BY SHARON GITTLEMAN
FERNDALE- While some regarded Craig Covey’s mayoral victory as headline-worthy, for many the biggest news was the ordinariness surrounding the election of the city’s first openly gay mayor this week.
Covey won his post by a vote of 1,918 to 1,605, against his opponent Thomas Gagne. There are 17,283 registered voters in the city.
“We’re all really excited,” said Covey at his victory party at a local club on Tuesday evening. “We’re proud of the election.”
Ferndale, which began its existence as a Native American trail from Detroit to Pontiac, is home to 900 businesses, including several focused on the LGBT community.
Covey hoped his victory would bode well for other gay candidates.
“I think nationally, the future is looking good,” he said.
Once he takes office after the first of the year, he said he plans to promote Ferndale’s model to the region, focusing on inclusiveness, smart growth, green policies and promoting mass transit.
Covey served eight years on the city council before he was elected as Mayor, championing measures including an ordinance that offers free parking to cars with high mileage or hybrid capacities.
“Voters are extremely pleased with the way Ferndale looks,” he said. “Most folks are pleased and proud about the way Ferndale is now.”
Covey’s message and his years serving on the city council helped him win the support of Ferndale resident Martha Hoeppner.
“He’s got experience,” she said. “I’ve watched him do a lot of things since he came to the council. He’ll do a great job.”
His membership in the LGBT community didn’t influence Hoeppner for or against his candidacy, she said.
“He stays in contact with the whole population,” she said. “We’re all people.”
Her husband Dennis Hoeppner was more concerned with the fate of the area’s teens then the candidate’s sexual orientation.
“It’s mostly seniors that go to the community center,” he said. “We need to develop more programs for the youth. We can’t continually ignore them.”
While Ferndale’s financial picture has been bright until now, some residents fear what the future will bring.
Ted Fettee, who’s lived in Ferndale more than two decades, is worried about how he will continue to keep his home.
“I can’t find a job,” he said. “I can fix and build anything. Do you think there’s a job for me? I’ve been working since I was 13-years-old.”
Covey helped improve Ferndale’s economic picture over the years, said Frank Martin, a member of the LGBT community from Huntington Woods and a Covey supporter.
No one cared that one of the candidates was gay when it came time to cast their ballots, he said.
“I think there will be more Craig Coveys in the future,” he said. “There is so much real progress.”
Birmingham resident and Covey fan Doug Smart said the new Mayor is known for setting goals and following up on them until he achieves them.
“He always takes the high road. He’s always doing things for others,” he said. “His ambition is for Ferndale.”