Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Cockrel, Jr. Kenneth

Kenneth V. Cockrel, Jr. is a former Detroit City Council member and mayor of Detroit. He was elected to the Council in 1997, at the time the youngest person to be elected to that body. He was the 73rd mayor of Detroit on an interim basis, following Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s guilty plea to obstruction of justice charges in 2008. Cockrel was born on October 29, 1965 to Ken Cockrel, Sr. and Carol White who were later divorced. Both his father and step-mother, Sheila Cockrel, were members of the Detroit City Council. 

Cockrel graduated from Wayne State University with a bachelor of arts in print journalism and a master’s degree in public administration. Cockrel is also a graduate of the Michigan Political Leadership Program at Michigan State University and the Program for State and Local Government Officials at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Before joining the City Council, Cockrel worked as a reporter for the Detroit Free Press, the Grand Rapids Press and the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Cockrel was re-elected to the City Council in 2001, earning the second highest number of votes in the general election, making him president pro tempore. In 2005, he was re-elected and this time he received the highest number of votes, making him Council president.

Cockrel worked on numerous issues during his time in office. He was dedicated to improving city neighborhoods and to expanding drug-free zones around schools and parks. Every year Cockrel gave out more than 500 turkeys to needy families and senior citizens through his Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Giveaway. 

After the resignation of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Ken Cockrel, Jr. became Detroit's 73rd mayor on Friday, September 19, 2008. On May 5, 2009, he was defeated in a mayoral election by businessman Dave Bing and returned to his former position as president of the Detroit City Council. He was re-elected as a City Council member in November 2009 where he served until 2013.

Cockrel followed his political career by serving as executive director of Detroit Future City and Habitat for Humanity. He founded his own company, Ken Cockrel Jr. Consulting, in 2015. Cockrel and his wife, Kimberly, have five children, two sons, Kenneth III and Kyle Vincent, and three daughters, Kennedy Victoria, Kendal Imani, and Kayla Lanette.