DEARBORN HEIGHTS — The Dearborn Heights City Council went forward with interviewing four candidates for mayor during a study session on Monday.
Originally, they intended on interviewing five candidates. However, due to a death in the family, Wayne County Commissioner David Knezek withdrew his application.
“While our family remains awash with grief, I am reminded that my grandfather taught me the meaning and the importance of family, loyalty, integrity and courage,” he said in a letter addressed to the City Council. “I find peace and I find comfort in the memories we shared together. Unfortunately, the visitation and rosary today conflict with my scheduled interview for the mayoral vacancy this evening.
“After speaking with my family, I have decided to be present and focused on this final opportunity to be together as a family and will not be participating in tonight’s interview process. While I understand that I may technically be allowed to remain under consideration, even without an interview, I also believe it would be unfair to the residents of our city who have been assured of are expecting an opportunity to listen to candidates answer questions from the members of your honorable body. I believe that our Council needs to appoint a new Council member and a new mayor without delay and so, in the best interest of our community, I am humbly withdrawing my name from consideration for the current mayoral vacancy. It would have been the honor of a lifetime to serve as mayor had I earned the Council’s trust and support. While the circumstances don’t permit such consideration at this time, please know that I remain committed to working with and serving alongside each and every one of you as you work to move our community forward.”
Councilman Bill Bazzi was first to interview for the position.
Bazzi, a decorated veteran of the United States Marines, said he is committed to moving the city forward.
“I am committed to bringing my on-the-ground experience working with the City Council and residents of Dearborn Heights in addition to my leadership experience working with corporations, governments and community service,” he said. “I’m committed to moving the city forward in a positive direction, working with Council members and city departments with a one team approach that both listens and works for the people of Dearborn Heights.”
The Council members who did not apply for the mayoral position were allowed to ask each candidate a question.
Councilman Ray Muscat declined to ask any candidate any questions.
Councilman Dave Abdallah asked each candidate what they felt their positive assets and personal challenges were.
“You have to have passion, you have to have the skills and you have to have the discipline,” Bazzi said. “And I do have all three. A personal challenge is that I’m very passionate about everything and like to see everything to completion and I have a tendency to submerge myself in work and not give myself a break.”
Councilman Robert Constan asked each candidate about their past elected positions and how they’ve managed their personal life and finances and if they’ve ever been arrested.
“I have had some challenges in the past because of deployments,” Bazzi said. “With the will of God’s help and everyone around I was able to bounce back and get to where I am right now.”
Councilman Tom Wencel asked Bazzi what his ideas would be for the Ecorse Creek and Van Born Corridor projects.
“As a marine and an engineer, I have researched the issue and reached out to many organizations within my network,” Bazzi said. “This plan involves the help of entities and volunteers who are ready and willing to work with. To execute this plan, we all need to work collectively.”
Anthony Camilleri, a resident for 49 years, interviewed next for the position.
“I think I can bring a great tradition of coming together in this city,” he said. “I feel I can bridge the gap and work together to get things done.”
Among his assets and challenges, Camilleri said he himself is what he considers his assets and challenges.
“My personal challenges as mayor would probably be myself,” he said. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I don’t quit until everything is just so. I am open and willing to learn and that would be a priority for me.”
While Camilleri said that he is a business owner in the community and a homeowner, when Wencel asked his opinion on the forensic audit, Camilleri said it’s a waste of money.
“Only knowing what I know, truthfully, I really think that it was a big waste of taxpayer money,” he said. “Only because Mr. Paletko, God rest his soul, was a CPA, and we had regular audits by Plante Moran.”
Chief of Staff Krissy Laslo was interviewed and said her more than 17 years of experience working in the mayor’s office makes her the best candidate.
“At the beginning of the day, City Council had three options on who to vote for that would show they had the best interest for the community,” she said. “Currently, your body has two options. If you choose not to act and not to vote on a replacement, then the Council chair will remain mayor pro-tem and assume the mayoral duties until the people can vote for Mayor Paletko’s replacement. Or, you can vote for someone who knows this city, who knows the mayor’s office like the back of her hand and is capable of supporting those duties until the people can vote.”
Laslo said that her best assets are her knowledge and that her challenges are City Council and being a woman.
“I am the most knowledgeable by far,” she said. “I’m a very honest person, I always say what needs to be said and I never shy away from doing what is right. I will never put Dearborn Heights second. My biggest challenge is City Council. We need to start working together and trusting each other. It seems we have gone backwards since Ruth Canfield left office. We need to start changing systemic sexism in the city.”
Wencel asked Laslo how she feels about moving the city off of its four-day work week.
“It has to be negotiated,” she said. “I was one of the department heads affected by the five-day work week with my salary. I believe a five-day work week can work, but it should be worked, it has to be reworked.”
Council Chairwoman Denise Malinowski-Maxwell was last to interview and said that Dearborn is her home and she is invested in it.
“I want to take the city to new levels in business management and marketing,” she said. “The city needs new businesses to replace the ones we have lost or may lose due to the financial impact of the Coronavirus.”
Bringing in large businesses to the community, removing vacant homes and focusing on the budget are all priorities for Malinowski-Maxwell for the purpose of rebranding the city.
“There needs to be more marketing for our city,” she said. “We need to rebrand the city to bring new residents and businesses and build a city that they want to come to. By working on all these tasks, we make our product our city. We need to make Dearborn Heights a city that everyone will love to work, live and play in.”
With years of experience in project management and marketing, Malinowski-Maxwell said her assets are that she is proactive and tries to look forward.
“I’m very proactive and I like to get things done and be ahead of the game,” she said. “I like to plan ahead. I like to look to the future, I don’t like to be reactive. My challenge is that I’m a workaholic. The day after the mayor died, I had a meeting with the clerk, chief of staff and myself to see how we could streamline the City Council meetings to not make them look so chaotic. And that’s my challenge, to bring the City Council, the directors and the mayor together to work together for the city we all love.”
Malinowski-Maxwell also said that she has been performing duties of the mayor to keep the city going, but thinks the city can change the hours of the work days while keeping only four days.
“Maybe extending the hours on a Thursday past five,” she said. “Where you can come in after your work day. Or we close Wednesday and remain open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday as Fridays seem to be the big day for people getting permits before the weekend.”
The City Council will vote on a mayoral appointment during the City Council meeting on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m. on Zoom.