As the dust settled from city council elections in Trenton, Mich., about 40 miles from Ann Arbor, another Michigan man became an elected policy maker. The twist: Steven Rzeppa is a current Public Policy senior.
Rzeppa became interested in running for political office after working on the State House campaign of former Trenton Mayor Tom Dorigzki in 2012. Early on, Dorigzki encouraged him to consider running for elected office in the small city with close to 19,000 residents.
“He brought the idea to me that there are people who want to see younger people get involved,” Rzeppa said.
Four of the six current council members were first elected to office before Rzeppa was born. When Dorigzki told Rzeppa that two of the council members were retiring, he also suggested Rzeppa run to replace them.
Even before beginning his campaign, Rzeppa benefitted from a strong standing in the community. His mother worked for the city for almost 15 years, which allowed him to build connections with the city’s firefighters and police force.
In addition to encouraging active participation in the community, Rzeppa also took into consideration the long-term challenges of cities across the state by talking to constituents about the drop in property values and declines in state share revenues.
The majority of the campaigning took place during the summer, when he and his campaign volunteers knocked on more than 6,000 doors — at least half of which Rzeppa said he visited personally.
Although the former mayor played a role in the Rzeppa’s decision to run for Trenton City Council, support came from a variety of sources. He said friends here at the University and his family at home contributed to the campaign process from the beginning.
“The moral support is just as important throughout the whole thing,” Rzeppa said. “There are definitely some high highs and low lows that go into it, so having people that knew a lot about what I was doing and encouraging me did wonders.”
Rzeppa said he hopes to keep Trenton an innovative, youth-friendly community.
“The main thing I would like to focus on is making it a place that will continue to attract younger people and provide opportunities for people at every level in the city,” Rzeppa said. “I wanted to bring a fresh perspective to the city government, and people really received that well.”
At the University, Rzeppa has previously served as vice chair of the Diversity Affairs Committee in Central Student Government. He said his experience on CSG reinforced his longstanding interest in government and public service — and also revealed the rewards that come along with it.
“It helped me see the people I was making a difference for,” Rzeppa said. “And I think that’s sort of what it’s all about — seeing how other people can benefit from your actions is a very rewarding feeling.”
Although Rzeppa is in the process of finishing his career at the University, he plans on returning to Trenton to maintain permanent residency in his hometown — close to his constituents. Rzeppa said he wants to wait a year before continuing his education — his new position as city council member will give him plenty to do in the meantime.