Supporters for Ken Hobbs gathered at the Ypsilanti City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 5. A total of 15 members from the community spoke against the department's decision to hire a white candidate from outside Ypsilanti rather than of Hobbs, who is Black.
The meeting was met with approximately 40 or more in attendance making it a full house, leaving some members of the community to stand along the perimeter of the room -- a vast majority in which were present to express their frustrations for Hobbs.
Hobbs has served the Ypsilanti Fire Department for more than 30 years. He applied for fire chief position just over two weeks ago after being appointed interim fire chief during the transitional period following Max Anthouard retirement. Hobbs found out Friday, March 1 that the city council has chosen someone else.
“I am usually fighting for the department or for the union, I objected to the whole [application] process because I knew I was going to be standing here.” Hobbs said.
Out of the 14 others who spoke during the audience participation, two were members of the city council. Instead of speaking as in their roles as elected officials, council member Anthony Morgan of ward three and Mayor Pro-Tem Lois Richardson spoke out as members of the Ypsilanti community.
“I stand here tonight mourning,” said Richardson, dressed purposely in all black to further symbolize her disappointment. “The 18 years I have served on this council I have not called the race card. Tonight I call the race card.”
The support for outreach was very prominent for Hobbs as Carl Miller and Attorney Michael Vincent made their remarks before Hobbs spoke.
“I completely, unequivocally support Ken Hobbs as the next fire chief,” said Vincent.
Vincent who knows Hobbs personally, and said Hobbs is dedicated to the city and cares for the people in it.
“I can’t believe we would pass over somebody like Mr. Hobbs for somebody from I don’t know,” Vincent said.
One after another, supporters of Hobbs took the stand -- many of them going over the three-minute speech limit timed by Ypsilanti Mayor Beth Bashert until Hobbs finally spoke out himself.
“I always knew I had the community support and the support of the fire department,” he said. “My obstacle was the city manager.”
Hobbs went into detail on how he felt during the application process that went through the now former City Manager Darwin McClary building up to the final decision on the fire chief.
“I did everything I had to do,” Hobbs said. “We started with 10 candidates and I took it down to two and he choose the person. He says he fits his team better. I’ve been a part of team for 33 years, it's his team I guess, not mine.”
It was announced that City Manager McClary resigned following a special city council meeting on March 7. The council, including Mayor Bashert, voted 7-0 to accept McClary’s resignation.
The Echo has reached out to McClary’s office prior to his resignation and did not receive a comment.