Dave Bing, political neophyte, will be Detroit’s oldest mayor

By Ric Bohy

May 10, 2009 at 12:42pm

When pro basketball hall-of-famer Dave Bing was elected May 5 as Detroit’s third mayor in less than a year, a voter turnout of just 14 percent showed they’d prefer a duke to an emperor, and age to outrage.

Duke, as Bing was known in his youth, narrowly beat interim Mayor Kenneth V. Cockrel Jr. in a special election to choose who would serve the remaining term of the city’s disgraced chief executive, Kwame M. Kilpatrick.

Elected Detroit’s youngest mayor at 31, Kilpatrick’s first and abortive second terms were marked by his penchant for high living, big cars, entourages, luxury junkets and marital infidelity. When a police whistleblower lawsuit threatened to disclose thousands of sexually explicit text messages between Kilpatrick and his chief of staff, former high school classmate Christine Beatty, the two lied about their relationship in court and settled the lawsuit for $8.4 million in taxpayer money.

Dave Bing
Dave Bing

Both resigned their positions, admitted their perjury in separate plea deals and spent several months in jail. In addition, Kilpatrick confessed to obstructing justice and assaulting two county investigators who went to his home to serve a subpoena on businessman Bobby Ferguson, another childhood friend and convicted felon who was awarded some $170 million in city contracts during Kilpatrick’s tenure.

Bing, at 65, will be sworn in as Detroit’s oldest mayor, and the first political neophyte to hold the job in nearly 120 years. While he will hold the office through the end of the year, he faces an August primary and November general election to claim his own full 4-year term.

A native of Washington, D.C., and high school dropout who dreamed of professional sports greatness while playing basketball with childhood friend – and later Motown musical legend – Marvin Gaye, Bing moved to Detroit as the 1966 NBA draft’s No. 2 pick, and was a Piston for nine seasons.

After moonlighting as a bank manager trainee and in a steel company PR job, he started his own business in 1980, first as Bing Steel and later expanded as the Bing Group, an auto parts manufacturer with reported annual revenues of as much as $300 million. He also has interests in money management and construction.

Although long active in Detroit civic affairs, Bing resisted calls for a mayoral candidacy until his successful run this year. Attacked as an outsider – he moved into the city from his suburban home to run for office – and forced to admit that he falsely claimed to hold a master’s in business administration from Syracuse University, Bing edged out Cockrel, who as city council president had assumed the mayor’s office after Kilpatrick’s resignation.

He’s pledged to take a businessman’s approach to governing one of the country’s most impoverished, crime-ridden, and corrupt cities, and has just three months to prove his effectiveness before having once again to face the voters, however few, in August.

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