When Councilmember Jeff Phillips resigned from his city council seat for work reasons, he left a vacancy for the remaining members to fill. There were two applications for the position, and after interviewing both candidates on Saturday, the council appointed Cliff Yankovich to the spot.
From dancing in the streets during the Riverwalk Festival parade to co-hosting the annual Chamber of Commerce dinner, Yankovich is a familiar face to many in Lowell. He co-owns the downtown jewelry store Chimera Design with his wife, Julie Claire DeVoe, and is an active member of the Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce as well as a board member for the Downtown Development Authority. Plus, he’s been both a business and personal supporter of Lowell non-profits such as Flat River Outreach Ministries. He is a regular attendee of city council meetings and ran for the Michigan House of Representative as a Green Party candidate in 2016.
Despite his impressive resume of community involvement, Yankovich’s appointment to the city council wasn’t a sure thing. Councilmembers note the second applicant, Pamelia Krause, also brought strengths to the position.
Both Candidates Offered Benefits
Krause has been a resident of Lowell for more than 50 years. Now that she’s retiring after 45 years of working, including more than a decade as a business owner, the time felt right to become more involved in the Lowell government. “I thought I would be a good asset to the council,” Krause told Lowell’s First Look.
While the council voted unanimously to appoint Yankovich, Councilmember Jim Salzwedel says Krause would have been a good addition as well. “She would bring that diversity that I think is missing from the council,” he notes.
Currently, the council is comprised entirely of men. With the addition of Yankovich, three are business owners and the remaining two are working. Krause would not only diversify the council by adding a woman to the ranks but also bring the perspective of an older, long-time resident.
Although disappointed she wasn’t named to the council, Krause is open to the possibility of running for the seat in 2019 or serving on a different city board or commission in the future.
Yankovich Passionate about Lowell
As for Yankovich, he was already eyeing a run for City Council in 2019 when the seat opened up. “When I heard Jeff was resigning, I actually ran across the street with my application to be considered to replace him,” he says.
He may not have needed to run as councilmembers note there are few people in the city with his extensive background. “Cliff is already very, very involved in this community, and his reputation precedes him,” says Mayor Mike DeVore. “He is going to bring a ton of knowledge, ideas and passion to the council.”
The longtime business owner is excited about the prospect of being able to play a greater role in shaping the future of Lowell. “Anybody who knows me will tell you I am passionate about a lot of things, and Lowell is at the top of the list,” Yankovich says. “We have the complete package here.”
He points to the compassion of Lowell residents – exemplified through the strong support of organizations such as Pink Arrow Pride, Gilda’s Club and FROM – as being one of the city’s major strengths. Beyond that, the city has trails, rivers, unique small businesses, excellent schools and more. Yankovich hopes to help maintain those assets while working to address problems such as the condition of local roads.
At a time when divisive politics seems to be norm, Yankovich loves that people here can disagree without being disagreeable. “One of my favorite things about Lowell is that people can hold vastly different viewpoints and still get along,” he says. “I have attended several meetings on very divisive subjects and have marveled at the civility we practice here.”
Councilmember Marty Chambers says the decision regarding who to appoint wasn’t easy. “We went back and forth on it,” he says. However, in the end, Yankovich offered the most experience and presented a clear vision for what he saw for the city’s future. “Overall, he just impressed us all,” Chambers says.
Yankovich will have his first meeting as a member of Lowell City Council on December 17, 2018.
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