In a resounding Nov. 6 win over city council member and political veteran Gil Hill, Kwame Kilpatrick became the mayor of Detroit.

Kilpatrick comes with a collection of connections and influence with other local, state and national politicians. Kilpatrick”s mother, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, represents Detroit”s 15th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. His father, Bernard Kilpatrick, serves as Chief of Staff to Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara. Even Kilpatrick himself served as Michigan House Minority Leader and Leader of the Michigan Democratic Caucus. Detroit”s mayor-elect could make long-overdue gains for the ailing city if he takes proper advantage of his political ties.

While all these connections surely helped build Kilpatrick”s campaign for mayor, they can now assist him in rebuilding that has faced decades of decline. Detroit has seen its population halved since the 1950 and economic base shrink into a fraction of its former self. If the city is to seek a continued path for reinvestment, redevelopment, and repopulation, it needs support from many levels of government especially in the form of federal and state subsidies.

This old boys” network that helped Kilpatrick win the election has a chance to benefit Detroit. Whether we like to admit it or not, so much of what goes on in politics depends on who a politician knows. Kilpatrick has an opportunity to use his connections to improve the city, gaining much-needed political and financial backing required for a real Detroit renaissance.

Another positive asset Kilpatrick holds which is not benefit of birthright or past politicking is his age. At the age of 31, he ties the record of being the youngest mayor of Detroit with Frank Couzens, who was elected mayor in 1933. Kilpatrick can use his age to appeal to the youth of Detroit and surrounding areas, particularly to appeal to students at the University. A real recovery can only succeed if it included people living and working outside the city. If he can convince students at the University that Detroit is a viable place to live, work, and play, Kilpatrick can set the foundation of a new generation that embraces the city instead of rejecting it.

Kilpatrick faces a daunting task, and the effort to turn Detroit around will take a phenomenal amount of effort and luck. Hopefully, Kilpatrick will recognize and capitalize on his head start.

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