Though I was born in metro-Detroit, my family moved to Germany when I was a toddler, and I spent my early years in Europe while my father pursued his research. Prior to our move, he worked as a professor at Wayne State, Yale, and later at the University of Rome. My mother worked as a librarian and nurse. Living overseas and attending school with kids from around the world opened my eyes to different cultures and languages and I am forever grateful for this unique opportunity. These lessons have stayed with me throughout my life.
My mom and I moved back to Michigan with my Grandmother when I was eight years old. I attended Southfield Public Schools and received an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, majoring in Psychology and Sociology. While in college, I played trumpet in the marching band, participated in programs serving at-risk youth, and opened my first small business. I received a full scholarship to the Detroit College of Law (now known as MSU College of Law) where I graduated from the Kings Scholars Program.
Penelope was born in metro-Detroit and lived in Germany from 2-8 years old before moving to Southfield, Michigan.
I attended U of M for my undergraduate degrees and MSU for Law School.
Penelope is a Wolverine (undergrad) and a Spartan (law degree) and roots for both schools, except for one Saturday each October when she dons maize in blue around East Lansing.
Penelope's leadership as Ingham County Commissioner resulted in nearly $40 million in investments across the county, the creation of dozens of jobs, and increased services to residents.
Penelope has owned two successful small businesses and employed dozens of employees.
My first job after law school was working as a Victims Advocate at EVE (End Violent Encounters), Lansing’s first shelter, serving survivors of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault. I worked at the Personal Protection Order office and the Domestic Violence Support Unit in the Ingham County Sheriff’s Office.
Following my time at EVE, I worked as a defense attorney representing indigent defendants and juveniles in Ingham and Eaton Counties, ensuring that those that could not afford representation received quality legal counsel and support. I also worked pro bono representing victims of domestic violence, providing family law services, and volunteered at a local legal aid office.
I’ve spent hundreds of hours volunteering with the Ingham County Animal Shelter, raising funds for the shelter and building a volunteer base that helped to supplement the overworked staff. My first foray into politics was lobbying the Ingham County Commission to end the dated practice of selling animals to Class B research dealers. Ingham became the first county in Michigan to outlaw this practice. My work there inspired me to run for the County Board of Commissioners. Over three terms, I served on many committees and twice served as Chair of the Law and Courts Committee.
I consider the following achievements from my time on the Board to be the most noteworthy:
I spearheaded the development and passage of two millages overwhelming supported by county voters: the Parks and Trails Millage which has now raised over $20 million for improvements and expansion of our countywide trail system and the Animal Control Millage, which funded construction of a $7 million cleaner, safer, more efficient animal shelter with expanded services for residents.
I worked with the courts to uphold the highest standards of justice by working to fund additional pretrial service staff positions, expanding access to representation for indigent defendants, and continuing vital programs for juvenile offenders.
I built strong working relationships with a diverse group of elected commissioners with vast political and geographical differences and built consensus around issues and policies to better serve taxpayers.
Over the past twenty years, I’ve served on a number of boards and commissions, including:
The Community Development Block Grant subcommittee of the East Lansing Human Relations Commission where we allocated funds for neighborhood improvement.
Working with the Capital Area Michigan Works Board, I ensured equitable funding distribution for employment and training programs for low income and unemployed residents.
I served on the Ingham Drain Board of Determination to review projects proposed by the Office of the Drain Commissioner, reviewing their environmental impact, necessity, and tax impact on property owners.
Regionally, I served on the Tri-County Aging Consortium, which funds and administers programs including transportation, tax assistance, and Medicare / Medicaid assistance for seniors in Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties.
I regularly attended Community Mental Health Board quarterly updates and could be counted on to support their work at the County Board level.
I have also volunteered with many organizations that share my values including the Energy Action Coalition, Clean Water Action, Democracy for America, anti-Right to Work efforts, healthcare initiatives, the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council, and a number of local, state, and federal campaigns, and I founded the Ingham County Young Democrats. I served as an elected officer with the Ingham County Democratic Party for many years and was named their Volunteer of the Year as well as
Distinguished Volunteer by the Michigan Democratic Party for my work supporting Democratic causes and candidates over the years.
Beginning in 2006, I oversaw the annual voter registration drives of tens of thousands of MSU students each Fall through the East Lansing Progressives. Our work helped elect Democrats up and down the ballot across Ingham County.
In 2008, I was so moved by the historic nature of Barack Obama’s campaign that I took a leave from my job to volunteer full time for his presidential campaign in Lansing. It was there, over many stressful days and long nights, that I met my husband, Steve Ross, (he was the East Lansing Organizer for the campaign).
In 2008, I served as Deputy Field Organizer in South Lansing with the Obama Presidential Campaign.
Celebrating my Mom, Elaine's, birthday with my Dad, Demetrius.
In 2009, I took over ownership of renowned campaign consulting and data firm, Practical Political Consulting, a non-partisan political consulting firm founded by Mark Grebner nearly 45 years ago in Downtown East Lansing. Since I became owner, some of our many accomplishments, include:
Developing the ballot language of 2018’s Proposal 2 - Voters Not Politicians - to create the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission - and overseeing the protection of their petitions from Republican challenges.
Working with a coalition of progressive organizations to stop dangerous initiatives, including successfully disqualifying the 2020 Right to Life ballot initiative.
Consulting with school districts across the state to develop and pass their millages to build new schools, update technology, and remodel facilities.
Working with labor unions to support ballot initiatives to help working families, like the Protect Our Jobs initiative.
I’ve lived in East Lansing for over twenty years. My husband and I enjoy spending time with our daughter, traveling, being active, and visiting Northern Michigan.