• J. Isaac Noel Benjamin, II

Honesty, Commitment, Purpose-Elvin Caldwell Jr.


Courtesy Photo-Elvin Caldwell Jr.


There are a few prerequisites to running for the city council. Here are six: (1) You care deeply about your community and want to make a positive impact, (2) You have proven leadership experience, (3) You’ve done your homework, (4) You are prepared to be part of a team, (5) You’re a long-term thinker, ready to build for the future, and (6) You can remain committed to serving the community and doing what you believe is best, no matter what. The following characteristics should be present in all City Council candidates:


Honest: The essential characteristic for an elected official is their honesty in both their actions and being intellectually honest with their approach to issues.


Balanced: A councilperson represents all people, not a champion of a particular interest group or a narrow perspective. Philosophically a suitable candidate brings a balanced view. For example, they value the environment while understanding the need for a robust local economy; they support a viable street infrastructure while being open to alternative transportation. Being balanced also means working well with professional city staff while not automatically deferring to their judgment.


Committed: Doing the job right requires a significant dedication of time and energy. Constituent relations, attending meetings, and reading voluminous material preparing for meetings are all part of the job. Do work and family circumstances lend themselves to this person doing an excellent job for the community?


Motivated: The primary motivation should be to serve the public interests. If this person is agenda-driven, power-hungry, or captive to individual interest agendas, s/he will not perform their duties with integrity and with a broader vision of what is in the interests of the overall community now and in the future. And a good candidate must be motivated enough to campaign vigorously for the position.


Experienced: Does this person have experience in their work and civic life that lends itself to this position? Does this person know the job, the governance of the local government, and the issues to be an effective councilperson? Everybody has life experiences that would lend an interesting perspective to Council, but some are more useful to the public than others. Has this person really prepared to take on this essential civic duty?


Electable: Does this person have the personal traits and the qualifications to make them a viable candidate in the eyes of the voting public? Are there issues or experiences in this person’s past that help or hurt them with the electorate?


Elvin Caldwell is running for a City Council position in Lansing’s 4th Ward. Caldwell meets both the prerequisites and characteristics.


Before we get started, let’s set the table. Caldwell is a real estate broker. Works as a lobbyist. Owns a sock company called Umbrella Sock Company and plans to run for City Council this fall.


As explained by Caldwell, the position of lobbyists started with the concept of waiting in the lobby to talk to a decision-maker. “I was tasked to wait in the lobby on behalf of others,” says Caldwell. “I’ve been a lobbyist all my life, to be honest.” Professionally, Caldwell lobbies for Direct Care Workers Union as his clients.


Caldwell embodies the entrepreneurial spirit. According to Caldwell, he fell in love with business when he started the Umbrella Sock Company. Caldwell started the company in 2017. “I was working at a boutique in Flint four years ago,” explained Caldwell. “I wanted to sell something where everyone could be a customer. I wanted both style and purpose. I liked nice socks. The light bulb came on. If people trusted me enough to purchase intimate clothing, they might trust me to put stylish quality socks on their feet.” The Umbrella Sock Company also partners with nonprofits.


The Umbrella Sock Company’s vision is: “to provide all people with the most purposeful, dandy, dapper, and unique fashion socks. Our aim is to offer distinctive styles that look great and keep toes cool, dry, and covered.”


Their goal is to introduce socks as a sartorial standard for the dashing, the debonair, and the unique professional. Umbrella Socks are designed in Lansing, Michigan, and made with superior cotton, polyester, spandex, and nylon. A percentage of each pair of socks’ sale goes to support shirt and tie programs in Michigan. “Everything we sell a pair of socks we give somebody some money,” said Caldwell. “The socks we sell for the veterans (Soles4Vets) puts money towards a worthy cause. They get three dollars for every sock sold.”


Making money is a good feeling, explained Caldwell. “Whether it’s me giving a nonprofit a check or the nonprofit is buying my product, everybody is smiling,” says Caldwell. “And the process of doing business in the community creates a good feeling. This is what I call style and purpose. We sell stylish socks for the purpose of helping nonprofits.”


Caldwell has been a licensed real estate agent since 2014 but got active in 2018. “Selling real estate is about building relationships,” says Caldwell. “The folks that I have met over the years, I wanted to leave them with something. By selling real estate, I can comfortably help people.”


As a little boy, Caldwell had three things on his bucket lists. He wanted to be President, drive a corvette, and eat pizza. To date, pizza is still Caldwell’s favorite food, and the need to drive corvettes still exists. President is always a goal. When he gets the chance to visit his dear old dad, he gets to drive his father’s 1986 corvette.


As to his President’s goal, we will have to wait and see how his candidacy for City Council goes. “I might have to settle for being in charge of the fourth ward,” smiled Caldwell.

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