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Posted on Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 1:20 p.m.

City attorney reflects on decade working alongside Ann Arbor's longest-serving mayor

By Ryan J. Stanton


City Attorney Stephen Postema, standing, was assigned the task of introducing Mayor John Hieftje, seated, at Wednesday's meeting of the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Before Mayor John Hieftje gave his unofficial "state of the city" address to the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor on Wednesday, City Attorney Stephen Postema shared a few words.

He talked about what it's been like working with the longest-serving mayor in the city's history. Hieftje's nearly 13 years now trumps former Mayor William E. Brown Jr.'s 12 years from 1945 to 1957.


Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje addresses the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor on Wednesday.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"While I have served over 30 council members in my decade as city attorney, I have only served one mayor," Postema said. "This stability, I believe, has contributed a great deal to the success of Ann Arbor over the last decade, including through one of the most difficult economic periods."

Hieftje began his first term as mayor in 2000 after serving as a 1st Ward representative on the City Council. He now lives in the 3rd Ward near Burns Park.

No matter where he has lived, Postema said, Hieftje has proven popular with Ann Arbor residents — re-elected six times by landslide margins.

"Mayor Hieftje has won his mayoral races by large margins in every ward of the city, in part because of the recognition of his dedication to service above self," Postema said.

Offering some insight into his working relationship with the mayor, Postema recalled talks they had two years ago about the now-closed Dream Nite Club, which he called a "violent night club."

A winning record

Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje has defeated every opponent to come his way since his first mayoral race in 2000.

  • November general 2012
    John Hieftje — 84.11%
    Albert Howard — 15.23%
  • November general 2010
    John Hieftje — 81.99%
    Steve Bean — 17.55%
  • August primary 2010
    John Hieftje — 83.91%
    Pat Lesko — 15.59%
  • November general 2008
    John Hieftje — 84.94%
    Eric Plourde — 14.52%
  • August primary 2008
    John Hieftje — 68.60%
    Tom Wall — 31.27%
  • November general 2006
    John Hieftje — 78.88%
    Tom Wall — 21.12%
  • August primary 2006
    John Hieftje — 69.71%
    Wendy Woods — 30.29%
  • November general 2004
    John Hieftje — 68.65%
    Jane Lumm — 31.17%
  • November general 2002
    John Hieftje — 75.05%
    Marcia Higgins — 24.83%
  • November general 2000
    John Hieftje — 68.34%
    Stephen Rapundalo — 27.94% Charles Goodman — 3.70%
"Many of you know that I was in a battle with the Dream Nite Club for a long period of time," said Postema, who fought in court to get the club shut down.

"That actually started way back in 2011 on Memorial Day weekend when there was a shooting outside the club, and there were many people outside," he said. "There was really a shootout in the streets of Ann Arbor and young people were injured."

Postema said he heard from police quickly after the shooting, and he also heard from the city administrator, but the first call he got was from the mayor.

"And his concern was not that this would tarnish the image of the town, it was not that it would affect nightlife downtown," he said. "The immediate concern of the mayor was really about that there were young people who came to Ann Arbor to enjoy a good time and they left shot and injured in our hospital, and that simply was unacceptable. His immediate concern was for those people.

"He didn't go on. He didn't tell me what to do," Postema added. "He just wanted it taken care of because that should not happen in the city. I'll always remember that."

He also talked about what it's like working on the third floor of city hall, where the mayor's office, city administrator's office and city attorney's office are located.

"There is no lack of transparency — we all have glass windows, so we can see everyone who's coming and going throughout city hall," Postema said.

"And it is true the mayor has an incredible sense of pulse of the city," he said. "I see the people who come to see him on his regular Friday morning time with the citizens of Ann Arbor. It's really quite moving the number of people who come through to see the mayor."

Before Hieftje was elected in 2000, Ann Arbor had a Republican mayor for several years, and the Democrats thought they'd take a shot at regaining the throne. Hieftje went up against the GOP's chosen candidate, Stephen Rapundalo, who was chairman of the Park Advisory Commission, and came out ahead with more than two-thirds of the vote.

"That was a pretty contested race," Hieftje said. "It was sort of the Democrats saying, 'You know, we can take over the mayor's job,' and it turned out to work."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.



Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 1:44 p.m.

The mayor speaking at rotary and the story about it, the friendly looking photo of the mayor here, the upcoming primary election, etc. They're pulling out all the stops. God forbid Kunselman and Lumm retain their seats, and Eaton wins!


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 1:40 p.m.

This is so obviously history repeating. For centuries. Media, business interests, and government working hand in glove.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 2:22 a.m.

Unfortunately, most residents know little about our city attorney. has published several articles on him; here's one.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 8:30 p.m.

I would suggest that you know little about the real Postema yourself. He is an honest man. Trying to make hay out of what was either not defined or a mistake says more about the accuser than the accused.

Colorado Sun

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 3:33 a.m.

Great article by Patricia Lesko. CM Sumi Kailasapathy, a certified public accountant, was leading the charge at questioning the double-dipping by Steve Postema. Both Ms. Lesko and Sumi should be lauded for their work in unearthing "PostemaGate".


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 11:50 p.m.

And I quote: "Mayor Hieftje has won his mayoral races by large margins in every ward of the city, in part because of the recognition of his dedication to service above self," Postema said. Or should it read: "Mayor Hieftje has won his mayoral races by large margins in every ward of the city, in part because of the recognition of his dedication to service (FIXING ROADS) above self (BUYING MORE ART WORK)," Postema said. :)

Colorado Sun

Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 10:14 p.m.

Some points: (1)The Dream Nite Club license case is pending before the Michigan Court of Appeals where Postema is defending an appeal brought by Dream-Nite counsel Roger Farinha; (2)In an L.C.C. violation hearing in February 2013 in which the AAPD liquor control officer appeared, an LCC hearing officer dismissed a charge for lack of evidence against Dream-Nite that it allowed fighting on the premises; (3)Postema was City Attorney during E-mailgate and opined that the e-mailing at City Council meetings did not violate the Open Meetings Act - then quickly had the City of Ann Arbor settle the lawsuit before Judge Archie Brown brought over alleged Open Meetings Act allegations made by the Hooper Hathaway law firm on behalf of Herb David Guitar Studio and Jerusalem Gardens; (4)Postema was involved in mileage and travel allowance reimbursement controversy earlier this year whe he collected both simultaneously - dubbed by some as "PostemaGate"; (5)Postema is Michigan's highest-paid City Attorney employee -making almost double what most city attorneys earn in this state; (6)Postema imposed an embarrassingly light punishment upon his City Prosecutor after a drunk driving arrest by the WCSD; (7)Postema withdrew his name from a circuit court candidacy last year due to an alleged "foot injury"; (8)While Postema did persuade Liquor Committee hearing officer Tony Derezinski to decide non-renewal of the Dream-Nite liquor license, Derezinski lost his City Council seat in an unexpected landslide after Dream-Nite supporters enthusiastically supported pro-business candidate Sally Hart Peterson in the Second Ward Democratic Party primary;


Mon, Jun 17, 2013 : 12:05 a.m.

Jack is 100% right.... "Colorado Sun" you are wasting your time and energy.... As most readers probably recognize, "Colorado Sun" is one of a handful of supporters of the former Dream Nightclub who make it their mission to harass or criticize anyone that actually stood up and shut them down. This would include: the City Attorney, the City Council members, the County Judges, the Federal Court Judge, etc. The City Attorney did what was necessary to defend the City from their various lawsuits. He was rightfully successful in Court as outlined in numerous articles and even an Observer bio. I saw online recently that the City Attorney was also recognized as one of the top lawyers in the state by a legal journal -- "Leaders in the Law" in the State of Michigan -- for his work last year. Everytime "Colorado Sun" or one of his Dream Nightclub cronies complains about the City Attorney, the rest of Ann Arbor takes it as a reconfirmation of a job well done. Thanks for standing up for what is right Mr. City Attorney! p.s... While "Colorado Sun" may now support Councilmember Peterson, I sincerely doubt she or any good public official is interested in accepting the support from anyone in the Dream Nightclub camp.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 8:28 p.m.

JBK - He has this at his "fingertips" because he is either the owner or attorney for Dream. He has an axe to grind with Postema because Postema was successful in getting this eyesore of a nightclub shut down. Be cautious in believing what he writes; he is out to smear Postema who does not deserve it.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 12:14 a.m.

Wow! Impressive that you would have this at your finger tips!:)


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

Postema, what a great guy! He should be the next Mayor of Ann Arbor!


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 8:41 p.m.

"While I have served over 30 council members in my decade as city attorney, I have only served one mayor," Interestingly, no where does Mr. Postema say he serves the people of Ann Arbor. I realize that in some sense he "serves" the mayor and council, but the fact is that is the mindset of local, state and national politicians. They consider themselves the "leaders" of the people and they "serve" each other. Mr. Postema should view his service strictly to the City and its people and not to any person by virtue of public office. It's a mindset but it is an important one.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 8:33 p.m.

From the Ann Arbor City Charter: "The Attorney shall be attorney and counsel for the City, and shall be responsible solely to the Council." Postema had it right; he seems to know who he serves. He does not serve the people of the city; he serves council. Are you suggesting he circumvent the letter of the law?

This Post Doesn't Have A Name

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 12:21 a.m.

"Excepting" not exceptiong.

This Post Doesn't Have A Name

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 12:16 a.m.

I believe that he serves the municipal corporation called the city of Ann Arbor, and to serve its citizens also would be a conflict of interest. The reason for the "wall of separation" between city and citizens is so that he can give his all to his "client," the city, without diluting his efforts. His office represents all city employees in their capacity as city employees (exceptiong labor issues involving a union contract. Then he represents the city, i.e., the municipal corporation.)

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 11:50 p.m.

I don't think anyone should read any lack of sense of duty to the citizens of Ann Arbor into what he stated. He was speaking more literally about the fact that he serves at the pleasure of council. The City Council hires and fires the city attorney, and so he technically works for the council, which is why he spoke in terms of the number of council members he has served.

lou glorie

Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 7:44 p.m.

It's customary for hagiographies to be written after the saint is in heaven and canonized.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 12:04 a.m.

The hagiography of Hieftje. I like it. Has a ring to it.


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 7:43 p.m.

Sounds a lot like the mutual admiration society. Go figure!

Colorado Sun

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 12:41 a.m.

@Ryan Stanton: After Dream-Nite Club was "taken care of", Hieftje's political fortunes began tanking: (1)his ally CM Tony Derezinski was unexpectedly voted out of office in August 2012; (2)the City Council began considering an ordinance removing him from the DDA; (3)he drew fire from residents over 413 E.Huron; (4)he was blamed in some quarters over the fact all Downtown Area Citizens Advisory Council seats were allowed to lapse without notice as of October 2012 - it was not discovered until over six months later following FOIA requests from Pat Lesko; (5)his appointment to the Taxicab Board, Eric Sturgis, resigned after missing numerous meetings; (6)he was criticized for previously appointing husband-wife pairs to the Downtown Area CAC.


Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 12:19 a.m.

It's the Rotary Club. If you think that there will be any "lambasting" there you are smoking crack.

Ryan J. Stanton

Fri, Jun 14, 2013 : 12:02 a.m.

I've been covering city hall four years now and I'd say it's rare for the city attorney to step out of his usual role and offer these kinds of remarks so publicly. It's worth having this kind of perspective on record, and his insight into the discussions around the Dream Nite Club and how the mayor "wanted it taken care of" was interesting, so I think there was some value in capturing that. I also would have written up the story if the city attorney lambasted the mayor, which would have been just as interesting, but he didn't.


Thu, Jun 13, 2013 : 11:04 p.m.

And the perfect publication to cover that.