District 2: Roy McCalister Jr. vs. Virgil Smith

he District 2 (Eight Mile, Woodward) city council race is unique because there is no incumbent (longtime council member George Cushingberry  Jr. didn't make it through the primaries). McCalister is an investigator with the Federal Defender’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan. Smith is a former state Senator. BLAC chatted with both candidates to discuss the challenges facing Detroit and their district.


Roy McCalister Jr.

Age: 63

Education background: McKenzie High School; Bachelors, Eastern Michigan University; Masters, University of Oklahoma


Bio: A retired Detroit Policeman, McCalister has served as the Commanding Officer of Detroit Police Homicide Section, Chief Warrant Officer IV/Special Agent, United States Army and Army Reserves, as well as the Criminal Investigative Division. Additionally, he has served as Regional Commander for the Northern Province of Iraq, among many other accomplishments.

On why voters should choose him…

What I want the voters to appreciate is the fact that I’m the regional commander for the five north provinces of Iraq. And that deals with not only bringing cultures together, through languages, but you’re also talking about civilians, military and high-ranking government officials. It’s almost like I’m an ambassador, and when you talking about building up a country, you’re talking about getting the people involved, making sure that they buy in, and they buy in, because they feel that they are a part of it. Those experience that I bring and that’s what’s happening and that’s what needed in the City of Detroit.

You also have to appreciate that I’m retired from the Detroit Police Department and I was the commanding officer from Detroit homicide section. You’re talking about the most heinous crimes in anywhere, but the fact is, I could not avoid anybody, or try not to talk to anyone. I had to talk to individuals whether it was good or bad. So that’s still a thing I bring to the table the fact that I will be…you can contact me…I will be accessible.

Going back to my tenure as regional commander…Travel in Iraq was one of the most dangerous traveling there was because of the situation over there. But I traveled to my provinces and to the constitutes that I served because I wanted to hear first-hand what was going on. I didn’t want anybody to tell me, I didn’t want to hear about it, I wanted to see it and experience it for myself, therefore, when I made my reports to the Justice Department, to the State Department, to Bagdad, it came firsthand. And another reason why I did that: I believe in being proactive. If you get out and start seeing something, if you can tackle something and resolve it when it’s at its lowest point, or when it’s small, it won’t get large, and it won’t get out of hand. That’s why I believe in being proactive.

You know, my education level….currently, I’m an investigator with the Federal Defender’s Office, fighting for people’s Constitutional rights,   dealing with budgets, I’ve been involved in several other associations community groups. My life has been [stellar?] as a servant.

I’m not doing this because I want a job or need a job, because I have a job. I’m not doing this because I’m trying to elevate myself to another level. Because I was an ambassador of a country, I mean, you can’t get no higher than that, unless you’re talking about the presidency or something like that – I’m talking about (the) President of the United States. These are things I want voters to appreciate and understand. I want them to be proud of their council president.

One of the reasons that the current representative was eliminated from the primary…because one, he did not represent the people, he was not out for the people, and two, again it goes back to representing the people. When you’re out there representing. You have to represent at all stages. When you’re out in public, when you’re being interviewed…you have to be considered…not only are you representing yourself, you’re representing your constituents. And that’s what I want the people to know – I’m not going to do anything in my power to disappoint them or embarrass them.

On the most pressing issue facing the city of Detroit…

There’s several issues…people talk about jobs. That’s the mayor’s duty. What I want to do is I want to give people careers. Some of those apprenticeship and trade schools that’s out in Warren, in Monroe, I want to bring those trade schools to the city of Detroit. God….Heaven knows we have enough abandoned buildings, we have enough abandoned schools. Give those people a chance to get a career where not only they can sustain themselves, their families, but also the communities.

We also have to look at the act that development is a big issue. I have a part of my district that has been represented by a couple of the people that were in the race or is in the race, the area looks like it’s in Beirut, a part of the areas I used to visit when I was traveling to Iraq. We need to build those areas up, make them accessible, make them affordable, make them usable. Look at the State Fair grounds. The State Fair grounds has really been an un-utilized piece of property. (That also provides those careers and jobs I was talking about). Being an ex-police officer….I still have a pretty good relationship with members of the Detroit Police Department. We need to forge those relationships so that we can reduce crime that’s going on and the illegal activity going on in the City of Detroit.

On an issue specific to his district and how he plans to address it…

When you talk about from a district standpoint, you’re talking about dollars that’s coming to the districts, as posed to Downtown and Midtown, especially District 2. It is the highest voting district in the City of Detroit. We have the same annuities that Downtown and Midtown have. We have businesses, we have churches, hospitals, we have universities, and we have a large, high voting community. What I would like to do is bring all those together and let’s see how we can continue to build on our assets that we have to move our district forward with development…working with the school systems so we can help our young people get the proper education that they need. Once you start getting employment up….people say we have to reduce poverty but my issue is we have to find out what an individual’s issues are. If you don’t resolve their particular need or issues, they’re going to continue to be in poverty.


Virgil Smith

Age: 37

Education background: Bachelors degree, political science, Michigan State University, political science; Masters degree, public administration, Western Michigan University.

Bio: Virgil Smith has been in politics for more than a decade. He served as a Congressman and later as State Senator. Smith helped to pass legislation involving the Michigan film incentives. Smith also sponsored the bill that led to the Regional Transit Authority for southeast Michigan.

On why voters should choose him…

I served the citizens of the State of Michigan for 12 years in both chambers of the Michigan Legislature. I am well trained and have a vast understanding of the legislative process. The voters of Council District 2 will get an individual that will keep them abreast on the issues so they can make education decisions, be well prepared, has the relationships to effectuate change, and provide a profession office and staff. 

On the most pressing issue facing the city of Detroit…

The biggest and main issue facing the City of Detroit is neighborhood stabilization. I will fight to extend the Neighborhood Enterprise Zone Homestead property tax reduction to more neighborhoods. Currently the City has 52 NEZHomestead neighborhoods that qualify for the reduction.

On an issue specific to his district and how he plans to address it…

The biggest issue facing District 2 are pocket book issues, unaffordable home and auto insurance and outrageously high property taxes. Article 9 chapter 8 of the Detroit City Charter states “the City of Detroit may establish an insurance system to provide, support, supplement or otherwise assist in the provision of automobile and/or property insurance for City residents.” I would push the City of Detroit to start a risk pool for auto and home insurance for the purpose of securing a lower rate for residents. Risk pools are created most commonly when a group of organizations band together for the purpose of sharing loss exposure and have increased buying power because of a large membership.

Want to read what the candidates in the other districts had to say? Head back to the main election page.

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