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MLC Capitol Spotlight: An Interview with Representative Ben Frederick

Apr 20, 2017

Representative Ben Frederick (R-Owosso) was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in November 2016.  He represents the 85th House District, which includes Shiawassee County and a portion of Saginaw County.

Prior to his election to the legislature, Representative Frederick serves as a legislative staff member for fourteen years in both the House and Senate.  Locally, he served on the Owosso City Council since 2007 and was the city’s youngest mayor, holding that office for seven years.

Representative serves as chair of the House Workforce and Talent Development Committee and as a member of the Commerce and Trade, Local Government, and Agriculture committees.

1.    What attracted you to running for the Legislature?
I felt well prepared to run after years as a staffer and in local government.  I was attracted to the fast pace of the job and the myriad of policy items with which a legislator is involved.

2.    When did you first realize you wanted to be a Dem/GOP?  
My origins as a Republican occurred as young adult, particularly as I began to collect a paycheck and realize the shamefully low return on investment received for my taxes – particularly at the federal level.  

a.    What attributes of your party do you most identify with?
Coming out of poverty, I believed very strongly that opportunity for individual pursuits such as entrepreneurship and innovation were more attainable in a free society.  I also saw social programs as a pathway to independence rather than a destination that stifles dignity and personal opportunity.  The party platform of being protective of life from conception to natural death also tied into my worldview.

3.    What individuals from your community have shaped and prepared you to be a legislator?
I have had the good fortune to have many mentors both from my 14 years on staff as well as my decade of involvement in the city of Owosso as a councilmember and as mayor.  On the staff side, I was mentored by such senior staff as now-Rep. Tim Sneller, Bill Drake, Marty Fittante, John Lazet, Richard Barclay as well as my former employers now-Senator Dave Robertson, former Sen. Roger Kahn and Joel Johnson.
In the community, I have had the good fortune to interact with leaders such as Ron DeHaas of Covenant Eyes, Tom Mayan of Mayan Insurance, Bruce and Tom Cook of the Cook Family Foundation, Perry Superintendent Mike Foster, Justin Horvath of the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership and numerous others.  

4.    What issues would you like to advocate for because of a personal life experience?
I am particularly interested in advocating for trade-based opportunities for youth and adults.  On the personal side, I observed many of my classmates struggle with a lack of job opportunities.  Many who had skills or a pathway left the state while many more are even today still living at home seeking other opportunities.

5.    What do you anticipate being the biggest difference serving as a legislator compared with your experience as a local official?
Locally, the issues are very particularly to the needs of one community.  As a state legislator, I must balance the needs of the entire state.  This has challenges to be sure as we consider the inherent differences between regions and communities.  One goal I have as a legislator is not to lose my local focus as a part of my decision-making.  A trend toward top down or one-size-fits-all policies would be be harmful to our local communities and schools.

6.    How has your previous career, political or private sector, shaped the legislator you will be?
My previous role as a state legislative staffer has certainly shaped my approach as a legislator.  I learned the give and take of the legislative process, how quickly time passes in a term-limited environment, and the importance of understanding what is deserving of immediate attention and what is simply a distraction.  One phrase from an early mentor I keep in mind daily is “your constituency is reality and Lansing is the Land of Oz.”

7.    What one thing would you like to highlight that makes your district special?
The 85th District is special in many ways.  One particular distinctive is our landscape of public school systems.  Each district is broadly supported and visible within their respective communities and feature varied offerings to include superb international baccalaureate opportunities and a growing number of career technical programs.  I am hopeful that with increased flexibility we will have even more innovation to celebrate in coming years.

8.    What are some of your favorite activities to participate in on your free time?
When I had hobbies before beginning public service, I enjoyed reading, visiting scenic locales, tennis and watching classic movies.

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