Detroit Free Press
June 10, 2023
The last time Jennifer Granholm and I had an in-depth conversation about energy, the environment and opportunities that could help the economy, we were climbing up a steep stairwell inside a dark, five-story wind turbine — one of a few dozen near Port Huron.
It was 2008, when Granholm was Michigan’s governor, and she was looking for new ways to power communities and boost our economy, which had been ravaged by the Great Recession. I tagged along to see how turbines could be part of the solution, which I included in “Powering Michigan’s Future,” a CBS Detroit TV special I did with news director/videographer Paul Pytlowany.
Although much has changed for Granholm since then, one thing hasn’t: her steadfast focus on clean energy and helping the environment, which is her mission in her current role as U.S. secretary of energy.
Nominated by President Joe Biden and approved by Congress in February 2021, she’s the 16th person to hold the influential cabinet post.
Granholm is set to come to Michigan on June 19 to take the stage with me for the post-pandemic return of the Free Press Breakfast Club forum and we will be talking about far more than wind turbines. The sold-out event at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham will have an audience made up of CEOs, business, political and community leaders, as well as students from the Detroit Public School Community District.
Granholm has been front page news here for decades. She blazed trails as the first female Michigan attorney general and first female governor. Dan Mulhern, her husband, also blazed trails as first gentleman as he stayed home with their three children and tabled his thriving consulting firm so she could push the pedal on her career — something not common then or today. Their children are now grown (they welcomed a grandson two years ago). Mulhern teaches leadership in the business and public policy schools at the University of California-Berkeley, runs a coaching firm called LeadingX2 and launched a podcast called “Secrets of the Better Halves,” because he told me, “I’m still trying to figure out how to be a better half.”
Granholm is on the road often, traveling across America and the globe, too, with Biden to places like the recent G7 summit, and to Ottawa, Canada, where she and the president attended an event with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
In advance of the June 19 event at the Townsend, I chatted with Granholm via phone June 4 while at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear. She heard the squeal of tires in the background and fondly recalled attending the race.
We talked about how imperative energy is to our region and the nation’s collective future and the need for energy independence, along with clean energy and new ways of powering cars, homes and communities. And we talked about her time as governor, when the auto industry was going through so much and how the state had to help pick up the pieces.