Mary Sheffield became the youngest person ever to be elected to the Detroit City Council in 2013 at just 26 years old. At the start of 2022, she again made history when she was elected and took her oath of office as the youngest City Council President in Detroit.
In a recent interview with Black Life, Arts & Culture (BLAC), the history-making politician shared details about her eight years of service to the city, her goals as President of Detroit’s City Council, and how she uses self-empowerment to lead and inspire.
“I came in at 26, so I compared myself a lot, and I realized that comparison is a thief of joy. You have to lead from where you are,” Sheffield said.
Councilwoman Sheffield said that being an elected official in Detroit is challenging, especially as one of the youngest ever to do it and representing so many people in the city. But she has met the responsibility head-on and worked to maintain accessibility and transparency.
“It’s really just making sure that I set a tone of integrity and being an example for young African American women — to show that you should never let age stop you from your dreams,” she told BLAC.
From the start of her tenure on Detroit’s City Council, the councilwoman says she created initiatives to combat gentrification and promote affordable housing options. Her focus, she said, “centered on creating affordable and quality housing for all ages in Detroit and making sure that we are all included in the revitalization of our city.”
Sheffield also sponsored the city’s first-ever inclusionary housing ordinance. The ordinance requires that all new residential developments that come to Detroit set aside 20% of their units for affordable housing. That measure ensures that as Detroit is being rebuilt, low-income residents will benefit from that revitalization.
The councilwoman believes that her role in public service is not just about being elected but about having an impact and being able to inspire other women to do the same, especially Black women.
“Black women are often underrepresented and overlooked. Our stories are untold and buried underneath systemic misogyny. We often deal with racism in the workplace, and our voices are silenced,” she told the publication.
“For me, amplifying Black voices and women’s voices is crucial. I believe that when we amplify our voices and stories, we encourage other women to do the same. Hearing my story and my journey can encourage the next City Council President, who could be a young woman of color,” Sheffield said.