Dave Coulter’s political career dates back some 15 years. Coulter was elected as an openly gay man to the Oakland County Commission in 2002, defeating a 20-year incumbent by 86 votes. He would go on to serve four terms on the commission and serve, for a time, as the Democratic minority leader.
Coulter left the commission in 2010 to run for a seat in the Michigan Senate. However, he was defeated in the primary. In January 2011, Coulter was appointed – not elected – mayor of Ferndale. But that November he did win election to the office by a whopping 84 percent. Two years later, he faced formidable challenger Craig Covey. Coulter bested him in a four-way race taking 47 percent of the vote to Covey’s 33 percent.
Then Coulter ran unchallenged in 2015 as he does again this year as will Councilmembers Melanie Piana and Greg Pawlica. Nevertheless, the popular politician and the director of external affairs with Children’s Hospital of Michigan sat down with BTL to share what’s on his mind leading up to this year’s election and talk about the city he calls home.
What does running unopposed for the second time mean to you?
I hope it means that people are satisfied with the progress that we’ve made in the city and confident in my leadership. It feels a little strange because when you’re an elected official you’re sort of hotwired to campaign. So I was ready to. But I appreciate the fact that folks seem to have confidence in me.
After six years in office, why do you feel you’re still the best person for the job?
I’m working hard every day to try to make Ferndale a more welcoming and successful city. And there are lots of things I want to continue to work on. I’m energized by that challenge and there’s a lot more I want to do.
How has Ferndale changed during your time as mayor?
The biggest difference is the economy in Ferndale and nationally is very different. We were in a recession when I became mayor and mostly we were looking for ways to cut the budget and save money. Now we’re able to do things like invest in our parks and roads and downtown. That makes a huge difference to the success of a city. I’ve been just as committed to making sure that Ferndale is a welcoming and inclusive community so I’m proud that we formally adopted a welcoming city ordinance directed at immigrants in the past year. And we’ve taken a number of steps to make sure that all people feel welcome in Ferndale.
What are you most proud of having accomplished so far?
I’m proud of the teamwork that the council and staff and I do to keep the boat rowing in the same direction. We all come at issues with different perspectives but everyone’s perspective is respected and I’m proud that we accomplish things for our residents with many voices at the table.
What’s the biggest issue facing Ferndale residents right now?
We have a parking problem downtown and we’re going to break ground in the next six months on a parking and development project in our downtown that I’m very excited about. We’re going to continue making improvements to our parks, which I think are the cornerstone of our strong neighborhoods, and because housing values have shot up so high in Ferndale we’re going to look at an affordable housing policy to make sure that folks who want to live here don’t get priced out of the city.
What does the future hold for you? Can you foresee a day when you’ll no longer wish to sit behind the mayor’s desk?
I take the years two at a time and that’s how I’m approaching this election. I’m just honored to have the opportunity to get to do it another term.
An error of fact was reported in the original story regarding Craig Covey’s career. BTL reported the following:
“Covey had crafted his career contrary to Coulter’s. He was elected to the Ferndale City Council on his second try and ran for mayor in 2007. In 2009, he won re-election before stepping down to run for the Oakland County Commission in 2010. But that bid was unsuccessful and Covey wanted to sit behind the mayor’s desk once more.”
Here is the correction:
“Covey ran for Oakland County Commission in 2010 and won the primary in a three-way race, then went on to win in the general election. He served one term but was then gerrymandered out of his seat along with four other Democrats. He ran and lost in the 2012 primary. He then ran for sheriff in 2016 and lost, but garnered 259,000 votes.”