SHIAWASSEE COUNTY — Having operated a successful, statewide public relations firm with a partner who has an opposite political persuasion, Kelly Rossman-McKinney has experience in coming up with bipartisan solutions to issues in Michigan.
Rossman-McKinney hopes this experience will translate to an election victory in November, as she pursues State Sen Rick Jones’ (R-Grand Ledge) seat in the 24th District. Rossman-McKinney, a Democrat, is running unopposed in the August primary election.
“I have a wonderful partner, John Truscott, who is a Republican, and for the past eight years we’ve run a very successful bipartisan firm,” Rossman-McKinney said of the firm Truscott Rossman, which she started by herself at at her kitchen table, as a single mother, in 1988.
“What we discovered is how important it is to come up with bipartisan solutions. The more successful we were, the more both of us were increasingly disappointed with how the legislature was devolving into a partisan organization. That has to change.”
Rossman-McKinney, 63, of Watertown Township, is married to retired Wyoming Police Department patrolman Dave Thompson and has four adult children. She retired from the PR firm she started in order to devote her energy full-time to campaigning, which is something she has never done before.
She said she did so because in her view, the political landscape has changed quite a bit since she got her start, working as a legislative secretary in the late-1970s.
“There is not a camaraderie across the aisle. I’m not even sure there is a camaraderie amongst caucuses,” Rossman-McKinney said. “What I’ve seen is not only the increased partisan rhetoric, but in many cases, I’ve seen partial solutions or temporary solutions. I don’t see long-term or sustainable solutions to problems that carry our state forward.”
Another factor in her decision to run was the lack of female participation in the state Senate. Of the four current female senators (there are 38 total), three are term-limited and cannot seek election again.
“I felt that if strong, experienced, capable women did not step up, we were going to have even fewer women representing us,” she said.
Two issues central to her campaign, she said, are finding money for road repairs and improving public education standards for students.
On the subject of roads, Rossman-McKinney said, she currently has no concrete plan to fund what some consider the worst road system of all 50 states. But she wants to look beyond “user fees” like gas taxes and registration fees to do it.
“We’ve experienced terrible potholes with the frequent freeze-thaw, and now we’ve got roads that are buckling in the heat. That’s not supposed to happen,” Rossman-McKinney said. “The challenge is going to be, are we spending the money we have in the right places and in the best places?”
On education, Rossman-McKinney would like to see a deeper focus on skilled trades learning, which she said has faltered statewide. (Some districts in Shiawassee County, like Owosso Public Schools, are an exception to that trend, she mentioned.)
“We have clearly dropped the ball in terms of introducing skilled trades to high school students and middle school students,” she said. “Parents have a tendency to send their kids to college, when that is not always the best place for every kid. Kids can go into a skilled trade and get paid to learn — not just book learning but on-the-job training. They’re getting jobs with benefits as soon as they’re done.”
The 24th District covers part of Ingham County, and Eaton, Clinton and Shiawassee counties. Rossman-McKinney’s challengers in November will be Libertarian Katie Nepton and either Tom Barrett or Brett Roberts, who are currently campaigning in the Republican Party primary.
Rossman-McKinney said while she is watching the GOP campaigns unfold, she is not disappointed to face no opposition in her own party’s primary.
“I’m content to go out and meet people and keep my powder dry,” she said “There will be plenty of time. Voters don’t start to think about a November election until Labor Day, as much as I might like them to think about it sooner. I’m looking forward to seeing who I’ll get a chance to run against.”
Rossman-McKinney has been an active campaigner in Shiawassee County. She has marched in parades in Laingsburg, Durand and Owosso, rode along with Sheriff Brian BeGole on patrol, eaten at the Wrought Iron Grill and attended the opening of The Armory business development complex.
She said while she has never run for political office before, she has enjoyed campaigning.
“I’ve learned so much about the community. I’m really impressed by how engaged people are here. It’s a microcosm of the state on a whole, a real jewel. It would be an incredible honor to serve it as senator,” she