From alumnus to school board trustee: Dontae Walker wins local election

Dontae+Walker+being+sworn+in+as+Mount+Clemens+Community+School+Board+Trustee+on+Nov.+28%2C+2022.+

Dontae Walker being sworn in as Mount Clemens Community School Board Trustee on Nov. 28, 2022.

Autumn Okuszka, Features Reporter

When Oakland University senior Dontae Walker graduated as valedictorian from Mount Clemens High School in 2019, he vowed that he would one day return to help out. He kept his promise three years later after winning the election for Mount Clemens Community School Board Trustee this past November. 

Walker grew up in Mount Clemens Community Schools and remembers it as a fun experience. The district is small, which molded an environment where everyone knew one another.

“I really got to know the teachers, because it was easier to connect with the teachers and administration,” Walker said. “I really grew up with it, feeling like the teachers and the staff really had our back and really wanted us to succeed.” 

Walker’s motivation to run for school board trustee dates back to his senior year of high school, when the board decided to not renew his principal’s contract — inspiring a protest. 

“He was a black man, ex-military,” he said. “That was when we [protested] right after our school board meeting, because we loved to have him in the school building.”

Walker knew if he was going to make a change, he had to do it from the inside. He announced his candidacy for school board trustee in summer 2022, making campaign promises that included building a stronger relationship with the Mount Clemens community, higher student graduation rates and introducing new extracurricular classes to schools in the district. 

Walker spread word of his campaign both virtually and in-person, creating a Facebook page and going door-to-door to garner votes. He believes the latter sincerely helped his candidacy. 

“Going door-to-door worked very well for us, because we were kind of the only people who really went door-to-door,” Walker said. “We knew that [the] other people we were up against were actually not knocking [on] doors.” 

On election day, Walker went from precinct to precinct in hopes of influencing voters one last time, addressing the problems the Mount Clemens Community School District faced and how he planned to fix them. 

“I felt a little nervous, because it was my first time actually running for something,” he said, “but I was very excited to get to the polls. It was great to get out there and go to every single precinct.”

As the polls closed and the anticipation for the results of the election set in, Walker’s fate was in the hands of those who had casted their votes. When the outcome was revealed the following day, Walker was floored.

“I was very excited, because I did not realize that I had gotten the most votes of all the candidates,” Walker said. “I was surprised and also felt really great that I’ll be able to take this opportunity to help out the students.”

Walker was officially sworn in on Nov. 28, 2022, and his work as a school board trustee began soon after. His campaign promises are becoming a reality, as Walker was once a student in the Mount Clemens Community School District and now has a seat at the table. 

“It was really a surreal experience of seeing myself going from my valedictorian speech and now being inducted into the school board that I did participate in a protest against,” he said. “I’ll be in the inside at the board table to really create some change.”