Lee Chatfield Quits Southwest Michigan First Under Fire from Past LGBTQ Stances
Kalamazoo’s knee-jerk cancel culture proponents will get their way, as former Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield resigned Monday morning as CEO of Southwest Michigan First, just 11 days after he was hired. Members of the Kalamazoo City Commission and others opposed the hire, citing Chatfield’s opposition to civil rights protections for gays and lesbians.
In a tweet, Chatfield posted the resignation letter he sent to the Southwest Michigan First board of directors, telling them that they:
“deserved someone with a blank political slate that won’t bring about the division that I’ve unfortunately caused. So, for the betterment of the Kalamazoo community, the businesses that the board of directors represents, the staff at SWMF, and for the sake of my conscience, please see the letter of resignation I offered this morning. I remain grateful for having had this incredible opportunity.”
The resignation leaves questions about whether anybody chosen by the board could survive political scrutiny. The Detroit News reported that some prominent Michigan democrats thought Chatfield may have been more receptive to expanding the Elliot-Larsen Civil rights act than his detractors in Kalamazoo may have realized.
Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, is one of three lesbian, gay or bisexual members of the Michigan Legislature. He worked with Chatfield while serving in the House. His conversations with Chatfield about Elliott-Larsen were thoughtful and respectful, Moss said. Chatfield came a lot further than other lawmakers who "obstructed and undermined our efforts," Moss said.
Likewise, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel tweeted last week that Chatfield had spent his time in the Michigan Legislature cultivating meaningful and respectful working relationships with members of the LGBTQ community.
But Chatfield also stated that his Christian beliefs were something that he would not deny.
"As a Christian, I believe the Bible. I don’t want to hide from that. Nor do I want to run from that. I don’t say that as a shield, and I certainly don’t say that to use it as a weapon. I say it only because I want to be open and honest. And I don’t want to feel I have to be quiet about that within this community so I could collect a paycheck."
Chatfield was also criticized for a lack of economic development experience, and some alleged that he was giving the job as a reward for helping to pass a hotel tax that could be used in Kalamazoo to build a new downtown events center and was only taking the job as a stepping stone to further political office.
But Chatfield told WLNS that he was never even aware of any possible position at Southwest Michigan First until he was out of the legislature. He said he took the job in Kalamazoo for his family, and no other reason. “This was a unique opportunity to be fully immersed into a community and not have to do the commuting back and forth like what I did in Lansing for the past 6 years. This has nothing to do with any concocted theory of any future political aspirations.” Chatfield said his work with the business community in his six years in the State House gave him experience to help to lead and grow southwest Michigan’s Economy. Now, southwest Michigan won’t be able to that out.
The Southwest Michigan First’s web page states their mission this way.
“Our team is passionate about creating jobs and cultivating a strong economy in Southwest Michigan. We’re economic developers – also known as problem solvers, change agents, people connectors, business advocates, and leadership developers. Let’s build our region’s future together!”
For the betterment of the Kalamazoo community, the businesses that the board of directors represent, the staff at SWMF and for the sake of my conscience, please see the letter of resignation I offered this morning. I remain grateful for having had this incredible opportunity. pic.twitter.com/loS4v0kH3t
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