Detroit Evening Report: Flint council member known for outbursts and activism in city water crisis dies

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FILE - The Flint Water Plant tower is seen, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016 in Flint, Mich.

FILE - The Flint Water Plant tower is seen, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016 in Flint, Mich.

Flint City Councilman Eric Mays, known for his activism during the city’s water crisis and for disruptive behavior at public meetings, has died.

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City officials made the announcement late Saturday, without listing a cause of death. Mays was 65.

“This is a tremendous loss for our community and a shock to all friends and family,” Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley said in a statement. “As our community grieves during this difficult time, on behalf of Councilman Mays’ family, we ask that community members respect their privacy and allow them time and space to mourn. We continue to lift the family in prayer.”

Mays, who was first elected in 2013, was among the first elected officials to raise questions about Flint’s water quality.

The crisis began 10 years ago when the city began taking water from the Flint River without treating it properly, resulting in lead contamination. Mays hosted a public meeting in 2015 where people were given a platform to discuss the city’s water quality. Hundreds attended, with many complaining about skin problems related to the water.

But Mays was also often at odds with his colleagues and became known for outbursts that attracted a robust social media following.

He was removed from council meetings several times over the years, including in 2015 when police escorted him out of a meeting after he refused to stop speaking. In 2020, he was stripped of a leadership role after he compared the council’s leader to Adolf Hitler during a public meeting and gave her a Nazi salute.

Still, Mays was popular in his north side ward and won re-election in 2021. He made an unsuccessful bid for Flint mayor in 2022.

In the city’s public statement, officials cited Mays for “bold and courageous service” and said the flag at City Hall would be lowered to half-staff on Monday in his honor.

Story by The Associated Press

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  • Nargis Rahman
    Nargis Hakim Rahman is the Civic Reporter at 101.9 WDET. Rahman graduated from Wayne State University, where she was a part of the Journalism Institute of Media Diversity.