LANSING, MI — On April 29, 2001, State Representative Virgil Bernero (D-Lansing) made it official: He is a candidate for state senator in the 23rd district, covering most of Ingham County.
“Ingham County residents are accustomed to a high standard of leadership after being served so well by Debbie Stabenow and Dianne Byrum,” said Bernero. “I aim to maintain that high level of leadership, service and integrity. I am prepared and excited to work in the state Senate and address the many shortcomings of the Engler regime – with a new, Democratic governor.”
Bernero said academic excellence in our schools, access to higher education and health care and rebuilding the mental health system would be his top priorities in the senate. He made the announcement at a Lansing elementary school flanked by his family and supporters, including all six county-wide elected officials: Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth, Clerk Mike Bryanton, Prosecuting Attorney Stuart Dunnings III, Treasurer Eric Schertzing, Drain Commissioner Patrick Lindemann and Register of Deeds Paula Johnson.
“After years of neglect and mismanagement, many vital systems are strained to the breaking point,” said Bernero. “Public education is under stress, public health is under attack, mental health has been dismantled and care for the elderly is lacking. It is high time to restore common sense and human investment to state government.”
Bernero expects that “voters will demand progress by demanding change in November. 2003 is going to be a whole new ballgame. I’m excited about being part of the next chapter in Michigan’s future.
“Mine is a record of innovation and collaboration,” said Bernero. “As a county commissioner, I helped start the Youth Violence Prevention Coalition to help promote peace and reduce fighting in our schools as well as the Ingham Health and Prescription Plan to help expand access to health care. Now the state must step up and do its share. I’m confident that under new management it will.”
Bernero said serving in the minority party has been a challenge, and that he’s come to realize that success doesn’t necessarily come in the form of a law with one’s name on it.
“Several of my ideas have found their way to the Governor’s desk – albeit without my name on them.” “I’m proud to have been the first to propose early retirement for state employees, DNA testing for all convicted felons and stiffer punishment for victimizing children in sex crimes,” said Bernero.
“I know I am impacting the process when my ideas and bills are copycatted and become law. That’s what I’m here to do – to make a positive difference. Unlike some candidates, I don’t have to re-invent myself or run away from my record. I am proud of what we were able to do at the county and what I’ve stood up for in the House. Ingham County voters are very discerning and not easily mislead. I believe they will make a close study of the candidates, and I am confident they will find I best reflect the values of this community.”
Bernero’s biggest concern about the current Legislature: It’s constant quest for simple solutions to complex problems. Real solutions require more than sound bites and talking heads, according to Bernero. “Research and work groups used to be the way important policy changes were made. Too often, politics and polling are now in the driver’s seat.”
Bernero, 38, is married to Teri Bernero, principal of Wexford Community School, in Lansing. They have two daughters, Kelly and Virginia. Bernero is serving his first term in the state House after 8 years on the Ingham County Board of Commissioners and 7 years as legislative aide in the state House and Senate. Prior posts include work as executive director of the Michigan Association for Children with Emotional Disorders, a consumer advocate with the Michigan Citizens Lobby, and a development officer at Alma College.
Printed in Volume 1 Issue 8