Council member decides he’ll seek mayor’s post
A nine-year member of Lansing City Council is mounting a campaign to become mayor.
Harland Russell, who represents Ward 4 on the City Council, filed by petition Tuesday afternoon as a candidate for mayor. He gathered 122 signatures of supporters.
He'll try to unseat Kenneth Bernard, the incumbent who is in his 20th year as mayor.
Russell's announcement, sent via e-mail to supporters, focused on his background and goals. It made no mention of Bernard.
"I am writing this today to let everyone know that after great thought, your encouragement and your support, I have decided to campaign for the position of Lansing Mayor in the upcoming April election," Russell wrote.
The announcement guarantees a race for mayor in the April 5 general election. If any other candidates enter the race before the deadline at noon Jan. 25, a primary election on March 1 will whittle the field to two.
In his announcement, Russell made three pledges:
¢ "I will work with the governing body and city staff to provide an open and communicative government that contributes the research and resources necessary to make sound decisions that will serve our community now and into the future.
¢ "I will work hard to develop operating budgets that provide expected levels of service to our citizens and look to find innovative ways to deal with the rising costs of employee benefits, infrastructure maintenance and needed equipment acquisitions.
¢ "I will work hard to ensure that our city continues to be the best possible community for young and old alike."
Russell, a lifelong Lansing resident, has been a council member since he was selected to fill a vacant seat in 1995. He has since won re-election twice and is in his third term.
In an interview Tuesday, Russell said development issues the city faces helped to prompt his decision, along with encouragement from some key supporters.
"I really think my background in commercial and residential development will serve me well as mayor," he said.
He said he would like to use his expertise to help push along development of Towne Center.
"I, like a number of people in the community, have been impatient, but I think that's going to come along and be a quality development," he said.
In addition to his support of Towne Center, he cited several accomplishments during his tenure on the council: the Main Street Overlay District, expansion of the wastewater treatment plant, work on West Gilman Road, the expansion of West Mary Street and efforts to expand parks and recreation offerings.
"When I first took office in July of 1995, one of the things I told the then Lansing Leader was that parks and recreation were very important to me," Russell noted.
Russell's family is well known for its public service in Lansing. His father, Loren Russell, is a former mayor, council member and school board member. His grandfather Rillis Russell was a former school board member. His wife, Tammy, has served on the Lan-Del Water District Board.