Kiaira May | Photo Courtesy of Bre'Ann White

Flint, MI—Flint City Council voted not to appoint the Flint Downtown Development Authority’s interim executive director to the position permanently, with some council members saying she lacked the necessary qualifications.

If appointed, Kiaira May would have been the first Black woman to hold the title of executive director of the DDA—a role she’s been filling since her interim appointment in June.

According to her resume, May is a graduate of Wayne State University and has had experience working in real estate and various project coordination roles in Detroit.

She told the council that in her first months in the interim executive director position, she had been working on the “back end” of the DDA.

“Some of the things that I’ve done in regards to my employees is giving them contracts. They didn’t even have contracts when I started,” May said. “I didn’t have any documents prior. Everything that was done prior to me was word of mouth. So I’m literally moving from scratch on everything that I am doing. I’ve been networking in and out of the community and building relationships, going to as many events as I can.”

So far she said she’s worked to revamp the DDA’s website, start Food Truck Sundays downtown, and is now working on developing a committee to support small businesses.

She also said that she is looking to “rectify” issues with parking meters, find a solution for their deficit, and create public space that is accessible to all.

“I’m a minority. I’m African American. I’m a Black woman. And I have so many friends, and so, so many people here that I’ve met who are trying to get into these spaces,” she said. “I’m really trying to zero in and work with some of the landlords down here and figure out what their vision is, and how can we craft it to Flint’s vision, really focusing on the community to get more minority small businesses down here.” 

But some council members said they felt she didn’t meet the qualifications or have enough experience.

“I personally do not think that Ms. May is at the place or the level of experience where she should be to be able to manage the DDA,” said Vice President Allie Herkenroder. “However, being a public servant and respecting the voice of my constituents, I received a tremendous amount of public comments in support of her appointment, so I will be voting yes.”

Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer and Councilwoman Judy Priestley said they also felt May was not qualified enough for the position.

The vote came out to four yes and two no. May’s appointment needed five votes for approval, so it failed. 

Council President Eric Mays, Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter, Councilwoman Tonya Burns, and Herkenroder voted in support of her appointment. Pfeiffer and Priestley voted against her appointment, and three members were absent from the vote. Councilwoman Ladel Lewis had been removed from the meeting, and Councilman Quincy Murphy and Councilwoman Eva Worthing left the meeting.

When asked what the Dec. 13 decision meant for her and her position, May responded: “That I have to keep fighting. As the first black woman to ever be appointed by my board for the DDA, I have a duty to my employees and the relationships that I’ve built over the five months to keep pushing forward.”

The city administration did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....