Teola P. Hunter
Teola P. Hunter is a trailblazing public servant, who’s now retired. Yet her journeys as an elected official are filled with firsts.
In 1987, Hunter, a native Detroiter, was the first woman – black or white – to serve as speaker pro trempore in the Michigan House of Representatives. Elected to the House in 1980, Hunter served constituents in Michigan’s 5th District with honor for eleven years. She tendered her resignation in January, 1992.
It didn’t take long for Hunter to blaze new trails, as she became the first woman of any color to serve as deputy director of Health and Community Services in Wayne County. Appointed by Wayne County Executive Edward McNamara, Hunter oversaw Mental Health Services, Patient Care Management, Youth Programs, and Child Care Fund.
Hunter soon achieved another first for a woman, when she was elected Wayne County Clerk. And in 1997, she was the first woman ever to run for Michigan Lieutenant Governor as a democrat.
While Hunter has enjoyed a wonderful career as a public servant, which has included membership on the Detroit Charter Revision Commission (2009 – 2012), her professional life began as an early education teacher with the Detroit Board of Education in the late 1950s. This was after she earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Detroit. She later received a master’s degree in elementary school guidance and counseling from Wayne State University. Hunter taught fourteen years.
In 1971, Hunter opened Buttons and Bows Nurseries and Preparatory School in Detroit. While Hunter wasn’t the first African American in Detroit to own a child care facility, it’s believed she was the first black person to own and operate a chain of child care centers in the city.
Interestingly, it was Hunter’s vast experience in early childhood education, and her knowledge as an owner and manager of child care centers that motivated her to seek state office, after she and several African American child care center owners helped craft Public Act 116 in 1973.
“Public Act 116 provided protection for children through licensing and regulation of child care centers throughout the state,” explained Hunter. “It provided strict standards and regulations for child care organizations to abide by.”
Working with House members and elected officials in Detroit provided Hunter with a great perspective of politics and how elected officials worked.
“I saw and liked how lawmakers worked together to write and pass bills that helped empower their constituents,” said Hunter. “I knew I could do what the legislators were doing, and I could do it better.”
Once elected, Hunter went on to do much better than many of her fellow members, many of which were white males with stereotypical views of blacks in politics, especially black women.
These days, although retired from politics, Hunter serves on several boards of not-for-profit organizations, inclusive of Detroit Rescue Mission Ministry and Franklin Wright Settlements. Hunter’s also active at Mayflower Congregational United Church of Christ in Detroit, where she’s been a member for almost fifty years. And she’s a lifelong member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the storied African American organization dedicated to public service.
“I’ve always been a person with a public servant’s heart and spirit, which started my commitment to public service,” said Hunter. “Whatever I can do to help people in need, that’s what I’ll be doing.”