Meet Dexter’s Newest Council Member, Sanam Arab
By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter
At its June 28, 2021 meeting, the Dexter City Council selected Sanam Arab to fill the empty council seat vacated by Julie Knight upon her retirement. Ms. Arab was sworn in at the Council’s work session on Wednesday, June 30.
Sanam has a rich background living in different locales and cultures around the world. This experience has shaped her passion for community and forged her mission to improve the world in which she lives.
“Every community has its interests, passions, heritage, and culture, says Sanam. “Yes, there are things that I bring in. But, to be a part of that community, I need first to know and understand its residents before introducing any ideas.”
Sanam was born in Tehran in the wake of the Iranian revolution. With the new government in place, her father looked outside of the country for his children’s education, intending to relocate to the United States when possible. Growing up, Sanam attended school in Iran and France. The immigration process took eight long years, but when Sanam was 18-years-old, her family was finally granted permission to move to the U.S. They arrived in the summer of 2001 and settled in West Bloomfield.
Sanam immediately enrolled in community college, after which she was accepted into the University of Michigan, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in History of Art. She earned a Master’s degree in Archives and Records Management in 2010 and now works in the U-M College of LSA.
“My focus was on records and human rights and how governments use records to deny human rights, specifically denying education,” explains Sanam. It is this passion for the welfare of others that drives her community efforts and interests.
Sanam continued her career with U-M’s libraries. In 2013, a customer training project brought her to the Dexter District Library, where she got her first glimpse of the city. “In 2016, I moved to Dexter and immediately wanted to get involved with the community,” she recalls. “The first thing I did upon arrival was open my house for a neighborhood gathering. We had these meetings for about nine months where we would just get together and talk. It was a really good time.”
In 2017, Sanam pursued her civic interest by applying for a seat on Dexter’s Arts, Heritage, and Culture Committee. It was here that the beautiful reality of a small town struck home.
“Keep in mind that I’m from Tehran, a city of sixteen million,” explains Sanam. “From there to West Bloomfield and then Ann Arbor. Now, I’m in Dexter. I go to the city office to change my residency, where Michelle (Aniol) tells me, ‘I saw that you bought a house in Dexter. Welcome to Dexter!’ Who remembers something like that?”
On another occasion, Sanam sent an email to Mayor Keough with some questions regarding the Sloan-Kingsley development adjacent to her neighborhood. “We’ll see if he responds or not,” Sanam remembers thinking. She was astonished when three hours later she received a reply from the Mayor.
“I felt that I was in a good place where I can communicate and build relationships with people and city officials,” she adds.
Sanam got the seat on the committee, eventually becoming its chairperson. She was also selected as president of her Home Owners Association. In October 2020, she began regularly attending Dexter City Council meetings with no idea it would eventually lead to a seat on the Council. What drew her into the meetings was a desire to contribute to the town she had come to love. When a seat on the Council opened up, she applied and was selected.
“My goal is to become acquainted with Dexter before anything else,” says Sanam. “I don’t have a mindset of coming in as a newcomer to change things. I want to get to know the town, its people, and its history. Then, I want to see how I can contribute.”
“How we keep our identity and evolve in a way that is best for Dexter,” adds Sanam. “That’s where my passion is.”
Sanam believes a strength she brings to the Council is her ability to foster teamwork and common objectives. “I think one of my strengths has always been to work in teams in a way that we consult, make decisions, and then reflect on those decisions,” she says. “I want to see if I’m able to bring that perspective to the City Council. At the end of the day, our focus is the betterment of Dexter.”
Sanam has an eye for detail and a knack for adequately fitting them into the large scheme of things.
“I’m a librarian by training,” says Saman with a smile. “I’m trained for details. I believe I am also very good at looking at the holistic picture and how its components might impact each other.”
Sanam is eager to get started on the City Council and is working hard to get up to speed on the issues. At the heart of her endeavors is her desire to help her community. She believes her varied past can help her in her service.
“Because I have had to live in different cultures, I needed to be more observant and learn, to pay attention and listen, and in that way get to know people and my community,” she says. “That’s the biggest lesson I have learned from the places I have lived.”
Sanam and her fiancé, Karl, are expecting their first child, a son, in August. Sanam is filling the council vacancy left by Julie Knight on her retirement. The council seat term expires in November 2022.