The August 3 primary is fast approaching. Get to know the candidates running for local office in your community with 101.9 FM WDET’s Candidate Guides. Surveys were distributed to candidates to complete and you can see the responses for candidates for Sterling Heights City Council below.
Related Race: Sterling Heights Mayor
Jump to a candidate:
Eric J. Briskey II
Nicholas A. Cavalli
Paul Y. Manni
Maria G. Schmidt
Barbara A. Ziarko
Candidate did not respond to survey request.
Current job: Project Coordinator for a utility company.
Education: I graduated from Warren High School (now closed) in 1987. I have studied engineering at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI. I have studied business administration, construction techniques and management and land surveying at Macomb Community College in Warren and Clinton Township.
About Eric Briskey II: I have been a resident of Sterling Heights since 2001. My wife and I have raised our two children here. I have attended Christ Lutheran Church on Canal Road since the early ‘90s. I have served my church congregation as a council member for multiple terms and have served on their call committee as a member and chair. I have served on their Board of Property Management since becoming a member. I have been recognized as volunteer of the year multiple times, once by our country commission and more recently by our state Senator MacDonald.
I believe that I will bring a common-sense approach to our city council. I am a fiscal conservative. I do not believe in spending more than you have. I live that way in my personal life and think our city should too. I am not a career politician, just a concerned resident of Sterling Heights who decided to step up and serve my community.
“I am not a career politician, just a concerned resident of Sterling Heights who decided to step up and serve my community.” — Eric Briskey II
Why are you running for Sterling Heights City Council? I think that our city needs a new voice. A voice of reason and one who will listen to and respect the residents. I think it’s time to make some positive changes here in Sterling Heights. This is a great city, there is still room for improvement.
What is the most important issue facing Sterling Heights? High water rates. This isn’t an easy issue to deal with, I have some ideas.
I believe that some of our residents could have some relief by allowing them to install a second water meter for outdoor use. This would allow them to water the lawn or garden or wash their car or house or fill the pool without paying for all the extra fees and sewage charges. Another part may be to look into the feasibility of a water storage system. Other nearby communities have similar systems. This allows them to get a better rate by filing the storage tank at night when the rates are at the lowest, then dispensing from that tank during the day when the rates are at the highest.
Another big issue is the purchasing of various roadside “art.” Not only is this unneeded it is expensive. I have not found a single person who is happy with any of the so-called “art”. I think a good way to deal with this is to allow for sponsorships for these decorations. Maybe then more of our residents just might enjoy some of it.
What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? My biggest issue with the current administration is the total disregard for the financial stability of our city. We are currently over $202 million in debt. The council recently voted to add almost an additional $12 to that debt to replace the water meters. This is a buy now, pay later mentality. The taxpayers deserve better. I would like to see better debt management and a reduction plan. I don’t see one from our current administration.
Current job: Theater Manager at Emagine Macomb
Education: BA in history from the University of Detroit Mercy (‘19)
About Nicholas Cavalli: I am a young progressive candidate for City Council that is looking to guide our city into the future. In 2017, starting my campaign at just age 19, I began my first run for City Council. Though this first run and my second one in 2019 saw me come up short, I remain hopeful that I can drive Sterling Heights into the progressive future it will need to continue flourishing. My progressive platform and demeanor come from my upbringing in this city by my wonderful parents with the assist from my late Nana. With the love and support of these three people, my extended family, and my friends by my side, I found the encouragement I needed to get into politics. Like my parents, I have lived here for nearly 24 years, and Sterling Heights is a place I hope to call home for the rest of my life. My hope is, through my progressive views, we can all build a stronger, more equitable Sterling Heights that we can all enjoy for decades to come.
”My hope is, through my progressive views, we can all build a stronger, more equitable Sterling Heights that we can all enjoy for decades to come.” — Nicholas Cavalli
Why are you running for Sterling Heights City Council? I am running for Sterling Heights City Council because I love my city. This place has been my home for almost 24 years, and I hope to call this place my home for the rest of my life. In order to do that though, we will need to turn our attention to the future and not blatantly turn our back on progress.
What is the most important issue facing Sterling Heights? The most important issue facing Sterling Heights right now is the lack of new affordable housing projects. The prices of new housing projects in our city are astronomical and do not encourage the community to grow amongst young people or people of the working class.
How would you address that issue? I would address this issue by ensuring that when a housing development is brought before us, that it is addressed what the average family in the city can afford, and how this project stacks up. I refuse to continually vote yes for developments that outprice our current residents simply for the sake of developing land.
What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? Nearly 3 years ago, members of our sitting city council voted to opt-out of the legal growth and sale of marijuana products in the city. Many of the arguments presented at that council meeting were personal in nature and did not have a direct benefit to the residents of our great city. With the utmost respect to those on the council, the decision to opt-out of a legal business that your residents voted in favor of is misguided leadership at best; and tabling the discussion and refusing to bring it back in front of the residents is an insult to our intelligence. I additionally disagree with the current members of council voting to pass a budget with an open end, thus waiting until after the election to explain where they are going to be getting the funds for the new budget costs from.
Current job: Grounds Crew Member, College Student
Education: High School, partial college
About Russ Cleary: I am a young, fierce individual, looking to make a positive change in my community, specifically the city of Sterling Heights, Michigan. I was born in 2000 and am a lifelong resident of the city of Sterling Heights. I attended Warren Consolidated Schools, graduated from Cousino High School in 2018, and this summer will be finishing up my degree at the University of Michigan State. While at Michigan State, I served for the College Republicans in different regards, among serving as the chair this past academic year. I had to fight through the pandemic to lead our club and to help grow our membership. While there, I learned how to navigate through tough situations, in not the most pretty of circumstances.
With my leadership, I will be able to handle the pressure of serving on the Sterling Heights City Council. Through my experiences, I have gained a specific set of characteristics built to help guide our city. Finally, this will help bring Sterling Heights back to full financial strength, as this will help cultivate our city. In time, we will grow into a more robust, higher-quality Sterling Heights.
Why are you running for Sterling Heights City Council? I am running because of my dissatisfaction as a citizen of Sterling Heights. The more I learn about where Sterling Heights is as a city, the more regretful I grow. However, I am looking to flip that attitude, not just for me, but for the many thousands of citizens who simply deserve better. Our city has amassed a debt of over $200 million. I find that unacceptable as I am well aware that the citizens of this city will be the ones responsible to handle that burden, not our city government.
“The more I learn about where Sterling Heights is as a city, the more regretful I grow. However, I am looking to flip that attitude, not just for me, but for the many thousands of citizens who simply deserve better.” — Russ Cleary
What is the most important issue facing Sterling Heights? The most important issue facing the city of Sterling Heights is far and away the colossal debt that we are currently in. The buy now, pay later attitude has been the root of our spending which is easily the cause of our debt.
How would you address that issue? I would address that issue in one simple answer: I will offer more respect for the taxpayers hard-earned money. The city council needs to focus more on what the city needs and what the city can truthfully afford, rather than what they may desire. Additionally, I believe there needs to be more respect for our debt, as the interest alone is now almost seven million dollars. I would be interested in reallocating some funds (by cutting from other areas evenly) to pay on the principal debt. Most importantly, there needs to be a long-term plan with how we can pay that off, with a commitment to a certain amount of time to pay it off.
What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? I think it is fairly obvious in previous answers that the current administration’s inability to commit to debt management would be my biggest dissatisfaction. However, another one would be the decision to build the Golden Rings on Hall Road. The idea was to beautify the area and to create a “brand” so to speak, which I can understand. However, I would have approved of building something along these lines if we would have entertained the idea of receiving sponsors. I believe that if we would have entertained this idea, we could have saved much more money while also satisfying those who support the construction of a structure to represent that area.
Candidate did not respond to survey request.
Current job: Retired
Education: Associate Degree - Legal Assistant, Real Estate Broker License, Title Insurance Agent License & MML – Elected Officials Academy I, II, III
About Deanna Koski: Resident of Sterling Heights since 1969, married 63 years to Dennis, 3 sons, daughter-in-law, and 5 grandchildren living in Sterling Heights. My professional career over 50 years consisted of being a Mortgage Counselor and Closer for a savings and loan, Real-Estate Broker/Closing Broker and Title Insurance Agent Escrow Officer.
Served on the Board of review for Sterling Heights, elected to City Council 1989. Participated in National League of Cities, serving on Public Safety & Crime Prevention Steering Committee and Past President Women in Municipal Government. Past Region One Chairperson Michigan Municipal League (MML), Past Vice-Chair – MML Legislative/Urban Affairs Committee, MML Board of Trustees, Legislative Governance Committee, Public Safety Policy Committee, Elected Officials Academy Board. Attend the Citizen Police Academy, Citizen Fire Academy and Citizen Emergency Response Team (CERT). Worked to reinstate Police K-9 program consisting of four K-9 and handlers, supported Fire Department in instituting an EMS ambulance transport service for Sterling Heights residents. Always working to keep Sterling Heights a great place to work, live and raise a family. Residents’ needs and concerns have always been my highest priority. Maintaining and improving lines of communication between the residents, city administration, services and local business.
“Residents’ needs and concerns have always been my highest priority. Maintaining and improving lines of communication between the residents, city administration, services and local business.” — Deanna Koski
Why are you running for Sterling Heights City Council? Provide the residents of Sterling Heights with excellent Police, Fire, EMS, DPW, SAFE Roads & quality City Services, at a reasonable cost. Focusing on creating SAFE neighborhoods to live work and play. Listening to the concerns, requests & issues of our residents; taking actions & resolving issues quickly. Create a program partnership consisting of City, schools, manufacturing companies and unions to develop internships, job training for skilled trades and careers within Sterling Heights.
What is the most important issue facing Sterling Heights? Future development of the Lakeside Mall.
How would you address that issue? Continue working with the Lakeside Mall owner/developer, providing input, ideas and suggestions to develop the property so that it meets the needs of Sterling Heights residents.
What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? The current City Council are seven individuals that are focused on providing the best form of government and services for the residents. Each member has the opportunity to present their ideas and concerns, then they are discussed and voted on to reach a consensus. The votes may be in an agreement or a split vote but it is a perfect form of government for the people and by the people.
Candidate did not respond to survey request. Visit his campaign website.
Current job: Communications Consultant
Education: Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science, University of Michigan, Master of Arts in International and World History, Columbia University, Master of Science in International History and Intelligence Studies, the London School of Economics, Proud Graduate of Warren Cousino High School.
About Michael Radtke: I was elected to my second term on the Sterling Heights City Council in 2019. Prior to my service on the council, I spent the early part of my career working as a community organizer, public relations consultant, and political activist.
As a Sterling Heights Councilman, I have strongly advocated for hiring additional police officers, modernizing the fire department, improving city code enforcement, and creating a diverse city that works for everyone, newcomer and long-term resident alike.
One of my most recent council accomplishments was authoring a budget amendment during the COVID-19 Pandemic to ensure that Sterling Heights’ absentee ballots would have return-postage paid automatically. This amendment was later adopted statewide across Michigan at the recommendation of the Secretary of State, proving that even statewide change can be made at the local level.
A small business owner, policy adviser, and communications director, I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the University of Michigan, and earned graduate degrees in international & world history from Columbia University and the London School of Economics.
A lifelong world traveler, I am always planning my next trip. So far I have explored 27 countries and lived abroad in both Germany and the United Kingdom. Even though I’ve traveled the globe, I know in my heart that Sterling Heights will always be home.
Why are you running for Sterling Heights City Council? I first decided to run for City Council in 2017 because I believed Sterling Heights needed new progressive leadership with a plan to strengthen public safety, deliver better city services, improve neighborhoods, and continue to attract new residents and high-tech businesses.
I’m proud to say that great progress has been made in these areas, including huge improvements to public safety. My advocacy on council has directly led to the hiring of 10 new police officers, the addition of 6 more firefighters, the hiring of the city’s first-ever social worker, the hiring of 4 additional code enforcement officers, and the continuation of the ReCreating Recreation Parks Improvement Program that is drawing new residents and young families to Sterling Heights.
I’m running for reelection to continue to build on all the work I have done to make Sterling Heights a thriving, vibrant, welcoming city. In the coming term, I hope to continue to improve public safety, hire more city employees, reform the way we pay for sidewalk replacement, and advocate for new parks and trails in our city, including the building of a Southern Recreation Center. More information about my plans can be found on my website at VoteRadtke.com.
“I first decided to run for City Council in 2017 because I believed Sterling Heights needed new progressive leadership with a plan to strengthen public safety, deliver better city services, improve neighborhoods, and continue to attract new residents and high-tech businesses. I’m proud to say that great progress has been made in these areas.” — Michael Radtke
What is the most important issue facing Sterling Heights? The most important issue is continuing to keep Sterling Heights safe by strengthening our police and fire departments.
How would you address that issue? Public Safety is my first priority since I know that our residents rely on our award-winning fire and police services to keep them safe. Some candidates have advocated for a volunteer fire department, and further cuts to our police. Not me. I know how important it is to protect and expand these life-saving services.
That’s because in an emergency, every second counts. Cuts would harm response times and endanger public safety. That’s why I advocated for the Safe Streets millage and voted to hire 6 more firefighters, 10 more police officers, and a social worker to keep our residents safe.
Even with these additions, there is still more work to do. Our city still has 15 fewer police officers than before the Great Recession. I won’t stop fighting until our police department returns to full strength, ensuring that Sterling Heights remains one of America’s safest cities.
What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? As a member of the City Council, I have differed from my colleagues on several issues:
First and foremost, I voted against giving our city manager a $38,000 raise during the pandemic. It was the wrong amount, at the wrong time, when many members of our community were hurting economically themselves.
Secondly, I voted against this year’s budget. Sterling Heights’ greatest resource is our city employees who provide services to our residents. That’s why I couldn’t vote for a budget that paid for new hires using rainy-day funds. I believe it is wrong to hire new employees without a dedicated way to pay for them.
Current job: Health Science Paraprofessional Warren Consolidated Schools Career Prep Center
Education: Bishop Foley HS, Southeast Oakland Vocational School, Oakland Community College
About Maria Schmidt: I have been a resident of Sterling Heights for the past almost 27 years. I am married with 2 adult children. I have a 25+ year career as a medical assistant and dialysis technician. I am certified with American Heart Association as an instructor of Heartsaver and Basic Life Support CPR courses. I have been a member of Sterling Heights City council since February of 2003. I am a member of the Warren Consolidated School Health Advisory board. Over the years I have been very active as a Warren Consolidated School parent, with both band and Parent organizations. I also enjoy volunteering for the American Heart Association, and the Children’s Tumor Foundation of Michigan, St. Jude Children’s Hospital, American Cancer Society, and National Kidney Foundation.
Why are you running for Sterling Heights City Council? First and foremost, I make decisions based on being fiscally responsible, and what is in the best interest of the community as a whole, not my personal interest. As a non-partisan position, we need to consider every action with an open mind for the good of all residents of Sterling Heights. I am proud of the many accomplishments we have achieved over the past years. I truly love and care about Sterling Heights as a community to live and raise a family. Continuing to focus on keeping taxes low, while making public safety, roads, and infrastructure a priority. Seeing the restructure of the water and sewer rates to fruition eliminating extra sewer fees for summer watering. Residents have requested an ordinance change allowing for a second water meter for this reason, which is a large homeowner expense that will now be unnecessary.
“As a non-partisan position, we need to consider every action with an open mind for the good of all residents of Sterling Heights.” — Maria Schmidt
What is the most important issue facing Sterling Heights? An important issue facing Sterling Heights is the sustainability of services while keeping taxes low.
How would you address that issue? We need to carefully evaluate NEEDS vs. WANTS while still being fiscally responsible.
What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? As a sitting member of the Council, regardless of which side of a decision I’m on I have to respect the Council’s decision in the end.
Candidate did not respond to survey request. Visit her campaign website.
Current job: Owner, Katydids Kritters & Special Lecturer, Oakland University
Education: PhD, Communication & Nonprofit Management, University of Minnesota; MA, Communication, Baylor University; BA, Communication, Wayne State University; AA, Liberal Arts, Henry Ford Community College
About Kelley Skillin: My husband and I chose to move to Sterling Heights 10 years ago because we wanted a safe and diverse community with excellent educational opportunities for our daughter. I own a small, arts-based business in the city and I teach at Oakland University. Before starting my business, I worked as an administrator in nonprofit organizations and have a background in HR, accounting, fundraising, volunteer management, federal compliance, marketing/PR, policy analysis, and program evaluation. Volunteering has always been a large part of my life. I’ve been a Girl Scout troop leader, president of the Parent Boosters, and a member of several nonprofit boards. Since COVID-19 started, I made and donated more than 1,000 masks for local health care workers. I also created a food co-op so families could avoid shopping during the pandemic while still supporting local businesses. I am a high school dropout that earned a GED and went on to complete a PhD. I don’t always do things the conventional way, whether it’s getting an education or solving a problem. I have been endorsed by the Warren Sterling Heights Area Democratic Club, the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO, and the Sierra Club.
Why are you running for Sterling Heights City Council? I entered this race because I believe democracy flourishes when voters have choices on the ballot. Since beginning this campaign, I have become more convinced that I offer a perspective that’s different from the other candidates. I’d work on practical solutions to the problems residents are facing, more communication between constituents and their representatives, and building community and government partnerships to benefit our city.
“I’d work on practical solutions to the problems residents are facing, more communication between constituents and their representatives, and building community and government partnerships to benefit our city.” — Kelley Skillin
What is the most important issue facing Sterling Heights? Sterling Heights is a changing community and the council needs to better reflect and communicate those changes.
How would you address that issue? I have a background in advanced communication and my job is to train people to communicate with small groups, large audiences, and workplaces. From revamping the website to increasing its presence on social media, the city needs to be better at communicating with its residents. City council members should represent the diverse interests of their constituents. Part of that is communicating with citizens - hosting open office hours (online or in-person), participating in online forums where residents are voicing their concerns, and recruiting people for volunteer positions within the city. Everyone should feel welcome in Sterling Heights. One of our core values is being “inclusive” and our policies, procedures, and boards/commissions need to reflect that value. I have never shied away from standing up for what’s right and that includes making sure everyone in our community is represented throughout the city.
What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? Several members of the council believe that volunteers should not be actively recruited for boards and commissions and that the process should be “color-blind” because “we are all equal.” I disagree with that approach to volunteer recruitment. I also disagree with administrators getting large raises while the city is in need of more personnel. I disagree with the prohibition on marijuana dispensaries. I also believe the city should revisit an anti-discrimination ordinance for LGBTQ+ people.
Current job: Retired Michigan Social Security Disability Investigator
Education: Bachelor of Science from Western Michigan University
About Moira Smith: I have been a Sterling Heights property owner and voter since 1978. I am a lifelong conservative and have been interested in local politics and an active Republican precinct delegate for over 10 years.
Why are you running for Sterling Heights City Council? Sterling Heights is an outstanding suburban community, not an urban city. I want to preserve the character of my home residence. We need a government that looks out for the expectations of its property owners and taxpayers. I will represent and be the voice of the forgotten homeowner and taxpayer. The current Council has been in power far too long. Their rulings consistently favor a tiny clique of powerful landlords and developers who enrich themselves at the expense of our community.
“We need a government that looks out for the expectations of its property owners and taxpayers.” — Moira Smith
What is the most important issue facing Sterling Heights? Council spends money on whims and pays for them with increased taxation and by selling bonds with no plan to ever pay them off. They have made financial commitments that extend beyond their terms of office and they will not be around to be held accountable for their decisions.
How would you address that issue? I will spend money in accordance with actual income. The city is not obligated to buy everything the City Manager wants. The City Manager is subordinate to The People and their elected Council.
What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? Unlike our current council, I believe the government that does the least is the government that works the best. We need law enforcement, trash pickup and good streets. I believe the people know what is best for themselves. We do not need government involvement in the medical business or entertainment for example. In this time of so much uncertainty when our neighbors have lost jobs and businesses, the City Manager and those who work for the city should not be receiving lavish raises. We need to adhere consistently with our zoning laws and not give zoning and tax breaks to wealthy out-of-town developers while we, the taxpayers make up for their breaks. Our city leaders have inconsistently applied zoning rules at a cost to our neighborhoods with oversized homes on undersized lots, substandard setbacks and undersized streets that cannot accommodate parking or snow removal. This week the old Council borrowed $53 million to qualify for a federal grant to rebuild a street that doesn’t even need repair.
Current job: Retired
Education: 1 year at Hillsdale College. Attended job-related classes at Macomb County Community College while working.
About Roy Wilson: My wife and I moved into Sterling Heights 50 years ago because we had family in the area and the house was very close to my work. We have enjoyed our neighbors and cherished the friendship we’ve made.I am an Army veteran and served in Vietnam. We have a daughter that lives and teaches in Nevada and a son that works in the craft beer brewing business in Grosse Pointe Park and Detroit. Our grandson attends Wabash College in Indiana and our granddaughter attends Boise State. Over the years we have enjoyed traveling to other countries with Eastern Europe and Thailand being our favorites. We have also toured several Civil War battlefields. History is important because if you don’t know your past how do we avoid mistakes in the future. Standing on the fields of Gettysburg is a very sobering and humbling experience. I like to read books related to American history. If you haven’t read “A Team of Rivals” about Abraham Lincoln I highly suggest it.
Why are you running for Sterling Heights City Council? I am tired of the tax and spend mentality of the present administration and want to see if the possibility exists to operate within a budget without increasing taxes. After living in this community for 50 years I would like to give something back. The mayor and council must become more responsive to the needs and concerns of the citizens.
“The mayor and council must become more responsive to the needs and concerns of the citizens.” — Roy Wilson
What is the most important issue facing Sterling Heights? In my opinion, it’s the $200,000,000.00 plus dollars of city debt.
How would you address that issue? A new council needs to reduce spending and find ways to reduce debt. We cannot continue to keep kicking this problem down the road to future residents.
What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? The ever-increasing spending for one. The other “IN YOUR FACE” item is the area-wide joke of the BIG “O” on Hall Rd. Lakeside Mall has all but closed and Partridge Creek is having difficulty. Yet the mayor and council spent $380,000.00 touting that area as the “Golden Corridor.” Then there is the money spent on the obelisks on Van Dyke. That money should have been spent on a street in the city. If the mayor and council wanted a legacy it should be to leave office with less debt than when they were elected.
Candidate did not respond to survey request. Visit his campaign website.
Current job: Retired
Education: Associate Degree Macomb Community College
About Barbara Ziarko: I’ve been a resident of Sterling Heights since 1977 and have served on the City Council since 2001. I worked for St. Anne Church/School and St. Blase Church for a combined 27 years and am now retired. I am an avid volunteer for both local and national charities including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, American Cancer Society, MCREST (Macomb County Rotating Emergency Shelter, THAW (The Heat and Warmth Fund), Friends of the Sterling Heights Library and the American Polish Century Club Ladies Auxiliary. I’m a past Regina High School Board Member and I currently serve on the Michigan Municipal League Board of Trustees. My personal lifestyle reflects that I am a woman of service. I believe that I am an intelligent, hard-working individual who puts the concerns and needs of our community in the forefront when making decisions. I serve with the intention to do what is best for the entire community. I was married to my husband, Tom, for over 36 years until his death in 2014. I have one daughter, Stacy.
Why are you running for Sterling Heights City Council? To continue the progress we have been able to achieve by working together with Residents, City Council, Administration and local business and industry to achieve success. Our accolades throughout the state and nation are proof that what we are doing is an example to other communities.
“Our accolades throughout the state and nation are proof that what we are doing is an example to other communities.” — Barbara Ziarko
What is the most important issue facing Sterling Heights? It will be important to monitor and facilitate the use of our $19 million American Rescue Plan funds in the next four years.
How would you address that issue? I hope to be able to bring about collaboration with the county, state and other communities to leverage and amplify these funds to benefit and maintain our quality of life amenities. As a member of the Michigan Municipal League Board of Trustees, I am in a position to achieve this goal.
What actions/decisions by the current mayoral administration or city council have you disagreed with? It’s important to work together. When making a decision the last question I ask myself is, “Is this in the best interest of the residents?” Not all votes go in the direction that I may want them to go but I understand that whatever the tally, it is a City Council decision as a whole.