Editor’s note: This is part of a series of East Lansing City Council candidate profiles ELi is running to help voters get to know the candidates. Check out ELi’s Elections coverage for more profiles. Click here to find our voter guide to the election.
Dana Watson tells ELi that she is running for East Lansing City Council because she wants to support and create policies relating to the environment, the economy, and inclusion. Three important issues Watson lists as motivating her run for Council: the pandemic and moving forward from it; housing; and police reform.
Watson is seeking a four-year term, hoping to maintain her seat on Council. Watson was appointed to serve on Council in August 2020, following the resignation of two Council members in July (Ruth Beier and Mark Meadows). Twenty-three people applied for the two open seats, thirteen were interviewed, and Watson was appointed alongside Ron Bacon, who is also running for Council. (Watson is running on the four-year seat ticket, and Bacon on the two-year seat ticket.)
With more time in City leadership, Watson told ELi in an interview, she believes she can get more important work done and continue to “make efforts to create, maintain, and influence our city.”
Watson came to East Lansing in the late 1990s when she was a student at Michigan State University. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and she also holds a Master’s Degree in Human and Social Services, with a concentration in conflict negotiation, from Walden University. Watson told ELi she also has training and course completion in the fundamentals of facilitating racial justice work.
In 2008, Watson moved back to East Lansing from Lansing, and she is a co-parent with three children in grade school in East Lansing Public Schools. Watson has been a member of the Marble Elementary Equity Team, which was the first equity team to be established in the district. Much of her professional and volunteer efforts have been focused on racial equity.
In terms of government-related experience, Watson participated in the City of East Lansing’s Emerging Leaders Program, which teaches participants the fundamentals of East Lansing’s government operations. Before being appointed to Council, Watson had served on both the Human Rights Commission and the Planning Commission for East Lansing.
Since 2009, Watson has been working for the Ingham County government. Her work record includes serving as Vice President and President of her local union chapter. In her current position with the county, she works as a health educator lead and assists with community education and engagement.
“During the epidemic, I have been on a Covid-19 racial disparities team,” she explained in our interview. “I have also been on community test teams and vaccination-site supervised at one of our sites in Lansing.”
Watson has been involved in both Ingham County’s and the City of East Lansing’s moves to declare racism as a public health crisis. She is also on the Board of Directors of the Davies Project, which provides aid to children with serious health conditions.
For the last nine months, Watson has served as the City Council’s liaison for the Historic District Commission, the Parking Taskforce, and the Housing Commission.
Watson told ELi in our interview that she is most proud of the influence she has had on matters relating to health, inclusion, diversity, and prosperity in the community.
Candidate’s view on the important issues:
When asked by ELi to name three important issues shaping her campaign, Watson said she believes addressing the pandemic will be critical, specifically implementing policy that keeps the community safe.
“We should continue to be aware and make changes for our businesses throughout the City,” Watson said.
Another important issue for her is housing, as she believes that East Lansing “faces special dynamics as a college town.” Watson said she sees the City as having passed needed capacity for student housing.
As a volunteer, Watson serves on the Board of Directors for the Capital Area Housing Partnership, which frequently partners with the City of East Lansing on provision of financial assistance programs in housing. (She was a beneficiary of one of Capital Area Housing Partnership’s down-payment programs before she was appointed to Council, and has disclosed that in some Council meetings.)
A third important issue for Watson is policing in East Lansing. She said she actively supports and seeks ways to “create momentum around police reform.”
Watson added that City finances should be managed in a way that “reflects our attitudes about our City being inclusive and anti-racist.”
Watson added that she is thankful for the work the Human Rights Commission, Study Committee on an Independent Police Oversight Commission, East Lansing Police Department, and City Council have all contributed on issues of policing.
Find out more from ELi about the November 2021 Council election, including filing deadlines, who is running, and more, by clicking here.