there. I also see that schools have saved money by eliminating classes. They have taken away art and have taken away music and choir, because they feel these classes are unnecessary to educate our kids, which is false.
You cannot maintain services and staff in the schools with your budgets being cut. We need to start pumping more revenue into our traditional public schools and I have been very open and public about my disapproval of for-profit charter schools.
Being in the schools and having my two children just starting in school I have also seen the attacks on teachers and the stress on school boards. Parents get angry with the school board and their hands are tied. They have to make decisions based on the money they know they will have and they have fingers pointed at them for the cuts they have made. But what choice do they have? Schools need more money, teachers need respect. Something has to change. Listen, when you see things being cut and our system making drastic changes that are not for the better, something has to be done to reverse this.
You cannot maintain services and staff in the schools with your budgets being cut. We need to start pumping more revenue into our traditional public schools and I have been very open and public about my disapproval of for-profit charter schools. I have no problem with non-profit charter schools. But these for-profit charter schools, I don’t know how anybody, no matter how you label yourself [politically] can be OK with giving tax dollars to private corporations who do not have to expose themselves to financial transparency. We need to know where they are spending their money and how they are spending their money. We need to know how much they are spending per pupil and what the rest of the money is going to.
You could never run a business like this without sharing with your stakeholders how you are spending their money. This makes no sense to me.
DeLuca, as a Mayor and City Commissioner, saw first hand the weight that the Snyder imposed restrictions on revenue sharing did to Imlay City and Lapeer County. His “dashboard” requirements, as part of a series of hoops communities had to jump through to get their reduced revenue sharing funds back, were rife with unfunded mandates and problems galore. It took a major upheaval by the statewide organization that most Michigan communities belong to called the Michigan Municipal League to ease these standards. Basically, Rick Snyder said that in order to get your much-reduced revenue sharing money from the state you must spend money you no longer have to get money you need desperately, and if you didn’t meet this criteria, you lose. Welcome to a new Michigan, folks.
Margaret Guerrero DeLuca’s background gives her a fresh perspective in the current reality of what is Governor Snyder’s Michigan. She has been an active participant both from the outside and the inside of government and she has had enough.
Not only is she the right person for this job, if her opponent is allowed to win this seat, the disruption to State government in the next two years will make the last four years look like a cakewalk, and I am not exaggerating in the least.
For more information on Margaret Guerrero DeLuca please go to her website.
I hope you have all enjoyed this series on women candidates for the State House and more importantly you have reason to help elect them to office. With your vote, volunteering, and donations, there isn’t a single person that I highlighted that cannot win. We must make this happen as our collective future demands change that they represent.