Ypsi middle schoolers to interview Washtenaw County sheriff candidates in public forum

The public is invited to learn more about three candidates for Washtenaw County sheriff during a youth-led educational forum and community dinner from 6-8 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Morris Lawrence Building at Washtenaw Community College, 4800 E. Huron River Dr. in Ann Arbor Township. The event is organized by The One Love Symposium in conjunction with Ypsilanti Community Schools.

Young leaders from Ypsilanti Community Middle School have been learning about civic engagement and the power of the sheriff's office since last October, says One Love founder Anna Gersh. The youth leaders spoke to various public safety leaders, including Sherry Woods, the first African-American female deputy chief ever hired by the Ann Arbor Police Department.

"Even adults really don't understand this job, when 52% of the county budget encompasses public safety, jail, and dispatch," Gersh says. "These kids might be the only experts on this job in Washtenaw County outside of the sheriff himself."

The panel of youth took what they learned and turned it into a series of questions they'll ask all three candidates: Alyshia Dyer, Derrick Jackson, and Ken Magee. 

The event will include performances by the Ypsilanti Community Middle School choir and band, vendor tables with local community groups, a performance by Detroit-based poet and film-maker Rose Marie Wilson, and a free community dinner.

Sheriff Jerry Clayton has said he will not seek re-election this year, after 16 years in office. Somewhat unusually, all three candidates are running as Democrats. Gersh says this is a great opportunity for educating both the middle school pupils and their parents.

"If there's ever been an opportunity to have applied civic engagement learning, it's this election," she says. "It's applied, place-based education, and giving everybody a real thing they recognize that makes politics relevant to them."

Gersh says the student leaders came up with a diverse and insightful list of questions for candidates, ranging from how the sheriff's office could improve coordination with neighborhood watches to what each candidate appreciates about the other two in the race.

"This is what fresh minds give to the process," Gersh says. 

Find more information about The One Love Symposium here. Register for the forum here

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

Photos courtesy of Anna Gersh.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.