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MLC Capitol Spotlight: An Interview with Representative Joe Bellino

Apr 27, 2017

Representative Joe Bellino (R-Monroe) was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in November 2016.  He represents the 17th House District, which includes portions of Monroe and Wayne Counties.

Representative Bellino has been the owner and operator of Broadway Market for the past eighteen years.  Prior to that, he worked in the family beer and wine distributorship and worked for The Society of St. Vincent DePaul in Detroit.  Additionally, he previously worked on the service team at an auto shop.  Representative Bellino is a graduate of Monroe County Community College.  He served on the Board of Trustees at Monroe County Community College for fifteen years, and served as board chair.

1.    What attracted you to running for the Legislature?  
Having been on a community college board for over fifteen years and also on the Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers board for a similar time, I have always wondered how things rolled in Lansing. However, I never thought of running until a few years ago when I was in Lansing for an Energy Committee meeting. I told Representative LaVoy after the meeting that I was going to run for his seat when he was done. In the fall of 2015, I packed that away, planning to 2015 run in 2018. And that was the plan. After over thirty years of public service on those two boards I thought I could make a difference.

2.    When did you first realize you wanted to be a Dem/GOP?  What attributes of your party do you most identify with?  
In 1976 I voted for Jimmy Carter and the Bottle Bill, neither one worked out and I have been sorting bottles at my store for nineteen years now. Half of my class mates couldn't find a job in 1980 when they graduated. During my six years at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Detroit I realized that the ' concepts of the great society ' were not working. This was 1988-94. There were way too many people living in poverty and kids didn't have a chance. Plus, every week the papers were writing about the 'failing schools in the city,' it never got better for them under heavy Democratic Representation. I knew during this time I was a Republican and that free market jobs were the only way to get out of this mess.

a.    What attributes of your party do you most identify with?
The ideas of less government, less taxes, life at conception, and doing what's best for all the people not just 'dues payers'.

3.    What individuals from your community have shaped and prepared you to be a legislator?  
My first Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) sponsor was the Monroe city attorney and a man of great integrity. He would keep me abreast of city politics before our AA meetings; contract problems, city charter problems, powerful union connected people flexing their muscle, all sorts of things. One time I got wind that they were going to fire him, I showed up and told the city council that they should check their egos at the door and do what is best for the city. For a while our mayor ran a meat market and I delivered wine to him Mayor Mignano and I talked a lot about the city and his job.

4.    What issues would you like to advocate for because of personal life experience?  
I am a recovering addict and alcoholic; these issues are one of the few that are dear to me. We have a huge opioid problem, the governor appointed me to be on his Opioids Task force with two Senators and another Representative. The Republican Representative that previously served on the task force was termed out. Last year they got a few bills through and after our first meeting this term, I foresee a few more coming as a result. Thirty-two years of sobriety got me on the governor’s task force, that is not something that you think about earlier in sobriety.  Community Colleges and Work Force Development are also dear to me, with my over fifteen years on the board and a community college degree in hand.

5.    What do you anticipate being the biggest difference serving as a legislator compared with your experience as a local official?
On the community colleges board, I was one of seven, with a budget over $30 million. Some of the teacher unions thought I was useless, so really it was a lot like this new gig, only smaller.

6.    How has your previous career, political or private sector, shaped the legislator you will be?  
Community College graduate, a small business owner, thirty-three years married, six years with a non-profit helping the poor, recovering addict and alcoholic, and coming from a family where nobody ever did anything like this. . These are not political attributes that get elected every day!

7.    What one thing would you like to highlight that makes your district special?  
The American dream happens in the 17th House District. My great grandpa Bellino came from Italy at the turn of the 20th century to make a better life for his family. My mother’s father came up during the depression to work at a paper mill in Monroe to make a better life for his family. He was a poor farmer from a depressed area of Tennessee. They were both a great 'American Dream' story; their family tree has hundreds of hard working people.    My district is filled with families that came here for a better life; and family after family achieved this with a hard, blue collar, work ethic. This work ethic is the back bone of my district. This work ethic is at the heart of America.

8.    What are some of your favorite activities to participate in in your free time?  
Golf, visit my cottage in Au Gres, attend Broadway Shows (I received a drama scholarship in community college).  I also enjoy spending time with my grandkids, we have two and another on the way.

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