The tribal chairman of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians is hoping to use his experience in working with politicians in Washington, D.C., to give the residents in Michigan's First Congressional District a stronger voice, he said.
Derek Bailey stopped by The News to explain why he believes he should be the first congressional district's next representative. He and Gary McDowell, who served a term as the state representative for Michigan's 107th district, are running to be the Democratic nominee for the Nov. 2 election.
Bailey, 38, lives with wife Tonia in Benzie County. They have three sons and two daughters aged three to 14. He earned a master's of psychology degree from Grand Valley State University in 1998.
Political life began for Bailey in 2004 when he was elected to the Grand Traverse Band's tribal council. In 2008, he became the youngest person to be elected tribal chairman. In 2010, he was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the National Advisory Council on Indian Education, and he's currently the chairman of Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan.
The decision to run for United States representative came after Bailey was repeatedly asked to run for office outside of the tribal government, he said.
"At first I was very honored, and humbled, and more and more it became an occurrence," he said.
As he made presentations about the Grand Traverse Band's efforts in the lawsuit to stop Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes, more people asked him to speak to their elected representatives.
"What I was recognizing is that there was a disconnect," Bailey said.
If elected, Bailey would continue the fight to keep Asian carp at bay as part of an overall policy of protecting northern Michigan's air, land and water, he said.
"The uniqueness of District One is that three of the five Great Lakes, their shorelines touch District One," Bailey said. "So we definitely need to be a stronger advocate for the protection, preservation and enhancement of the Great Lakes."
As tribal chairman, Bailey has had firsthand experience in job creation, he said. The Grand Traverse Band is one of the largest employers in Northwest Michigan, and it provides jobs with benefits to more than just tribal members.
"I'm a big advocate for small businesses, and I truly feel that it's going to be our small businesses in our district and our state (that) will help our economy rebound," he said.
Providing incentives for small businesses even those that create a single job can help to keep college graduates in the district, he said.
Bailey also has experience in dealing with financial troubles, he said.
"When I was elected chairman in 2008, I inherited a $4.1 million deficit," Bailey said. "The following year, it went to a deficit of $849,000. In fiscal year 2011, we ended up with a $632,000 surplus. So I know what it takes to lead during hard economic times, making decisions, but also communicating to citizenship why and how they are going to be impacted by those changes."
Education programs, especially for the youngest children, would be high on Bailey's priority list, he said. Research has shown the most critical development is happening in children's brains from birth to age five.
"That's the least-funded area," he said.
More investment in early education is needed to give the next generation the developmental "cornerstone" that they need, he added.
Health care, including access for people in rural areas, would be another focus of Bailey's, he said. Another aspect would be preventive messaging as a way to combat diabetes, heart problems and other growing health concerns.
"With preventive messaging, we can talk about diet, nutrition, and other ways to raise awareness about these health problems," he said.
Jordan Travis can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5688.