Southwest Michigan First

Southwest Michigan First located on Stadium Drive.

Lee Chatfield has resigned as CEO of Southwest Michigan First less than two weeks after his hiring.

In his letter of resignation posted on Twitter, Chatfield said he was resigning “for the betterment of the community you serve, the companies you represent, the staff at Southwest Michigan First and the sake of my conscience.”

Chatfield’s resignation comes after a number of organizations including the Kalamazoo City Commission cut ties with Southwest Michigan First as a result of his hiring. 

“I will always be incredibly grateful for the opportunity that you provided me,” Chatfield said. “I believe that Southwest Michigan First is an incredible organization with a bright future. My family and I hold no ill will toward the Kalamazoo community nor the political and community leaders within it. We wish this region and this organization nothing but the absolute best.”

Chatfield’s hiring was seen as controversial to the Kalamazoo community due to his actions as a State Representative, particularly over his unwillingness to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

“I came into the legislature with publicly-known beliefs. Since then, I have had many thoughtful and enlightening conversations that, quite frankly, I did not have before I was elected in 2014,” Chatfield said. “I sought out these opportunities to learn from LGBTQ+ advocates and allies to become more informed. I’ve learned so much in the past seven years, and the meaningful relationships formed in the Legislature with members of different perspectives have guided and helped shape some of my personal views toward diversity and inclusion today.”

 Chatfield said he was disappointed to see his political past overshadowed by the Kalamazoo community.

“It was never my intent to cause a distraction, and I apologize for any hard feelings or stress caused,” Chatfield said. “There’s so much division in our country today, and it pains me to see my political past separate a welcoming community.”

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