Mary Sheffield Our Woman of the Year

By Demetrius Carrington with Antisia King
Photos by YAHNIK

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When we sat down to discuss our Woman of the Year candidates, one person stood out from all the others. Repeatedly, Detroit City Councilperson Mary Sheffield’s name came up.

And it’s easy to understand why; she’s passionate about the lives of others and she handles herself in a fearless manner when representing the people of Detroit.

But it should come as no surprise. Being the daughter of Civil Right leader Rev. Horace Sheffield, she was exposed to icons like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Cornell West at a young age, which gave Mary all the inspiration she needed.

Elected to the Detroit City Council at the age of 26, Mary made history by becoming the youngest elected city official in Detroit history.

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Recently, my partner and I had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Sheffield and this is a portion of our conversation:

BMM: At what age did you become interested in politics?

MS: I would say I became interested in public service at an early age; I got a chance to see some really powerful people that were all committed to helping others. That opened the pathway for me to be civically engaged.

BMM: Being an elected official at such a young age had to be challenging. How did you balance your personal life while being in the spotlight?

MS: I made a lot of sacrifices, but being an elected official, especially at such a young age, is such an honor and privilege and I took it very seriously. As I grew older I realized that my purpose was bigger than me, so all my sacrifices were worth it.

BMM: Tell us about your charitable work. What are you most proud of?

MS: My initiative “Occupy the Corner” is the thing I’m most proud of. It’s a resource and community empowerment program with the mission of engaging, connecting, and empowering inner city communities to improve their quality of life.
We go out every summer door to door and meet the residents directly and connect those residents to the city government. These residents traditionally aren’t very involved in city government and we’re changing that.

We’ve been very fortunate to have some very big name artists from our community and beyond help us reach the people. We’ve had Young Jeezy, Trick Trick, Sada Bady, and Big Sean, just to name a few that have joined our mission.

It’s been extremely successful; this will be our seventh year and we’ve registered thousands to vote and connected thousands of residents to programs that have truly made a difference in their lives. It’s truly a blessing to be able to do this work.

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BMM: So what do you think about the changes we’ve seen in our city over the last ten years?

MS: I’m excited, I’m hopeful and optimistic, but my main concern is that everyone no matter their race, gender, or financial standing all have fair access and opportunity in the “New Detroit.”

A lot of my focus is also protecting the residents who have always been here. It’s wonderful that new people are discovering our city, but we can’t forget the people who kept things going before all the changes occurred.

BMM: Where do you see the city in five years?

MS: I see our city back in its rightful position as one of America’s strongest cities: A place where working class families can live good lives. I see it as an emerging tech hub and a place that will attract and retain young educated professionals - A city with strong home ownership, and the return of manufacturing jobs, but most of all a place you’ll be proud to call home.

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BMM: Where do you see yourself in five years?

MS: People ask me that all the time. I just want to be where I’m most effective. I know my work on the council isn’t done, so we will see what happens in the next couple of years, but I haven’t made up my mind about what I want to do next.

Again, it’s really about me being where I’m most effective.

BMM: Do you ever see yourself being the Mayor of Detroit?

MS: Yes I do, but it’s all about timing.

BMM: Let’s say you become Mayor, could you see yourself going even further in politics?

MS: Right now, my highest political aspiration is the Mayor’s office. It’s not about politics for me, it’s about public service, and I’m realizing there are so many ways you can serve the public so it’s about the work not a political title.

BMM: Thank you for your time

As you can see, Mary is a dynamic Woman. She is so passionate about helping others and she’s literally on the front line fighting a good fight for the people of Detroit. She’s a history maker, she’s brilliant and kind, and just the type of leader Detroit needs.

We’re so proud of her, and we can’t think of a more deserving person as our Woman of the Year. Mary has grown up right before our eyes, and It has been an honor to watch her fight for the people... and just think, she’s just getting started.

Congratulations on being the Beautiful Machine Magazine’s Woman of the Year!