Past and present affiliations, in part: Cass County Commissioner (1978-1982), Kalamazoo Public Safety Review Board (2001-2003), City of Kalamazoo Planning Commission, Michigan Equality Board of Directors, Kalamazoo Alliance for Equality, One Kalamazoo Steering Committee
What made you decide to run?
It’s one of those things where I’ve had it in my blood since a young age. I was a county commissioner in my 20s and I was always politically active. But as I grew older, I saw that there’s a reason for us to be politically involved, especially at the local level. I’ve given eight years of service to the community on the public Safety Appeals Board, the City Planning Commission, where I’m chair, and the Kalamazoo County Transportation Authority. People want people with some experience. I wanted to be an out candidate for the city, for the LGBT community and I know that I can be a unifier of the wounds that have been created in this city. I can work to resolve those and move us to higher ground.
What issues are most important to you?
We have a new Chief of Public Safety – Chief Hadley – who is doing a great job of healing, bringing the community together and trying to address issues. He has a new program – the neighborhood policing program – that puts police at the neighborhood level. I think that that’s a strong issue – especially with youth violence. We’re addressing youth’s needs. The issue always is out there where we have to deal with a budget that’s being cut by the state as far as revenue sharing and programs and we have to be vigilant on how we balance that budget and still provide the core services that the people of Kalamazoo need and then maintain the streets and sewers and infrastructure. So that’s going to be a challenge for us.
Why should LGBT people vote for you?
I believe that as an out candidate, I am a very visible person in the community who has worked hard with every aspect – business, faith and neighborhoods. This has proven to the Kalamazoo community that a LGBT person gives to the community, is a part of the community and is not going to have a single agenda item – an ‘LGBT agenda.’ But I exhibit that we are a thread in the tapestry of what makes up Kalamazoo, and that is what is going to be important.
What do you love about your city?
What I love about my city is that even in this hardest of economic times, I’ve had support through my campaign donations from a broad base of support. It humbles me that I have this much support and that there truly is a Kalamazoo that wants to be fair and equal to all citizens and they’re eager to exhibit that physically through their efforts in the campaign and dollars, saying, ‘Kalamazoo is a special place to live and we want everyone to know it.’ That’s why I love Kalamazoo.
What are your thoughts on the idea that there should be no such thing as a non-political LGBT person?
Each person comes to terms with their sexual orientation or gender identity in different ways and at different times. Some of us have the luxury of a more powerful voice and others have the fear of being outed or other issues. I think we need to be understanding of each person’s place in their life and position that they’re in and respect that. Some of us have to be political because we’ve got the ingredients that allow us to do something. The new and just coming out – we’ve got to give people time and space.
For more information, visit http://www.terrykuseske.com.