by Jessica Carreras
Greg Pawlica volunteers for and serves on the boards of several local organizations in Ferndale, he lives in the city and now, he’s running for city council.
The 41-year-old believes in the importance of LGBT rights and staying politically (and socially) active.
1) Why did you decide to run for Ferndale City Council?
I decided to run for council after speaking with dozens of residents who weren’t happy with how the current council has been handling events affecting the city. In early 2008, a majority of council members were considering the implementation of a Principal Shopping District tax on downtown business owners. Only after many business owners and residents petitioned against the tax did council back down. Had this tax been passed, many of the businesses that are now struggling today would already be closed.
It’s events like this, and several others, which proved to me that some members of our city council were out of touch with the residents of Ferndale. As a member of council, I will always seek the opinions and views of the residents and business owners when making decisions that impact their lives.
2) Why do you think it’s important for gay people to be politically and socially active?
Being involved outside the LGBTQ community provides the opportunity for people not previous exposed to a gay man or a lesbian to see that we all want the same things. We all want to live in a safe community, to raise a family and send them to excellent schools, and to be able to speak freely about events in our lives without having to select our words carefully.
For years, we have been asking straight people to become allies in our communities. Now we need to venture out of our safety zone and invite ourselves into our civic communities. You will be surprised at how welcoming a group of people with shared goals and objectives will be, and by how much you will have gained from the experience.
3) How do you stay active with volunteer or philanthropic work?
I am current on the boards of several civic and community groups including the Ferndale Police and Fire Board, the Ferndale Community Foundation, the Ferndale Sidewalk Hardship committee and Ford Motor Company’s LGBT resource group, Ford GLOBE. I served on the board of directors for Steppin’ Out from 2001 to 2008 and continue to serve on their grant review committee. I have philanthropically supported many organizations including Affirmations, Triangle Foundation, Michigan AIDS Coalition, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and the Sierra Club.
Over the past couple of years, I have been trying to overcome my shyness of large groups. To accomplish this, I volunteered to serve as MC for the Assembly Line Concert at AJ’s Music Cafe. I have also served as MC for FernCare’s Annual Dinner event and two of their music festivals. Most recently, I worked with the 338th Army Band to bring a Fourth of July concert to the City of Ferndale.
4) What LGBTQ rights issue is most important to you?
This is probably the most difficult question for me to answer. Being a single gay man, a resident of Ferndale and an employee of Ford Motor Company, I don’t feel as though I am being denied any rights. I am not looking to be married (at least not yet) and I don’t have any children, so same-sex marriage and child custody rights don’t affect me. As a resident of Ferndale, I am welcomed no matter where I go and am not treated differently because of who I am. As a Ford employee, I am well respected and I have never interacted with anyone within the company that has expressed negativity toward LGBTQ individuals.
That being said, same-sex marriage, adoption/child custody rights, hate crimes and employment equality are all very important to me. These issues may not affect me directly, but they are impacting the lives of my friends. I don’t know what the future holds for me. I may need to find new employment in a different city or state, or I may meet someone who wants marriage, or who wants to adopt a child together. If those things happen, then I will have wasted precious time by not fighting for those rights today.
5) You recently won the Spirit of Detroit award. What did winning that mean to you?
I’ve been an active volunteer within the LGBTQ community and the local community since the mid 1990s. Throughout the years, I’ve volunteered with dozens of local groups and organizations, but I’ve always been more of a ‘behind the scenes’ type of volunteer and activist. It has only been within the last couple of years that I have moved up to the front lines. So, for someone like me who isn’t easily recognized, it was a tremendous honor to be acknowledged for all the work I have done over the years.
To learn more about the issues Greg Pawlica cares about, visit http://www.pawlica4ferndale.com.