Newest Council Members Jessy Gregg and Lisa Babcock Look Back and Ahead

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Sunday, November 24, 2019, 9:32 am
Anaiis Rios-Kasoga

Above: Jessy Gregg (left) and Lisa Babcock, shortly after being sworn in. (Photos by Raymond Holt)

The November 5 election brought in two new members of Council, with Jessy Gregg coming in first place, with 65.3 percent of voters casting a ballot for her, and Lisa Babcock second, with 63.7 percent.

The two led the pack on election day with a gap of almost a thousand votes between them and the third and fourth place winners, Mark Meadows (43.3 percent) and Erik Altmann (43.2 percent, only 2 votes behind Meadows).

Early on in the tallying, poll-watchers could see a disparity between the two clear front runners and the rest of the pack.

“The big ‘whoa’ moment at our campaign party was when the returns started coming in and the ‘two at the top, two in the middle, two at the bottom’ pattern became apparent,” Gregg told ELi in an interview a few days after the election.

Gregg, a small business owner and community organizer, says that months of campaigning went into her victory. Gregg said that she learned about the realities of campaign costs and the workload while running for office.

But the most important lessons, she said, seemed to come while standing on residents’ front porches.

“Outside of the mechanics of running a campaign, I learned the most from going door-to-door around East Lansing and talking to residents,” Gregg explained.

Gregg says she is nowhere near done learning about the desires and needs of the people of East Lansing. She plans to attend at least one of each neighborhood association’s meetings to introduce herself, as well as to attend a meeting from each of the various volunteer boards and commissions.

“[I want] to find out what they're working on and how to better improve communication between our boards and the Council,” Gregg said.

Gregg said she has heard from many voters that East Lansing residents want accountability and change from their City Council.

“I think we've got a really good opportunity to set a new standard for how things get done in East Lansing, and I feel really privileged that I'm able to be part of it,” Gregg said.

When we spoke to Gregg just before her swearing-in, she said that before being confirmed, she planned to get things in order at her downtown fabric shop, Seams, and spend time with her family. She also said she had some personal business to attend to.

“[I will] spend at least one day in my pajamas eating ice-cream out of the carton, knitting, and watching non-mentally-taxing movies.“ Gregg said.

Attorney and new Council member Lisa Babcock told us in an email interview, “I'm very happy to have won, but even if I hadn't finished in the top three, I would have felt that the campaign was a positive discussion about what East Lansing residents want from their city government.”

Babcock says that her experience running for office was like that of her bar exam preparation, with months of hard work all leading to a one-day result.

For Babcock, the hardest part about being on the campaign trail was the final week before the election.

“Aside from that final week, I expected to be elected because of the conversations I had with voters. At door after door, people agreed that the city council needed to be more transparent and that backroom deals had damaged the city ethically and financially.”

Not all was stressful, though. Babcock says she learned not only from the preparation but also from interactions with residents she encountered on the campaign trail.

“There's an education behind every door in East Lansing. One day, in short order, I met PhD's in three different fields, from physiology to vocal music.”

Babcock says she has been thinking about how exactly she will serve the city. She told us she can assure residents that she is eager to collaborate on big issues.

“This is a great community. Every day after campaigning, I'd go home to the Much Better Half and tell him about the great houses and gardens I'd seen and the amazing people I'd met.”


Anaiis Rios-Kasoga is an ELHS student and graduate of ELi’s Summer Youth Journalism Program, made possible by ELi’s financial supporters. Support ELi today with a tax-deductible contribution and we can double that gift through NewsMatch!

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