KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The moment former mayor Bobby Hopewell stepped inside the Rose Gold Coffee Company on Michigan Avenue last Friday, a couple stood up to greet him.
They each shook his hand and said ‘thank you’ for his service as mayor.
“I love this place and appreciated the honor to work for the city and work for these amazing people that work in City Hall every single day to try to deliver for our residents,” Hopewell said during an interview with FOX 17. “This has been the journey of my life. I’m gonna miss it.”
Hopewell began serving on the City Commission in 2003, he said. Four years later, he was elected mayor. Since then he’s become Kalamazoo's longest-serving mayor.
“Everyday I woke up thinking about this community and how we can make it better,” Hopewell said. “Every night I went to bed thinking the same things.”
Recently, Hopewell chose not to seek re-election, he said. However he tried to make his mayorship about the people. It’s what he’ll miss most about his time in office. And he’s most proud of being a part of projects and working alongside organizations — like Imagine Kalamazoo and the Foundation for Excellence — that moved the city forward he said.
“The investment that we’re making into the neighborhoods and in individuals, looking at resourcing startups, looking at supporting people that have been left behind, filling gaps and removing barriers, that’s some amazing work that we have not been able to do in the past,” Hopewell said. “And if you look at what we’ve done so far in three years, man where are we going to be in 10,15 and 20 [years].”
As excited as Hopewell has been about that work, he’ll never forget helping the city heal during it’s hardest times, he said. He felt that was his role after the city endured the shooting rampage in February 2016 when a gunman shot and killed six people and injured two others, and months later when a driver slammed into nine bicyclists, killing five of them.
“What do you say when a family member is grieving because a loved one was just minding their own business, looking at buying a car and now they’re no longer here,” Hopewell said. “What do you say when a victim is lying in the hospital from a situation like that? And trying to help the family get through it. You just have to dig deep.”
He said helping people comes naturally to him considering he still has his paramedic license. He plans to return to the healthcare industry during his post mayorship days.
Monday night at City Hall, his next chapter began. Mayor-elect David Anderson was sworn in and Hopewell believes the city will be in good hands.
“His heart is probably bigger than mine in regards to Kalamazoo,” Hopewell said. “He’s passionate. I am so excited to watch his leadership. He is going to be an outstanding mayor.”