Representing you. Working for you. Saunteel Jenkins is a lifelong Detroiter who is dedicated to the betterment of the city. She was elected to Detroit City Council in November 2009 at her first attempt at elective office. In July 2013, she was voted by her colleagues to serve as Council President – the first council member in 90 years to be elected by the body. She will serve as President for the remainder of the current term which ends December 2013.
As Council President for the next five months, Jenkins is committed to transparency in city government and serving as the voice of Detroiters as the city moves forward with restructuring. She is deliberate and thorough in her preparation to make decisions that affect the city’s future. Although Jenkins is against the emergency manager law and the existence of an emergency manager, she believes its Detroit elected officials’ responsibility to ensure that the emergency manager is successful because Detroiters must live with the results in the years and decades to come.
Jenkins has advocated for thoughtful economic development that generates new businesses, jobs and tax revenue for the city of Detroit. This includes the redevelopment of land resources for new responsible, visionary owners and/or purposes. Jenkins did this work as the chair of the City Council Planning and Development Committee from January 2010 to July 2013. In that position she introduced more than 80 ordinances that resulted in at least 10,000 new jobs in Detroit. She was closely involved in bringing two new Meijer stores, a Whole Foods store, Detroit Manufacturing Systems, and Quicken Loans to Detroit. Due to her colleagues’ selection as Council President, Jenkins had to vacate committee assignments. She will continue her economic development mission in her role as Council President.
Jenkins has also made advocating programs to prevent youth violence in Detroit a priority. Her dedication to this cause was spurred by the death of her brother, Jovan, when he was shot at the age of 14 by someone stealing his jacket. She created the Youth Violence Prevention Task Force, which is co-chaired by Councilmember James Tate and has encouraged more than 1,000 youth to take the pledge against violence. She also founded the Jovan Foundation in memory of her late brother. The Jovan Foundation provides positive alternatives for young people and has partnered with Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Detroit Institute of Arts to help fulfill that mission.
Jenkins is a trustee for the General Retirement System, a member of the Detroit Public Schools Bond Oversight and Fiscal Responsibility Committee and co-chair for the Partnership for a Drug Free Detroit. In addition to former chair of the Planning and Economic Development Committee, she also chaired the council’s Rules Special Committee.
Jenkins serves on a number of boards which have an impact on city government, the city’s quality of life and Detroit’s future. These include the City of Detroit Election Commission; City of Detroit Employee Benefits Plan Board; Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC); Detroit Riverfront Conservancy; Detroit Transportation Corporation, operators of the People Mover; Root Cause Committee, which oversees the reorganization of the Detroit Water & Sewerage Department (DWSD) with the federal Judge Sean Cox; R-Path (Regional Partners Advocating Transit Here), a voluntary bi-partisan group of elected officials representing the legislative bodies of five counties; Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), southeast Michigan's regional planning agency compromised of elected officials; and TechTown, Wayne State University’s small business incubator.
Prior to election to Detroit City Council, Jenkins served as Director of the residential treatment program at Mariners Inn, a shelter and treatment center for homeless men. She also has worked at the street level as a social worker helping troubled youth and adults turn around their lives.
Jenkins was a National Business Development Director for Platform Learning, a private education company that provides free tutoring to low-income children in underperforming school districts, prior to Mariners Inn. While at Platform Learning, she worked with school districts in New York City, Las Vegas, Chicago, Tampa and Miami. In Detroit, Jenkins made free tutoring available to thousands of children in underserved communities and schools. Also an entrepreneur, she founded Petite Sweets, a dessert catering company that she started in her home and grew to supply multiple companies, as well as gourmet grocers and convenience stores.
Before her entry into the private sector, Jenkins served six years as a policy analyst and chief of staff to the legendary Maryann Mahaffey while Mahaffey was President of Detroit City Council.
Jenkins was educated in the Detroit Public Schools, graduating from Cass Technical High School. She earned her bachelors and masters degrees in social work from Wayne State University (WSU), where she finished at the top of her class. Her awards and honors include: Crain’s Detroit Business Women to Watch, Michigan Front Page Thirty Honorees, American Association of University Women, Michigan Chronicle’s Women of Excellence, Women of WSU Alumni Association Headliners, and Social Worker for the Year from WSU School of Social Work.
Jenkins is married to Carl Bentley, who is an executive at an international IT solutions company headquartered right here in Detroit.