East Lansing Mayors Past and Present Reflect

By: Lauren Zakalik Email
By: Lauren Zakalik Email

As East Lansing turns 100, it's hard not to think retrospectively; it's that retrospect that community leaders are using to make progress for the city in the 21st century.

"Although we're going back and celebrating those 100 years of the past, we're also using that as a basis to look to the future," says Liz Schweitzer, mayor of East Lansing from 1989 to 1993.

On Sunday, seven past mayors and current mayor Sam Singh discussed the city's historical highs and lows, from riots to development. And Singh says from a historical perspective, the city is currently riding high.

"If you go anywhere in East Lansing, you see development, whether it's downtown or in our northern tier. The taxable value of the city is growing by 7 percent," Singh says.

But Michigan is going through a $900 million dollar rough patch, and East Lansing isn't exempt from the hard times.

"We're going to be making some tough choices," says Schweitzer. "However we do have a major industry here-- the university-- and that's not going away."

MSU has always brought research and investment to the area, but with the state job market so grim, Schweitzer says the city needs to concentrate on reversing the "brain drain"-- students leaving the area right after graduation.

"We graduate thousands of people from MSU every year. These people are the future of the state economy and international economy. We have to figure out ways to keep them here," she says.

That challenge is a top priority for Mayor Singh.

"We have to focus on the economy, jobs and building an even better relationship with the university."

But as each mayor on the panel implied, one of East Lansing's most paramount qualities is the ability to overcome hard times. Its 100 years is proof enough.

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