Wantwaz Davis, who beat incumbent Bernard Lawler by 71 votes to win a Flint City Council seat this week, served 19 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in 1991.
Davis said he discussed his conviction openly with Flint residents.
"The council people are elected. They're going to get sworn in on Monday. Nothing you write about it is going to change it now," Council President Scott Kincaid said. "It's not something that was hidden or should be a surprise to constituents in the Fifth Ward," which Davis will represent.
Davis, who was 17 in 1991 when Kenneth S. Morris was fatally shot at his home, said Morris "went and reached in his pocket, so I reached in my pocket and I shot him. When I found out he later died, I turned myself in. I never intended to shoot Mr. Morris. To this day, I am very remorseful."
Released on parole in 2010, Davis said he does not shy away from his past and that it will help him on the council.
"The elders and youth are looking for someone who actually understands what they're going through and who has rebounded and made something of themselves," he said.
Also elected to the council Tuesday was Eric Mays, who pleaded guilty to felonious assault in 1987 and served a year of probation. Mays said a man had been threatening his life before Mays threatened him with a gun.
"I defended myself," Mays said.
He said the incident happened while he was home for the summer after being accepted to law school, which he said "destroyed my law career."
Two other newly elected members of Flint's City Council have gone through personal bankruptcies.
The city of 102,000 that gave birth to General Motors has struggled economically for decades as auto plants and other businesses have closed. It's one of a number of Michigan cities where Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed emergency managers to oversee their finances.
Michigan doesn't prohibit most felons from seeking elective office after they are released from prison. The exception is for public officials who were convicted of fraud, breach of public trust or similar crimes related to their government positions. They are barred from election or appointment to any state or local office under a constitutional amendment adopted in 2010.
Don Williamson, a former Flint mayor, served three years in prison in the early 1960s on two felony convictions involving business scams. Williamson resigned in 2009 on the verge of a recall election.