Mayor Smith, Rep.-elect Aiyash, Rep. Pohutsky, and Justice-elect Welch.
Mayor Smith, Rep.-elect Aiyash, Rep. Pohutsky, and Justice-elect Welch.

Finding something to be grateful for in 2020 isn’t always easy, but these Michigan leaders have found the bright spots amid this tense, exhausting year.

MICHIGAN—From the tip of the Upper Peninsula to the heart of Detroit, Michiganders are finding the bright spots in 2020 and being thankful for them this week. 

Without a doubt, this has been a hard year. Between a global health emergency isolating us, a bitter election dividing us, and rising economic insecurity born of a fragile economy between us, it can feel like there’s nothing to feel gratitude about in 2020. But there are still things to be thankful for, Michigan leaders remind us. 

Mayor Jenna Smith Is Thankful for Her Healthy Family

Like most Michiganders, the Thanksgiving table will be a little more sparse for Michigan’s elected officials. But in the Upper Peninsula town of Marquette, Mayor Jenna Smith is thankful the family around her table Thursday remains healthy during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“This year I am grateful for my healthy family,” Smith told The ‘Gander, “which includes my caring husband Lou, my adventurous 4-year-old daughter Olive, and my curious 10-month old-daughter Clara.”

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Smith is also thankful she has the chance to do real good for a community she cares deeply about by serving as its mayor. 

“I am also thankful for the opportunity to do meaningful work in my hometown, especially during the COVID-19 situation,” she said. “I truly do enjoy helping people find resources, providing transparent information, and making decisions that will benefit the Marquette community.”

State Rep.-Elect Abraham Aiyash Is Thankful for Patience

Another leader expressing appreciation for their family is Hamtramck’s new state Rep. Abraham Aiyash, who won a race to succeed his best friend, the late Isaac Robinson. Specifically, he’s thankful for his family’s patience during the pandemic. 

“You know, I’m thankful I have a very patient family,” he said. “It’s difficult, I think a lot of people are anxious … but I think they understand the magnitude of this issue.”

The recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to hold smaller gatherings at Thanksgiving this year has disrupted traditions and made lives more difficult. Aiyash is happy his family has largely made the necessary sacrifices to stay healthy with grace. 

But he’s also thankful that his family is patient with him.

“They were also patient with my campaign,” he added with a laugh. 

State Rep. Laurie Pohutsky Is Thankful for Voices Being Heard

Speaking with Livonia state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky the evening that Michigan certified its election results, she was understandably thankful that the process exists to ensure votes were counted and free from political interference. As an elected official in Wayne County, Pohutsky was keenly aware of the contention over the certification process in 2020, and how especially important it was that the process existed as it did in a time of high tension. 

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“I’m grateful for my friends, family, health,” she told The ‘Gander. “Especially in light of recent events, [I’m grateful for] a system that values and protects the votes of all of us.”

Pohutsky was one of hundreds of people making public comments to the Board of State Canvassers Monday night, urging them to ensure the votes of Detroiters were heard in this election. That they were so close to a holiday of gratitude seemed, to her, an appropriate time to give her thanks. 

Justice-Elect Elizabeth Welch Is Thankful for Her Support System

Like most Michiganders who have managed to dodge the pandemic largely unscathed, the newly-elected state Supreme Court justice is thankful that her family has been, so far, relatively healthy. One college-aged family member was diagnosed with the virus but was asymptomatic and was able to navigate things rather well.

“I mean, obviously, I’m thankful that so far my family has managed to navigate this pandemic,” Justice-elect Elizabeth Welch told The ‘Gander, echoing many other leaders. “I’m really thankful for my team, my friends, and supporters.”

At first, Welch’s campaign was held in-person. But as the pandemic raged across Michigan, her campaign pivoted to Zoom. By the end, it was a mix of in-person and online events before another surge of the virus in the final days of the campaign. This forced her team to be adaptable, and she was grateful for their ability to do just that. 

“Every evening, seven nights a week, I was on [Zoom] for a long time, if not in person, and I really—I had a really positive experience,” she said. “I’m so proud of the work we did. And just, my friends. I feel so lucky, I have incredible, incredible friendships whether they’re part of the Bar [Association] or not.”

From her family, to her campaign staff, to her friendships, Welch is grateful for the support system she cultivated this year.

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