Ballotopedia

Sherry on the issues:

This information was provided by Sherry A Wells to Ballotopedia.

Who are you? Tell us about yourself.

I have been known as Community Activist for the nine years that I lived in Mt. Clemens and the 32 years now in Ferndale. I have run for local office and was elected to Ferndale's Charter Revision Commission, which I chaired for two of the three years. I enjoyed volunteering in each of the seven communities in the 27th House district and in several organizations in the Metro Detroit area. Since 2016, I organized annual Girls in Aviation Days at Detroit City Airport.


I worked through college and earned a degree in Education.  I went from being on ADC with a baby to being a welfare caseworker to being a law student. After passing the bar, I worked for Legal Aid, then had my own general practice for many years. I wrote Michigan Law for Everyone plus four revisions from 1984 to 2002.


I ran for the State Board of Education in 2014, 2016, and 2018. I attended many of its meetings and many school board meetings and presentations about education in Metro Detroit and across the state. The legislature has failed to support schools, which is a primary reason I now run to be a State Representative.

Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

"Sherry A. Wells will: listen to you, learn from you, legislate for you." I have asked and learned that low voter turnout is not due to apathy but due to a system that does not serve the public. A legislator is a public servant and I will be one.


Michigan ranks low in Education in the US, especially in Special Education, due to inadequate and inequitable funding. Michigan pays $35,000 per prisoner but barely $10,000 per student. Schools should not be organized for profit but only for investing in students. There needs to be wrap-around services. Michigan lacks skilled tradespersons and must increase training programs. There is dignity in being skilled. College isn't for everyone and we've made it no longer affordable for most anyway.


The Criminal Justice system is costly. Too many offenses are "crimes." Due to bail being too often assessed and too high, our jails are filled and lower-income families are devastated. There must be a triage in every incident to determine whether mental health, substance abuse or actual criminal intent is present and action is taken accordingly. There needs to be treatment and diversion alternatives to expensive jailhouses. And I would go back to the term "peace officers" for law enforcement personnel..

What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?

In addition to the above-legislators deal with many issues:
Gun Sense legislation-I lost one divorce client to gun violence. I will continue the press for the Red Flag bill, better background checks, gun safety.
Reproductive freedom to make one's own decisions about if, when, and how to raise a family.

Speaking of families, there is no excuse for poverty in the wealthiest nation when we can have living wages, wage equity, paid sick leave, health care for all, child care, and more, as other democracies have proven possible. Speaking of work, let's create jobs to fill sustainable energy needs.


And expand a transit system, especially in the Metropolitan Detroit region, to get people to those jobs, to schools and medical appointments and to reduce pollution, and land overtaken by parking lots and freeways.


Pollution otherwise must be reined in, prevented and polluters must pay, including for the childhood asthma it causes, which is the leading cause of school absenteeism.
Ranked Choice Voting, already in Ferndale's City Charter and used in the state of Maine, permits voters to choose alternative acceptable candidates if no one achieves a majority.
National Popular Vote reflects "one person-one vote," bypasses the Electoral College, and puts into office those who ultimately have the votes of a majority.
All of the above cover the Green Party's 4 Pillars: Environment, Social Justice, Grassroots Democracy, Nonviolence.

Who do you look up to? Whose example would you like to follow, and why?

My stepMom. She raised us from when I was 9, after our mother died from a car crash. I'm sure that, to some extent, though she passed in 2015, she is still taking care of me. For one thing, she left behind dozens of quart jars of Traverse City cherries that she canned and those have been good for the little bit of arthritis that I have.


I've told friends, "Whatever traits you appreciate about me, I got them from her." My young son gave me a huge compliment as we crossed a parking lot. I'd struck up a conversation with another woman walking nearby. "Just like Grandma. Making friends with everybody."


Those in Georgia, where she'd last lived, miss her, too. They describe her as "Warm, funny. And stubborn." (In a good way, of course!)
She quoted Gloria Steinem: "If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament."


She invited a woman to go with her to an event. The woman said, "I need to ask my husband." Mom said, "I don't ask Harry for permission."
I'm sure Mom was the one who raised my sister and me to be feminists.


She taught us to recycle like they did during the Depression. She volunteered when we were in 4-H and afterward. She volunteered wherever they lived.
Mom was the inspiration for my book, Warm and Wonderful Stepmothers of Famous People.

Is there a book, essay, film, or something else you would recommend to someone who wants to understand your political philosophy?

I've read many books and have more on my list. The most recent ones were about the Black Panthers and the Gray Panthers organizations and I watched films about them both.
By way of an essay, I'd say the Ten Pillars of the Green Party of the US, because, after a simple invitation to read them, they sold themselves. It's the kind of world I've been working towards (click on the key to go to the key values page):

What characteristics or principles are most important for an elected official?

Being approachable by the public and by other legislative colleagues.
Having the ability to listen, truly listen, and to check your understanding.
Being reliable and doing what you say you will do or have done.
Being honest and ethical-because of Watergate, the law school created a course on Ethics and my class was the first to be required to take it-8 AM in January.
A sense of humor is always a valuable and, in fact, a necessary asset.

What qualities do you possess that you believe would make you a successful officeholder?

The ones I listed in a prior question:
Being approachable by the public and by other legislative colleagues.
Having the ability to listen, truly listen, and to check your understanding.
Being reliable and doing what you say you will do or have done.
Being honest and ethical.
A sense of humor.

What do you believe are the core responsibilities for someone elected to this office?

Keep in contact with constituents-" coffees," newsletters, available by telephone, email.-keep that
two-way communication open.
Hire, train, and supervise staff who will be your right (er, left) arm to help fulfill the previous item.
Attend sessions and committee meetings and come prepared.
Attend community events as much as possible.
Take care of your health, including mental health-such as by regular visits to state parks.

What legacy would you like to leave?

I'd like to be part of statutory and Michigan Constitutional changes that improve upon those issues I've named.

I'd like to inspire people to be more involved in their local governments.

What is the first historical event that happened in your lifetime that you remember? How old were you at the time?

The 1960s were historical, for too many reasons:
In May 1961, I was in high school. Alan Shepard was in the first manned space flight. The gym teacher sent us outside and would not permit us to join the rest of the students to listen to it on the Public Address system.


In 1963, President Kennedy was killed. I remember students sobbing at the news.
In April 1968, I was attending Michigan State University when Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Watching the solemn, silent procession of students walking across the campus was poignant.
In June 1968, I was about to get off the bus by campus when I heard on the bus radio that Robert F. Kennedy had been killed. I was stunned. I could not believe there was yet another political assassination. In my country.


1972, Gov. Wallace of Alabama. December 1980, John Lennon. March 1981 President Reagan shot at and James Brady. And that doesn't count the Black Panthers and other blacks I've learned about being killed by police in the 1960s to today.
Yes, we need Gun Sense.

What was your very first job? How long did you have it?

I was attending junior college and worked part-time in a small non-chain pizza restaurant. I learned to continue to greet customers with a smile, even at 2 AM when some came in surly and obnoxious after the bars closed. I was fired several months later when I didn't accept the boss's advances. The term "sexual harassment" was yet to be invented.


After graduating from that college, I joined my new husband at Fort Hood, Texas. I was hired on post and learned on-the-job to keypunch. I used that skill also to work on campus while going after my B.A. at Michigan State University. I'm having to explain what keypunching was to the generation of new adults!

What is your favorite book? Why?

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. It took a long time to read because I could absorb only one page each evening. Lines from it come to consciousness often.

What was the last song that got stuck in your head?

Blue Boat Home-the lyrics talk about the earth and the music makes me feel like I am on a boat and I sway to the sea below it.

What is something that has been a struggle in your life?

Adequate income for most of it for many, many reasons. "Women's wages" and sex discrimination, single parenthood with no support-neither monetarily or involvement for my son. My daughter's father did fine (Daddy's little girl!)


As an attorney, I kindly did not insist on "get the money upfront" because I understood how difficult it would be to pay legal fees, but even with installments, sometimes it felt like too many clients thought, "All attorneys are rich. Why should I pay mine?!"


At one talk I was giving about Divorce, I discussed attorney fees. Someone in the audience said, "Well you can just sue for your fees." And I quoted my profession: "That's called earning your fee twice." Point taken!

Do you believe that it’s beneficial for state legislators to have previous experience in government or politics?

Most definitely.  I think of the terms "Entry level" and "the Minors and the Majors."  Previous experience can teach knowledge and skills and give one practice in dealing with procedures and people. And reading budgets.


My first piece of advice is to encourage citizens, and especially prospective candidates, to attend city council and school board meetings and get appointed to a citizen board or commission that is also part of the government process.


When I served on Ferndale's Charter Revision Commission, I learned an approach that I believe men who've been in sports take for granted. I learned that you don't need to like everyone on the team to work together to get the ball between the goalposts.


As Chair of that body, I practiced a lot of graciousness and tact during public comments. I call that "being politic."  


Campaigning is a graduate course in itself. From getting on the ballot-preferably by obtaining signatures from those you hope to be your constituents-to drafting both campaign literature and volunteers, answering questionnaires (such as this one!), being in interviews and forums, fundraising-it's a lot. A lot of working with people and that is key.


While campaigning, one of my favorite exchanges was with a citizen who was sitting on a chair atop his steps.  "I'm Sherry Wells and I'm running for Mayor. What do you want me to know?"


He waved his arm towards the other chair and said, "Have a seat!"

Do you believe it’s beneficial to build relationships with other legislators? Please explain your answer.

At a Community Conversation, my State Rep., Robert Wittenberg, who is now term-limited, gave his audience members an invitation to shadow him for a day. So I did.


During most of the afternoon session, he returned to his seat to press the button for a vote but was otherwise nowhere to be seen. When he popped up to the balcony to ask if I had any questions, I asked where he'd been.


I was sitting where I could see his 'side of the aisle,' which meant I was sitting above the Republicans. Which is where he had been, talking with them about bills and issues.


Another Representative told her audience about a bill that passed with bipartisan support. The Democrats had their reasons for it, but the Republicans favored it for different reasons. That was a wonderful example of seeking to learn where all sides can meet.


Every district is different. Because legislators vote on issues that affect other parts of the state, we do need to learn about realities and concerns in those areas.

If you are not a current legislator, are there certain committees that you would want to be a part of?

Rep. Wittenberg told me that the legislators are asked to give background information and the committee which assigns these tries its best to make good matches. That was encouraging to hear. His committees were not meeting on the day that I shadowed him, so I looked up which ones were meeting that morning.

I attended Families, Children, and Seniors first, then Corrections. Each of them had organizations lined up to give presentations. That morning was about Senior programs for the first meeting. For Corrections, the challenges in recruiting and training Corrections Officers were the topics. Both meetings were fascinating and informative, even if I were there only as a private citizen.

 I've studied the list of House committees and I think that a good fit for me would be Education;   Families, Children, and Seniors; and Judiciary.

 I suspect that anyone who read the previous pages of this questionnaire would likely come up with the   same conclusion.