Lionel Valencia appointed to Village Board of Trustees

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Former Human Relations Commission Chairman assumes role after Michael Manno’s passing

By Josh Bootsma, with information provided by the Village of Lansing

The Lansing Village Board of Trustees voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve Lionel Valencia’s appointment to the Village Board of Trustees, filling a seat left vacant after Trustee Michael Manno’s passing on June 21, 2020.

The task of appointing Manno’s replacement fell to Mayor Patty Eidam, who said during Tuesday’s meeting, “I made no secret that filling this vacancy on our Board of Trustees is not easy. Now that my choice has been made, I feel it is an excellent choice for Lansing.”

“Leo” and Lansing

Eidam outlined Valencia’s community involvement, including his two decades of membership in the Calumet City Lions Club, his leadership of L.A.C.E. (Lansing Association for Community Events), and his time spent as a little league coach and boy scout leader.

Lionel Valencia swears an oath of office after being approved to fill Trustee Mike Manno’s seat. Manno passed away in June. (Photo: Josh Bootsma)

The 19-year Lansing resident was interviewed in 2017 by Village administration to be the chairman of the Human Relations Commission (HRC), a role in which he helped Village officials interview potential commissioners. The HRC launched in the fall of 2018 under Valencia’s chairmanship with the goals of promoting unity, diversity, understanding, pride, and community involvement in Lansing. Valencia resigned from his chairman position shortly after his Village Trustee appointment. He and his wife Maria are also participants in the Common Ground program, which launched August 20th and is the largest initiative to emerge from the HRC since the commission’s inception.

Bilingual skills

Eidam said, “I am confident that Mr. Valencia will represent the residents of Lansing to the very best of his ability. In fact, it is a huge benefit that he will be able to communicate with our Spanish-speaking residents when many of us cannot.”

Valencia, who spent three of his teenage years living in Mexico, also hopes that his bilingual skills will aid him in his new role. “I’m hoping that I will also get some interest in some of the Spanish community to be a part of Lansing. It’s very hard if you don’t have a voice there or you don’t have someone you can feel comfortable communicating with, maybe even picking up the phone and giving a call, where they can’t do that with somebody else,” he said.

Big shoes and big aspirations

Valencia said that as a friend of Michael Manno’s, he is honored to fill his seat. “I can never fill the shoes of Michael Manno, those are big shoes to fill. But I’m hoping to make a difference, I really want to get involved and really want to understand and really want to learn,” he said.

Valencia said he expressed to the Mayor some interest in a trustee position in 2018. “I felt it was something I wanted to do, something I wanted to learn, something I aspired to. I’ve always liked to give back to the community through different avenues. Being part of L.A.C.E. and then being a part of the HRC almost seemed like the right steps to try be a trustee,” he said. Valencia has joined the Village Voice Party, the Lansing political party to which Mayor Eidam belongs, as do Trustees Abbasy, Fish, Hardy, and Zeldenrust.

Lionel Valencia (center) poses with his family following his appointment to the Village Board of Trustees. (Photo provided by the Village of Lansing)

After his appointment was unanimously approved, Valencia swore an oath of office before the Village Board and onlookers, which included some of his family members. Valencia currently works as an operations manager at Staffing Inc., a staffing company with multiple office in the Chicago area. He has been married to his wife Maria since 1991 and has five children and three grandchildren.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Why are there no Blacks sitting on the Board to represent our population/community within or in Lansing. Face up front so our voice can be heard and we have someone to relate to us.

    • Vice Hill, there have not been too many Blacks who have been willing to run for Village Trustee—I can think of only three in the past several years. There are many reasons Blacks don’t run. For the most part, Blacks are newer to Lansing and are probably less familiar with the established political system, so they are already at a disadvantage if they do decide to run for office. And there’s not a good way to “learn politics,” unless someone who has done it before is willing to help out a newcomer. In addition, voter turnout in Lansing tends to be low, and the people who do vote tend to vote for the names they recognize. It would cost a lot of money for a newcomer to get his name out there AND convince people to actually vote. Established White politicians have the luxury of simply focusing on people who already tend to vote and already know their names.

      On the other hand, people in general are becoming more aware of the importance of voting. And Lansing is becoming more aware that our established political systems no longer represent the demographics of our town. People of all colors are more likely today to vote for a non-White candidate, but there are still many obstacles that stand in the way of a Black person (1) deciding to run and (2) getting enough votes to win a seat.

      These are my personal observations and not those of The Lansing Journal.

    • I agree with Vice Hill. I disagree with Melanie trying to speak for the African American community. African Americans have been living in Lansing for many decades. I have ran for office in Lansing, and I know of many other minorities as well. I recieved more votes than many other candidates who were not a minority.

    • I also want to point out that Lansing is approximately 40% African Americans and approximately 45% White. There are many African Americans who are qualified for the vacant trustee position that Vice Hill is referring to. Why are African Americans severely under represented in every part of employment, appointment, and contract opportunities in Lansing, including the Clerk’s office?

    • Exactly, there were actually a couple of very strong well qualified black people who interviewed for this appointment seat and still didn’t get picked. ??‍♀️

      Hopefully they run and the 40% supports them.

  2. If you know someone who would be a good community official, encourage that person to volunteer for community events, attend Civic meetings in order to get known and develop a knowledge of Lansings needs. It’s a huge challenge to get five people to serve on our homeowners board…all public service means a commitment of time and energy beyond your current work and family. Talents need to be nurturing and support.

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