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“I definitely feel the gravity” East Lansing City Council appoints first black councilmen since 70’s

Ron Bacon and Dana Watson were two of 23 eligible applicants
Published: Aug. 2, 2020 at 6:48 PM EDT
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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - The two newest members of the East Lansing City Council are the first black councilmen since 1973.

“I feel a great deal of weight and definitely feel the gravity and importance of doing a good job for the community,” said Ron Bacon, the first black male to ever serve on the East Lansing City Council. Bacon and Dana Watson will fill the two openings that were left on the council when former Mayor Ruth Beier and Councilman Mark Meadows abruptly resigned during a meeting a few weeks ago.

“I’m excited that a child, or a student, or an adult, can see me and see that we have great possibilities too as African-Americans,” Watson said.

Bacon and Watson were two of the possible 23 eligible applicants. But make no mistake about it, Mayor Aaron Stephens says the pair were a good fit, regardless of race.

“I do think having people of color on a council like this is important, and having those voices there is very very important,” Stephens said. “But to say that made my decision entirely-- is not accurate.”

Bacon’s background is in helping underserved people. He is a therapeutic area manager with Genentech Roche. He has served on the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan since 2012 and is also serving on the East Lansing Educational Foundation. Additionally, Bacon is a former chair of the East Lansing Human Relations Commission.

Watson is currently serving as a health educator with the Ingham County Health Department. She also currently serves on the East Lansing Planning Commission and the Capital Area Housing Partnership, and she formerly served on the East Lansing Human Relations Commission.

Stephens said that Watson’s work in public health was a key factor in her selection.

“Their qualifications speak for themselves and they are going to be great assets to this council,” said Stephens. “I’m just excited to get working. "

“Every single organization, city, everywhere, has a department or a system around inclusion and some of them are just for show,” Bacon said. “But [his and Watson’s appointment} just shows a commitment, particularly when you’re making moves in diversity and inclusion.”

It’s expected that the new council members will be sworn by the city clerk next week.