Antonio Benavides’ lasting impact on Lansing

Tony Benavides was more than just a mayor
Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 6:57 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Antonio “Tony” Benavides, who was Lansing’s mayor from 2003-06, died Sunday. He was 84 years old.

Background: Antonio Benavides, Lansing’s first Hispanic mayor, passes away

While he was Lansing’s first Hispanic mayor, there’s more to his story than just that breakthrough. Loved ones said he was more than his job.

“I would say he was very aware,” said Joe Garcia. “Aware of what’s going on, aware of the needs, aware of a way to make something happen.”

Garcia is the CEO of Cristo Rey Community Center. He started as an intern in 1990 and, while time has passed, Garcia remember working with Benavides like it was yesterday.

“Throughout those years, Tony’s always been Tony -- a person that will greet you with a smile, stop and have a personal conversation with you,” Garcia recalled. “Someone that would always demonstrate that ‘you’re important.’”

Being a listener and advocate for the needs of the community makes a great leader and neighbors said those characteristics came as second nature for Benavides.

“He continued to help the community with guiding people to resources,” said Yvonne Vincent, a neighbor.

Vincent and her wife, Tina De La Fe, lived around the corner from Benavides. They said his family offered help when they were in need.

“At one point, our cat escaped and they were able to capture her after months of being on the loose,” De La Fe recalled.

One woman said her house previously belonged to her grandparents and they were Tony’s neighbors. When her grandfather passed away, she said Tony made sure he was at the funeral because that’s what kind of guy he was.

Benavides worked at the Cristo Rey Community Center for more than 30 years. He was elected to Lansing City Council in 1981 and became mayor when David Hollister resigned to work for then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm. He won a special election to finish the term.

Tony Benavides is survived by his wife, four children and seven grandchildren.

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