Kwame Kilpatrick

Mayor of Detroit

With all that happened on September 11, 2001, one event that didn't get much attention was a primary election in the city of Detroit. Kwame Kilpatrick won easily, and went on to win the general election to become the youngest mayor in Detroit history and, as circumstances would have it, an innovative mayor in the field of homeland security.

Detroit is a flash point for serious homeland-security concerns: It shares a busy port of entry with Canada and is home to the nation's largest Middle Eastern population. After taking office, Kilpatrick established a Homeland Security Council comprising the heads of various agencies, and his administration is now working on a "Strategic Management Center," which will attempt to pull together data to identify emerging problems in a systematic way.

Comprehensive planning is needed, he says, because threats to the city's critical infrastructure go far beyond terrorism. "We didn't only want to be prepared for a weapon of mass destruction or a chemical or biological outbreak. We also wanted to be prepared for a tornado or a hurricane or a blackout. So it became a major focus for us because it exposed a lot of vulnerabilities in our normal operating system." Detroit had a dry run with the August 2003 blackout, and Kilpatrick says there were some encouraging signs: Public order was maintained in the city, and police officers were at all major intersections within about 20 minutes. Yet the city telephone system shut down, and the cellphones of public safety officials failed. Kilpatrick has testified before Congress, and co-chairs the border task force on homeland security at the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

A 33-year-old Detroit native, he is the son of Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick, D-Mich., and a graduate of Florida A&M University and Detroit College of Law. He previously served as the Democratic Caucus leader in the Michigan statehouse.

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