City welcomes new members to A2 council

By Farone Rasheed, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 21, 2013

Three new City Council members will take their seats in the new session of city council after being elected in November.

City councilmember Sumi Kailasapathy (D-Ward 1), a native of Sri Lanka, came to Ann Arbor after fleeing an impending revolution in the south Asian country.

After her education at Wellesley College and the New School in New York City, a teaching opportunity at Eastern Michigan University brought Kailasapathy to Ann Arbor, where she has lived for 13 years. Since then, she has practiced as a certified public accountant. Kailasapathy claims this experience has motivated her to pursue local politics and has inspired her to focus on plans for the new fiscal cycle.

“We can do better with our budgets and how we prioritize and choose to spend,” Kailasapathy said. “I look at their budgets and finances and I feel like I can add something to this (job).”

Kailasapathy said she was unsurprised by voters’ choices on the city’s recent ballot initiatives.

“It was a clear backlash — people are having a construction fatigue,” Kailasapathy said, referring to the voters’ rejection of Proposal 1, the Ann Arbor District Library Downtown bond proposal.

Kailasapathy’s top priorities include building up core services, reigning in unfunded pension and health care liabilities, and protecting parks and environmental resources. She also hopes to bring more transparency and accountability to the council.

“We are their servants and I owe it to them,” Kailasapathy said. “My duty is to my people — the people who elected me.”

Councilmember Sally Hart Petersen (D-Ward 2) came to Ann Arbor from North Attleborough, Mass. in 1996. She received an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Since relocating to Ann Arbor, Petersen has had a prolific career in both the public and private sectors, working as an associate consultant and co-director of marketing with the CFI Group and serving as president of the Junior League of Ann Arbor. From 2005 to 2007, she was hired as vice president of marketing for HealthMedia, a local startup created by a University researcher.

Petersen said she believes her business expertise will be invaluable in her new role on city council.

“Having a general management background helps operationally in the functioning of the city and (locating) where efficiencies in operation can happen,” Petersen said.

Petersen is interested in implementing an online system to measure resident satisfaction, fostering a more collaborative relationship between the city and the University and amending the city ordinance to hold non-partisan Ann Arbor city elections.

“There’s no Republican or Democratic way to make sure your garbage gets picked up,” Petersen said. “The kinds of issues we deal with aren’t partisan in nature.”

Chuck Warpehoski (D-Ward 5), a graduate of Grinnel College, is originally from Crandon, Wisc. He has lived in Ann Arbor for 10 years.

Warpehoski serves as the director of the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, a small non-profit working to bring people together from different backgrounds to promote social justice. He said this experience is vital to his approach to public policy.

“I think the skill set that I’ve gained from the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice is a really good fit for the needs of city council, that experience of bringing people together from across differences (and) respecting the differences,” Warpehoski said.

Warpehoski wants to find common ground and move forward on issues including the budget, social services and environmental protection.

Warpehoski explained that one of his most passionate concerns is improving mass transit options for residents. In particular, he intends to expand and improve upon the system’s late-night and weekend services.

Margie Teall, returning council member from Ward 4, noted the varying independent interests of the new members. She remarked that, though the new council has only met a few times, communication has been smooth.

Similarly, Stephen Kunselman (D—Ward 3) who has worked in local government for more than ten years, proclaimed his support for the new direction the council is headed.

“With the new council members, there is much greater independence,” Kunselman said. “No one is beholden to any particular special interest or party clique, or things of that nature, and so I think that makes for a greater dynamic on council. The public is certainly getting greater deliberation of the topics than they had in the past.”