Retired Judge Virgil Smith plans run for Detroit council seat


Correction: Virgil K. Smith is the son and advisor to retired Judge Virgil C. Smith. His name was wrong in an earlier version of this story.

Retired Wayne County Circuit Judge Virgil C. Smith is preparing to run for a seat on Detroit City Council in a campaign in which his son, a former Senator who has signed a plea, is one of his key advisors .

Smith, who served 14 years on the Wayne County Circuit Court bench, including four years as chief judge, said he plans to announce his candidacy for the District 4 seat soon, but it depends on what Councilor Andre does Spivey is up to.

Located on the east side of Detroit, the borough is home to the East English Village neighborhood and businesses like Ascension St. John Hospital.

Spivey told the Detroit News Monday that he would seek one of two seats on the nine-member council rather than requesting re-election to the district seat, a decision that promises to expand the field. The decision has been a long time coming, said Spivey, who filed petitions to get signatures for the At-Large seats.

“I came to District 4 in 2013 after serving as a free-roaming member since 2009,” said Spivey. “And while I’m voting for everything that’s happening across town, I want to be a part of it and go back to the meetings in the Northeast, North End, Southwest, and West Side of Detroit. “

“I miss those relationships that are city-wide, and now with three terms in office, I have enough institutional knowledge that I think I can be better served across the city.”

Smith, 73, is a former state official who became the first chairman of the Black Michigan Senate in Michigan history. He said he has a strong feeling that he can run District 4 and fix some of the problems the city is facing.

Andre 'Spivey, Member of Detroit City Council

“I think the city could use my experience and history,” said Virgil C. Smith. “I spent 24 years in the legislature. I know how to behave in the legislative process. I know how I can hopefully get my colleagues or future colleagues – if the voters choose me – to make it the most effective legislative body we can.

“… and the best part of trying to do this is to make sure people understand that they are there to serve the people.”

Among those who have petitions to collect signatures for the District 4 seat are Spivey’s Chief of Staff Keith Jones and former newspaper and television reporter ML Elrick.

Smith’s son, Virgil K. Smith, who also worked in Michigan law before being jailed in Wayne County Jail in 2015 for shooting his ex-wife’s car, said the campaign broke out in January started collecting signatures. Registration closes in mid-April.

The younger Smith signed a contract with Wayne County attorneys to plead guilty to the malicious destruction of property and the ruthless discharge of a firearm, and to serve his probation, which ends March 14.

After an initial informed consent, the younger Smith was banned from electoral office during his five-year probationary period, but a judge ruled that the electoral ban should not apply. He ran unsuccessfully for a seat in District 2 in 2017 because of objections from Wayne County Attorney Kym Worthy. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that the original plea was against public order.

Smith’s father acknowledges his son’s past but said he doesn’t think that will affect the choice.

“My son had some problems,” said Virgil C. Smith. “He had some issues to address and I think he addressed them in a way that brought him maturity.

“… He was always committed to the people he served, and he will be one of many people I will try to help me in this process.”

Spivey, who has represented the district since 2013, said he didn’t see Smith’s son as a problem either.

“The judge has had an outstanding career, with a great legal record and his own political journey. I think it will do well in District 4 or elsewhere. “

[email protected]