Ilona Varga (Dist. 4)
Varga currently chairs the commission's Public Safety, Judiciary and Homeland Security Committee, and is a member of the committees on Government Operations, Economic Development and Ways and Means. She works diligently to make the legislative body of county government more open, transparent and accountable to the taxpayers of Wayne County. As a member of the Committee on Ways and Means, she helps to provide stringent oversight of the county's $1.56 billion budget, and she is actively trying to make the process stronger and more transparent. She wants all non-civil service positions and contracts to be put out for compatible bidding.
During her tenure on the commission, Varga has been very active and supportive of community groups and has sponsored or co-sponsored several ordinances to improve the quality of life in her district and across Wayne County. The following is just a short list of her important work:
- Supported the establishment of the Wayne County One-Stop Business Shop for entrepreneurs and small businesses, the country's largest source of new job growth and the true engines of our economy. It was discontinued due to budget restraints.
- Public nuisance ordinances to prevent dangerous drag racing on public streets.
- Ordinances leading to the creation of the highly successful Nuisance Abatement Program, which forces neglectful property owners to address dangerous and abandoned structures. This is currently not funded due to budget restraints.
- Measures to control drug trafficking, nuisance noise, graffiti, juvenile delinquency and other blight.
- Ordinances to enhance Homeland Security readiness.
- Successfully secured funding for major improvements to historic Clark Park and All Saints Community Park in Detroit and several neighborhood parks in Lincoln Park and Melvindale.
- Supports ordinances to tighten down and eliminate retroactive contracts and line item budgets.
- Improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Commission by embracing new technology.
- Creation of the fraud and corruption unit within the Prosecutor's Office.
Background: Ilona Varga was born in Hungary. The youngest of seven children, her parents sent her to live with an uncle in America in the hope that she would obtain a quality education and achieve her dreams. She received a student visa and quickly mastered English and attended Huron High School in New Boston, Michigan.
While still in high school, Varga lived the work ethic instilled in her by her parents. She was employed by a florist and a doctor's office, and also baby-sat after school and on the weekends.
After graduation, she continued her education at Wayne County Community College and Wayne State University and graduated from Dawn Beauty College in Flat Rock, where she earned her cosmetology license. In 1989, Urban Bible College of Detroit honored Varga with an honorary doctor of laws degree.
With talent, ambition and a will to do public service, Varga soon secured a position on the Detroit Board of Education. After various promotions, she then served as the citywide school service assistant to the Parents and Computers Teaching Students (PACTS) workshop.
Varga founded and served as president of the Friends of Beard-International, a group formed to save and place Beard School in Detroit on the state and national historical registries.
Community and government leaders quickly took notice of her dynamic and tenacious leadership qualities and volunteerism in the community. On Dec.19, 1985, Michigan House of Representatives Speaker Pro Tempore Matthew McNeely made Varga a part of his team. She served as his administrative assistant and as the administrative aide to the House Committee on Insurance.
When Rep. McNeely decided to retire after 22 years of service, he encouraged and assisted his loyal staffer to run for his seat. Varga ran successfully in 1986, becoming the first woman ever elected as state representative from Southwest Detroit. Later redistricted, she served the residents of River Rouge, as well.
During her illustrious 12-year career serving the Michigan Legislature, Rep. Varga authored legislation, much of which became law, that improved the lives of her constituents and all Michiganders. She convinced then-Gov. John Engler to issue an executive order putting in place an anti-abuse hotline operating still today and passed into law protection for vulnerable adults in nursing homes and elsewhere - just to name a few.
During her time with the Legislature, she served as chair of the House Regulatory Affairs Committee and as a member of the Commerce, House Oversight and Ethics, Insurance, and Marine Affairs and Port Development committees.
Varga's record on legislation while with the state House of Representatives can be found at the state Legislature's website.
Her strong legislative background, grassroots organizing and hard work have earned her the respect of her colleagues and, most importantly, her constituency. Commissioner Varga remains true to her motto: "Everyone is important." It is a philosophy that recognizes that everyone has something to contribute in making America, Michigan and our local communities better places to live.
To Ilona Varga, public service is a calling, and she considers herself a public servant first with politics by its nature being secondary. Although she has accomplished a lot in her career, she never forgets the humble beginning that started with growing up in a communist country and fleeing to get an education and live the American dream. Through hard work and lots of sacrifice, she is doing just that. Commissioner Ilona Varga is the proud mother of two grown children, and grandmother to two grandsons and one granddaughter.
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