WARREN, Mich. – A newly elected Warren mayor was set to be sworn into office Monday, effectively replacing longstanding Mayor Jim Fouts, who fought in court in hopes of side-stepping the city’s new mayoral term limits.
Former Michigan state representative Lori Stone was scheduled to be sworn in as Warren’s new mayor at 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 20. Stone -- a former democratic lawmaker for the state’s newly drawn 13th district -- won 53% of the vote in Warren during this year’s general election, defeating fellow candidate George Dimas.
Excluded from the ballot was Stone’s predecessor Jim Fouts, who was told he could not run again in 2023 due to new term limits in place. Warren voters in 2020 approved a charter amendment that established term limits for the city mayor: three 4-year terms, or 12 years total.
Though Warren Mayor Fouts had been in office for 15 years (since 2008), he argued the term limits established during his fourth term didn’t apply to the terms he served prior to 2020. The city council sued Fouts over his intention to run for a fifth term despite the new term limits, launching a legal battle that moved through the state’s court system.
After a lower Michigan court originally ruled Fouts could run in 2023, the decision was appealed and eventually wound up at the Michigan Supreme Court. In May, the state’s high court upheld a ruling from an appellate court, barring Fouts from running again.
Determined to get on the ballot, Fouts moved to the federal court system for assistance, filing a lawsuit in a U.S. district court just one week before the city’s primary election in August. Fouts claimed that his civil rights were violated by the term limit ordinance, and asked the federal court to declare a special election be held in September that included his name on the ballot.
About one month after the primary election, in which Fouts was not included as a candidate, the federal court dismissed the mayor’s complaint “in its entirety.” The court decided Fouts’ claims could not be substantiated.
Immediately after the dismissal, a statement issued by Fouts’ counsel said he and his lawyers “respectfully disagree” with the U.S. district court’s decision, and planned to appeal the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. But the mayor later conceded his fate, acknowledging on Oct. 30 that he had one final full week in office.
On Nov. 8, the day after Stone was elected as Warren’s new mayor, Fouts wrote on social media that he had been in contact with the new mayor and offered to help her transition into the role. Last week, Fouts said he met with Stone, and expects the city’s first-ever female mayor to do well in her new position.
“I predict that Mayor Stone will have very good relations and support by the Warren Council. Result is she should have many successes in the coming months and years,” Fouts said on Facebook. “She is likely to be mayor for a long time!”
Fouts’ sentiment comes after years of disarray between him and the city council, with both sides at odds over many issues publicly and legally. Fouts previously said that the city council, a “council from hell,” had sued him and the city on 10 separate occasions.
In his farewell message shared Sunday, Nov. 19, Fouts didn’t mention the city council, but did show appreciation for his administration and for Warren voters for reelecting him over the years.
“I hope I have been able to leave Warren a safer and cleaner city than before I became mayor,” Fouts said.
“I’m able to say this was the best administration in history not because of me but because of the dedicated hard working leaders that I had the honor to work with. Again, I humbly thank all of those who helped to serve and protect the people of Warren. It has been a wonderful experience and honor to serve all of you.”
Fouts told Local 4 earlier this month that he doesn’t know what his next chapter will be.