Hey, you! Want to help run Michigan?

It’s the Friday night opening of the famed Media Weekend at the Michigan Political Leadership Program.

Two of the state’s sharpest wits – PR star Kelly Rossman-McKinney of Truscott Rossman and veteran journalist John Lindstrom of Gongwer News Service– are preparing the 24 MPLP Fellows to meet the press.

This Friday night, the Fellows are paying close attention, anxious about tomorrow. That’s when they’ll be interviewed, videotaped and critiqued over and over again until their presentation is well-polished.

This is the latest class of the Michigan Political Leadership Program, a program that has helped prepare many of the state’s top leaders over the past 20 years. Among them are a former mayor of Detroit and a former Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives.

This class includes a former West Michigan mayor, an outreach director, a self-employed attorney, a public health educator, an automotive marketing manager, a board-certified dermatologist and two members of the National Guard who’ve seen service in Afghanistan.

The Fellows are Republicans, Democrats and Independents, and they hail from all corners of Michigan. This group drove from as far away as Gladwin, Kalamazoo, Traverse City and southeast Michigan to spend the weekend training for public service.

Learning to govern

Before next February’s gala graduation, this group of 12 men and 12 women will spend two days a month for 10 months training for public office at every level. They’ll earn a certificate of participation from Michigan State University and bring MPLP’s alumni to just shy of 600.

Sessions will take them from Lansing to Grand Rapids to Detroit and back again, on tours of economic development and community revitalization, and in spirited discussion with each other and some of the state’s leading authorities on the economy, campaign finance, media relations, social media practices and personal leadership.

As this Friday winds up, I can’t resist sharing a story or two of my own. After nearly 30 years in state government, 10 of them as State Treasurer, I have a few stories I can tell.

One of my first television interviews lasted 20 minutes – forever to me – and left my stomach in knots. I needn’t have worried: those 20 minutes were cut to eight seconds. As I told Friday night’s group, there wasn’t enough of my time on TV to justify the butterflies.

Now, as I plan for retirement in 2015, this Media Weekend opening night was bittersweet, cause for quiet reflection and just a little pride.

During my 11 years as Director of the Institute for Public Policy and Social Research where MPLP makes its home at MSU, I’ve seen MPLP nearly double in alumni. MPLP’s two fundraising events – a late February dinner in Livonia followed the next day by a breakfast in Grand Rapids – are among the state’s largest bipartisan events.

We bring in nationally known speakers to the fundraisers, and the events are great draws for the must-hear speakers. We also know that the dinner and breakfast are must-attend events for the networking opportunities alone!

Record of success

Our MPLP graduates include former Detroit Mayor Kenneth V. Cockrel, Jr., former House Speaker Craig DeRoche, former Sen. Wayne Kuipers, House Minority Leader Tim Greimel and Aaron Payment, chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians.

During the election of 2012, 14 MPLP graduates were elected to Michigan’s House of Representatives -- all serving at the same time.

Our Co-Directors have extensive experience in state House leadership and state executive administration. Co-Director Anne Mervenne was a member of Gov. John Engler’s executive office, and Steve Tobocman, a former state House Majority Floor Leader. Our Fellows benefit from their bipartisan approach. Anne is a Republican. Steve is a Democrat.

This summer, we are welcoming applications for the MPLP Class of 2015. Applications are due Friday, Sept 5. There’s more information, plus application forms, on our website. Each applicant is interviewed and the next class announced before a new year of training starts in February.

An MPLP Fellow’s cost is a $1,000 administrative fee, incidental costs and the time and energy to invest in an excellent program. Each fellowship is valued at $12,000, money raised through MPLP’s dinner and breakfast, sponsorships and donations.

I’m proud of our Fellows and our graduates, and I’m proud of our program as it continues to grow and prosper.

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Thu, 08/28/2014 - 7:28am
No thanks, not interested in getting involved in the cesspool of Michigan politics.
Phill Orth
Thu, 08/28/2014 - 10:01am
At 64 years old I am now a bit long in the tooth to embark upon such an endeavor. However, after spending over 20 years as a city commissioner, two terms as a mayor, a former vice president of the Michigan Municipal League, and two unsuccessful campaigns for State Representative I wish that I could have gone through this program early in my political career. For anyone even thinking of getting involved in local, state or national politics...consider applying for one of these positions. It will be eye opening and educational.
Thu, 08/28/2014 - 3:55pm
First, MPLP is designed to clean up the "cesspool of Michigan politics". If folks dissatisfied with the current state of affairs aren't engaged in running for office and developing a different approach to how campaigns are run and how government is run, then we have little hope to change the current state of affairs. MPLP thrives on those wanting something better than the current state of affairs. Second, MPLP welcomes participants of all ages and, in fact, has had probably a half dozen participants over 60 in my four years with the program. We also have had some as young as 20. Age diversity--in addition to racial, ethnic, gender, ideological and most other forms of diversity you can imagine--is part of the decision-making lens we use in evaluating the 60-100 applicants we get for the 24 spots each year. Thanks Bridge for posting Doug's piecee. MPLP Co-Director Steve Tobocman
John Q. Public
Fri, 08/29/2014 - 9:21pm
Steve, read your own application (not yours personally; the generic one every person is supposed to fill out). If you aren't part of "the establishment" your chances of acceptance are greatly diminished. 1. Please list, in order of importance to you, your current participation in political, community, professional, social, religious and other activities. Organization Official Position Held Time Commitment Monthly 1. ____ ___ 2. ____ ___ 3. ____ ___ Briefly state what you would consider to be your most important contribution to the above organizations. _______ 1. Do you either hold elected office now or aspire to run for office? Hold elected office? Aspire to run for office? (Typically, MPLP does not accept applications from those who are running for office during their Fellowship year) 2. If you currently hold office, what position do you hold? 3. Please attach a statement of not more than two pages articulating your personal goals including the political activity you wish to pursue. Discuss highlights of recent leadership responsibilities and achievements: what was/were the greatest challenge(s) and what steps you took to overcome it/them. What outcomes do you hope for as a result of your participation in MPLP? (Please double space your remarks.) 4. On another sheet, describe a public policy issue that you believe needs attention and why this policy issue is important. (Please double space your remarks.) 5. Please attach a short biographical sketch limited to 100 words or less. The biographical sketch should include information related to employment, experiences, and accomplishments (Reference: www.ippsr.msu.edu/MPLP, click on “Fellows,” then click on “Current Fellows.” 6. Please provide two letters of recommendation from individuals who can evaluate your leadership potential. Name and Title Organization Phone 1._ _______ ____ 2. _ _______ ____ Letters of recommendation should describe why the applicant has potential as a future leader in Michigan or his/her potential to expand upon a current leadership position. The desire for "diversity" ends with diversity of thought; if you aren't "establishment" you're on the outside looking in. I have to say (disclosure: I once applied and was not accepted) that looking at the alumni, that's not a list on which I'd be proud to have my name appear. Rejection was serendipitous.
Sat, 08/30/2014 - 12:28pm
Steve, My reservations are that today's politics and elections are about campaigning and not governing. This article seems more about emphasizing campaigning style/appearances then it is about ethics, governmental disclosure/constraints, elected officials roles/responsibilities. Mr. Roberts is a Director of MSU public policy and social research and yet he makes no mention of the role policy has in governoring, makes no reference to what is expected of elected officials. I wonder why the program he is promoting doesn't include anything any training (no reference in the article) what is expected after election and only emphasizes getting elected. I wonder how he see improved campaigning skills will change governement for the better if the candidates aren't educated on what is expected of the office they are seeking. Do we need more impressive campaigners or more elected officials that better understand the roles and responsibilities of the office, the responsiblity of reading what they are voting on before voting, being engaged in governing rather then deligating those responsiblities to staff and government agencies?
Thu, 08/28/2014 - 4:11pm
Thank you for your kind words Phill. I'm sure the program would have benefited from having you participate.
Fri, 08/29/2014 - 8:45am
To all who have thought about applying for MPLP (or still wish they had), the minimum qualification to take part is that you be 18 years old. The maximum: the sky's the limit! Those of any age benefit from the interaction, so don't delay this year. Just click on the link bit.ly/applyformplp for more information!