By Mike Scott
Dan Ringo has a number of responsibilities on his plate. He is the father of three children whose ages range from elementary to high school. He is or has been involved in several community initiatives throughout the city of Detroit. Additionally he is a former Air Force pilot with extensive background in engineering.
And, by the way, he is also in his third year of law school at Wayne State University.
Ringo has a worked with Detroit Public Schools (DPS), negotiating labor contracts under current DPS Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb. And despite this fiscal oversight experience, Ringo, a Detroit resident and graduate of Henry Ford High School, feels that a law degree will help him become even more effective in his profession.
“I’ve been fortunate because many doors have been opened for me over the last few years and a lot of that is based on networking and the (community) activities that I have become involved with,” Ringo said while being interviewed at the start of a rare vacation period for the serial multi-tasker. “I think the fact that I am a Detroiter and I still live and work here with my family does give me instant credibility because I am not an outsider.”
Ringo plans to specialize as a labor and employment attorney and is not sure whether he will practice in the public or private sector. He recently took a job as an area manager for Detroit-based Powerlink, a facility management services firm. But beyond his job, Ringo serves as a committee member on a local Joint Labor Business Task Force along with notable and respected leaders in government, labor, and business.
He also has been selected to serve on a national search committee for a new DPS superintendent along with 24 other notable community, business and labor leaders, a position that came about largely because of his professional working relationship with Bobb. In addition, he has been appointed to the Detroit Historic District Commission by Detroit Mayor David Bing, a term that expires in 2013.
As such he is now working in both the public and private sector. And he relishes the ability to do both.
“It’s great to be able to (have that flexibility),” Ringo said. “I decided several years ago that I wanted to come back to Detroit because I saw and heard that there were good things happening here.”
Ringo left the city after graduating from high school in 1991 to join the U.S. Air Force. He served for four years and initially had a career goal of becoming a military officer. But his love for the city brought him back to Detroit and now he has the opportunity to help make his immediate community and city a better place to live and work.
After a high school academic career that was “less than stellar,” Ringo joined the Air Force in 1993. By the time he returned, Ringo had developed an expertise in civil engineering, having led a squadron of an Air Force emergency engineering force. He was able to earn mechanical and electrical engineering degrees through his stint in the military.
Ringo had the opportunity to work as a plant engineer outside of Michigan but returned to his hometown in the late 1990s for a two-year stationary engineer apprenticeship with DPS. Once he applied for law school, other opportunities came about, from serving as a law clerk at Nemeth Burwell, P.C. in Detroit to a clerkship with the AFL-CIO.
Recently Ringo was a part of a team of labor experts helping to merge two large labor unions and finalizing labor contracts in the area. But he feels that his law degree will give a level of educational flexibility and diversity that provide for a professional edge. He also received his bachelor’s degree from Wayne State,
“What you learn in law school is an array of skills that allow you to think about situations,” Ringo said.
“That can help with virtually any type of endeavor. It has given me a panoramic and broad (professional) view that will help produce better and more informed results.”
His experience in law school has also allowed Ringo to both think and act quickly and critically, he said, especially in tense and difficult labor and negotiation situations. He is looking forward to offering his knowledge for pro bono and volunteer legal work for causes that interest him.
So between raising his children, working on an array of appointments and finishing his J.D., Ringo’s life is a virtual whirlwind. He wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’m proud of the fact that I can help and that I have gained the trust of so many great leaders,” Ringo said. “I want to make the best of their trust.”