By Jessica Carreras
After over 22 years in the field of HIV/AIDS work, Michigan AIDS Coalition Chief Operating Officer Craig Covey has announced that he is resigning from the nonprofit organization. His last official day was Aug. 31.
Covey said that for his next career move, he plans to amp up his work in politics, as well as dive deeper into other efforts, such as environmental issues. In the Aug. 3 primaries, he beat two Democratic competitors for a chance to be on the ballot for a set on the Oakland County Commission. Though Covey faces a Republican nominee in the Nov. 2 general election, the heavily liberal district all but guarantees him a spot as a commissioner. However, as with the rest of Covey’s career, that won’t be the only job on his plate as he looks to help out with the gubernatorial election, environmental work and the efforts of local Democratic parties.
Covey began work in gay rights in Ohio in 1981, eventually transitioning to HIV/AIDS work and founding the Michigan AIDS Prevention Project in 1988. Concurrently, he worked at the Michigan Department of Community Health as a consultant and prevention specialist until 2002. Covey was also elected to the Ferndale City Council in 1999 and as mayor of the city in 2006. He was reelected to that post in 2008.
In early 2009, Covey helped engineer the merger between MAPP and the Michigan AIDS Fund to create the Michigan AIDS Coalition, which then elected Helen Hicks as it’s chief executive officer. Covey stayed on as COO, but knew that his time for departure was drawing near.
“I think for all people there’s a time when you can say you’ve given your best and it’s time to move on,” Covey said. “I gave it my best shot all along and have had an absolutely wonderful career in the work. It really wasn’t a plan. But I sort of jumped in with both feet when I started losing friends.”
“Craig was and still is a visionary, and his contributions in the war against AIDS are a huge part of the history of this epidemic across the Midwest,” commented MAC CEO Hicks. “We take inspiration from his dedication and also gratification knowing that much progress was made through his efforts these past years.”
Indeed, Covey has been a mainstay of Michigan’s HIV/AIDS advocacy and fundraising scene for many years, holding events, doing speaking engagements and spreading messages of safe sex. The latter, which allowed him to educate many teens and young adults, was the most rewarding, said Covey.
“I got to speak to and work with literally tens of thousands of young people in terms of prevention and education,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many condoms I put on bananas and cucumbers.
I look back at that and realize that not only did I get to do good work, but I actually had fun.”
And the fun, so to speak, will continue. Covey plans to stay on at MAC on a volunteer basis, helping out with such fundraising events as the Ferndale Blues Festival and the annual Pub Crawl.
Covey’s only regret, now that he is departing? “After 22 years, we might see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we didn’t finish the job and the epidemic,” he laments. “But it’s so much bigger than anybody.”