Denise Mentzer has been in working peoples’ shoes. Now running for state House, she’s hoping to be a voice for them.

Election Day is Nov. 8. Michigan will be voting on a number candidates—including for governor, secretary of state, attorney general, and Michigan Supreme Court, plus three important statewide proposals about term limits, voting rights and reproductive freedom. 

Meet Denise Mentzer, a longtime Mount Clemens City Commissioner and a Democrat who is running to represent the 61st House District of Michigan—which covers Mount Clemens, and parts of Sterling Heights and Clinton Township.

Mentzer was born in Mount Clemens and graduated from L’Anse Creuse High School. She graduated from Baker College with a degree in business administration, while also working two jobs.

3 Things to Know About Denise Mentzer:

  1. She’s a strong advocate for clean water.

Mentzer is deeply concerned about the state’s aging infrastructure—especially when it comes to safe, clean drinking water for Michiganders. The state has had several high-profile cases of lead and other toxic chemicals seeping into water supplies. And while Mount Clemens has been lucky, Mentzer knows from her experience as a city commissioner that local water systems could use some upgrades.

The Mount Clemens water filtration facility located along Lake St. Clair is especially crucial, Mentzer said. It doesn’t just supply residents of the city—but also the nearby Air National Guard base, Harrison Township, and parts of Clinton Township, too.

“It needs upgrades. We’re putting band-aids on it,” Mentzer said. “We just raised the millage rate for that. So what can the state do to help us with that kind of infrastructure?”

With billions in surplus cash in the state budget and new federal investments from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Michigan has an unprecedented piggy bank to put forward to infrastructure projects. Mentzer wants to ensure local communities see plenty of that cash.

“It’s not a want; it’s a need,” Mentzer said. 

  1. She’s not just a politician. She’s an active community member.

When Mentzer lists off the organizations with which she’s involved, they’re not just about politics. 

Mentzer said she volunteers her time for the Mount Clemens Public Library, as well as local associations that attempt to provide housing to veterans experiencing homelessness. She also serves as the vice president of the Mount Clemens Optimist Club. 

“Everything we do is for the kids,” she said. “Everything we do has something to make their life better.”

One fundraiser for the Optimist Club is “Trunk or Treat,” where members and sponsors line up at a local parking structure to pass out candy. Though canceled this year, it will return in 2023. For Christmas, the club also partners with Mount Clemens High School guidance counselors to provide gifts to students.

“Each member ‘adopts’ a kid, and they tell us what they need, and we always ask them for what they want,” Mentzer said. “Last year, I had a young man who needed socks, he needed underwear, he needed a pair of shoes, and he needed a jacket. He didn’t even have a winter jacket. … His one want, and to me it wasn’t extravagant—he wanted a pair of earbuds.”

  1. She wants to fight for working people.

It’s natural for Mentzer to help those in need—because she was once in their shoes.

“I know this community, I know these people, and I can be their voice because I’m nobody fancy,” Mentzer said. “I’m not Saks Fifth Avenue. I worked two jobs when I went back to school to get my degree. I had my first job at 15. I grew up in a trailer park until I was 10.”

Mentzer’s blue-collar background extends to her policies, she said. She isn’t in the business of raising taxes for working-class families. She only wants to cut them, wherever and whenever possible.

One example: Mentzer wants to end the state sales tax on gas for the foreseeable future—a step further than what has been proposed in the current Legislature. Though the gas sales tax provides key funds for local governments and education, she wants to see that funding come from elsewhere in the budget.

“We need to eliminate the gas tax completely right now, not just cut it for a couple of weeks,” Mentzer said.

Mentzer also wants to support local units of government with more revenue sharing, so that the burden for fire departments and roads don’t fall on citizens in the form of millages. 

She also supports rolling back the retirement tax, which was reinstated by former Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration, and providing further support for Earned Income Tax Credits, which offer financial relief to working families with children. Whitmer supports both plans—giving the measures a good chance of passing if Democrats like Mentzer can take control of three more seats in the state House.

“I know what [people are] going through,” Mentzer added. “I know what it’s like to budget. I know what it’s like to say, ‘Okay, do I pay the electricity bill or do I pay the gas bill—which one goes late?’ I understand that because it’s happened to me.”