Eric Bruley became a firefighter to live a life of service and helping others. As a part of the Romulus Fire Department, he gets to focus on selfless service alongside his team each day.
“I was pursuing a paramedic career so I could help people in difficult situations,” said Bruley. “The fire department believed in me and hired me before I graduated from my program. I’m glad to be able to give back, and above all, I’m happy to serve the City of Romulus.”
As a career, firefighting draws brave and dedicated individuals who are chiefly motivated by a concern for the well-being of their community. Firefighter Bruley is no exception.
“When you see you’ve made an impact on someone’s life and observe the cumulative effect of that impact on the community, you know the importance of your work and why you’re called to it,” said Bruley. “Protecting citizens is what being a first responder is all about. The relationships we have with Romulus residents are tremendously rewarding, real sources of strength and the greatest part of this work.”
Bruley didn't grow up in Romulus, but he now calls the city home. A fixture in the community, he has been with the fire department since 2019 and relishes the opportunity to work alongside the Romulus fire service family.
“When you spend time with each other as we do, there is a unique opportunity to build bonds,” Bruley said. “The shared goal of making Romulus the safest place it can be is what we work to achieve every day in our training and out in the field.”
In the months ahead, Bruley looks forward to spending time with friends and family. You may find him visiting two of his favorite Romulus locations, Blue Sky Ice Cream & Hamburgers and Captain Nemo’s Sandwiches.
Bruley is excited about the progression of the Romulus Fire Department, including future partnerships and certifications.
Deputy Chief Shelby
Newly promoted Deputy Chief of Police Derran Shelby uses his leadership role within the Romulus Police Department to show residents that when they use their voice, they are heard.
“I am humbled and happy to be embarking on a new chapter in my profession,” Deputy Chief Shelby says. “I look forward to continuing to build trust and legitimacy within my department and our community.”
While new to the Romulus community, Deputy Chief Shelby began his career in law enforcement more than 25 years ago with the River Rouge Police Department. He is a graduate of the F.B.I National Academy Class #264 and a curriculum committee member of the F.B.I. National Academy Associates Michigan Chapter.
With family living in the area, Deputy Chief Shelby already knew great things about the Romulus and its residents. Even as a visitor, he admired Romulus for its close-knit community atmosphere. As he has taken on his role, he has been fully embraced.
“Romulus is comprised of great people who believe in supporting each other and giving back to their community,” Deputy Chief Shelby says. “I was quickly embraced by the community and love how they support one another and give back to the community.”
One of Deputy Chief Shelby’s fondest memories about Romulus is his first experience at Bilal’s Barber Shop. He quickly learned the location is more than a neighborhood staple, but the best place to receive a great haircut and history lesson.
Outside of his work in law enforcement, Deputy Chief Shelby does extensive work in the community. In his spare time, he teaches and coaches youth sports and mentors young adults. On nice days, you can find him cruising through the city on his Harley Davidson.
“My experience over the years has taught me that second chances in life matter,” Deputy Chief Shelby says. “Children truly are our future and if we do not believe in them, who will? I am motivated by the ability to provide opportunities to those in need.”
Deputy Chief Shelby is looking forward to continuing to serve the city with the dedicated and talented officers that make up the Romulus Police Department. He hopes to uplift the community for many years to come.
Firefighter Hicks Spotlight
With a passion for helping the residents in the city where he grew up, Steven Hicks felt the urge to serve his community as a firefighter.
Firefighter Hicks moved with his family to Romulus at just four years old in 1993 and graduated from Romulus Senior High School in 2008. Shortly afterward, he applied to join the Romulus Fire Department to help his neighbors in need.
It’s especially rewarding for him to work in his hometown, as he especially appreciates Romulus’ tight-knit community. Firefighter Hicks’ favorite part of the job is the way it provides opportunities for him to connect with people across the city.
“One of the great benefits of being a firefighter is the strong relationships the department has with Romulus residents,” says Firefighter Hicks. "We're blessed to have those positive connections to the community, and I’m honored to do meaningful work in my hometown.”
Another one of Firefighter Hicks’ favorite parts of the job are the positive relationships the firefighters have forged with each other.
"The fire department is a family committed to serving the community whatever the need," said Firefighter Hicks. “I work with amazing people who can - and do - make a positive difference.”
Family is a top priority for Firefighter Hicks, whose sisters and grandparents live in Romulus too. He looks forward to spending time regularly with them, making memories with friends and visiting some of his favorite Romulus events and locations.
As a near-lifelong resident, you might spot Firefighter Hicks at the annual Pumpkin Festival or find him enjoying the food at Blue Sky Ice Cream & Hamburgers, Walter’s Bar or Captain Nemo’s Sandwiches.
DPW Assistant Director Kathy Hood
Romulus is full of unsung heroes who work tirelessly to keep our community clean, safe and beautiful. One of our unsung heroes is Department of Public Works (DPW) Assistant Director Kathy Hood.
Kathy has lived and worked in Romulus her whole life. It’s where she raised her son and participates in her favorite activities.
“There isn’t anything I don’t love about Romulus,” Kathy says. “From my group of close friends to the annual events, I love it all.”
Kathy started her career with the City of Romulus Department of Public Works on October 1, 1990 as a clerk/receptionist at the DPW. She went on to hold positions as utility permit tech, underground utilities coordinator and grounds, mechanic, meter and inspections foreman until she stepped into the assistant DPW director position in 2016. She also was voted as Chief Union Steward for the City of Romulus’ Teamster Local 214 members and held that position for many years prior to becoming a foreman.
“As assistant director of the DPW, it’s my job to listen to residents’ concerns,” says Kathy. “Even if they call regarding a situation that we are not responsible for, we help them find the way to a solution.”
Romulus DPW is responsible for a variety of city services that are important to maintaining our community’s infrastructure and beautification. Some of these services include driveway permits, recycling, rubbish, yard waste and snow removal, sidewalk access, city fleet management, permitting and more.
Within the DPW are three divisions, each responsible for a specific area of work—Water & Sewer, Roads and Building & Grounds. The Water & Sewer Division manages the reading and maintenance of the City’s water meter system. The team also installs new meters, performs shut-offs when needed, maintains and repairs fire hydrants and takes care of water main breaks and plugged sewers. The Roads Division handles just that: roads. The team handles ice and snow removal as well as the salting of city-owned streets. They also manage unpaved roads, roadside ditches, roadside vegetation and traffic services such as street and traffic control signs. Lastly, the Building & Grounds Division manages all public buildings, city parks and forestry, which includes tree chipping and management.
When you visit a local park and enjoy the great outdoors, or drive down a freshly plowed road, that’s the work of the DPW.
From May 16-20, the American Public Works Association celebrates National Public Service Week. As part of this annual week-long occasion, Kathy works closely with local elementary schools to set up a field trip for second-grade students to tour the DPW facility, look at different heavy equipment and hear from DPW members about their jobs.
One of Kathy’s favorite memories from the field trip is when she took students through the salt domes (where road salt is stored) and the students asked her to visit the pepper domes next.
When she’s not serving the community as the DPW’s assistant director, Kathy can be found enjoying some of the many local events and fundraisers in Romulus and enjoying time with her family and friends and border collie -- Jagger, preferably outside, especially in the summer.
To learn more about the Romulus Department of Public Works, please visit https://www.romulusgov.com/293/Public-Works.
Councilman William Wadsworth Resident Spotlight
In 1983, William Wadsworth, his wife Jean and their three sons John, James and Billy went door to door campaigning for a spot on the Romulus City Council. His campaign was successful in 1983 and every election year following. Now, 38 years later, Councilman Wadsworth is the longest-serving elected official in the city’s history.
Councilman Wadsworth and Jean moved to Romulus in 1967 after driving down Eureka and seeing a new subdivision under construction. The Wadsworth family put down a deposit on one of the homes and lived there for 14 years. In 1980, they built a home on Barth Road, where they have lived since.
Councilman Wadsworth’s dedication to public service goes beyond the city council and can be seen in his 35-year career as a uniform sergeant with the Wayne County Sherriff’s Department. His wife, Jean, worked as a registered nurse for Oakwood Hospital and retired in 2008. Councilman Wadsworth and Jean’s 55-year life together in Romulus spans three children, four grandchildren and, soon, a great-grandchild.
“Romulus is a good place to live and raise a family,” says Councilman Wadsworth. “You have the rural atmosphere, the city life and great neighbors.”
Running for city council wasn’t a difficult decision for Councilman Wadsworth. Serving as a police sergeant for many years, he’s always been interested in finding ways to positively impact his community—and residents have supported his efforts for decades.
“Serving the City of Romulus for the past 38 years has been a rewarding way to spend my time,” says Councilman Wadsworth. “I’m proud of the partnership I’ve built with residents that allows us to work together for the good of the city year after year.”
In addition to serving as a positive role model and sounding board for residents, Councilman Wadsworth has spent much of his time supporting the Romulus Animal shelter. From 2003 to 2011, Councilman Wadsworth organized fundraisers such as Bowl-a-Thons, bottle drives, bingo tournaments and school events were held to build a new facility. With support from the community, the Romulus Animal Shelter raised $351,000 to build the state-of-the-art shelter where approximately 400 to 500 pet adoptions take place each year.
“I recommend everyone to adopt a pet,” says Councilman Wadsworth. “Our cat, Smokey, came from the Romulus City Animal Shelter and our family wouldn’t be the same without her.”
If unable to adopt a pet, Councilman Wadsworth encourages residents to spend time volunteering either at the shelter or elsewhere in the community. The City of Romulus website details several opportunities to give back to the community, from serving on boards to organizing events.
Recently reelected in November, Councilman Wadsworth is excited to continue serving the City of Romulus and implementing positive change in the community.
Firefighter Vanover Spotlight Summer Vanover has always wanted to help others. For her, that meant becoming a firefighter.
After graduating from the Oakland Community College Fire Academy in 2019, Firefighter Vanover applied for a position with the Romulus Fire Department.
“The best part about being a firefighter is seeing gratitude on the faces of the people who need our help on what is often one of their worst days,” says Firefighter Vanover. “This job allows me to help people when they need it most.”
Her chosen career has impacted Firefighter Vanover in many ways. From the laughs she shares with her crew to the important work they do together, there are moments that will stay with her forever. One of these moments includes responding to a call involving a toddler who was ejected from their vehicle during a car accident. Miraculously, the child survived the accident and made a full recovery. Firefighter Vanover now has a tattoo representing this moment and the great work of the Romulus Fire Department team.
While Firefighter Vanover may not be from Romulus, she now considers herself a part of the community, attending city events to show her support and build relationships with residents. As a firefighter, she loves Romulus because it has everything she trained for during her time at the academy.
Outside of work, Firefighter Vanover can be found doing CrossFit, snuggling her pug and planning her upcoming wedding.
Officer Reyna Spotlight
For Officer Christopher Reyna, becoming a police officer for the City of Romulus was an easy decision because it meant serving the community that raised him. In fact, he was recruited for his position with the Romulus Police Department thanks to connections he made while attending Romulus High School.
Officer Reyna’s Romulus roots run deep, with much of his family, including parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, residing in the city. After graduating from Romulus High in 2010, Officer Reyna pursued a degree in criminal justice knowing he one day wanted to go into law enforcement. It wasn’t until Lt. Jackson, former Romulus High School resource officer for the Romulus Police Department, recruited him for sponsorship through the police academy that Officer Reyna knew police work was the law enforcement route for him.
“Working in Romulus is rewarding because I have history with so many residents and co-workers,” says Officer Reyna. “The opportunity to help people that I feel like could be, or are, my friends and family is rewarding. I can’t explain what it feels like to help someone in my own hometown who is in need.”
Spending his childhood attending Romulus Community Schools, Officer Reyna has many fond memories from growing up in the city. During high school, he played soccer and baseball. One of his favorite memories is being on the Romulus Middle School football team led by Coach Patterson that only had one touchdown scored on them the entire season. He also enjoyed working at the Romulus Athletic Center, which not only allowed him to relax and unwind, but also to build relationships with residents from all over the city.
“Romulus has a small-town feel,” says Officer Reyna. “It seems like everyone knows everyone, which is hard to believe when the city covers 36 square miles.”
Above all, Officer Reyna loves giving back to the community by bringing his best to every shift. Knowing that people often call the police when in crisis, he wants to make reaching out as easy as possible for them. Officer Reyna looks forward to continuing to serve his community and helping many more people in the years to come.
Firefighter Andrew Thompson Spotlight
The opportunity to help others has always driven Firefighter Andrew Thompson. After working as an on-call firefighter and paramedic in a different community, Firefighter Thompson jumped at the chance to join the Romulus Fire Department when he heard there was a full-time opening.
“For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be a firefighter,” says Firefighter Thompson. “The idea of being able to do something heroic excited me. Imagine,” he says, “being a superhero every day and instead of wearing a cape you wear a fire helmet and turnout gear.”
Since joining the Department in 2019, Firefighter Thompson has found a way to make a difference every day. He has taken advantage of other service opportunities as well, including joining the Western Wayne Hazardous Materials Response, or Hazmat, Team.
One of Firefighter Thompson’s favorite things about being part of the Romulus Fire Department is the family atmosphere and support system. In just two years, he’s made many long-lasting friendships.
“I would not be able to do any of this without the support of my co-workers,” Firefighter Thompson says.
One of the most gratifying aspects of the job for Firefighter Thompson is seeing the outcome for those he helps. After arriving on the scene of a motorcycle accident where a father and daughter were injured, Firefighter Thompson remembers comforting the young girl by giving her a stuffed animal to help her cope with a scary moment. A couple of months later, they came back to the department to thank him and the others who came to the scene for saving their lives.
In his spare time, Thompson likes to support the community in a variety of ways, including packing food boxes for a local charity. Noting that there are many resources within the community, he encourages others in need to seek help.
“People who accept help are incredibly strong,” Firefighter Thompson says. “If you need help, or you know someone who needs help, don't hesitate to reach out to the various organizations that serve our community.”
Firefighter Andrew Mills Spotlight
Being a part of something bigger than himself has always guided Romulus Firefighter Andrew Mills. Upon graduating high school, Firefighter Mills joined the Marine Corps, and he still serves today in the reserves. It’s this dedication to service and being part of a team that led him to join the Romulus Fire Department in 2020.
“Upon walking in for my interview with the Romulus Fire Department, I instantly felt the family environment,” says Firefighter Mills.
During his interview, Firefighter Mills had the opportunity to speak to several members of the department, and after doing so he knew he wanted to be a part of the well-oiled machine that is the Romulus Fire Department.
One of Firefighter Mills’ favorite Romulus institutions is the Annual Parade of Lights, where he enjoys seeing the community work together to put on a great event. His fondest memory on the job is when he was called out to his first structure fire, where he worked on a team that included the Romulus Police Department and Metro Airport Fire Department to control the situation.
In his spare time, Firefighter Mills volunteers with Victory for Vets, an organization committed to raising awareness and funds for veterans suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The organization helps provide veterans with service dogs, holds fundraising events, builds ramps for disabled veterans to make their homes more accessible and more.
“Being a part of the Romulus family and community is an honor and a privilege,” says Firefighter Mills. “The Home of Opportunity has proven itself to me every day, and I wouldn’t want to be part of any other department.”
Councilwoman Webb Resident Spotlight
Eva Webb has always had a gift for serving others. Her penchant for service started at a young age when she pursued a nursing degree at Western Kentucky University, and it followed her to the State of Michigan where she held positions with multiple companies over the years. Councilwoman Webb received her Sacred Degree of Bachelor of Arts in 2000 and Certificates of Achievements from Michigan State and Central Michigan University and also became a Certified Municipal Clerk.
“Being elected to the Romulus City Council has given me an even deeper appreciation for this community and its people,” says Councilwoman Webb. “I love the community and am proud to have raised my children here as well as helped to instill in my grandchildren compassion, faith, honor, love and respect.”
Councilwoman Webb moved to the City of Romulus in 1972 in search of a quality school district to make sure her children Robyn, Robert, Erika and Monica were taught by dedicated professionals. At the time, Councilwoman Webb was a stay-at-home mom, involved in the community and enrolled at Madonna University. In 1996, she began a full-time career with the City of Romulus. Always striving for more knowledge, she started in the Building Department then transferred to the Clerk’s Office where she was quickly promoted to administrative assistant to the city clerk.
During that same time, Councilwoman Webb ran for a spot on the Romulus Community School District’s School Board, where she served a four-year term and worked her way from secretary and treasurer to vice president. She also served on the Financial, Personnel and Policy Committee and is a strong advocate for adult education, special education and vocational transition.
“I believe every student deserves a chance at success,” says Councilwoman Webb. “They have the right to receive the best education a school district can provide.”
Councilwoman Webb was an effective liaison between the school district and City of Romulus. Some of her proudest moments as a school board member include the instrumental roles she played in naming the New Romulus Elementary School and installing the first swimming pool in the district’s history.
Mayor William Oakley appointed Councilwoman Webb to serve on the Police, Fire and Safety Commission, and shortly after that she was elected by the commission to serve as its first female chairperson—all while working as administrative assistant to the City Clerk. When the deputy city clerk position became available for the City of Romulus, Councilwoman Webb was appointed by the city clerk and confirmed by the legislative body, making her Eva Webb, CMC, Deputy City Clerk. Holding two elected officials is prohibited, so Councilwoman Webb left her school board position in 2001.
After retiring from a fulfilling career in the Clerk’s Office in 2009, Councilwoman Webb was elected to City Council. She has learned a lot as she enters her third term as councilwoman, and fully appreciates that government, particularly at the local level, is for the people. For that reason, Councilwoman Webb always considers the residents before she makes any decisions.
“When I drive through the City of Romulus, I like to feel proud,” says Councilwoman Webb. “This pride starts with honesty, respecting each resident and really hearing what they have to say. I’m glad people understand that my votes are made for the good of the future.”
Councilwoman Webb has big plans for the City of Romulus in her third term, including looking at enhancing how Romulus celebrates Black History Month. Planned for February 2023, the celebration will honor figures from Martin Luther King, Jr. to the present to show how far society has come, where society is today, and how it can get to a more accepting tomorrow. As part of the celebration, Councilwoman Webb will invite successful Black speakers to share their experiences and serve as role models for young individuals in the community.
“Being an actor or athlete are fine dreams, but young Black students can make a difference as lawyers, CEOs or doctors, educators, chemists, artists, skilled tradespeople, technology practitioners, and entrepreneurs, says Councilwoman Webb. “By inviting influential minorities to speak and tell their stories, I hope to build a new kind of accessible role model.”
Other ways Councilwoman Webb gives back to the community include serving as an active participant in local fundraisers and sitting on local boards, including the Romulus Emergency Management Team, Downtown Development Authority and Unity Ambassadors Building Bridges. Councilwoman Webb also serves as pension secretary for the City of Romulus, volunteers with the Goodfellows and Pumpkin Festival, and acts as pastoral prayer partner to Pastor Virgil Humes at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.
She has learned a lot as she enters into her third term as Councilwoman, including, that the government, particularly at the local level, is for the people. As such, Councilwoman Webb always considers the residents before she makes any decisions.
“When I drive through the City of Romulus, I like to feel proud,” says Councilwoman Webb. “This pride starts with honesty, respecting each resident and really hearing what they have to say. I’m glad people understand that my votes are made for the good of the future.”
Councilwoman Webb has big plans for the City of Romulus in her third term, including looking at enhancing how Romulus celebrates Black History Month. Planned for February 2023, the celebration will honor history, with figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. leading the way, up to the present to show where society is today and how it can get to a more accepting tomorrow. As part of the celebration, Councilwoman Webb will invite successful Black speakers to share their experience and serve as role models for young individuals in the community.
“Being an actor or athlete are fine dreams, but young Black students can make a difference as a lawyer, CEO or doctor, educator, chemist, artist, skilled trades, technology, entrepreneurs, says Councilwoman Webb. “By inviting influential Minorities to speak, to tell their stories I hope to build a new kind of reachable role model.”
You might not know Sheldon Chandler, but chances are you’ve seen his dedicated street sign at the corner of Ozga and Wick. Sheldon is a staple in the Romulus community and has called the city home for nearly a century. Over the years, he has seen the 35.96 square-mile area transform into a city bustling with new developments, businesses and residents.
“Nothing compares to good old Romulus,” says Sheldon. “Experiencing the four seasons, seeing green outside in the summer and having great neighbors makes it the best place to live. My neighborhood and the people are beautiful, without a doubt.”
Upon graduating from Romulus High School in 1950, Sheldon enlisted in the United States Navy where he served in the Korean War on a Navy Destroyer. During this time, he had the opportunity to travel all over the world and meet a great number of people, many of whom he still talks to today. Over the course of his Navy career, Sheldon participated in two six-month deployments overseas, where he had the opportunity to visit new countries and experience different cultures.
After returning to Romulus upon his honorable discharge from the Navy, Sheldon proudly spent 32 years as a General Motors employee. In the last 11 years before his retirement, Sheldon could happily say he both lived and worked in Romulus. Sheldon’s work in the auto industry influenced his hobby of owning classic vehicles. Currently, he owns a 1972 Cadillac Coupe DeVille and a 1971 Volkswagen Super Beetle.
“We take her to the Romulus Parade of Lights at the Pumpkin Festival,” says Sheldon of the VW Super Beetle. “It’s bright orange, called Hugging Orange, and is as close to the original color as I could find.”
Every year Sheldon and his wife Gloria pass out candy during the Halloween party in the park in October. The two have been married since 1957 and have three children, six grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Sheldon was honored as a Hometown Hero in 2015 and recognized as the 31st Person of the Year by the Romulus Chamber of Commerce in 2016.
Sheldon is also a member of the zoning board of appeals, cemetery board, historic society, historic commission and construction board of appeals. He was one of the first residents to tour the Amazon Distribution Center and was in awe of the robotics on the second floor. Sheldon loves living in the City of Romulus and is excited about the demand for new residential development.
Lt. Labrit Jackson
After 15 years with the Romulus Police Department, Lieutenant Labrit Jackson has decided to take his passion for service to Detroit Public Schools Community District, where he will serve as Deputy Chief of Police. While Lt. Jackson remains a Romulus resident, the community will miss his dependability, passion and commitment to our police department and public safety.
Lieutenant Labrit Jackson strongly believes that, whenever possible, police officers should work in the communities where they live. When Lt. Jackson and his wife Jennifer were looking to move from Detroit to Romulus to start a family, he applied to the department and was hired in as an officer in January 2006.
“I believe one of the highest forms of service an individual can perform is choosing to protect his neighborhood in the capacity of law enforcement,” Lt. Jackson says. “Helping people has always been a goal of mine, and Romulus seemed like a good place to do just that.”
For nearly 20 years, Lt. Jackson has given back to the City of Romulus is multiple capacities—both as a police officer and in his spare time as a community member. Lt. Jackson served as the school resource officer for Romulus Community Schools for five years, and he’s still in contact with former students and their parents. Lt. Jackson has also served on the Romulus Drug Task Force and is currently a member of Police and Community Together (PACT). These responsibilities helped shape Lt. Jackson into the police officer he is today, preparing him for his new role in Detroit.
“Lt. Jackson has been a big part of the heart and soul of the Romulus Police Department,” says Chief Pfannes. “Mentoring kids, preparing them for the future and developing their potential is his passion and his new career with Detroit Public Schools Community District is a tremendous opportunity for him to impact an even larger group of Metro Detroit’s future leaders.
Over the years, Lt. Jackson has worked closely with Romulus’ youth. From 2013-2018, Lt. Jackson coached the Romulus Middle School football team. In those six years, the team didn’t lose a single game, and in 2018 they didn’t give up any points. In 2019, Lt. Jackson coached the Romulus Flyers, a football team, through the Romulus Athletic Club. During that season, The Flyers JV won the Peanut Bowl Championship. A lover of all sports, he’s also coached soccer and basketball for the Romulus Recreation Department. Through the relationships he built as a coach, Lt. Jackson and his wife were granted guardianship of one of his former players in 2019, and he has been a part of their family ever since.
If you ask Lt. Jackson his favorite thing about living in Romulus, he’ll say it’s the community. His fondest memory is the sense of camaraderie and pride when the Romulus High School varsity basketball team played in the state championship in 2013.
“Romulus is a true community where neighbors look out for each other, and everyone seems to know each other,” Lt. Jackson says. “If you’re a stranger or new to the community, you don’t remain that way for long.”
Romulus is home to a large population of veterans who have dedicated their lives to our country, and among them is John Heidenreich. The name might not be familiar to you, but there is a good chance you’d recognize his face. Every year on Memorial Day, Labor Day and 9/11, John stands at the corner of Telegraph and Eureka wearing his Navy uniform and saluting all day.
The veteran and long-time Romulus resident was inspired to salute in his own community after watching a YouTube video called Project Vigil featuring an 11-year-old-boy saluting at Omaha Beach on the 70th anniversary of D-Day. John was moved by the boy’s patriotism and thus his first all-day salute took place on the busy Taylor intersection on Veterans Day 2014. In 2018, John added 9/11 to his roster of salute days and Memorial Day followed the next year.
Over the years, John has inspired others in the community to salute. His very first companion was another Navy veteran. These days, John usually has 2-3 other community members saluting with him and always welcomes others to join.
“The reason I salute every year is to show respect and honor for service members and to help remind the community about the lives lost on 9/11 and while defending our country,” John says. “As the years go on, it’s easy to forget. I hope I can help others remember and inspire them to honor our veterans.”
When John is saluting, he often receives donations from community members driving and walking by. This year, John worked with the Romulus Fire Department to organize a fundraiser to help the fire and police departments purchase emergency equipment. John saluted all day on the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and raised more than $200.
This Veterans Day, if you see John Heidenreich saluting, give him a honk or a wave—or join him in saluting—to thank him and all the other veterans in our community for their bravery and selflessness.
John has been an avid runner since the age of 19, when he first ran in the Chicago Marathon. Since then, John has run 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, marathons, and most recently, ultra-marathons, which are any races longer than 26.2 miles. Currently John is training for the Lighthouse 100 Ultra Marathon, where he will participate a 100-mile race.
During the height of the pandemic when much of the community was hunkered down in an effort to keep themselves and their loved ones safe from COVID-19, many of our city employees were on the front lines working hard to ensure Romulus remained operational. One of these front-line workers is Justin Laskaska—longtime resident and Public Works Department employee.
Justin took up employment with the Romulus Public Works Department 23 years ago, just a few years after graduating from Romulus High School in 1995. With little interest in working behind a desk all day, Justin knew that as a public works employee he would have the opportunity to work outside and directly with residents—many of whom he calls friends or family. While Justin has been with the Public Works Department for over two decades, his current role as foreman includes organizing the team, overseeing maintenance schedules and budgeting for road repairs and all city buildings.
“At the Romulus Department of Public Works, we really care about residents, and we have their best interests in mind when taking on any new project,” says Justin. “We’ll always do our best to accommodate their needs and address any questions they may have.
Despite being well-versed on the ins and outs of public works, Justin and the rest of the department faced a multitude of new challenges as a result of the pandemic. Keeping the safety and well-being of employees top of mind, the Department of Public works initiated rotating schedules, where small crews would work three weeks on and three weeks off to continue providing employment while maintaining Romulus’ infrastructure. In the face of these challenges, Justin and his team excelled.
“Justin exemplifies the role of a DPW worker and is a leader in the industry of supervisions in this economy and climate,” said Public Works Department Director Robert Scappaticci. “He has shown tremendous grit and resiliency during the pandemic, juggling a number of City tasks that are outside his normal day-to-day work.”
According to Justin, who has lived in Romulus for 43 years, working with residents is the most rewarding part of his job and why he continues to dedicate himself to the city’s success. One of Justin’s favorite memories growing up was attending the St. Aloysius summer festivals with his friends and family.
To learn more about the Romulus Department of Public Works, please visit http://www.romulusgov.com/departments/public_services/public_works.
Sgt. Nicole Harris
When she was five years old and living in an apartment complex in Romulus, a power line fell and struck Sgt. Nicole Harris. The accident had badly hurt her, so her mom frantically scooped her up and promptly called 911. First on the scene was now-retired Romulus Police Officer Jerry Champagne, who comforted both Sgt. Harris and her mother while they waited for paramedics. Officer Champagne remained in contact with Sgt. Harris over the years.
While most of Sgt. Harris’ experiences with the police were positive, like the time when she was five years old, there were both positive and negative encounters that led her to join the Police Academy.
“I knew there was nothing else I wanted to do but become a police officer,” Sgt. Harris says. “If I could have a positive impact on just one person’s life, like Jerry Champagne had on mine, I knew it would be a career worth having.”
If you ask Sgt. Harris why she chose to become a Romulus police officer, she will tell you Romulus chose her. Romulus is her home. It is where she grew up, where she played little league and where she became a Romulus Police Explorer—part of a youth police department academy. Ever since she was young, Sgt. Harris dreamed of becoming a Romulus Police Officer. When the opportunity arose to join the department, she took it.
Sgt. Harris has served the Romulus Community for over a decade, most of which she has spent working nights and getting to know the local midnight store clerks and front desk workers. Sgt. Harris understands that people who call the police are not always having the best of days, so she tries to always be kind and approachable when dealing with the public.
“The Romulus Police Department strives to be the best it can be and treat everyone with kindness. We teach our officers to treat every single person they encounter as if they are a family member,” says Sgt. Harris. “In a time when policing can be seen as negative, I’ve had so many residents encourage and thank me for my work. Everything I do is for the betterment of the Romulus community and it means so much to have their support.”
Sgt. Harris has four beautiful children with her husband Eric. Their oldest child is in the Navy and stationed in Japan, and their 11-year-old son and 9-year-old twin daughters keep the family busy with competitive hockey.
You may not know lifelong Romulus resident Wayne Laginess, but chances are you’ve been touched by the impactful ways he gives back to the community as the Scout Master of local Boy Scout Troop 872.
Wayne has Romulus in his DNA. His grandparents, Gilbert and Olive White, moved to the city in the 1940s, and his family has called it home ever since. He attended Romulus Community Schools before graduating in 1981. Wayne’s five children followed in their father’s footsteps, participating in a variety of sports and academic clubs during their time at Romulus High School. Today, many of his sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins still call Romulus home. Currently, Wayne’s primary focus is Boy Scout Troop 872.
“My son, who has autism, inspired me to get involved in Boy Scouts,” Wayne says. “I really wanted him to be part of a group that would allow him to learn new skills and make new friends. Our Boy Scouts Troop was incredibly welcoming to us, and it encouraged us to continue our participation in the program.”
Under Wayne’s leadership, Troop 872 volunteers at many signature Romulus events. Wayne’s favorite Romulus event is the annual Pumpkin Festival, and the Troop makes significant contributions to the weekend-long celebration. They host a pancake breakfast for the community as their main fundraising event. Troop 872 also carries flags in the Parade of Lights, winning the motorized vehicle category multiple times.
Outside of the Pumpkin Festival, Troop 872 assists with canned food drives for Helping Hand and Goodfellows. They also host a pancake breakfast for Relay for Life, place flags on veterans’ graves on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and build and maintain the Romulus Senior Center’s flower boxes.
Wayne’s favorite aspect about Romulus is the people that live here, who inspire him to give back.
“The people of Romulus and friendships I’ve made with them are what push me to give back through my involvement with the Boy Scouts,” Wayne says. “There’s something special about Romulus’ hometown feel, its rich history and community of friendly faces.”
If you know Romulus resident Carole Bales, you know everything she does is for the betterment of her community. Her love for family, friends, church, city and schools is what identifies Carole best. She adores all of her family, including Bob, Brian and Fumiko and Becky and John, and her four grandchildren, Joshua, Katie, Sera and Luke, and her husband of 58 years, Dan.
It’s this heartfelt dedication to her family and community that led Carole to being named 2020 Person of the Year by the Romulus Chamber of Commerce.
Carole has been an active member of the Romulus community for more than 50 years, moving to the city in 1969. When Carole was younger, her family moved around a lot and she often switched schools. Carole knew she wanted her children to attend a good school system where they could make life-long friends, so she enrolled her children at Romulus Community Schools.
“I’m a firm believer that if you want the value of your property to increase, and you want to create a thriving community, you have to support your local schools and city,” Carole says.
Breathing life to this mantra, Carole instantly jumped into the RCS community and became an active member of the parent teacher association, serving as president at Merriman Elementary School for five years. Carole was also chairman of the Merriman School Fair and served as Den Mother and Board Member of Club Scout Pack 739.
Putting her Business Education studies from Western Michigan University to good use, Carole took a job in 1979 with Romulus Community Schools working as a secretary and administrative assistant, where she stayed for 30 years. During her tenure, Carole served as Chief Steward to AFSCME Local 64 for 12 years and sat on numerous district-wide committees. Carole’s dedication to the district didn’t go unnoticed by her peers. She received a number of awards, including Romulus Schools’ Support Staff of the Year, Wick Elementary Schools’ Queen for the Day, Romulus Community Schools’ Apple Award, Women Worth Watching and more.
Carole’s giving attitude wasn’t limited to the school district—she has always been active in the community. From blood drives to pancake breakfasts and Rotary dinners to annual community events, if there is a fundraiser happening in Romulus, Carole is always in attendance and providing support. In fact, Carole has been coined the “basket lady” by her neighbors for her tendency to compile and donate baskets for auctions, raffles or families in need.
Other community groups Carole has been involved with over the years include Goodfellows and Julie’s Tea Committee, the Pumpkin Festival, Friends of Library, Literary Club, Chamber of Commerce, Light the Way Committee, Compensation Board, Board of Canvassers, beautification Committee and Friends of Seniors. She is also an active member of Community United Methodist Church, having served as a Sunday school and vacation bible schoolteacher. Carole has also spent much of her own personal time working the polls and promoting various city millages, including the road millage and public safety millage—all of which have positively impacted the Romulus community.
While Carole has received a multitude of awards in the last 50 years, there aren’t enough awards to fully thank Carole for her decades of service. Carole is valued member of the community and the selfless attitude and commitment of residents like Carole are what makes Romulus a Home of Opportunity.
“You don’t do good things because you want a pat on the back,” Carole says. “You do them because you genuinely care about people, and I think we need more of that in the world.”
Edna Talon Jemison
Edna Talon Jemison lives in Romulus with her husband Anthony, their daughter Eden and their cat Bevy, named after Beverly, the road on which they found her. Since 2004, Edna has worked as a realtor with Keller Williams Professionals helping interested buyers and sellers right here in Romulus.
In 2002, Edna and Anthony were looking to sell their home in Detroit. The couple unfortunately had a bad experience trying to sell their home with 2 different realtors and ended up selling it as a for sale by owner. Not wanting others to experience the challenges she and Anthony had faced, Edna decided to become a realtor. Nearly 17 years later, Edna has helped countless families in Southeast Michigan and Romulus sell homes and buy their dream homes.
The City of Romulus is a great place for people to live, raise a family, work and play, and buyers are starting to realize this during their home search process. The City’s population has steadily grown over the past several years and Edna is seeing more buyers interested in the community, especially as new residential construction continues to boom. In 2020, nearly 100 single family duplex and single-family housing permits were issued.
“With new construction popping up throughout the City, Romulus is bound to continue to grow and welcome new residents into the community, says Edna. “For many years, I’ve helped current and prospective residents buy and sell in Romulus. I’m excited to see how the City advances in the years to come, which is why I've volunteered on a variety of boards, commissions and associations in the City for many years now.”
There are many things to love about Romulus, but when talking to potential buyers about the community, Edna always makes sure to highlight three big selling points: the Mayor’s accessibility, City-wide events, and proximity to highways and major cities.
As a resident herself, Edna loves how accessible the Mayor and City Council are to the community. It's not often you find City officials who are personable, approachable and always willing to lend an ear like these in Romulus. When talking to families, Edna always highlights the various community events held throughout the year, including resident favorites like the Pumpkin Festival, Parade of Lights, Movies in the Park and Sounds of Downtown. What also makes Romulus an ideal place to live is its proximity to the airport, major highways and popular destinations like Detroit, Ann Arbor and Canada. Edna says, if you live in Romulus, you get the best of both worlds: a quiet, small town feel and access to the big city.
If you are interested in selling or buying a home in Romulus, you can contact Edna by visiting her website at homewithedna.com.
Romulus resident and high school basketball coach Paris McCarthy is dedicated to serving her community—both on and off the court.
Basketball has always held a special place in Paris’ heart. As a kid, Paris played Romulus recreational basketball and street ball with the boys in the neighborhood. She was determined to play better than the boys and would spend hours practicing and honing her skills. Paris’ hard work paid off in high school, when she received a scholarship to play basketball at Grambling State University in Louisiana.
After spending seven years in Louisiana, Paris and her husband Aaron—who also grew up in Romulus and graduated from Romulus High School—were ready to move back to their hometown.
“We wanted our kids to have the same sense of community we had growing up in Romulus,” says Paris. “Romulus is a close-knit community where everyone looks out for each other and we knew it was the place we wanted to raise our children.”
Eager to move back home, Paris and Aaron, and their three children Aaron, Ashton and Aeiress, packed their bags and bought a house in Romulus. Paris found a job opportunity with City Bank as a mortgage loan processor and during that time worked to receive her master’s degree in sports administration from Wayne State University.
Not long after moving back to Romulus, Paris took an assistant coach position for the Romulus High School girls basketball team for two years. In 2017, the Romulus girls basketball team was in search of a head coach. Paris knew she was the right person for the job—and so did the girls on the team, who petitioned for Paris to serve as their next coach. It wasn’t long before she landed the new position.
“I’ve always wanted to give back to the same city that gave me so much,” says Paris. “The Romulus High School staff and alumni bleed maroon and white. We want nothing but the best for the community and schools.”
Committed to athletics, Paris’ long-term career goal is to work as an athletic director or in education administration. Currently, she’s a fourth-grade teacher at a local school district and working to receive her Educational Leadership certification from Wayne State University. Paris is also a member of the Romulus Recreation Commission.
Emery Long was born in Washtenaw County and moved to Romulus at a young age. Decades later, Emery has made a mark on the city he has called home for most of his life.
Emery and his wife, Kim, have been happily married for 39 years. Growing up as friends in the same neighborhood, Emery and Kim decided to officially date in high school—and the two have been inseparable since. When it came time to settle down and start their own family, Emery and Kim didn't have to look far.
“We looked at homes in a number of communities but decided to build in our hometown,” Emery says. “At the time, Romulus was a rural, quiet community, and we knew the schools were good.”
Upon graduating from Romulus High School, Emery took a job at General Motors, where he worked for nearly 40 years before retiring. Emery and Kim have three children together, Amber, Alysa and Anson, and two grandchildren from Anson and his wife Tiffany.
At the age of 63, Emery has made sure to remain more active than many people half his age. An avid runner, Emery and his wife have a family membership at the Romulus Athletic Center. Beyond staying physically fit, Emery has also remained an active member of the community.
Since the early 2000s, Emery has been a member of the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals and the Tax Increment Finance Authority (TIFA) where he, alongside fellow board members, works to uplift the community through infrastructure and economic development improvements.
Emery is also a long-time member of the Rotary Club of Romulus and participates in a number of community services, including hosting fundraisers and events, supporting seniors, awarding scholarships to Romulus High School seniors and more. He also volunteers at Fish & Loaves, a community food pantry located in Taylor. Dedicated to his faith, Emery is a longtime member of First Baptist Church of Romulus where he serves on the Usher, Trustee and Deacon boards.
“I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to serve the community all these years,” Emery says. “Every step of my journey in Romulus has been rewarding, and I look forward to continuing to give back.”
To honor Black History Month, the City of Romulus has photographs on display at City Hall that were taken by Romulus resident and photographer Takeisha Jefferson. Takeisha fell in love with photography at the young age of nine and quickly became familiar with the workings of a camera. Upon graduating from Romulus High School, Takeisha joined the United States Air Force where she worked as a public relations specialist.
After her years of military service and 15 years as a professional photographer, Takeisha enrolled at Auburn University at Montgomery to study Fine Arts. During this time, Takeisha fell in love with her art history classes and gained an even greater love of photography through her internship at the Rosa Parks Museum in downtown Montgomery.
While interning at the museum, Takeisha learned a great deal about her history as a Black American and how her ancestors were often misrepresented in records and photographs or left out entirely. It was during the internship Takeisha was inspired to give life to the forgotten and unknown members of her family.
Through the continuation of her “Birthright Series” and the launch of “Veiled Series” Takeisha has paid homage to her family, capturing reflections of her ancestors by merging portrait photographs of her four children and immediate family members.
Takeisha’s most recent series “The Veiled: Revelations” is on display at the Rosa Parks Museum—the same museum Takeisha interned at years ago. The series went up on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and will remain on display until April 2. Thus far, Takeisha has focused her work on the story behind Black History Month. In March, Takeisha plans to pay homage to Women’s History Month, Women of Color Photographer’s Month and Endometriosis Awareness Month by celebrating the strength of Black women.
Takeisha also has work displayed at the NorWest Gallery of Art in Detroit and was recently highlighted by Google Arts & Culture for a Black History Month feature called Black Lenses Matter.
Residents are encouraged to view Takeisha’s portraits at City Hall, celebrate her success and pay respect to the rich—and often forgotten—culture and history of Black Americans.
“I’ve lived in and visited countless states when I was in the Air force,” Takeisha says. “But Romulus is part of who I am, and it always will be.”
To learn more about Takeisha and to view her photographs, please visit https://takeishas.com/.
Officer Rodney Cofield II
For Romulus Police Officer Rodney Cofield II, the most rewarding aspect of the job is serving the community he grew up in. Rodney comes from a long line of Romulus residents, with his grandparents, father, aunts, uncles and cousins all calling Romulus home.
When Rodney was a student at Romulus High School, he was quarterback of the school’s football team. In 2012, Rodney participated in a criminal justice internship, working at the Lenawee County District Court. The internship made Rodney realize that his true passion involved working with youth to help them stay on the right path and avoid making bad choices.
After high school graduation, Rodney attended Hope College and eventually Adrian College, where he played D3 football and studied criminal justice. Shortly after graduating from college, Rodney completed the Michigan State Police’s Training Academy and patrolled in Flint.
After a year as a Michigan State Police Trooper, Rodney decided it was time to come back to the community he knew and loved. He decided he wanted to be a Romulus Police Officer and make a positive difference in his hometown. Rodney purchased his first home in the City of Romulus and accepted a position with the Romulus Police Department in 2015, serving as a patrol officer.
In August 2019, Rodney was selected to serve as a school resource officer at Romulus High School. Rodney’s work at the high school doesn’t end when the bell rings. With his quarterback history, love for football and willingness to be a role model and mentor, it was only natural that he would sign on to become the Romulus High School varsity quarterback coach and co-offensive coordinator.
Rodney has also served as coach for the City’s little league team—the same team his son, Braylon, played on. Following in his dad’s footsteps, Braylon is heading into sixth grade at Romulus Middle School and plans to join the school’s football team.
“Working with kids at the high school is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job,” Rodney says. “Having the opportunity to work alongside them and play a role in encouraging them to follow their passions reminds me why I became a police officer in the first place.”
Follow the Romulus Police Department’s Facebook page for important public safety announcement and news. The Romulus Police Department is also hiring. If you’re interested in joining the team, please call 734-941-8400 or visit http://www.romulusgov.com/departments/public_safety/police/index.php.
Bronson Bell was born and raised in Romulus, and has called the community home for more than 50 years. When Bronson was a child, Romulus was a rural community with dirt roads, no streetlights and fewer houses.
“My friends and I played outside every day growing up,” Bronson recalls. “We built tree houses, played baseball, shot marbles and rode our bikes everywhere.”
Growing up, Bronson attended Romulus Community Schools and God’s City of Refuge Church, where he still worships today. After graduating from Romulus High School in 1959, Bronson took a job at General Motors. The company paid for Bronson to attend college, so while he worked at GM, he also took classes at Washtenaw Community College.
During this time, Bronson took up playing racquetball with a friend, Joe. One day, Joe asked Bronson to help his sister-in-law Betty move, and to express her gratitude for his help, Betty made Bronson dinner—and the rest is history. Bronson and Betty have been married for more than 40 years, have built a wonderful life for themselves in Romulus, and remain busy with their five children, 10 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
“Romulus is a safe and friendly place to live and raise a family,” Bronson says. “The crime rate is low and our neighbors always look out for each other.”
A devoted family man and community member, Bronson appreciates continuing improvements to the city he calls home. It was this philosophy of gratitude that led Bronson to thank the City of Romulus and its City Council members on record at a recent Council meeting for installing a new sidewalk on the north side of Romulus at Van Born Road.
“It’s rare for people to recognize someone for doing a nice thing, so that’s why I make it my mission to say ‘thank you’ whenever possible,” Bronson says. “I encourage everyone to work with city officials to express their concerns and gratitude. Community engagement with leadership is vital and key to helping our city continue to succeed.”
Bronson is president of the American Progressive Association, which offers fellowship, events and services to support the Romulus community. Although this year looks different because of COVID-19, Bronson has participated in the past in food distribution, a community-wide Thanksgiving dinner and handing out candy on Halloween.
Romulus Relay for Life has raised more than $130,000 for the American Cancer Society since the first event in 2017. Created to bring the community together to raise money for a much-needed cure and support those who are currently battling cancer, the event has an even deeper meaning for local organizer and Romulus resident Shona Silvey-Baum, whose little sister passed away from breast cancer in 2015.
Shona was born and raised in Romulus. She graduated from Romulus High School before moving away from the city, though she eventually found her way home in 2013. Shona’s little sister, Cindia Hensley, worked as a bank teller at the Comerica downtown for many years. Cindia was well-known and well-loved, and her battle with breast cancer was one the community rallied behind.
In 2014, Shona and Cindia, along with nearly 60 others from the Romulus area, attended the Monroe Relay for Life. While they may have been new to the event, Shona and Cindia’s team made a showing and raised more than $20,000 for the cause.
“Our team was completely new to Relay for Life, but we showed up for my sister and for the cause by raising $20,000, which was a lot of money for a first-time team,” said Shona.
Tragically, Cindia passed away before the sisters could attend another relay together, but the team attended two more events in her memory.
Shona attended her first Relay for Life at the request of her sister, but Cindia had a bigger dream in mind: she wanted to bring Relay for Life to Romulus. Cancer ultimately prevented Cindia from doing so, but Shona loved her sister very much and was committed to bringing the event to their hometown in her honor.
Now in its fourth year, Romulus Relay for Life has raised more than $130,000 and is on track to reach $150,000 after this year’s event, on Friday, Oct. 9 at dusk. The event has partially transitioned to a drive-thru luminary ceremony in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The luminary event will be followed by virtual Relay for Life on Sunday, Oct. 11.
“The Romulus community has been phenomenal to work with over the years,” said Shona. “Despite our differences, we all have been touched by cancer in some way. Raising money for the cause is great, but what’s more important is bringing people together from all walks of life.”
To learn more about this year’s Romulus Relay for Life, please visit http://RelayForLife.org/RomulusMI.
Longtime Romulus resident and City Councilwoman Tina Talley is committed to three things: her faith, family and community. As a Romulus Christian Ministerial Alliance Member and committed public servant, Councilwoman Talley is combining her three biggest passions to help create a thriving community for years to come.
Communities across Michigan have until the end of September to fill out their census to receive critical federal funding over the next 10 years—yet census competition typically relies on significant door-to-door efforts that are difficult to achieve amid the COVID-19 pandemic. To keep census efforts moving forward, Councilwoman Talley immediately got to work implementing unconventional and creative ways to increase awareness and drive census responses in Romulus.
Tapping into a network of local resources, Councilwoman Talley and Jazmine Danci, Romulus’ director of marketing & community development, worked with the community liaison at Wayne County to obtain promotional census materials, such as banners, yard signs, bracelets, t-shirts and flyers. Reviewing census data, Councilwoman Talley then worked with the city’s media director, Roger Kadau, to place yard signs and flyers in areas of the city with lower response rates, with the goal of boosting responses. Roger distributed the yard signs and flyers and Councilwoman Talley drove around the community to identify drop-off locations.
Councilwoman Talley also worked alongside the Romulus City Council to establish “Census Mondays,” allowing city employees to sport their census t-shirts around the office and at Council meetings later in the evening. Councilwoman Talley, alongside the rest of the City Council, has worn her t-shirt and shared census reminders and updates at every Council meeting since August. Given the emphasis on census responses as demonstrated by Councilwoman Talley and others, city employees made sure to end every resident phone call with a reminder to fill out the census.
Combining her commitment to her faith and community, Councilwoman Talley—alongside leading pastors in the Romulus Christian Ministerial Alliance—has organized pop-up prayer events every Thursday in September. The events allow residents to gather in prayer and learn more about the importance of completing the census—all at a safe social distance.
Thanks to the creativity and hard work of Councilwoman Talley and countless others, Romulus’ census self-response rate is 72.8%, higher than the state’s average of 70.7% and the national average of 65.9%. Her efforts will help to ensure Romulus receives the federal funding it needs over the next 10 years to thrive and continue to be a Home of Opportunity for residents and businesses alike.
To learn more about the census and how to complete your response, please visit https://www.michigan.gov/census2020/.
David Paul and his wife, Nancy, have lived in Romulus since 1964. After looking for houses in the area, David and Nancy came upon a new subdivision in Romulus that had everything they were looking for: a good neighborhood, friendly neighbors and space large enough to eventually raise their two sons, Scott and Keith.
Not only are David and Nancy long-time Romulus residents, they have also worked in the city for many years. In 1965, when Romulus was still a township, David was hired by the Water Department as inventory control and eventually worked his way to system director then department director. In 1970, Romulus officially became a city and the Water Department was renamed the Department of Public Works. David retired from the department 37 years later. Nancy worked at the Community United Methodist Church as an administrative assistant for nearly 30 years.
“Nancy and I always loved working and living in Romulus,” David said. “Throughout the years, we were able to form lasting friendships with our neighbors and coworkers.”
Although David is retired from the DPW, his work in the community has not stopped. David has been with the Romulus Planning Commission for more than 30 years and he currently serves as the commission’s secretary.
The Planning Commission reviews and approves new development proposals to ensure they comply with the City Zoning Ordinance. When a new business wants to set up shop in Romulus, their first stop is to check in with the Planning Department, which then reviews and forwards the information to the planning commission. The commission is also responsible for adopting the City’s Master Plan and making recommendations to the City Council on zoning ordinance amendments. In addition to serving on the Planning Commission, David worked on the Tax Review Board, where he would review residents’ tax complaints and concerns.
When he is not busy with the Planning Commission, David and his wife enjoy going to events around the community, like the Pumpkin Festival and Sounds in Downtown. They are also members of the Romulus Athletic Center and are happy it has reopened to the public.
“Romulus is a great community to live and work in,” David said. “You can have a good life here, surrounded by even better people.”
Matthew Raftary has lived in Romulus for more than 30 years. Two things drew him to Romulus: his job as the city assessor and his love for a hometown girl.
Matthew and his wife, Sharon, live in the northwest corner of Romulus on a large acreage property. Although they are only minutes from I-94, I-275 and the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, they love the quaint, country feel of their property.
“I grew up in a subdivision, so I’ve always wanted to live somewhere that felt like the country,” Matthew said. “Romulus is the perfect mix of both—our property is quiet, and we get visits from a variety of wildlife. At the same time, we aren’t far from the city and major expressways.”
While Matthew has lived in Romulus for many years, he has served on the city’s Tax Increment Finance Authority (TIFA) for even longer. Matthew has been with TIFA since its inception nearly 40 years ago.
As a TIFA chairman, Matthew works alongside the rest of the board to encourage economic development, neighborhood revitalization and historic preservation in Romulus. TIFA is permitted to plan and propose construction, renovation, repair and improvements to public facilities through a TIFA Plan that is approved by the board and City Council. TIFA funds these projects strictly through taxes generated by new development as a result of its efforts.
In recent years, Matthew and TIFA have supported a number of infrastructure and revenue-generating developments for the City of Romulus, including the Romulus Athletic Center, the Vining Road interchange and lighting and signage updates on Whickham and Merriman.
“The infrastructure work encouraged by TIFA on Wick and Vining spurred new development and businesses to open shop near the intersection,” Matthew said. “As a result, additional taxes were generated and captured, allowing us to pay off money borrowed for the project and seek new developments.”
TIFA offers improvement projects, like that of the Wick and Vining project, with the goal of visually enhancing Romulus and creating an attractive community for businesses and residents alike. Thanks to the hard work of Matthew and TIFA, Romulus continues to remain a Home of Opportunity.
Nine-year-old Romulus resident Dylan Lowrey loves two things: animals and helping others.
When Governor Whitmer put her stay-at-home order in place, Dylan feared the animals at the Romulus Animal Shelter would be in need of food and supplies—like many of us are during these difficult times.
With help from his parents, Dylan gathered cash donations from members of the community and used the money to purchase an entire truckload of supplies for the shelter. His donation included wet and dry food, treats, toys, cat litter, cleaning supplies, 30 hand-sewn dog beds and pizza for the shelter’s staff.
“Dylan’s mom called the shelter to let us know they would be coming with donations, but we were shocked when we saw the entire truckload of supplies,” said Animal Control Officer Annie Hall. “His donation came at the perfect time. The animals and staff are so thankful.”
Dylan has always had a passion for helping those around him. Two years ago, he raised $900 by playing his guitar in the neighborhood and at local businesses. He used that money to help a single mother buy Christmas presents for her three children—dropping off the gifts, and a hot meal, to their house on Christmas Eve.
Since word got around about Dylan’s first donation, he has raised an additional $1,200 for the Romulus Animal Shelter and is currently planning to drop off another truckload. When Governor Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order expires and more businesses reopen, Dylan plans to place donation boxes at stores around Romulus in order to collect more supplies for the shelter.
During these uncertain times, it’s important to remember that every person has the ability to make a difference in their community—no matter their age. Dylan’s giving heart and love for his community make him the embodiment of ‘Romulus Strong.’
“When I grow up, I want to be a veterinarian or a fire fighter,” Dylan said. “I just want to help everyone around me as much as possible.”
Brian and Michelle Major
Lifelong Romulus residents Michelle and Brian Major embody the phrase “Romulus Strong.” After three long weeks battling COVID-19, Michelle and Brian have fortunately recovered from the virus and are leading healthy lives. Now, they are thanking first responders for their unwavering dedication to the community during these challenging times.
Brian and Michelle have spent the last three years volunteering as chaplains for the Romulus and Westland police and fire departments, along with the Detroit Metro Airport Fire Department. As chaplains, Michelle and Brian are trained to help first responders cope with the stresses of their job. When a department reaches out after a first responder is experiencing stress or trauma, Brian and Michelle show them ways to cope mentally, physically and, if requested, spiritually.
When Brian and Michelle fell ill with the coronavirus, they still found a way to thank and encourage the first responders in the communities they serve: creating 13 hand-made “thank you” signs.
In the throes of COVID-19, the couple would spend time making the signs until exhausted from the virus and forced to take a break. This process repeated itself for several weeks until Michelle and Brian finally recovered from the virus and were healthy enough to spend a day putting up 13 signs throughout Romulus and Westland. The signs were strategically placed near the entrance of the stations, so their words of encouragement are the first thing the police officers and fireman see on their way into work each day.
“We made these signs because we weren’t able to physically be with them during these hard times,” said Michelle. “We also send notes and emails of encouragement to each of the departments.”
Michelle and Brian know how lucky they are as seniors to have both overcome the virus, and they hope their story will encourage others in Romulus to stay positive and remember to thank first responders—those in our community who are often on the frontlines and exposed to COVID-19.
In addition to volunteering as chaplain, Michelle manages Romulus Flowers & Gifts and has plans to join her husband in retirement at the end of the year. Both Michelle and Brian are looking forward dedicating all of their time to their duties as chaplains.
“These first responders are a part of our family,” said Michelle. “I gained brothers and sisters when I became a chaplain for the police and fire departments.”
Mark Lewkowicz’s favorite thing about living and owning a business in Romulus?
“The small town atmosphere and how people in the community members look out for each other. The way Romulus residents care for each other can’t be matched.”
Mark has lived in Romulus since he was nine years old. If you ask him about his favorite memory growing up, he finds it hard to pick just one.
Mark fondly recalls playing in the woods with other children in the neighborhood and enjoying a frozen Coke from Walter’s Drug Store. Mark spent a lot of time browsing model cars at the dime store, L&M Variety, while his mother would shop for items like socks or needles and thread.
But Mark’s favorite memory was watching Merlin Lemmon work the day shift at the interlocking tower that served the Norfolk & Western and Chesapeake & Ohio railroads. He would sit and observe Merlin manually controlling the levers that would switch the railroad tracks, and send telegraphs back and forth to other towers.
“A guy my age shouldn’t know what it looks like to send and receive a telegraph. Maybe my grandparents, but not me,” said Mark. “The interlocking towers were one of the few places still using that method of communication and it was neat to witness. I’ll never forget that, or Mr. Lemmon.”
Mark is a graduate of Romulus High School and went on to earn an associate’s degree in automotive mechanics from Washtenaw Community College, as well as a bachelor’s degree in vocational education from the University of Michigan. Fast forward to 2020 and Mark is married with two adult children. He owns Landis Machine Shop, the oldest continually operating machine shop in Romulus. The company was founded in 1928 by Cleland B. Landis and recently celebrated its 91st anniversary. Mark has worked at Landis Machine Shop on and off since he was a young boy. The shop was purchased in 1979 by Mark and his family.
Mark has also actively served on several city boards and commissions, including the Romulus Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and the Romulus Historical Commission. Mark was the Chamber’s Board President from 1992 to 1994 and again from 2014 to 2016. He is now the acting chairman of the Historical Commission.
Mark credits his passion for leading and giving back to his father, John, who believed in community service. John was a member of the Romulus Kiwanis and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), a leader among the Cub and Boy Scouts of America, served as Treasurer and as council member for the Romulus City Council.
David Jones has lived in Romulus his entire life. His parents first moved from Alabama to Detroit. David’s father didn’t like the city life, so the close-knit, rural atmosphere in Romulus’ Jones Sub neighborhood was the perfect place to raise a family. By 1949, David’s family called Romulus home.
“Back then, Romulus was mostly farm land,” David said. “My father raised chickens and planted gardens, and some of our neighbors also gardened and raised other livestock.”
One of David’s fondest memories about growing up in the Jones Sub of Romulus were the community softball games. On Sundays, residents of all ages would gather outside of the TJ Coleman Community Center to play a few afternoon games.
David’s parents have since passed on, but he and his three sisters all still live in Romulus. A lot of classmates and friends still live in the city as well. David likes being able to drive around town and wave to familiar faces – something he feels he wouldn’t be able to do elsewhere.
His wife Joyce has always called Romulus home, too. David and Joyce have been married for 38 years, but they have known each other much longer. They first met in kindergarten at Beverly Elementary School and started dating several years after high school. David and Joyce have three adult children and 10 grandchildren.
Although he is retired now, David remains active in the community. He is president of the Romulus Athletic Boosters, runs the concession stand at high school basketball and football games. For many years, he coached little league and high school football. David volunteers through St. John’s Lodge #44. He is also a member of Mount Olive Baptist Church of Romulus where he servers as co-chairman of the Deacon Board, a member of the male chorus, and part of the transportation ministry.
He volunteers at events such as the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Walk and Celebration and helps stuff backpacks with school supplies in August for St. John’s Lodge #44 Youth Day.
“Whatever Romulus needs, I’m always happy to help,” David said.
We are grateful to have passionate residents like David spend their entire lives in the city we call home.
Taylor Johnson not only lives in Romulus, she helps others find their dream home in our community, too. Taylor is a REALTOR® at RE/MAX Cornerstone and she enjoys selling homes in Romulus because she knows firsthand the type of small-town, welcoming community Romulus offers residents of all ages.
“I tell interested homebuyers that living in Romulus is one of the best decisions they could make because our city has so much to offer when it comes to affordability, land and community activities,” Taylor said. “A lot of people who move to Romulus spend their entire lives here, and I think that speaks to it being such a great city and place to live.”
Taylor attended Romulus Public Schools through middle school before moving to Detroit in 2003. In 2009, Taylor and her mom moved back to Romulus because they wanted to be close to family. She says moving back was an easy decision.
When Taylor isn’t working, she spends her time giving back to our city. Taylor has been a member of the Romulus Garden Club since 2017, and through the club she has played a vital role in the beautification of the community. The garden club plants garden beds at the Romulus Senior Center, works with Boyscouts of America and assists the Parks and Recreation Department with upkeep of the city’s many parks. Taylor was appointed to the Beautification Committee in 2019 and volunteers with the Romulus Housing Commission’s Resident Engagement Committee.
Growing up, Taylor’s favorite pastime was sitting on the hood of her parents’ car with friends to watch the fireworks from Romulus Middle School.
Meet Jessica Workman, a 25-year Romulus resident and a Romulus Community Schools graduate. Jessica grew up in a military family and when her dad retired from the army, her family moved back to Romulus to live closer to her grandparents.
After graduating from Romulus High School, Jessica went on to study political science at The University of Michigan-Dearborn. When it came time to taking the next step in her life and purchase a home, Jessica knew Romulus was the city where she wanted to plant her roots.
“Affordability is an issue with people my age and that’s why many of us live with our parents or rent instead of buying a home. After looking in surrounding communities, I quickly learned that home ownership is possible for young people in Romulus and that’s a big reason why I moved back.”
During work hours, Jessica is the vice president of member experience at Advantage One Credit Union in Brownstown. In her spare time, Jessica gives back to the city of Romulus through leadership and service. Jessica sits on the Planning Commission, where she helps bring new business to the city and is a voice for current businesses. She also works with Director of Fire Services & Emergency Management Kevin Krause and Director of Public Services Bob McCraight to help local veterans with the Romulus Veterans Outreach Coalition.
Jessica embraces the slogan “Home of Opportunity” at her core and we are proud to have a passionate, young professional like her living in and giving back to our community.
“There is so much opportunity for young people like me to get involved in the community and enact real change. People in Romulus are willing to listen to the younger generation and I don’t think that’s always true in other cities.”
In Romulus, there is always a Blue Sky.
Blue Sky Ice Cream and Hamburgers that is. Many Romulus residents have fond memories at the local eatery, from riding the Jurassic Park Truck or climbing the giant wheel out back to attending a classic car show or stopping by for treats after a little league game. Blue Sky is a staple establishment in the City of Romulus. First opened in 1957 by the Bladder Family, the restaurant has been owned by Pat and Lynn Ostrowski since 2001.
“One thing about Blue Sky is that everyone can come here and feel like they’re at home,” says Ostrowski. “This is a place where people like to spend hours of their time, whether it’s to play a game of cornhole or use a bench to read a book.”
Community members often visit Blue Sky for its six-pack of hamburgers and Sanders hot fudge but end up staying for the ambiance. In addition to having traditional picnic tables for seating, Blue Sky also provides music, a playground and an area where pets can safely roam off-leash. Animal lovers are always welcome to say hello to the restaurant’s goat, Isiah, and pig, Wilbur. Over the years, Blue Sky has been a popular venue for birthdays, graduation parties, other milestones and so much more.
Committed to giving back to the Romulus community, Blue Sky hosts a three-day festival every summer to bring neighbors together and raise money for a local organization or cause. Blue Sky recently hosted its sixth-annual festival, which included a cornhole tournament, Jurassic Park Jeep rides, a classic car show and a craft and vendor show. With the help of the community, Blue Sky raised $1,200 for Sunrise House, a local shelter supporting women and children in crisis.
"We always want to do good for Romulus,” says Ostrowski. “Everyone in the community knows us and supports us so we want to be there for everyone in the community.”
The Ostrowski’s are not originally from Romulus, but the city has held a special place in her heart for the last 20 years. She still admires and respects the community because the people are friendly and it’s a great place to build a business.
“There is such a variety of businesses in Romulus,” Ostrowski says. “From my little ice cream and hamburger joint to large factories with hundreds of jobs and people passing through every day—if you have something you want to grow, Romulus is the place.”
Norman Catering and Events
If you regularly attend City of Romulus events, you have likely tasted the delicious homestyle cooking of Leilani and Ashon Norman, co-owners of Norman Catering & Events.
Seven years ago, the husband-and-wife duo combined their food service and event planning expertise to launch a full-service catering business. In addition to social events, weddings and corporate parties, Norman Catering and Events is one of the primary vendors for official city-wide events and activities. A typical menu consists of comfort food and from-scratch offerings, can be tasted at events like Breakfast with Santa, Mother/Daughter Tea Parties, Daddy/Daughter Dances and more.
“We started Norman Catering and Events because we wanted to invest in our city,” says Ashon. “We love being a part of something bigger in Romulus and reaching new heights because of the support we receive from our neighbors.”
Norman Catering and Events works directly with customers to develop a customized plan that best fits their budget and needs. As the business grows, Leilani and Ashon have hired three part-time employees to support events and logistics. Norman Catering & Events also partners with Romulus Community Schools to provide scholarships for students interested in pursuing the culinary arts. The scholarship has been active for the past three years, providing 2 students with $200 each to date.
On May 19, Norman Catering and Events will open its first physical location, Norman Café, in the Romulus Athletic Center. Leilani and Ashon hope the location will be a place where students and community members can participate in culinary internships to gain valuable real-word experience in the industry.
In addition to being business owners in the community, Leilani and Ashon are also raising their family in Romulus. When they are not working City of Romulus events, the Normans like to attend the Pumpkin Festival, Tree Lighting and Fall Festival as a family. In 2021, Leilani started Romulus Girl Scouts Troop 77588, which meets at the Romulus Athletic Center.
“We decided to build our life in Romulus after we got married because of the opportunities for family and business growth,” says Leilani. “We’re in a fortunate position where we get to serve at City events and attend them as a family.”
To learn more about Norman Catering & Events, please visit normancateringevents.com or call (734) 334-0610.
Good Measure Spotlight
“We want the children in our community to know they can have a good future,” says Kim Glenn, founder and executive director of Good Measure. “We want them to keep dreaming and be encouraged to believe that success is achievable.”
Good Measure is a Romulus-based non-profit organization focused on facilitating change in the community for low-income youth and their families as well as providing financial resources and educational guidance to ensure they are aware of the career choices available to them. Good Measure serves children, seniors and small businesses that do not have resources to learn about the tools they need to create a business. As a former sub-secretary at Romulus Community Schools, Kim saw firsthand the community’s need for mentorship, financial, educational and trauma resources.
Good Measure launched its first workshop, a website-building course, in March 2022. Its success inspired the organization to host the Aspiring Entrepreneur and Small Business Owner Workshop, a two-day professional development event slated for Friday, May 13, and Saturday, May 14 at the Romulus Senior Center. The workshop will be led by Warren Galloway, a business coach, mentor, author and microlending advocate with more than 25 years of small business experience. During the two-day workshop, attendees will learn how to start and run a business and improve an existing business.
“Mr. Galloway is an expert voice in the microlending industry. Having him as a facilitator of our second workshop makes this an even better opportunity for young entrepreneurs and businesses who may need help getting back on track,” Kim says. “Anyone from Romulus or our surrounding communities, regardless of age, is invited to stop by and learn something new. We only have 50 seats, so I encourage interested individuals to register as soon as possible.”
To register for the Aspiring Entrepreneur and Small Business Owner Workshop, please visit GoodMeasure-Nonprofit.org.
Kim says she chose to start her non-profit in Romulus because of the small-knit community. Not only does the city feel like home, she also saw an active need to fund programs designed to teach students and young adults the skills they need to succeed in a career or in higher education. Kim has lived in Romulus for 30 years. She is married to Romulus native and 1986 graduate of Romulus High School, Stevie Glenn. They have three children who graduated from Romulus schools, and five grandchildren. Three of which currently attend Romulus Community Schools. They are active members of the Pentecostal Missionary Baptist Church, where they are proud to serve alongside Pastor Arthur Willis in the community.
As Good Measure continues to grow, Kim sees many opportunities to be further involved in the Romulus community. She hopes to facilitate the creation of more sidewalk libraries, community clean-up days, life-skills training courses, financial literacy programs, credit repair, first time home buyer workshops and much more.
“Everyone is not college material. Some of our youth don't have resources or the support needed to attend college. But that doesn't mean they can't be successful. It’s time we stopped trying to change the minds of our children and grandchildren when they announce they want to do hair or nails, or open a pop-up shop,” says Kim. “Instead, I want to give them the resources to make these dreams attainable, especially for our low-income and at-risk youth and their families.”
Romulus Flowers & Gifts
After being forced to close in August 2021 due to damages from a fire in an adjacent building, longtime Romulus florist, Romulus Flowers & Gifts, has reopened its doors for business.
Owner Michelle Krause and her team welcomed the community to tour the new space—which includes an updated working area, upgraded showroom floor and new flooring, ceiling tiles, insulation and HVAC system—while enjoying light refreshments.
Longtime customers, Mayor Robert McCraight, the Romulus Chamber of Commerce, local elected officials, family and friends joined Michelle in celebrating the big day.
“This flower shop has been a staple in the Romulus community for decades,” says Michelle. “We’re just thrilled to finally reopen and see our customers and friends face-to-face in the shop again.”
Romulus Flowers & Gifts is already back into the swing of business, with their team busy putting together arrangements for Valentine’s Day. The designers at the florist give every arrangement personal dedication and care to specifically meet the individual needs of every customer. Arrangements are designed with the highest quality flowers, from roses and sunflowers to succulents.
Just as the City of Romulus has supported her business, Michelle seeks to give back to the community through charitable contributions and partnerships. In the past, Romulus Flowers & Gifts has donated gift cards, flower arrangements and a percentage of proceeds to Relay for Life, the Romulus High School Band, several of the local elementary school programs and suicide awareness golf outings. Fittingly, Michelle’s favorite aspect of operating a business in Romulus is the community.
“Romulus is a small-town community that supports its local businesses and anyone trying to make a positive impact on the City,” says Michelle. “Our customers are top-notch and like family to us. We have the wonderful pleasure of watching families grow and celebrating with them when they stop in to buy flowers.”
To learn more about Romulus Flowers & Gifts, please visit romulusflowers.com or visit their Facebook page.
Business Spotlight: Romulus Senior Center Spotlight
Located downtown at 36525 Bibbins Street is the Romulus Senior Center, a centralized hub for the city’s older adult population. Open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Romulus Senior Center offers residents a range of recreation and entertainment activities, from arts and crafts and Bingo to a quilting club and group outings.
Perhaps more important, though, than the fun activities available at the Senior Center are the essential services it provides. When the pandemic hit and the world seemed to stop, the Senior Center knew it had to continue, if not ramp up, its services to meet the needs of residents. As a result, the center partnered with Wayne County’s Meals on Wheels program to package and deliver five meals a week and two meals a weekend, including liquid meals to those unable to eat solid foods. From October 2020 – September 2021, the Romulus Senior Center distributed a total of 45,000 packaged and liquid meals to residents in need, and they continue to do so to this day.
“It’s important the community knows we’re readily available to provide free services and resources five days a week,” says Rose Swidan, the Senior Center’s director. “We’re here to help any way we can, whether handing out food and medical equipment or being there to provide general counsel.”
The Senior Center also partners with Focus Hope and The Emergency Food Assistance Program to organize drive-thru food distributions on the third Thursday of every month from 9:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. This service is available to all residents, not just seniors, and meals consist of canned goods, pasta, frozen meats, dried milk, juice and more. For a limited time, the Senior Center is also offering boxes of fresh produce and canned goods. A box can be reserved by calling the Senior Center at (734) 955-4120.
In addition to food services, the Romulus Senior Center also understands that yard maintenance can be a burden for older residents and those who are physically challenged. With support from the Wayne County Community Development Block Grant program, the Senior Center offers lawn service and snow removal to qualifying residents. The Senior Center also offers an in-house salon. Made a reality through the Friends of Romulus Senior Center nonprofit, the salon provides a safe common space for older residents to get their hair and nails done.
Additional services and programs offered by the Senior Center include daily congregate hot lunches, free transportation to appointments and stores, free monthly visits with podiatrists and lawyers, flu clinics and health fairs, free blood pressure screenings, Red Hat Society meetings, Senior Olympics, walking club, Bunco and more.
“Residents should know that we’ve never stopped, even when COVID hit, and that we continue to sanitize every day so seniors feel comfortable and safe in our building,” says Rose. “We’re so blessed that Romulus supports our efforts and gives us the opportunity to take care of our community’s seniors. We invite all of them to visit and enjoy the space and company.”
The Romulus Senior Center is hosting its annual Christmas Luncheon at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, December 15. All food is made in compliance with the CDC and local health department, and everyone who attends will receive a special gift to take home. If you are a senior and interested in attending, please call (734) 955-4120 to RSVP.
To stay up to date on events like the Christmas Luncheon and others, please sign up to receive the monthly Senior Communicator and other alerts by calling (734) 955-4120.
Business Spotlight: The Upscale Warehouse
Carol and Vincent Lewis moved to the City of Romulus in 2003 to explore the ample opportunities available in the area, including buying land, building a home and starting a business. After accomplishing the first two goals, it didn’t take long for the couple to realize their dream of owning a restaurant where they could serve high-end food and feature talented local musicians. The couple have always been entrepreneurs, and Carol is also a real estate broker in Romulus.
“We were looking for a place to go in Romulus that provided good food and music in one location,” Carol says. “We kept finding ourselves in Detroit and Oakland County for these offerings, so we purchased our current building in 2010.”
Located at 6492 Wayne Road, The Upscale Warehouse Lounge offers live jazz and a full menu of high-end food and signature cocktails every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. To match the upscale environment of the lounge, patrons are asked to dress in semi-formal attire, meaning no sweats, hoodies or flip-flips. Carol and Vincent have enlisted their family to help operate The Upscale Warehouse Lounge, with their son Marquinn serving as manager and their daughter Kayla helping with bartending when needed. The family business also includes daughter-in-law Kyera helping with technical support and son-in-law Dennis as a frequent musician.
The family’s favorite part about owning a business in Romulus is building relationships with the residents and musicians they wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to meet. Carol and Vincent prioritize supporting and giving back to the Romulus community by hiring residents.
After closing its doors due to the pandemic, The Upscale Warehouse Lounge reopened in August, and the family is looking forward to welcoming the community once again. To support the health and safety of patrons, The Upscale Warehouse Lounge installed an air purification system and is enforcing strict sanitization protocols.
If you or someone you know is a musician or singer specializing in R&B, jazz or Motown and interested in performing, please contact The Upscale Warehouse Lounge on Facebook.
Business Spotlight: Ford Ion Park
The City of Romulus has seen significant growth in recent years as it continues to embrace its reputation as the “Home of Opportunity.” Offering access to the state’s major interstates, five Class-A rail lines and the Detroit Metropolitan Airport, companies like Amazon, Penske and Kroger have planted roots in the city—in turn boosting the local economy, bringing in millions of dollars in new revenue and creating job opportunities for residents.
Now, the City is proud to usher in another new opportunity with the announcement of the Ford Ion Park. Ford Motor Co.’s battery research and development center will move into an existing 270,000-square-foot facility located at 38100 Ecorse Rd Romulus, MI 48174 once the space has been refurbished to house a team of 200 engineers and researchers. The building is expected to open for operation in Q4 2022. .
“The Ford Ion Park is a unique opportunity for Romulus, one that differs from the logistic developments we’ve welcomed in the past,” said Mayor Leroy Burcroff. “Not only do we have the pleasure of being a part of Ford’s next generation of electric vehicles, our community’s workforce is set to grow by more than 200 specialized individuals.”
The Ford Ion Park will serve as home base for the company’s research initiatives, exploring new technologies, piloting advanced manufacturing techniques and optimizing all aspects of the electric vehicle value chain. Researchers will also work to develop and manufacture lithium ion and solid-state battery cells to accelerate electrification efforts across the Ford footprint.
Ford Ion Park will further enhance Romulus’ melting pot of talent and culture—adding Ph.D. researchers and scientists to our existing community of dedicated workers who have spent years contributing to our region’s rich automotive history. The Ford Ion Park will also create new partnerships with our state’s research universities, positioning Romulus as the epicenter for breakthroughs in electrification technology. By inviting in a new sector of employees and visitors, we can expect to see an increase in our housing market as well as an economic boost for local businesses, such as restaurants and lodging.
Investments made by companies like Ford Motor Co., Kroger, Amazon and Penske would not be possible without the support of local entities, such as the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Detroit Region Aerotropolis. Together, these partners work to ensure developers, businesses, and most importantly, our residents, directly benefit from the projects that happen in our great city.
“As the automotive industry heads toward electrification, it’s telling to see Ford Motor Co. select Romulus as its Metro Detroit hub for research and innovation,” said Aerotropolis Executive Director Christopher Girdwood. “Through our partnership with Romulus, we know the community is uniquely positioned for this kind of development and we’re looking forward to seeing how it will impact residents and business owners.”
To learn more about Ford Ion Park, please visit: https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/fna/us/en/news/2021/07/27/ford-romulus-mich-ford-ion-park.html.
To learn more about the City of Romulus, please visit: www.romulusgov.com/.
Business Spotlight: Flowers in the Mitten
Flowers are a timeless gift that can be given for almost any occasion—and many times, no occasion at all. When Flowers in the Mitten Owner Rachel Botu opened the store in 2019, it was with the intention of becoming a community florist that would draw shoppers downtown and assist residents through all of life’s special moments.
“We wanted to be there for the community during the good and bad times,” Rachel said. “From the first date, to prom, to the wedding and, inevitably, the funeral.”
Located at 36726 Goddard Road, Flowers in the Mitten boasts a custom-made flower cooler, one of the only florists in Southeast Michigan with such a design. In addition to the ability to place custom-designed orders over the phone or online, customers can shop the cooler for daily arrangement offerings.
Committed to supporting fellow local businesses, Flowers in the Mitten also offers a plethora of Michigan-made items, including, jewelry, chocolates, greeting cards, lotions, candles, cutting boards, homemade wreaths and more. Flowers in the Mitten can also customize items, from vases, cups, lanterns or wood products, using a laser engraver.
While Rachel has always had a passion for creating flower arrangements, she is relatively new to the industry. Prior to opening Flowers in the Mitten, Rachel worked for a Romulus trucking company for 10 years. After giving birth to her son, Rachel’s husband, Paul, encouraged her to follow her passion. Rachel quickly enrolled in florist classes and found a job with a local florist, where she continued to hone her skills.
It has been two years since Rachel has opened Flowers in the Mitten and she loves the opportunity the store provides her to interact with the community.
“Meeting new customers and seeing returning customers is rewarding, and it’s my favorite part of the job,” Rachel said. “Since opening the store, it feels like the community is my family because I’m able to connect with residents on a personal level.”
Creating a space within the store where residents feel welcome and at home has always been a priority for Rachel, which is why she created a café-like area in lobby. Residents are welcome to sit on the couch while enjoying complimentary coffee and Michigan-made snacks. Often times, residents will purchase their flowers and spend time in the lobby chatting with Rachel for hours. In the past, the space has been used by local church groups for bible study and coffee, and by local Girl Scout groups as a meet-up location. Flowers in the Mitten also offers seasonal arts and crafts for families. In the fall, the store held a pumpkin painting event and at Christmas, they set up a free ornament decoration station.
In addition to giving back to the Romulus community as a businesswoman, Rachel also gives back through service. Rachel has been on the Downtown Development Authority Board for nearly two years, serving as vice president for the past year. In this position, she helps the city with planning, improving downtown and creating an all-around more inviting environment for small businesses.
“My family and I have lived in the Romulus for seven years and we absolutely love this community,” Rachel said. “Downtown is a charming area, and we hope our flower shop helps attract residents and people from surrounding communities.”
Flowers in the Mitten celebrated its second anniversary on August 24 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. where the community enjoyed food, giveaways and flower specials. those looking for a family friendly fall activity, Flowers in the Mitten has organized Halloween craft and vendor show on October 30 from 11 a.m. 4 – p.m. that will include costumes, food trucks, fun activities and more.
The City of Romulus Adds 10-Foot-Wide Pathway for Pedestrians
There is still plenty of nice weather left this year, and taking your family outside for fun activities is a great way to get in exercise and spend quality time together. In addition to several public parks, we’re pleased to announce that the City of Romulus has a new 10-foot-wide shared pathway running from the I-275 Metro Trail into downtown Romulus.
The Huron River Drive Pathway was constructed in partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and is supported from a $297,600 federal grant. Recognizing the need for a safer path for bikers and pedestrians, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) also provided $100,000 toward the project. The pathway consists of a shared-use path along Huron River Drive from Northline Road to Grant Street. At the intersection of Huron River Drive and Goddard Street, the trail becomes a bicycle path. Sharrows, or bike-specific signage, have been installed on Goddard Road from Grant Street to Hunt Street to support traffic flow and biker safety.
“In Romulus, we consider our community the Home of Opportunity. That means we strive to create an environment where residents, businesses owners and visitors alike can live, work and play,” said Mayor LeRoy Burcroff. “With the addition of the Huron River Drive Pathway, bikers and pedestrians can safely commute from I-275 directly into downtown Romulus. We’re excited to see how the community takes advantage of this new recreational opportunity.”
Some of the first residents to enjoy the new Huron River Drive Pathway were those who participated in the Romulus Police Department’s second annual Police and Community Together (PACT) bike ride. During the event, which was held last month, residents had the opportunity to test out the 1.5-mile pathway alongside the men and women of the Romulus Police Department. The bike ride ended at Romulus Historical Park, where eventgoers enjoyed a picnic and won giveaways.
To promote biker, pedestrian and vehicle safety surrounding the Huron River Drive Pathway, the Romulus Police Department has compiled the following safety guidelines:
- Ride with the flow of traffic
- Obey the rules of the road, including:
- Traffic signs
- Lane markings and signals
- Using hand signals to indicate turns, slowing or stopping
- Stay as far to the right as is practical when riding in traffic lanes
- Don’t enter the roadway without first stopping to look for vehicles
- Ride predictably and defensively, and do not ride while drunk or distracted
- Have a white front headlight and a red rear reflector if riding after dark or in low light conditions
- Leave at least three feet of space between your vehicle and a bicyclist when passing. If this is impractical, pass at a safe distance and at a safe speed
- After passing, don't return to the traffic lane until well clear of the bicyclist
- Look for bicyclists riding from behind on the road shoulder or in a bike lane before turning right at an intersection, turning into a driveway or pulling off the road. Yield and allow them to pass before turning, as appropriate
- Pay special attention around parked cars and near school zones, playgrounds and parks where children are likely to be present
- Watch for surprising changes in direction, especially by children or cyclists trying to avoid road hazards
Business Spotlight: Big Steve’s Designz/We Beautique/Harmon Grounds
What do customized motorcycles, natural hair care and freshly brewed coffee have in common? They are all coming soon to downtown Romulus in one convenient location. Romulus residents Steve and Wendy Harmon are an entrepreneurial power couple with big plans to open three new businesses side-by-side at the old Romulus fire house. Steve and Wendy will soon reoccupy the building at the corner of Goddard and Wayne in downtown Romulus with Big Steve’s Designz, We Beautique and Harmon Grounds Café.
On one side of the building, Big Steve’s Designz will offer motorcycle repairs and customization. On the other side, We Beautique will offer hair and beauty care. Harmon Grounds café, a coffee shop, will serve as a gathering place in the middle.
Steve has been repairing and customizing motorcycles from his garage for nearly 30 years. What started as a hobby soon grew into a business venture and in 2013, Steve started accepting paying customers. Steve recently retired from his day job and is looking forward to operating his motorcycle business full time this summer with a grand opening slated for June 26. The community is invited to celebrate the grand opening of Big Steve’s Designz from 2-8 p.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony, bounce house, local food trucks and more.
“I fell in love with motorcycles in 1973 when my Uncle Maurice purchased my big brother Kenny a minibike and he let me ride it,” says Steve. “I’m passionate about building custom motorcycles because of the freedom it gives me to be creative. The reaction from my customers when they see their visions come to life, along with the bright smiles upon delivery, is everything to me.”
As the parents of six daughters, Steve and Wendy quickly learned how expensive hair care can be. With trends changing constantly, they wanted to encourage their daughters to embrace their culture and wear their natural hair with pride. This led to Wendy opening a salon in 2011, offering interlocking and braiding hair care services.
“I saw the difference hair could make in women’s lives—how it empowered and liberated them,” Wendy says. “I knew then that I wanted to relocate and open my own community-based salon to provide that same feeling of empowerment and self-love to women in Romulus.”
Following in their mother’s footsteps, Wendy’s two oldest daughters, Whitney and Erin, tapped into the beauty industry and began offering eyelash extensions and makeup artistry alongside their mom. It was this mother-daughter partnership that inspired the name of We Beautique. The “We” stands for “Women’s Empowerment,” and it also borrows the first letter from the names of Wendy’s oldest daughters, Whitney and Erin. Together, the women of We Beautique look forward to servicing clients at the completion of their brick-and-mortar location in August.
For years, Wendy had always wanted to open a coffee shop. Her love for coffee began as a child and one of her favorite childhood memories is enjoying a cup with her grandmother during visits.
“It made me feel like I was lady living like royalty,” says Wendy.
During a trip to North Carolina in 2019, Wendy visited a hair salon-coffee shop combination and instantly fell in love with the concept. A short time later when the opportunity to purchase a building for their businesses arose, Wendy knew a coffee shop had to be incorporated into the design. The name Harmon Grounds is a play on words, not only representing the obvious: coffee grounds, but also the common ground that connects their family, businesses and the community.
“We wanted to create a comfortable and welcoming space where the community could gather, a place that would feel like a home away from home,” Wendy said. “We love the small-town feel of Romulus and instantly fell in love with the downtown area when we moved to the city a few years ago. By creating new businesses and a place for residents to gather, we are playing our role to further revitalize downtown and bring the community together.”
Business Spotlight: Dave's Barber Shop
More than 50 years ago, Romulus residents Dave and Judy Rakotz opened Dave’s Barbershop at the five points intersection at Goddard and Huron River Drive. A few years after their grand opening, Dave and Judy moved the family-owned barbershop to the building it resides in today, located at 37148 Goddard Road.
Romulus resident Danielle Gibson has been a barber at Dave’s Barbershop for nearly half of its long history. During those 25 years, Danielle grew to love the business, her customers and, of course, founders Dave and Judy.
When Dave and Judy decided to sell the business two years ago, Danielle jumped at the opportunity.
“I love working in this town and Dave’s Barbershop has become a second home to me,” says Danielle. “The people in this community are so thoughtful and are always willing to lend a helping hand to their neighbors in their time of need.”
Now the proud owner of Dave’s Barbershop, Danielle still offers haircuts while overseeing a team of four talented barbers: Stephanie, Vivian, Donna and Angie. Still playing a large role in the successful business he opened more than 50 years ago, Dave also sees customers at the shop.
According to Danielle, the regulars who frequent Dave’s Barbershop are more than customers—they are like family and look out for each other as if they were kin.
“We recently had a woman who realized she lost $80 during her hair appointment and didn’t have a way to pay,” says Danielle. “A gentleman visiting the shop paid for the woman’s highlights and left before she knew it—he wanted to remain anonymous. He did it out of the good of his heart, not for recognition.”
Like her customers, Danielle says Dave’s Barbershop always tries to help local charities and organizations and they encourage other businesses in Romulus to do the same.
Most recently, Dave’s Barbershop—along with local businesses Exquisite Cutz and Glorious Creations—teamed up with the Romulus Police Department to give local kids free back-to-school haircuts.
To learn more about Dave’s Barbershop or to make an appointment, please call 734-941-0123 or visit their Facebook page.
St. John’s Lodge #44 Spotlight Romulus is home to many community-based organizations that are committed to helping residents of all ages thrive. One of these organizations is St. John’s Lodge #44. Chartered in April 1948, the lodge is part of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Michigan, Roderick D, Anderson, Grand Master. Over the last 50 years, St. John’s Lodge #44 has been a strong champion for residents in need.
St. John’s Lodge #44 is well-known for its Youth Day, an annual day of fun in August that has been a family favorite for more than 25 years. Hosted at the Coleman Community Center, located at 35351 Beverly Road, Youth Day offers fun games and activities—such as watermelon eating contests, egg tosses and sack races. St. John’s Lodge #44 also provides services at the event to support the well-being of Romulus’ next generation, including mobile dentists, health checks and a Child ID Program which provides parents and guardians with a complete ID kit.
St. John’s Lodge also uses the annual event to hand out backpacks and school supplies to students in need. The school supplies for the drive are gathered over the course of the year, either through donations or using the money raised at various fundraisers. Though they were limited last summer due to the pandemic, the organization was still able to hand out 75 backpacks and 2,000 face masks (in packs of 10) from a safe social distance.
“Our Lodge is located in the Jones subdivision, but our work transcends beyond that to cover the entire City of Romulus,” says St. John’s Lodge #44 Worshipful Master Curtis Thomas. “We try our best to lend a hand to any person in the community who needs our help.”
St. John’s Lodge #44 stays busy all year long, not just during the summer. The organization and its 57 members donated water bottles to Flint and blankets to Hurricane Katrina Victims, volunteers in the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march and hosts annual events, including fish fries, community picnics and the Annual Prayer Breakfast. The organization recently launched a scholarship program that provides graduating seniors in the Metro Detroit area with $500.
Currently, St. John’s Lodge is partnering with Leah Chapter #43 OES PHA and the Romulus Housing Commission on its effort to provide more than 100 public, affordable individual units by assembling over 100 buckets with cleaning supplies for each of the units.
“If there’s something specific the community feels could be helpful, we want to know so we can hopefully be part of it,” Curtis says.
Spotlight: Pvt. James D. Donavan/Romulus Post 78
Veterans and active-duty military personnel have and continue to play an important role in Romulus’ community and rich heritage. Many local families have dedicated generations of military service, and for their act of bravery we are thankful.
With our community’s appreciation and dedication to our country, it is no surprise we have an active Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) made up of more than 200 local veterans and their families. In fact, ever since the Private James D. Donavan VFW and Romulus Post 78 merged last year in December, Romulus is now home to the oldest VFW in Michigan. The Romulus VFW Post 78 has been a longtime community advocate and source of support for local veterans over the years. And now that the two Posts have merged, they have even more members and resources available to help those in crisis.
Ever since merging in December, the Pvt. James D. Donovan/Romulus VFW Post 78 has hosted several family-friendly events and fundraisers, from the much-loved Tacos & Margaritas dinners to a Family Feud game night. It should come as no surprise that these activities have been well attended and supported by our caring community.
During the pandemic, and between planning and hosting community events, staff and volunteers at Pvt. James. Donovan/Romulus VFW Post 78 have been hard at work restoring the organization’s hall, painting the interior of the building, installing new lights in the lounge, purchasing updated tables and chairs, and ordering a new flag to reflect the merging of the two Posts.
On Saturday, May 8, the Post is hosting a grand reopening event to unveil the hall’s new look and celebrate the newly formed group. The club room will open at 12 p.m., followed by a short ceremony at 2 p.m. and karaoke at 3 p.m. Food will be available at no cost to the community and 50/50 raffles and family-friendly games will be available throughout the entirety of the event.
“We’re always trying to reach out to veterans and their families in Romulus, whether through fundraisers or free events,” says Jr. Vice President John Stough. “We’re excited to officially announce the formation of Pvt. James D. Donovan/Romulus VFW Post 78 and look forward to continuing to work with the community to support individuals in need and honor the brave men and women who have dedicated their lives to our country.”
To stay current on upcoming events and news, or to reach out with any questions, please visit the Pvt. James D. Donovan/Romulus VFW Post 78 Facebook page or call (734) 941-3030.
Business Spotlight: Osborne Concrete
In 1965, the Osbornes decided it was time to start their own business, and they chose Romulus as home base. Charles Osborne, along with his sons, Dave (John Sr.) and Bruce, hauled concrete in their ready-mix trucks to companies in the surrounding area.
Together, Charles, Dave and Bruce bought a plot of land at Northline and Wayne Road and built a small, one-room building to run their business out of. In 1999, due to the expansion of Detroit Metropolitan Airport, the family built the facility where they are now, its larger space allowing them to revamp and increase production.
“I don’t know anyone who worked harder than my father and grandpa,” said John Osborne Jr., Dave’s son. “When my parents were first dating, my mom would ride in the truck with my dad as he would haul sand and gravel for the next day’s concrete production at night because that’s the only time she could see him.”
John and his two sisters have worked in the family business most of their lives. John was running equipment and working around the shop since he was just 10 years old. Today, Osborne Concrete is owned by John’s retired parents, while he and his sisters, Deanna and Dena, run the day-to-day operations. The family also owns and operates John D. Osborne Trucking, a fleet of gravel trains that delivers sand, gravel and road salt.
“My family thinks of Romulus as home because we’ve been in business here for so long and have come to call many of our customers friends,” John says. “Because of that, we try to be a good neighbor and support the community whenever possible.”
During the holiday season this past year, Osborne Concrete teamed up with Motor City Meats to create and distribute local and hand-made holiday food bundles. Together, the businesses distributed 50 large bundles to the school district, local churches and the Helping Hand Thrift Shop and Food Pantry. They are hoping to expand that program this year to help even more families in the community.
By providing meals to those in need, the Osborne family and the team at Motor City Meats demonstrated that even a pandemic can’t prevent the Romulus community from looking out for its own.
To learn more about Osborne Concrete, please visit http://www.osborne-inc.com.