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KALAMAZOO – An ebullient Terry Kuseske is celebrating his victory as the first openly gay man to win a seat on the city’s commission. He was the only non-incumbent in a field of 17 candidates to win one of the seven seats up for the two-year term.
“I am so proud of our city right now,” said Kuseske, who was also active in the successful One Kalamazoo campaign that affirmed the city’s existing non-discrimination policy. “We have an ordinance, and the city has elected an openly gay male to the city commission. This takes Kalamazoo to a whole new level. I hope that Gary Glenn gets the message that we have a plan and that the citizens of Kalamazoo will decide our future, not outsiders.”
Glenn is president of the Michigan chapter of the American Family Association, a radical right-wing group out of Midland, and was a vocal opponent of the One Kalamazoo campaign and Kuseske.
Kuseske, who has been active in Kalamazoo city politics for years, attributed his win to people knowing and trusting him and his service to the community.
“People have just become to know me as Terry. Yeah, he’s a gay man, but that’s just part of who he is,” said Kuseske, who had worked for eight years building his reputation by serving on the City Planning Commission, the Public Safety Appeals Board and County Transportation Authority. “I think I won because of my experience; we ran a good campaign and the ordinance was also on the ballot.”
Kuseske said he shut down his victory party early last evening so he and his supporters could join the One Kalamazoo victory party.
“I was struck by how many young people, gay men and lesbians, trans people – people I had never seen before – who came up to me and said ‘thank you.’ We have to make sure that young people understand that they have to be involved in local politics. We need our young people on the committees, on the park commissions and other local service groups so we can train the next generation of LGBT leaders.”
Kuseske said he is ready and anxious to get going as the city’s newest commissioner. “One of the things I am really pleased about is I already have a working relationship with all of the current commissioners. It’s not a new relationship, so we can begin to look at the budget, infrastructure, core services. There is not going to be a steep learning curve for this new commissioner.”
That’s good, because Kuseske will be sworn in at 8 p.m. Monday evening at the Kalamazoo City Hall. “There’s no vacation time – we hit the ground running right away,” said Kuseske.