Macomb’s Memories: The Story of Willis Miller
For Your Benefit
Share Your Carrot
Calendar of Events
March for Babies
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You may have heard that Selfridge Air National Guard Base is being considered as a site for the F-35 Lightning II, the military's new 5th Generation fighter. In an effort to encourage this decision, just yesterday, Selfridge Air National Guard Base and Macomb County officials, along with a group of dedicated community partners, announced the launch of MIF35.org, a website designed to highlight all the benefits Selfridge and the community would realize if the base is able to secure the arrival of the F-35.
Over the next six months, the county will be working hand in hand with the state of Michigan, the Michigan Defense Center, our congressional delegation, local legislators and defense partners in, and around, southeast Michigan to showcase Selfridge. We hope you will join in this effort.
Additionally, last Tuesday, Feb. 14, Macomb County hosted two events we should be proud of. The first was our fifth annual Macomb Business Awards, put together by our Planning and Economic Development Department.
Business leaders (nearly 400!) from across the region attended the breakfast event, held at Palazzo Grande in Shelby Township. Every year, the event seems to grow and gain notoriety; several local media attended and wrote positive stories.
The Macomb Business Awards recognized some of Macomb County’s top-performing businesses, including the 52 organizations nominated for one of six awards. The county’s Economic Development Partner of the Year was also honored at the event. The Macomb Business Awards offer recognition to companies who are achieving success in building a strong workforce, tapping new markets to increase revenue, implementing efficiency controls, cultivating a workplace welcoming to all, or giving back to the community. Read our press release on the event to see the list of winners.
Meanwhile, in the lobby of the Administration Building, Healthstyles hosted a Go Red Heart Healthy event. From 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., there was a variety of activities to encourage county employees to live heart-healthy lifestyles. There was a healthy breakfast, plus lunch and snacks available, and several speakers throughout the day. Representatives from county insurance companies were there to answer questions, plus there were giveaways and other freebies. February is the month the American Heart Association launches its Go Red for Women initiative. The American Heart Association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. I am happy that Healthstyles ensures our employees have a way to connect with the correct and most up-to-date health information.
You may recall that we posted a survey in the last Macomb Matters. We got great feedback from many of you and, based on your suggestions, we have decided to add a new section. It was brought to our attention that county employees are often asked by neighbors or family members for help in identifying which department or program they should contact about a particular issue. Many said they know what their department does, but, sometimes, aren’t quite sure what others are responsible for. The goal of this new section, Department Highlight, hopes to remedy that by explaining the particulars of the many departments that help run this county run and provide much-needed services to our residents. If you have a program or department you’d like to see highlighted in Macomb Matters, email email@example.com.
By Sarah Cormier, Macomb County Executive Office
We have decided to add a new feature to Macomb Matters which will highlight a different program or department in Macomb County. The goal of this section is to help educate employees on what various sectors within county government do.
This month, we will be focusing on the Weatherization Assistance Program, which falls under the Community Development Department of Macomb Community Action. It seems most appropriate to write about this topic while it's winter, when many of its services are most relevant. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if there is a department you'd like to see featured!
Macomb Community Action is a huge department in and of itself – 290 employees. It is divided into two main divisions: Community Development and Office of Senior Services. Community Development focuses on serving and empowering low-income individuals and families in Macomb County. Under Community Development, there are six programs: Community and Emergency Services, Weatherization Assistance, Home Rehabilitation, the Food Program, Head Start and Financial Empowerment.
In Charge: Steve Schuster has been with the Weatherization Assistance Program since 1998. He became the program manager in 2014. Prior to his promotion, Steve was a shift supervisor. The Weatherization Assistance Program just celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2016.
Location: VerKuilen Building, suite #10
21885 Dunham Road
Number of employees: Currently, there are seven employees in the Weatherization Program.
Description of program/department: Weatherization provides low-income families with an opportunity to have their home become more energy efficient through federal grant funds. Services include wall insulation, air leakage reduction and furnace repair/replacement. Services are free to those who qualify.
Goal of the program: The goal of the Weatherization Program is to improve the energy efficiency of low-income households. By increasing the energy efficiency of the residence, occupants realize lower utility costs along with a more comfortable home.
Triumphs: The Weatherization Program was a recipient of funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. The program increased staff and production to levels that were five times that of previous years. During the three-year span of ARRA funding, the Weatherization Program weatherized more than 2,000 Macomb County homes.
Additional info: How to learn more, such as additional services or eligibility requirements: Call (586) 469-6329 or visit http://mca.macombgov.org/MCA-CommunityDevelopment-Preservation.
By Sarah Cormier, Macomb County Executive Office
Every office – hopefully – has that one person they know they can count on to keep things running smoothly, to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s crossed.
In the county’s Community Corrections department, that person would be Mania Majewski.
“Mania really is the glue that holds our department together,” said Barbara Caskey, director of Community Corrections."
As Majewski describes it, she is the computer maintenance operator for the department. Community Corrections’ goal is to relieve prison and jail overcrowding through court-approved sentencing alternatives. For example, non-violent offenders may be placed into community sanctions, rather than in jail or prison, to allow for corrections space for more serious offenders. Some of the rehabilitative and monitoring options provided through Community Corrections include substance abuse inpatient and outpatient treatment, monitoring services, substance use testing, community service work, cognitive programming and pre-trial release supervision.
As computer maintenance operator, Majewski is technically responsible for running background checks on potential users of the Community Corrections system to make sure they are eligible - as in, considered nonviolent - to be placed in any of the above-mentioned programs. She also assists with providing computer software support.
Majewski estimates Community Corrections oversees the logistics of the 300-400 people a month who are utilizing the programs.
“Everyone here works together really well,” said Mania. “This makes it easy when we have a group like that.”
Caskey said Majewski does much more than her job description states.
“From supply and IT issues to communication with the courts and jail office, we are so fortunate to have her,” said Caskey. “She continues to identify ways to make our office more efficient and explore what can be done rather than what's always been done. On top of this, Mania is the kind of person you want to spend your work days with, making Community Corrections a better place for everyone.”
Majewski, who has worked for Community Corrections for nearly four years, has similar respect for Caskey.
“We have a great boss that keeps it all together and keeps us informed and that helps,” she said.
Majewski, who is an avid boater, has an associate’s degree in business management, with a minor in criminal justice. She said she enjoys the unique aspect of criminal justice Community Corrections allows for, which is assisting individuals instead of punishing them.
“We actually are helping people, helping them to change their lives,” she said.
By Cynthia S. Donahue, Facilities and Operations
Willis Miller was thought to be the first African-American to live in Mount Clemens. He and his wife were also the first mixed-race couple to reside in the city. Little is known of his early years other than he was born in Tennessee around 1848, worked as a coachman in the south and a waiter at a St. Louis hotel while making his way north after the Civil War.
On Dec. 12, 1880, he was married at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Lafayette in Detroit to Jennie, a Scottish lassie from Ottawa, Canada. Marriage records state that her last name was McKenzie, while cemetery records list her maiden name as MacDonald. The couple were married by the Rev. Dolphin Pernanders Roberts, another interesting African-American, who received a degree from the Quaker’s (Protestant group) Spiceland University, a Doctor of Medicine degree from the National Medical College and a Doctor of Divinity degree from Wilberforce University.
Michigan’s interracial marriage laws did not allow the marriage of different races until 1883; that may be why the couple’s “return of marriage,” or marriage documents, list Willis’s race as “C,” with Jennie’s race merely showing a ditto mark below his. Their marriage being interracial is proven by census records listing Jennie as “white”; her death certificate reads the same. Additionally, their only son, Willie, was recorded as being mulatto in both census records and his death certificate.
Willis lived in Mount Clemens for 50 years, and worked first at the Avery Hotel as a waiter, and then at the Park Hotel as a bath attendant for many, many years. His obituary describes him as a devout man of virtue, and a man of many charitable kindnesses to both indigent “white folks” and those of his own race.
Willis is pictured above on the far left with the Mount Clemens Base Ball Club in 1917 in Gaylord, Michigan. The team was started by Harry Stevens who moved to Mount Clemens to manage the semi-pro championship team that played after the close of the big league season. The team included many Detroit Tigers as well as locals such as Romeo’s Frank Bowerman who played for both the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Doves.
Willis and Jennie’s only son Willie was born in Mount Clemens in 1881 and worked as a musician in the hotels; he died of tuberculosis at the age of 31 in Pontiac in 1912. Jennie died in 1922 from hemophilia, and Willis died May 28, 1930, from heart disease. The family is buried together in Clinton Grove Cemetery on Cass Avenue.
Willis left a sizable estate for the time - $9,300, which included stock in the Macomb Theater, and two homes; one at 144 Front Street (later called Broadway) and one at 164 North Walnut in Mount Clemens. Sylvie Sierens, his housekeeper, was the special administrator and sole inheritor of his estate; she was a Belgium immigrant who lived on Crocker, and the widow of Alfons Sierens. Sylvie paid Gustave Schalm, a local paperhanger and painter, $240.62 to paint the exterior of both houses and paper the kitchen and bathroom of the Front Street residence. By 1932, she had moved into the Millers’ old residence with her son Johnny on Front Street, then into the North Walnut home in 1935.
Willis Miller saw many changes in his life; he lived thru both the Civil War, the American-Indian wars, the Spanish-American War and World War I. He witnessed the birth of electricity, the telephone and the automobile. Little is known about his life; he is mentioned in local library transcripts for running a taxi service in the 1920s, and being the only African-American working at the hotels in the early days. He led a simple yet productive life, and left his mark on those who knew him. Enroot to Michigan, he traveled through many communities before he decided to make Macomb his home.
By Macomb County Human Resources and Labor Relations
Are you ready for retirement? Macomb County offers employees the opportunity to participate in our 457 Plan. A 457 Plan is a type of non-qualified, tax-advantaged, deferred-compensation retirement plan that is available for governmental and certain non-governmental employers in the United States. The employer provides the plan and the employee defers compensation on a pre-tax basis. Our 457 Plan is managed by Vanguard.
Vanguard offers the following answers to the question – why should I join?
• It's easy. Money is deducted from your paycheck automatically.
• You get tax breaks. That means that you could pay less in taxes today.
• You'll save more money.
To enroll today, or at any time, visit the Human Resources & Labor Relations website at http://insidemacomb.macombgov.org/hr, click Voluntary Benefits & access the 457 Deferred Compensation Link to complete the Vanguard enrollment form.
It is important to note that the completed enrollment form must be faxed or mailed to Vanguard in order to begin payroll deductions.
Did you know that you can earn extra CARROT Reward Points just for sharing the app with your friends and co-workers? Using the “Refer & Earn” option allows you to be rewarded for sharing CARROT (you can find “Refer & Earn” by tapping on the CARROT menu button).
Once you do that, you'll be given the opportunity to share a direct link to the CARROT Wellness app via text, email, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Each time one of your friends uses your link to install the app for the first time, you’ll receive 1,000 reward points – and your friend will get 1,000 points, too! There's no limit to the number of points you can receive for referring CARROT, so start sharing today!
By Macomb County Animal Control
The Animal Control Department would like to remind our fellow county workers that February is National Pet Dental Health Month. This entire month we are collecting donations to raise money for dental procedures for homeless pets while hoping to raise awareness about pet dental health. Bad breath and tooth decay can be signs of serious health conditions and should be addressed with your vet during regular checkups.