Leaders of Ann Arbor’s Government

In 1833 the Michigan Territorial Council incorporated the nine-year-old village of Ann Arbor, and defined the offices and duties of the village council, with a president, recorder, and six trustees. They were empowered to make laws, levy taxes, and maintain the streets. With John Allen as the first president, the council met more or less monthly and dealt with matters of safety, such as hogs and dogs running wild and firearms being shot off indiscriminately. In 1836 they established a volunteer fire department, which would soon take up half of the annual taxes.

1851: A large, enthusiastic crowd and a brass band at the depot greeted attorney George Sedgewick's return from Lansing with the new city charter. It called for four wards, a mayor, an eight-member common council, greater taxing powers, and authority to establish a police force. Since he was primarily responsible for the passage of the charter, Sedgewick was promptly elected the first mayor, but it took another twenty years for the city to establish a paid police force.

Energetic and engaging businessman William E. Brown, Jr. was first elected mayor in 1945. Vowing to “run the town like a business,” Brown worked tirelessly, doubling the size of the city to encourage new housing and “clean” industries. He solved downtown’s growing parking problem by introducing parking meters that then helped pay for the country’s first municipal parking structure—still standing at First and Washington.

The 1956 charter restructured Ann Arbor’s government to the form we have today, with a city administrator to oversee a professional staff that provides expanded municipal services, including swimming pools, golf courses, more parks, and public housing. City Hall is named after our first city administrator, Guy Larcom.

Caption 1: The village council often met in John Allen's law office, on the first floor of the original Washtenaw County Courthouse.

Caption 2: In 1871 money to pay Ann Arbor’s first police force, with only four men, came from licenses on saloons and billiard halls, considered “sources of disorder.”

Caption 3: Mayor Brown was re-elected six times, by ever increasing majorities.

Caption 4: Ann Arbor City Hall

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