State Rep. Candidate Talks Economic Development, What his Grandma Taught him About Politics and Why It's Time for Him to Step Forward
Ricardo White has lived his entire 29-years in District 6, the district he is running in this year to represent in the State House. Today that district encompasses parts of Detroit, Ecorse and River Rouge. The openly gay politician grew up in the farthest outskirts of Southwest Detroit. On the border of Lincoln Park and the downriver communities, the part of Detroit he calls home, has had its share of challenges.
"We're paying some of the highest rates in the country for auto insurance," White said, naming a few of the obstacles the district has to contend with. "The environment – we're surrounded by a lot of industrial business and we want to make sure that MDQ is doing the right thing and people are not getting sick from pollution and polluters are following the rules."
White also wants to focus on economic development.
"If we can do some job training and get people ready for a 21st century economy," he said. "When I grew up my mother was on food stamps and that was a time when the government really worked for people. She used the social net to provide for me and she went back to school and got her master's degree when I was a teenager and she is still to this day a school teacher. That's when government really gave people the tools to turn their lives around."
White has fond memories of growing up in District 6.
"At the time I was growing up, there were still a lot of people from my great-grandmother's generation who owned their homes and maintained them," White recalled. "It was a great experience to grow up there."
White, who attended Detroit public school through middle school and then switched to River Rouge High School, sees hope for change in his district.
"I think if people started investing back into that community it would turn around," he said. "It's about a lack of real investment in that area for so long. You're seeing a lot of people leave and a lot of tax foreclosures there. That's what needs to change the most, a real focus on economic development there."
It was as a young man that White said he first developed an interested in politics. He attributes that to his grandmother.
"She basically taught me about government and how it works and some of the people in it. That's what made me interested in getting involved. And as I got older I came to understand how government impacts people's lives on a regular basis and the importance that government is working for people," he said.
White works for State Rep. Robert Wittenberg (D-Oak Park). The experience, White said, has been eye-opening.
"I've learned how government actually functions," he said. "In school they give you the basic mechanics … this is how bills are created … but when you're working in it you see how it actually happens, the meetings that occur and how people will change their minds based on the information they have or their constituencies. I also worked on several campaigns before and you get the bare-knuckle fights that happen over the course of elections. So that's been a true learning experience. There's nothing like Detroit politics."
With Stephanie Chang, the current District 6 State Representative, running for the State Senate, White felt it was time for him to step forward.
"I felt as though I was the person who needed to step in and run for the seat," he said. "I felt it was my time. I work in the legislature now and I really felt that I was prepared to be the next state rep. I'd be able to actually sit at the table and be a policy maker and that's something that I really wanted to do, serve my community."
White says no one knows District 6 better than he does.
"I've lived there my whole life," he said. "I have relationships with members of the House and Senate already. Knowing the community as well as I do, I think those are qualities any candidate would need to be a member of the State House. You have to be for and by the community you wish to represent."
In addition to his work for Wittenberg, White, who has a Bachelor's Degree in International Relations and Public Administration from Central Michigan University, serves as the treasurer of both the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party Organization and the Michigan Democratic Party Youth Caucus.
Outside of politics, White's interests are simple. He says he reads a lot and enjoys hanging out with friends and travel. He has been with his partner for just over a year.
"He is in the healthcare field," said White. "So that's good, too, because I don't have to talk about work all the time. I can learn about something else for a little bit. He's incredibly supportive and I'm very happy."
With his mate supporting his political aspirations, just how far would White like to go?
"Let's get to August first," he said with a laugh. "Let's get to that primary and then we can talk about what's after that. For now, my aspiration is State Representative."