Wayne County Commissioner Gary Woronchak is running to represent Dearborn in the State Senate. In an interview with the Yemeni American News, Woronchak talked up his experience and stressed his strong relations with the Arab community.
By: Rasheed AlNozili
The Yemeni American News
Woronchak, a former State House representative, is looking to fill the seat of Morris Hood III, a Democrat who reached his term limit in the Legislature. It’s a safe Democratic seat that will likely be decided in the August 7th primary.
The district includes Dearborn, Melvindale and parts of Detroit.
Woronchak called for investing in education and infrastructure. He said he would work to change the formula of road funding, so that more populous areas of the state get an “equitable” amount of money.
He recalled how as a legislator, he rushed to protect the Dearborn community after the 9/11 attacks by introducing fellow lawmakers to Arab and Muslim activists.
Woronchak told YAN he may have considered running for Dearborn mayor last year, but he opted against the idea because of his “long-standing relationship” with Mayor Jack O’Reilly, who successfully ran for re-election.
The state senate candidate highlighted his leadership and accomplishment as county commissioner, saying he helped establish the Wayne County’s first-ever ethics ordinance, which led to the creation of a Board of Ethics and setting up a clear standard for allowable behavior. That was in the wake of the scandal-plagued tenure of County Executive Robert Ficano.
We asked Woronchak a few questions, which have been edited for space and style.
YAN- Tell us a little bit about yourself.
GW– I am the Wayne County Commissioner for Dearborn and Allen Park and chairman of the Wayne County Commission. I’ve been chairman for 8 years and on the Wayne County Commission for 14 years. Before that I was state representative for Dearborn for 6 years.
Prior to that I spent over 20 years in the newspaper business, as an editor, reporter and columnist.
I found that work in newspapers has helped me a great deal in government because government is communication and I’ve always thought it very important to communicate with the people I represent.
YAN- How was your experience as a representative.
GW– When I was a state representative, I always thought the most important thing was to take care of my district.
I was able to change the School Aid Act in order to increase the funding for Dearborn schools for the at-risk programs. I managed to get Dearborn 2.5 million dollars more every year for about 10 years because of the work that I did.
I passed what’s known as the Halal Food Act. It simply provides consumer protection so that it’s against state law for someone to advertise food as Halal if it is not. I did that for consumer protection for my community.
YAN- Tell us about your response after 9/11/2001.
GW– I knew that I had a responsibility immediately to protect my community. Obviously my district probably has the largest concentration of Arab and Muslim Americans of any House of Representatives districts in the state.
Muslims are my neighbors; they are my friends, but the people that I worked with didn’t necessarily have that frame of reference.
What I did was arrange a meeting in Lansing between legislators and members of our local Muslim Community. I brought up an Imam, a newspaper publisher from Dearborn and other community activists so that in an informal setting my fellow representatives could meet a Muslim to talk about the religion and about how the attacks that happened were not representative of Islam, but in fact people in Dearborn of all faiths were equally horrified by what happened in New York.
YAN- What’s your mission when you get to Lansing as a Senator?
GW– There are several priorities but they all involve investment. We need to invest more in our public schools and we need to invest more in our teachers. The teacher’s job is so very important in our society and sometimes it seems like people don’t value it as much as they should.
We need to invest in our roads and infrastructure. Wayne County doesn’t have the resources to take care of the roads. The State sets the policy for road funding, and it is not funding infrastructure or roads adequately. The roads are a basic foundation of our region.
YAN- What’s your message for the voters?
GW– I want to point out the importance of experience in this election. Because of term limits, the state senate is losing 2/3 of its members this year; 26 or 27 of the 38 senators are going to be gone.
It’s not a training-ground, we need people with experience in the state senate.
I think that I can bring a lot to the table. I can represent this area well. I have the credentials. I have the experience. I have a website Gary4Senate.com and I put a lot of my accomplishments up there so people can see what I’ve done through the years.