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Published:September 21st, 2008 11:13 EST
Cockrel comes in as Mayor to right Detroit's wrongs

Cockrel comes in as Mayor to right Detroit's wrongs

By Garrett Godwin

DETROIT, MI: When Kwame Kilpatrick leaves, Kenneth Cockrel, Jr. enters as he gets officially sworn Friday as interim Mayor for the Motor City.  He took the oath of office Friday morning at 9:30am in the 13th floor auditorium of City Hall; however, he was already sworn on Wednesday.

The son of a radical socialist and civil rights attorney, Cockrel`s childhood has its share of rallies and demonstrations, courtrooms and council chambers.  But the young man wanted to be his own person, and decided to go to Wayne State University to study journalism instead. 

"Politics was the last thing on his mind" said wife Kimberly, 41, who has known Cockrel since they were 12.  "He joked that it was something he never would do.  People are tugging at you always.  You can`t be yourself."

Cockrel had a short-lived career as a reporter with The Grand Rapids Press and The Cincinnati Enquirer, and by the time he and his wife returned to Detroit in 1992 due to her father`s illness, he returned to Wayne State, where several of his jobs includes helping students find internships.

Cockrel adapted Detroit`s political world when he was elected council president in 2005 -- called by political acquaintances as honest, rational, and calm. 

"He did his homework" said 73-year-old former councilman Clyde Cleveland, who has known Cockrel since childhood.  "He`s an even-tempered guy.  He`ll do an excellent job reaching out to other cities."

So, what is first on Cocrrel`s list as Mayor of Detroit?  "My first task as mayor", he answers, "is getting a handle on our budget.  The bottom line is when you have your financial house in order; it makes it a lot easier to do the things you want to do.  But public safety, obviously, is a huge priority."

During a press conference yesterday, he named James Barren as Chief of Police.  Barren is a 31-year-veteran of the Detroit Police Department, where he has headed the Executive Protection Unit and Special Response Team -- called by Cockrel as a "cop`s cop".

"As a veteran of this department", Barren said, "I`m ready to get to work to restore public faith ... and bring integrity back to the department."

A public reception has been planned on Friday evening from 6:30-8:30pm inside the McGregor Memorial Conference at Wayne State University.

"Let us realize", said Northwest Unity Baptist Church pastor Rev. Oscar King III, "that the new mayor`s job is to work for reconciliation.  He has to heal the broken relationships with the state government and between counties, healing in order to make a new Cobo Hall, healing to help address the issues before the school board.  It is for others to remember that he is human."