Beckham, Detroit's go to guy for six city mayors, to retire

DETROIT - Charlie Beckham, who served as Mayor Mike Duggan’s group executive of neighborhoods in a career that spanned 40 years serving six mayors of the city, is retiring.

Beckham, 71, will serve his last day on Sept. 1. He had previously retired as the city’s chief administrative officer in 2010 but was convinced by Duggan to come back into public service as the head of the city’s new Department of Neighborhoods because he’s a coalition-builder with deep experience in city government who had built trust with community organizations over the years.

“Over the course of more than 40 years, Charlie has helped six different mayors shape Detroit and its future,” Mayor Duggan said. “His impact is undeniable. For me, he has been an invaluable adviser and leader, spearheading our neighborhood work and ensuring that everyone's voices are heard and included. While he won’t be working with us directly, even in his retirement, he will continue to be a strong voice and leader in the Detroit community. We wish him all the best.”

Beckham has served in every Detroit mayoral administration since Coleman A. Young, the city’s longest-serving mayor.

“It’s been a good run, serving Detroit through six mayors,” Beckham said. “Those mayors have given me the opportunity to serve the citizens of Detroit over five decades, and I’ve been honored to do that.”

Beckham’s positions included commissioner of the Public Lighting Department; deputy director and director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, and the first director of the city’s General Services Department after that department was created in 2006 to consolidate aspects of the city services including management of its vehicle fleet and parks maintenance. He also served in positions including chief operating officer and group executive of operations.

Beckham served as campaign manager for Dave Bing as he ran to fill the seat vacated by Kwame Kilpatrick; Bing won the primary and general elections in the special election and then repeated the wins in the primary and general elections later that year for a full term.

In 2013, when Mike Duggan began his run for mayor, Duggan tapped Beckham as a senior advisor to the campaign. After Duggan won, he appointed Beckham as group executive for neighborhoods, a position that put Beckham in charge of the city’s new Department of Neighborhoods as the administration named district managers to act as liaisons between residents and City Hall, with district managers and deputy managers for each of the seven council districts after Detroiters began electing council members by district following the enactment of the 2012 city charter.

The job also put Beckham in charge of the city’s Buildings, Safety Engineering and Environmental Department.

Beckham, a resident of Detroit for 60 years, has a daughter and a granddaughter. He lives in Lafayette Park.

A native of Cincinnati, Beckham grew up in Detroit’s Russell Woods neighborhood and graduated from Cass Technical High School. He received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan in 1969.

Beckham has served his community over the years through organizations including the Detroit Alliance for Fair Banking; Detroit Neighborhood and Family Initiative; the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, chairman of Detroit Transportation Corp., which operates the Detroit People Mover; Black Family Development and other Detroit-based organizations.

Over the years he has served in the private sector in engineering management positions at General Motors Corp and co-founded and served as executive director of the African American Association of Businesses and Contractors, known today as the Detroit Black Chamber of Commerce, which he also served as president and CEO.

Beckham said he’s been working on a one-man play with a comic touch that tells his life story, titled “Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.” It will have its first public performance Sept. 15 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.






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