Mayor Nolen shares his vision for the City of Inkster, Part I
by Gina Steward
Byron Nolen Mayor of Inkster
In the Telegram Newspaper’s goal of sharing information from each Mayor in our coverage area, we sat down with Byron Nolen, the Mayor of Inkster. He is in his first term as Mayor and was excited about sharing his thoughts and philosophy with us. TN - What has been your biggest challenge since becoming Mayor of Inkster? Nolen - Changing the mindset of the people. They need to think bigger to get them to buy into a vision of our city changing, being different and being a more attractive city so people who don’t live in the city to want to come to Inkster. Most people are caught in the past. They remember when Inkster was doing well like other small cities when the economy was great. They
were making money in the 80’s and 90’s when people was working in the automotive industry and they want to return to that, not realizing that we are not going back to that. That era is over. So now, things are different. You have to have some sort of skillset or technical skills in order to get those great jobs. You have to do something to have a skill. TN - When you wake up; what reinforces your decision that being the Mayor of Inkster vs continuing as an lawyer? Nolen - We always want to feel needed. Being the Mayor of Inkster you are definitely needed because there is so much work to be done. I was a lawyer for about 20 years and I became a good lawyer. There are many lawyers out there. Many of the past mayors hasn’t been able to move the city forward. I wake up saying I have to get it done, because I don’t know who else can get it done. Once I get it done and rebuild the city, then I can hand it off and all they have to do is maintain. That will make it easier for the next person to keep the city growing for years to come.. TN - Now that the Inkster charter has been changed, how has your workload and day to day function has changed? Nolen - Be careful what you wish for. It’s long days; but you have to be there. They were somewhat dysfunctional as an organization and they didn’t have leadership. I don’t think the City Manager form of government provides leadership, especially when he or she is not part of the community. Not only do you have to lead and be part of the community, attend non-profits, dinners, banquets, meetings and talk to kids, you have to run the day to day. I was making $8,000 a year as a part-time mayor and that wasn’t sufficient for the time that you put in. Now, I’m there from 8:30 to 5 and on Mondays, I’m there until about 9. I’m going to stuff a couple days during the week, 2 – 3 events on Saturday and sometimes on Sunday when they want you to come to church. It’s a seven day a week job. About 50 – 60 hours a week easy. And if you don’t go, they get upset, they got a problem and they hold a grudge. TN - What are two things that you would change about the city? Nolen - Make the City more diverse if I could wave a magic wand. But I think it’s changing already. I think Dearborn is bursting at the seams and Dearborn Heights people is moving west. The middle class and working class is looking for another place to go and they are choosing Inkster. Ford is investing money into Michigan Ave. and they want it to have a different look. So business owners are reaching out to me saying, ”I need somewhere to go. I have money to invest and I want to be in a place where I am wanted.” We are underdeveloped and the City owns property on Michigan Ave.. Our plan is to rebuild the city and build up Michigan Ave and give people a reason to come to Inkster. TN - What prepared you for this position? Nolen - Life experiences. I grew up in Inkster. My mom and my dad are here along with my family. The community helped raise me. You go off to school, you learn a lot of different things. You learn about business, you learn psychology, you learn about African American History and build yourself up. Then you go out into the workforce and see how things really work. Some times people treat you well, sometimes they don’t. Then you bring all that home, apply it and make that work for your citizens. I graduated from Wayne Memorial High School and University of Michigan. TN - What do you see the problem for people not getting ahead in life? Nolen - If poor people can get themselves together and stop talking about Republican and Democrat and just open their mind and see what is going on, they can do something about it. But as long as they are fighting amongst themselves and buying the rhetoric that is being dealt to them, we will always stay in this situation. The situation for many is, they don’t have any health care, they don’t have a job and they are broke. I believe everyone should have an opportunity. We have to teach our kids to compete and they have to be better than somebody at something and you have to decide to do better. If not then you are going to be broke. My mother thought me that I have to be twice as good as the next person.
Part II of the interview with Mayor Nolen will be in next week’s issue of the Telegram.