Youngest ever elected to Flint city council

UM-Flint criminal justice and sociology student Santino Guerra recently celebrated his 20th birthday.
UM-Flint criminal justice and sociology student Santino Guerra recently celebrated his 20th birthday.

Santino Guerra practices the art of the schedule.

The UM-Flint sophomore keeps two paper planners with him, in which he lays out his activities down to the hour. He also keeps a strict schedule regarding his classes, and details what he is doing each month.

“It all comes down to time management,” said Guerra, who is double majoring in criminal justice and sociology.

He has a responsibility, beyond school, which demands this precision.

In November 2017, he was elected to the Flint City Council. At the time, he was 19, which made him the youngest person ever elected to the city council.

“You don’t get a lot of free time. But for me, I like to be constantly busy,” Guerra said.

The dual role of council member and student has meant he has needed to politely decline some invitations from friends to play tennis or watch a movie or just hang out.

But Guerra said double duty has been worth it.

“I love it. I love what I do,” Guerra said. “My goal is to positively impact as many people in my lifetime.”

Guerra’s enthusiasm for politics started when he was 14. He stuffed envelopes and went door-to-door for local campaigns.

In 2014, he became a U.S. Senate page in Washington, D.C.

Guerra said the water crisis motivated him to run for Flint city council.
Guerra said the water crisis motivated him to run for Flint city council.

Guerra, who grew up in Flint, always thought he would run for office someday. But the city water crisis sped up his timeline.

“I couldn’t sit back anymore,” he said.

Since being elected to the council, he has developed new routines. He has scheduled his classes around the hours of the city council meetings. On Fridays and Saturdays, he often comes to his downtown office and alternates between working on homework, and calling or emailing residents back about an assortment of issues.

Council meetings frequently last several hours, and at times have gone well past midnight.

“It’s made me love the city even more,” Guerra said about meeting residents and learning everyone’s ideas and concerns. “It makes you feel even more connected as a whole unit.”

Guerra said his UM-Flint studies help bring context and background to his job on the city council, and vice versa.

“It gives you a better idea for what is going on,” he said. “With both school and this job, you get what you put into it.”

Guerra said the city of Flint is a dynamic community for university students to learn from and to practice their passions.

“Get involved because it’s always a learning environment in Flint,” he said. “Whatever your field of study, the city has something to offer you.”

Dr. Heather Laube, chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice at UM-Flint, said Guerra’s approach of utilizing the city as an educational resource, and applying what he has learned at the university, is “the ideal of what we hope for in our discipline and university.”

“The ability of students to go out into our local community and to apply what they learned, and also learn from all the knowledge that exists in our community is incredibly valuable,” Laube said.