Hands held in memory of former mayor

Photo by James Mitchell Mishelle Lamarand (right) greets friends, family and community supporters for Taylor Joining Hands, a benefit in honor of former Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand. Mishelle Lamarand said the community support was overwhelming, consistent with the love and passion her husband had for family, friends and the city they called home.

Photo by James Mitchell
Mishelle Lamarand (right) greets friends, family and community supporters for Taylor Joining Hands, a benefit in honor of former Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand. Mishelle Lamarand said the community support was overwhelming, consistent with the love and passion her husband had for family, friends and the city they called home.

Taylor Holding Hands was organized by community leaders to raise funds for the Lamarand family. The event invloded entertainment by Girl’s Night Out, and raffle prizes donated by local businesses including Taylor Chevrolet. An ongoing funding account has been established at gofundme.com under “Lamarand support fund.”

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

TAYLOR β€” The decades-spanning photos on display didn’t tell the whole story. They never really do, not by themselves, but pictures prompted a life’s worth of tales as a community gathered to remember former Mayor Jeffrey Lamarand.

Taylor Joining Hands filled the hall Thursday evening at host Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 11590 for an evening of friends, food and fond memories of a father, husband, teacher, coach and city councilman-turned-mayor.

Lamarand died Oct. 19 at age 45 while working on the family’s newly-acquired house in Dexter.

Lamarand’s surviving wife, Mishelle, said the passion that was on display during a politically contentious term in office dated back to when the two met in college two and a half decades ago.

“I’ve always seen him go up against challenges,” Mishelle said.

As a student Lamarand led efforts to make curriculum changes at the university. Later he’d given time and energy to establishing scholarships for students in need.

“He just wanted things to be better for everyone,” Mishelle said.

Lamarand applied that passion in various ways. His successor, Mayor Rick Sollars, said he’d once asked Lamarand to describe his primary role.

“Being a father was first for him,” Sollars said. In office he’d described the role as administrator more than a politician.

“It was his job to look at the facts,” Sollars said. Lamarand’s four-year term admittedly put him in the cross-hairs of β€œan essentially divided community. He had to make decisions that people obviously disagreed with, but look around. People came to celebrate Jeff’s life and career.”

The city was, Mishelle said, one of many passions and perhaps Lamarand’s biggest challenge.

“He had a deep love of Taylor, and had to make tough decisions,” Mishelle said.

She recalled images of lost sleep, of her husband waking in the middle of the night to jot down notes related to one crisis or another. Lamarand faced two significant challenges during his four-year tenure: keeping the city out of state-mandated emergency management, and doing so with a contentious city council and against two separate, failed recall attempts.

“He knew what he had to do,” Mishelle said of decisions made that enacted harsh budget cuts but spared Taylor the financial emergency that elsewhere resulted in state takeover.

“He stayed true to what he believed was right,” Mishelle said. “Not just for (the family), but the city. He worried that the people would lose control of the city.”

The 2013 election loss hit Lamarand hard, Mishelle said, invoking an image of her husband in defeat, wondering what to do next.

“That was one of the saddest days of our marriage,” Mishelle said.

Other challenges were found. Lamarand returned to his career in education and had been teaching at Crestwood High School in Dearborn Heights. The family’s new house in Dexter β€” a 100-year-old house in need of a prolonged makeover β€” was “another challenge” Lamarand embraced.

“He wanted to provide a home for his family,” Mishelle said of the undertaking, a portrait of a man who’d spent nearly 30 years trying to make things better for his wife, children, students, friends and community. “He never strayed from being that person.”

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)