Council Candidate Jessy Gregg’s Community Involvement Covers Variety of Sectors
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of City Council candidate profiles that ELi will publish in the coming days.
Jessy Gregg wears many hats: small business owner of a downtown East Lansing fabric shop, East Lansing Arts Commissioner, Ingham County Parks Commissioner, women’s running coach, and now candidate for East Lansing City Council.
If you’ve been to a community meeting or event in East Lansing, you may have run into Gregg. She regularly attends everything from City Council and planning meetings to local events. In the past, some of that time was dedicated to working as a reporter for East Lansing Info. (While Gregg is a candidate for Council, and if she is elected, she will not be working for us.)
Gregg is one of six candidates running for three open seats. The other candidates include Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann and Mayor Mark Meadows, who are both running for re-election, plus Warren Stanfield, Audrey Yonkus, and Lisa Babcock.
Gregg says she knows how much of an impact local government can have on its citizens’ daily lives. She has been serving on the East Lansing Arts Commission for about two years. She is currently the vice chair of the Ingham County Parks and Recreation Commission and has served on that board, also for about two years.
Gregg is glad East Lansing City Council members are elected on a non-partisan ballot.
“With city government, you’re talking about things like putting a new pump in the water facility, and there’s no room for partisan politics there,” she said.
Advocate for updating the City’s zoning code
Gregg lives in the Shaw Estates neighborhood with her husband, Eli, and their three school-age children. Jessy and Eli also have one adult child who lives locally.
She has a bachelor’s degree in Fine and Studio Arts from Hamline University (St. Paul, Minn.) and was self-employed as an artist before opening her fabric store, Seams, downtown.
She tells ELi she is passionate about transparency in local government, fixing the city’s outdated zoning code, and making sure quality of life issues (like parks) aren’t an afterthought for the Council.
“The zoning code is really defined by use right now. If you’re a small business looking to do business in East Lansing, you’re limited on space, and the rent is too high,” she says. “I think all the dark stores are an indication of that. I think we have to loosen things up that allow for innovation and creativity.”
She adds, “If someone has an idea for a business that would work there should be some way for us to work with them. The way our code is written now, huge parts of our town are unavailable to certain businesses.”
She has floated the idea of a “dark store” penalty – which would potentially push landlords to fill empty storefronts – as a way of also lowering rent costs. But she concedes that could be legally tough to enforce.
Keeping a close eye on the environment
When she decided to settle down in East Lansing, Gregg says that she, like most people, didn't have the number of police per capita on her mind. She was focused on the quality of life issues for her family, and she’s still interested in that.
“As we’re wrestling with some of the really important issues like fixing potholes and making sure we have enough firefighters, we cannot discount the importance of the other things like our parks and trails,” she said.
Gregg says she has unique insights into some of the challenges that small business owners are facing in and around downtown. She said she would like to see more consideration paid to the timing of construction projects and possibly space them out a little more.
Former Michigan House Minority Leader Sam Singh has officially endorsed Gregg's candidacy. She also currently has the support but not the official endorsement from several area public officials, including outgoing City Council member Shanna Draheim, and County Commissioners Mark Grebner and Carol Koenig.
Gregg said she was disappointed that Draheim wasn’t seeking re-election because “she’s been a really strong voice on the council and I always appreciated the fact that she brought extra information to the meetings and she didn’t just rely on staff memos.”
‘Warrior Goddess’ leads by example
Gregg commended the City Council for the work they did on cutting expenses to reduce the deficit but said there is still more work to do.
“The income tax was just a Band-aid. It’s gonna be a balance of how quickly we can pay down the pension debt while also maintaining quality of life services for our residents.”
She thinks that some of the tax incentives that were given to some developments won’t help the problem.
“It's pretty brutal when you got a 30-year, 100 percent tax capture on the biggest thing that's happening downtown,” she said, referring to the TIF financing for the Center City District project.
In her spare time Gregg leads the Warrior Goddess Training Academy.
She explains, “It started out as a fitness training group, but it very quickly outgrew that, and at this point, fitness isn’t even the primary focus. It’s more of a confidence-boosting group where women can support other women.”
Gregg believes it’s vitally important that more women get involved in City government.
“One of the things we’re losing with Shanna is the family perspective. Having young kids still at home gives you a unique perspective, and I’m excited to bring that to the Council if I’m fortunate enough to be elected,” she said.
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