Kenneth Cockrel Jr.

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Kenneth Cockrel Jr.
Ken Cockrel.jpg
73rd Mayor of Detroit[1]
In office
September 19, 2008 – May 11, 2009
Preceded by Kwame Kilpatrick
Succeeded by Dave Bing
President of the Detroit City Council
In office
September 30, 2005 – September 18, 2008
Preceded by Maryann Mahaffey
Succeeded by Monica Conyers
In office
May 11, 2009 – December 31, 2009
Preceded by Monica Conyers
Succeeded by Charles Pugh
Personal details
Born Kenneth Vern Cockrel Jr.
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Kimberly Cockrel
Children Kenneth Vern Cockrel III, Kennedy Cockrel, Kendal Cockrel, Kayla Cockrel, Kyle Cockrel
Alma mater Wayne State University
Profession Journalist, Politician

Kenneth Vern "Ken" Cockrel Jr. [2] (born 1965) is an American politician and journalist from the state of Michigan who served as the 73rd mayor of Detroit. He was president of the Detroit City Council from 2005 until September 17, 2008, when he was sworn in as the interim mayor, with his term in office beginning September 19. The previous mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick had announced on September 4, 2008 that he would resign after pleading guilty to state charges about his conduct in office. This resulted in Cockrel succeeding him as the Mayor of Detroit.[3][4]

On May 5, 2009, former Detroit Pistons player and businessman Dave Bing defeated Cockrel 52% to 48% in a special election for Mayor of Detroit, to complete the rest of the term. On May 11, 2009, Bing was sworn in as the new Mayor of Detroit and Cockrel returned to his position as Council President.[5][6]

Cockrel was replaced as President of the Detroit City Council and sat as a regular council member. On April 23, 2013, he announced that he would not run for re-election.[7][8]


Cockrel is the son of Kenneth Cockrel, Sr. (November 5, 1938 – April 25, 1989), a former Detroit city council member and attorney. He was a self-proclaimed Marxist-Leninist who died from a heart attack.[9] Ken's mother was Carol Cockrel, a schoolteacher. He is a graduate of the St. Florian Church (Hamtramck, Michigan) High School. He graduated , cum laude from Wayne State University and wrote for the Detroit Free Press.

He entered politics and was elected as a Wayne County commissioner. In 1997, Cockrel became the youngest person ever elected to the Detroit City Council.[10] He became council president pro tempore in 2001, and was elevated to council president in 2005, receiving more votes than any other city council candidate in that year's election. He was viewed by the city's business community as a moderate consensus-builder. In his first term as a city councillor, he secured passage of an ordinance requiring the city to pay vendors and contractors for goods and services within 45 days.[11]

Cockrel enjoys science fiction and action films. He concluded his inaugural address with quotes from Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Star Trek.[12]

He and his wife Kimberly have two sons, Kenneth III and Kyle Vincent, and three daughters, Kennedy Victoria, Kendal Imani and Kayla Lanette.[13] Former councilwoman Sheila Cockrel is his stepmother.[14]


As Council President, Cockrel was first in the order of succession to assume the Mayor's Office if a vacancy occurred. Due to the fallout from the text-messaging scandal, on September 4, 2008, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and agreed to resign effective September 18, 2008, at midnight.[15] Under the City Charter, Cockrel became interim mayor and a special election was ordered. Daniel Cherrin served as the Communications Director for the City of Detroit and Press Secretary to Mayor Cockrel from 2008-2009 and helped Mayor Cockrel and the city of Detroit through the transition.

As he became mayor, Cockrel stated that he planned to review the city budget, due to uncertainty around whether Kilpatrick was honest with the city council about the state of the city's finances, and perhaps to renegotiate a pending deal with the city of Windsor, Ontario related to the cities' management of the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.[16] Under the existing deal, Windsor would have taken over full management of the tunnel in exchange for a $75 million loan to Detroit.[17] Cockrel suggested that he would prefer to work out a new deal in which the two cities maintained joint management of the tunnel. Windsor mayor Eddie Francis stated that he was confident that he could maintain a strong working relationship with Cockrel.[17]

Cockrel was defeated by Dave Bing, former Detroit Pistons star and Detroit businessman, in a special election on May 5, 2009 to finish the remainder of Kilpatrick's term, set to expire January 1, 2010, at midnight.[18] Following certification of the vote and Bing taking office on May 11, 2009, Cockrel returned to his position as City Council President.[18]

Post-political career[edit]

Cockrel serves as the executive director of Habitat for Humanity Detroit.[19]


  1. ^ "Duggan sworn in as Detroit's 75th mayor". Michigan Public Radio. January 1, 2014. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  2. ^ Ken and Sheila Cockrel Collection at Wayne State University
  3. ^ "Ken Cockrel sworn in secretly as Detroit mayor", Detroit News, September 17, 2008.
  4. ^ "Preparations made to swear in Cockrel as Detroit's mayor", Detroit Free Press, September 4, 2008.
  5. ^ Zachary Gorchow and Namomi R. Patton, "Bing takes oath as mayor; Conyers accuses Cockrel of locking her out", Detroit Free Press, May 11, 2009.
  6. ^ Tammy Stables Battaglia, "Bing says he's ready to lead", Detroit Free Press, May 6, 2009.
  7. ^ Statement of Council Member Kenneth Cockrel Jr.
  8. ^ "Detroit Councilman Cockrel won't seek re-election in November", Detroit News.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Donnelly, Francis X. (2008-09-19). "His own man: Quiet conciliator leaves shadow of father, Kilpatrick". Detroit News. Retrieved 2008-09-19.
  11. ^ "The next in line: Cockrel not eager, but ready to be mayor if Kilpatrick leaves post", Crain's Detroit Business, February 11, 2008.
  12. ^ "Cockrel Jr. Sworn In As New Detroit Mayor",, September 19, 2008.
  13. ^ "Biographical Sketch Of Incoming Mayor",, September 4, 2008.
  14. ^ Members: Charter restricts impact, Detroit News, 2001.
  15. ^ Susan Saulny (September 4, 2008). "Detroit Mayor Pleads Guilty and Resigns". New York Times. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  16. ^ "Cockrel has transition team ready just in case". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
  17. ^ a b "Tunnel deal not dead, Francis says". Windsor Star. Archived from the original on 2009-02-27. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
  18. ^ a b Suzette Hackney, Zachary Gorchow, Naomi R. Patton and Ben Schmitt (May 6, 2009). "NBA great Dave Bing elected as Detroit mayor". USA Today. Retrieved January 22, 2014.
  19. ^ "Leadership". Habitat for Humanity Detroit. Retrieved 11 July 2017.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Kwame Kilpatrick
Mayor of Detroit
Succeeded by
Dave Bing