BENTON HARBOR — Benton Harbor voters will go to the polls Tuesday to choose which two of the six people running for mayor will continue on to the general election in November.
Among the five challengers Mayor Marcus Muhammad will face in the Aug. 6 primary are three city commissioners – Juanita Henry, Ron Singleton and Christopher (C.F.) Jones.
The other two challengers for the four-year post are Marjorie Carter and Jamie Davis.
Here are the candidates.
Muhammad, 44, is seeking his second term as mayor. He was first elected to a city commission seat in 2009, was re-elected in 2013 and was elected mayor in November 2015.
The father of seven children is married to Abisayo Muhammad. He works in sales and is a leasing consultant at Signature Dealer Group in Benton Township.
He said that during his four years as mayor, he has demonstrated his ability to lead “in tough, controversial, joyous and difficult times.”
“My greatest skill is my love for the residents and city of Benton Harbor, which is why I am willing to fight for what I think is right for the whole,” he said in an emailed statement.
Muhammad’s top goal is to continue to lead the city in a positive and productive manner for the overall success of the city.
“Now, that we have finished collecting for the City Income Tax for the 2018 fiscal year I am committed to fixing our streets,” he stated. “We have collected nearly $2 million this fiscal year.”
In addition, he said he will continue to work with Benton Harbor Area Schools, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Education to save Benton Harbor High School.
Carter, 57, said that being new to politics, her honesty and truthfulness is her greatest quality that she can offer the citizens.
The mother of five adult children is married to Howard Carter. She is a former public works supervisor for the city.
“I have a visionary goal that can and will be shared with all that take part and support positive and great ideals to restore this area’s DEMOCRACY,” she stated in an emailed statement.
She said she wants to restore the American dream through her vision.
“We must unite our godly skills and not allow the inequalities to continue in the twin cities area,” she wrote. “WE have so much work to achieve and together all is complete for the first of Michigan to go down in History as the Greatest City.”
She said the city can leave no voter behind.
“I believe that becoming Mayor is my destiny,” she wrote. “I often think about how I have reached the most important crossroads of my life and of coarse assume the enormous responsibilities of honor, charity, and humility that comes with it as Mayor of the city of Benton Harbor, MI.”
Davis, 48, said he would bring to the mayor’s office his 19 years of experience working in the media, including hosting the show “The Yah is Real Hour” on public access television in Chicago from 2007 to 2015. He is on the city’s Communications Committee.
The father of two adult children and four teens works as a property maintenance supervisor, author, farmer and is a former welder.
He said he would make sure the residents are informed about what’s going on in their community in friendly and honest way.
He said residents should feel comfortable sharing both good and bad information about their city.
“Right now, most people are in fear of speaking out,” he said.
Davis’ four-point platform includes making sure residents have clean drinking water, food, shelter and security, knowing that they have all four of these things.
He said he also wants to address the unsolved murders in the city.
Henry, 70, has been a city commissioner since 2006. Before that, she said she sat on several city boards and committees, including on the city’s Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and Personnel and Finance Committee.
The mother of two adult children is retired from working construction with Labor’s Local 355.
She said that as mayor, she would bring to the city commission the ability to build coalitions.
“That’s from the years of experience I have working in government,” she said. “Being a woman means I naturally reach out to my colleagues. We mother everyone and we look out for generations.”
She said her primary goal would be – city resources for city residents.
“Too many resources have not been dedicated to local neighborhoods.”
In addition, Henry wants to educate residents about how government works and make sure a city representative is at all meetings where the future of Benton Harbor is being discussed.
Christopher (C.F.) Jones
Jones, 49, was first appointed to the city commission in 2014 and was elected in 2015.
The father of two adult children and a 7-year-old son is a veteran of the U.S. Army.
He said the ability to communicate effectively and cultural awareness are important to be an effective mayor, along with being honest and having integrity.
“Cultural awareness is the ability of separating from yourself and becoming aware of the cultural beliefs, perceptions and values of others,” he said in an email. “The foundation of communication is one being Culturally aware.”
His goal is to be involved in the process of “providing solutions instead of excuses.”
“Providing a listening ear and an intuitive voice in resolving discrepancies in the community as well as providing an aiding and accountable presence in the neighboring communities of Berrien County,” he wrote. “As a true leader, it is important to positively influence the community and the city commission in achieving goals that may uplift as well as rebuild our city. This can, also, transfer into the significant position in employee performance and productivity. As a true leader, it is also important to guide as well as share in the vision of how the city is to function and progress in the future.”
Jones wants to forge an alliance with the Benton Harbor Area Schools superintendent to set up a summer program to help students do better on standardized tests.
Singleton, 63, was appointed as a city commissioner in January 2016 and was elected in 2017. Before that, he worked for the city in several capacities, including as chief of police and acting city manager.
The father of five adult children is married to Jennifer Jones Singleton and retired from law enforcement in the city.
He said he would bring years of municipal experience to the mayor’s seat, including knowledge of the overall management of the day-to-day operations of the city, police operation, economic development, negotiation skills in contracts for services and for employee unions agreements.
In addition, he said he has the ability to bring people together for a common purpose because he’s a great listener and an out-of-the-box thinker.
His goals are to revitalize the neighborhoods from the inside out and to pursue “economic development initiatives that will strengthen the economy in the neighborhoods which in turn would create jobs and self sufficiency.”
He said he would do that by aggressively addressing blight and pursue initiatives for home improvement and new home building with the goal of “making our neighborhoods feel like home again.”
While revitalizing the neighborhoods, Singleton wants to continue to grow the downtown and business district and foster an inclusive and friendly entrepreneur environment.
Other goals include creating a youth development department and being more responsive to the needs of senior citizens.
Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege