UM-Flint Student, Flint City Councilman Santino Guerra Kicks-Off Term

Flint City Councilman Santino Guerra sits amidst a heated debate with his colleagues at City Hall. Sporting a grey two-piece suit and a festive candy cane striped tie; he listens closely. The argument is over vacant properties the city owns, and whether they should be turned over to the land bank.

Eric Mays, who represents the city’s first ward, was in heavy disagreement with Monica Galloway, who represents the seventh ward, who thinks the properties should be let go.

I catch up with Guerra afterward.

“That doesn’t happen often, we usually agree to disagree,” explained Guerra. He mentions that, while disagreements happen at meetings, all the councilmen walk away knowing they are working toward the same cause.

“We want what’s best for the residents in our ward, as well as the city of Flint at large. That’s what we need to be focusing on,” said Guerra.On November 7 of last year, Guerra ran against former Council President Kerry Nelson for the third ward seat and won. His victory has made him the youngest Councilman in Flint’s history.

Before he was Councilman Santino Guerra, he was Student Santino Guerra, and still is. He currently is a sophomore at UM-Flint and studies both criminal justice and sociology.

Shortly after winning the election, Guerra was appointed by Governor Rick Snyder to be a member of the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee. This committee will be “making recommendations regarding the health and welfare of people exposed to lead, studying Flint’s water infrastructure, and determining potential upgrades…and establishing ways to improve communication between local and state government,” according to the state of Michigan’s website.

When asked if his age created a disconnect with other council members, Guerra said no.

“When I first got elected, I think everyone else was in shock,” said Guerra. “But now as we work our way along and get to know each other, I think we see each other as equals, and don’t divide ourselves in regards to race, color, religion, views, or age.”

Guerra’s job is part-time and is on the city payroll. Additionally, he is a full-time student at UM-Flint.

He jokes, “In politics, you’re always working 24/7. It’s funny, as a resident of Flint my own tax dollars pay my salary.”

His position is not simply a title. Guerra explains the hard work that gets put into his job, with some meetings going until 3 a.m.

“I’m used to long meetings, but found the late evening surprising. But It was all positive, we were all working together to get work done,” said Guerra.

Another important aspect of his job is reading and listening.

“Whether it’s reading a legal document, making a phone call, or speaking to residents on big or small issues, it’s all important,” said Guerra.

He explains that since residents are essentially his neighbors, he makes it a point to treat them as such.

“Some people talk to me regarding the water, others about their day. If I am going to represent someone, I need to be approachable. I want them to know that I am here to listen,” said Guerra.

City council meetings are open to the public, but attendance at meetings varies on the topic.

“When we vote on anything with water, we are usually packed with people with opinions from both sides,” said Guerra. “One thing I can say is that there is never enough people there.”

Guerra elaborates his passion for the community to get involved, and explains how even a large crowd can still benefit from more attendees.

“I would love to see as many people as we can, especially a resident or someone from the area to come out and witness the meeting,” said Guerra.  

Meetings are also broadcast on local news channels and live streamed on Facebook. Meeting schedules can be found on the city’s website. Guerra urges students and other young people to get involved in the city of Flint’s politics.

“It isn’t old guys in white wigs sitting around,” joked Guerra. “We actually are in charge of tackling some of the city’s toughest issues.”

These issues include local ordinances, laws, roads, water sources, public safety, and taxes, all matters Guerra says would affect college students’ “average walk downtown.”

Guerra encourages any student, resident, or lover of Flint to reach out to him about any issue they might be concerned with. His city work cellphone is (810) 449-9619. He can also be contacted through his Facebook page.

“The first place to start out if you want to make a difference is with the individual,” said Guerra. “It’s important that every resident, including students, can always be more involved than you already are.”