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Hailing from the Capitol

Joe Tate, MS’17, MBA’17, is making history as Michigan’s Speaker of the House.
By Katherine Fiorillo

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Read time: 2 minutes
Joe Tate, left, wearing a white shirt and a dark suit, stands with Governer Gretchen Whitmer, who is wearing a white jacket. They are holding a piece of paper that says "Enrolled House Bill No. 5447."
Speaker Joe Tate poses with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan House Bill No. 5447. Photo courtesy of Speaker Joe Tate.

From a two-season NFL tenure to service in the Marine Corps, native Detroiter Rep. Joe Tate’s, MS’17, MBA’17, career has taken him all over the world. But now, he’s settled back home in Michigan, leading the state’s House of Representatives.

First elected to the body in 2018, Tate was named speaker after Democratic lawmakers took control of both chambers in Michigan’s legislature in November. Tate is the first Black lawmaker to hold the title of speaker in Michigan.

“I was certainly excited but also understanding the responsibility that comes with it and the experience that I bring,” he said.

While Democrats hold majorities in both chambers of the legislature for the first time in 40 years, Tate stresses that the legislature is a “consensus-building institution” and hopes his diverse array of experiences can help pass legislature that supports Michigan residents.

“The diversity aspect is incredibly important. If you have everyone that thinks the same way, it doesn’t really help move us forward. Diversity matters in this role,” he says. Tate says he sees time as his greatest challenge in the role as speaker. “We have a lot of great ideas, and now we have the opportunity to get there. Time will always present a challenge,” he said.

Tate has spoken widely about his passion for public service but didn’t see running for public office as a clear avenue until he took a class in graduate school about how to run for office.

Now, armed with an undergraduate and master’s degree from Michigan State University and an MBA and master’s degree from the University of Michigan’s SEAS program, Tate brings experience from two Michigan universities to his position.

“These are vital institutions, not only for educating our next generation to be productive members of society, but also everything else that that they provide to the state, whether it is new innovations, research, or economic development,” he says.

For Tate, higher education is an “incredibly important” priority and he’s looking for many avenues to offer state support.

“One of the things that we’ve done this legislative session is we restarted having higher education policy committees,” he says. “Being able to bring those higher education issues to the forefront in the committee process, I think that’s going to be incredibly important for us to be able to identify those issues.”

Tate also recognizes how important scholarship programs like LEAD are, saying, “Tuition should not be a barrier.”

He hopes to encourage more scholarships and initiatives that will make higher education more accessible to underrepresented students throughout the state.

“At the end of the day, how do we make sure that what we’re doing lowers those barriers to access?”


Katherine Fiorillo is the editor of Michigan Alum. 

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