Emotional farewell for maverick Kzoo commissioner

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Kalamazoo City Commissioner Shannon Sykes-Nehring wiped away tears as her colleagues and members of the community wished her well after her resignation was finalized.

Sykes-Nehring resigned her position effective Monday after she and her family decided to move out of the area. The family is moving to rural Calhoun County. Sykes-Nehring served on the commission for three and a half years.

“This is the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another one,” Sykes-Nehring told 24 Hour News 8 outside of Monday night’s city commission meeting.

The commissioner was known for taking bold stances on issues she found important. She wasn’t afraid to raise her voice and challenge her colleagues on the commission. She prided herself in being a champion for those she felt were marginalized and might not otherwise be represented in city hall.

While in office, Sykes-Nehring said her proudest accomplishment was when she stood with the homeless during an encampment protest last year. Homeless advocates stayed in Bronson Park in protest after the city announced plans to arrest individuals sleeping in the park.

Sykes-Nehring said she stayed in the park for a week.

Eventually, the police showed up. Arrests were made. Sykes-Nehring insisted that she be placed in cuffs and taken to jail also.

“It wasn’t planned,” Sykes-Nehring said of her time in the park. “It was very spur of the moment but it changed my life in ways that I could never forget.”

Charges were never filed against the commissioner. She chalked up the arrest as a rite of passage.

“Lets just say my activist credibility went up a little bit,” she said with a laugh.

Among those from the public who spoke about her at Monday night’s meeting was Carl Wiseman, who helped organize the encampment protest. His voice choked up as he talked about Sykes-Nehring. She stood with her family and wiped tears as he made remarks.

“If just some politicians had 10% of the integrity and character that that young lady had, we’d be so much better off,” Wiseman said.

Sykes-Nehring says she has no intentions to seek public office in the future but stopped short of ruling it out. She said she will continue to be an activist on matters she is passionate about.

The Kalamazoo City Commission has 30 days to appoint a replacement to fill the vacancy left by Sykes-Nehring.

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