With the general election approaching on Nov. 5, Ann Arbor resident Kirk Westphal is gearing up to run for city council in the Second Ward.
Westphal grew up on Long Island before subsequently moving to New York City. He describes the decision to move to Ann Arbor nine years ago as a mutual one with his wife.
“After we got married, we thought, ‘What’s the next phase of our lives?’ ” Westphal said. “We both were still fans of New York, but we felt like it was time to see something else for a while. We were thinking of starting a family, so we decided we needed to pick a place we’d be happy regardless.”
Westphal got his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania, earning an economics degree from the Wharton School. Upon moving to Ann Arbor, he acquired a Master’s degree in urban planning from the University.
While Westphal worked in marketing and advertising in New York, he now devotes himself to urban planning and filmmaking. His documentary, “Insights into a Lively Downtown,” uses the city of Ann Arbor as a model to highlight the essential features of downtown city planning.
Shortly after moving to Ann Arbor, Westphal sought to get more involved in local affairs. He was soon appointed to the city’s planning commission, which he now chairs, as well as the environmental commission.
Westphal cites his experience with these groups, as well as his business background, as distinguishing characteristics qualifying him for city council.
“I’m grounded in data and lessons from successful cities,” Westphal said. “I bring a perspective based on what has worked elsewhere.”
Westphal added that he’d like to see more University involvement in local affairs. He applauded the efforts of his opponent, Conrad Brown, for running as a current University student.
“Local activism used to be cool,” Westphal said. “I’ve seen photos and read articles about protests on South U during particularly divisive national issues; I’d love to see that come back because a majority of our city is somehow affiliated with our University, so to be missing that voice is, I think, to all our detriment.”
Westphal considers the Downtown Development Authority and the city’s zoning policies as relatively successful, but thinks they require evaluation and tweaking over time.
Westphal said the greatest difference between his platform and that of Jane Lumm, an independent who currently represents Ward 2 on the council, is a focus on long-term goals.
“I never had aspired to political office, I just think it was time for me,” Westphal said. “I felt like I wasn’t getting great representation. I would hate to see Ann Arbor enter an era of missed opportunities.”