Whitmer picks charter school advocate for new ‘prosperity’ position

By: - February 12, 2019 2:36 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Feb. 4, 2019 | Nick Manes

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has tapped former charter school executive Doug Ross to serve as her senior advisor for “Michigan Prosperity,” according to a statement released from her office late Monday afternoon.

In this role, Ross will work with Whitmer’s office to “improve workforce talent and educational attainment” and further overall economic development outcomes.

Doug Ross

“If we’re going to ensure Michigan’s success, we have to take a proactive approach to building talent and fostering an attractive environment for businesses to create jobs,” Whitmer said. “I’m excited to work with Doug to build a state where more businesses move to for opportunity.”  

Ross mounted an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 1998 and was defeated by attorney Geoffrey Fieger in the Democratic primary. Fieger went on to get trounced by Gov. John Engler.

Ross also has had a lengthy career in economic and education policy as a state senator, director of the Michigan Department of Commerce, U.S. assistant secretary of labor and chief innovation officer for the Detroit Public Schools.  

He’s also worked as a charter school executive in the Detroit area. As a candidate, Whitmer repeatedly shared criticisms of Michigan’s charter schools, tweeting last year, “We need a governor with a backbone of titanium, who will stand up for public education.”

Whitmer’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Monday evening.

However, David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan union, told Crain’s Detroit that he had “no qualms” with the appointment, adding that he doesn’t think Ross will “be in the governor’s office advancing a charter school strategy.”

In December, Ross was part of a bipartisan duo with Republican Bill Rustem urging then-Gov. Rick Snyder to veto controversial Lame Duck legislation that will make it more difficult for citizen-driven ballot initiatives. Rustem had held a similar senior advisor position with Snyder, who ultimately signed the legislation.

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Nick Manes
Nick Manes

Nick Manes is a former Michigan Advance reporter, covering West Michigan, business and labor, health care and the safety net. He previously spent six years as a reporter at MiBiz covering commercial real estate, economic development and all manner of public policy at the local and state levels.