July 6, 2006

Decision 2006
Commission incumbent seeks 15th term
Molly Tippen
Staff Writer

Kay Beard has seen quite a few changes during more than 30 years representing Inkster, Westland and part of Livonia on the Wayne County Commission.

Beard, who is seeking her 15th two-year term as a commissioner for District 12, is the longest serving member of the commission. During that time, she’s seen several changes – most for the better, she said.

“I’m the only member of the commission that is still here from the time we became a charter county,” she said. “There were 27 commissioners then, and now there are 15. It was a huge change for us in terms of how we do business.”

Beard – who is originally from Inkster but now lives in Westland – said addressing her three main priorities – jobs, health care and efficient use of tax dollars – would benefit district residents.

“Things are fairly bad right now in the state, and that is negatively affecting the overall jobs climate in the state,” she said. “We have a new economic developer at the county level, Dr. Mulugetta Birru, who did some fantastic things in Pittsburgh. He’s working on many great things for us here as well.”

Beard said those seeds that are now being planted need to be given a chance to bear fruit for the county, which has an unemployment that is among the highest in the state because of job losses in the manufacturing sector.

Many of those workers live in District 12, which is within 20 miles of three automobile plants.

“We have an entirely new way of life because of what’s happening in the automotive sector,” she said. “The federal government and the state is involved in re-training, but I do think we need to find ways to get more resources for retraining at the county level. We have people who are working in low-skill jobs. People will now have two or three careers in a lifetime, and we need to be prepared.”

Since being appointed to the commission in April 1978 to serve out the remainder of an uncompleted term, Beard said she has continually supported anything that would streamline the way the county conducts business.

One aspect of that is making sure record keeping is done properly and that computer technology is used and updated on a regular basis, which has sometimes been an obstacle for the county.

“We’re conducting the public’s business, and we have to make sure that everything we do is accessible to residents,” she said. “All of the information that we put out there has to be clear and has to be accurate.”

One project Beard said she would like to see addressed is the condition of the historic Eloise complex, which is where a building named after her is located. There, a smokestack seems to be crumbling.

“I’d like to see it fixed because it is the only thing over there that has the Eloise name on it,” she said. Barring being able to do that, we should tear it down. I’m concerned about kids getting hurt over there.”

She added that the county administration does not have a plan to resolve the issue, but that she will push for that.

Beard will face Inkster resident Vernell Massey for the commission spot.