DEARBORN — Governor Whitmer has appointed Henry Ford College (HFC) Board of Trustees Secretary Irene Watts to the Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC) Executive Committee.
Watts is one of two people Whitmer appointed. She replaces Hiram Fitzgerald, whose term ended in July. Watts’ term will conclude July 22, 2026.
“I was ecstatic to hear this,” said Watts. “I’m excited to see this committee address the needs of early childhood deserts (areas where the number of children outnumber the childcare slots 3-1) in Michigan, which has a negative effect on the local workforce.
“To increase the workforce, we need to address the barriers preventing early childhood educators back into the classroom, such as offering them a livable wage. I’m looking forward to being part of the solution to help grow Michigan’s economy by addressing the growing needs of our early childhood institutions.”
The ECIC was created to be the state’s focal point for information and investment in early childhood education in Michigan, so that children can arrive at kindergarten safe, healthy and eager for learning and life. It was founded in 2005 and charged with implementing a Great Start system for Michigan, both at the state and community levels.
“Trustee Watts was a great choice to serve on this committee,” said HFC President Russell Kavalhuna. “I have been impressed by her advocacy and knowledge of causes that are important to her. Her combination of professional experience and passion for the work of the Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC) will make a difference in expanding access to early childhood education. This will also improve the foundation for lifelong learning for Michigan citizens.”
Born in Detroit, Watts, the second of four children, was raised in Dearborn Heights. She currently lives in Dearborn with her husband, Kevin, an attorney. They have been married 16 years and have two children.
An alumna of Divine Child High School in Dearborn, Watts earned her bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. She plans to return to U of M in the next year and begin work on her MBA.
For more than 20 years, Watts was a preschool teacher at Play & Learn Children’s Place, a daycare and preschool center in Saline. She later became the assistant director.
“The (ECIC’s) mission is to increase public and private investment in the earliest years, to elevate issues affecting young children and their families, and to continuously improve Michigan’s comprehensive early childhood system,” Watts said. “This will ensure that every child has the opportunity to succeed in school and in life. It’s an extension of my passion for early childhood education. It speaks to what others are now understanding: A high quality early child education is the foundation for our children’s education.”
For more than a year, Watts has been the development director for the Arc of Northwest Wayne County in Canton. The Arc NW is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by building inclusive communities through advocacy, support and information.