Stephen Henderson writes:
Charlie Beckham has worked just about every high-ranking job in Detroit City government, he has been head of the water department, he’s run general services, he was in charge of recreation, and for the past five years he has been building the department of neighborhoods.
He has served everyone since Coleman A. Young was elected in 1973 – and has worked as six mayors have come and gone from city hall.
And so his life, and his work, reflect all of the narratives that have unfolded in this city over that time: He’s seen the rise of the black political class in Detroit, and the decline of that initial group of power brokers and interests that fueled that black political class.
He’s been in legal trouble because of his work with the city. He’s seen the financial turmoil that has been with the city for decades, and just now may be subsiding. He’s seen the political and racial tensions that have defined Detroit’s relationship with its suburbs. And finally, as he retires from his long career with the city, he’s witnessing the new era of rediscovery and reinvestment in the city.
He’s an interesting man, unique in Detroit in many ways. But for me, there’s an added dimension to any discussion about, or with Mr. Beckham.
To me, he’s Uncle Charles, my mother’s youngest brother, and a person I’ve known my whole life. So much of what I know about Detroit, and how I feel about this city, was shaped by my Uncle Charles and his role here. And it was shaped by our family, whose commitment to this place dates back nearly three quarters of a century.
Over the summer, Beckham announced that he would be retiring from politics. He joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to reflect on his time serving the city of Detroit.
Beckham had initially planned on retiring six years ago. But then he was asked to be a part of Mike Duggan’s initial run for mayor.
Beckham says that after a career that spans five decades, it’s time for him to go.
“It’s time to really let some of the younger folk and the next generation of Detroiters…really start to take the reigns of this city and move it to the next step, which I think that can happen. We’ve got a really good group of sharp young folk in this town capable of carrying it where it needs to go.”
Click on the audio player above for the full conversation.