Mike Klinefelt, candidate for mayor of Eastpointe, stepped off the campaign trail recently to advocate for his community: the LGBTQ+ community. He was galvanized to do so after the city council’s shameful failure to pass a Pride Month resolution May 16, which led to a protest at city hall organized by Eastpointe resident Tim Kniaz.
Klinefelt, who spoke at the protest, said it was well-attended with a diverse crowd, many of whom he recognized as residents of Eastpointe.
“I was just thrilled to see it and actually was excited to see that there’s a large queer population in our city that’s really engaged in following what’s going on,” Klinefelt said. “I think that the protest more accurately reflects the attitude in Eastpointe than the actions of city council.”
While she wasn’t named, it was clear Klinefelt was alluding to Mayor Monique Owens. In 2019, Eastpointe became the first community in Macomb County to declare June Pride Month. A resolution was adopted in subsequent years, though not unanimously and without the support of Owens. Eastpointe’s first Black mayor, she has been lauded by some and criticized by others. The latest scuttlebutt is a felony charge in connection with the CARES Act. She, Klinefelt and two others will face off in a primary challenge Aug. 8.
Due to the various scandals and city council skirmishes that have plagued Eastpointe over the past four years, Klinefelt is troubled by the direction the city has taken.
“I love the city,” Klinefelt said, “and I think we have to repair the reputation and the way city business is conducted. I think some of what our residents have seen over the past four years have affected how other communities view us and even how we view ourselves. And I think we have to correct that and get on the right path.”
In fact, one of Klinefelt’s main goals as mayor would be to repair the public’s perception of the city. “Decorum has lost its meaning at the council table and I believe it has come at a great cost,” Klinefelt said. “It has spurred negative media coverage and, more importantly, it has affected how residents view our own city.” As mayor, he vows not to stifle dissenting opinions. He believes that in city politics, egos should take a back seat.
Klinefelt is also focused on the infrastructure of Eastpointe. He says they need to be more aggressive with planning and implementation. Considering that Eastpointe is an older community with significant needs for repair, Klinefelt would like to further develop the city’s long-term plans to fix its roads, sewers and public safety buildings. In addition, the city has financial challenges that Klinefelt would like to address. He wants to ensure the city is able to afford to staff Eastpointe’s police officers, DPW workers and other civil servants that it will need in the future.
With an undergraduate degree in political science from Michigan State University and a law degree from Wayne State University, Klinefelt currently works as an assistant prosecuting attorney in the homicide division of the Wayne County prosecutor’s office. “Not to get too dark or heavy,” Klinefelt said, “but I really like that I get to work on cases that I care about and definitely feel like at the end I’m helping bring a sense of justice to victims who have either lost their own lives or to the families of those victims.” Before his work for Wayne County, Klinefelt was a legislative aide for Judge Steven Bieda when Bieda was a state senator. Previously, Klinefelt worked for the Free Legal Aid Clinic INC.
Klinefelt has served on numerous commissions and committees in Eastpointe and pointed to his service on the Ethics Ordinance Committee as a particularly meaningful experience. Because the committee had been inactive for years, the new members were tasked with creating a process for reviewing ethics complaints that residents have with city staff or city officials.
During his tenure as mayor pro tem from 2015 to 2019, Klinefelt acted as liaison to the Arts & Cultural Diversity Commission. That’s where he became better acquainted with Macomb County Pride volunteer Alysa Diebolt. “I got to work with him firsthand,” Diebolt said. Diebolt’s husband, Cardi DeMonaco, is currently on city council.
Diebolt said she is impressed with Klinefelt’s intelligence and ability to listen. As a resident, she has found the past four years frustrating and she’s looking forward to a time when the council will operate collaboratively.
“Out of the four candidates, I think [Klinefelt] has the best track record in bringing people together,” Diebolt said. She described a joint project with Roseville Parks and Recreation where neither community left feeling cheated. “He has done really well in advocating for Eastpointe to get investment in more parks programming while still not making sure Roseville gets none,” she added. “That’s not the point.”
When it was suggested that he was likely the first openly LGBTQ+ city official in Macomb County, Klinefelt paused.
“You know, that’s funny,” said Klinefelt, who is 35. “That’s something I never actually thought that much about.” Until the dust up over the Pride Month resolution, Klinefelt said he was unaware of homophobia in Eastpointe and hasn’t experienced it while campaigning.
With his prior city council experience and an even temperament, Klinefelt believes he stands out from his competitors. He also happens to be the son of Eastpointe’s current state senator, Veronica Klinefelt.
Klinefelt will be competing against the same mayor who eked out a win over him in 2021. (Owens beat Klinefelt by 19 votes.) She’s also the same mayor who has exhibited hostility toward queer Eastpointe residents like him in her refusal to recognize Pride Month.
“I think it’s fair to say her views are shortsighted,” Klinefelt said. “And I think she has the misunderstanding that recognizing one community somehow takes away from others. I don’t think that’s the case because we’re not in a zero-sum game when it comes to showing compassion for others.”
Learn more about Mike Klinefelt at mikeklinefelt.com/about. Primary Election Day is Aug. 8. Early voting began June 29.