GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — When voters head to the polls next Tuesday, they could wind up choosing the first female, second-ever African American, a political newcomer, or the youngest person in the city’s history to serve as the next mayor of Grand Rapids.
For the first time in more than a decade, George Heartwell won’t be among the choices for mayor due to recently imposed term limits.
The primary mayoral race is set for Aug. 4. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote they will become the city’s next mayor. If not, the top two vote-getters will compete in a run-off election in November.
This week, FOX 17 is profiling each of the four new candidates vying for your vote to find out where they stand on the issues and why they are running.
Campaigning as 'the people's mayor', Rev. Robert Dean is a life-long Grand Rapids resident who has served on the local school board, city commission and as a state representative in Lansing for two terms. Dean said his primary goal is to address what he calls a 'looming' budget deficit that is being ignored by current city leadership.
Serving as commissioner for the city's second ward for nearly a decade, Rosalynn Bliss said she wants to focus on shifting revitalization efforts toward the neighborhoods. Running with an endorsement from outgoing Mayor George Heartwell, Bliss said she's learned a lot from him but contends she has a much different style and approach when it comes to governing and leading.
A political newcomer and retired engineer, John George said he's running primarily to get the fluoride out of the city's water. Referring to it as a poison, George said the logic and science that put it in our water to begin with in the 1950s has been disproven. But George contends he is not a one-issue candidate and says he's actually the most policy-heavy candidate in the race, given the numerous issues addressed on his campaign website.
At 26 years old, Willard Lee would be the youngest ever to be mayor in Grand Rapids, if elected. With admittedly no prior political experience and very little in the way of a comprehensive platform to run on, the military veteran said he's running to influence change. He said he hasn't been 'tainted' by the political process. If elected, he'd like to lower taxes in the city and make the cost of living more affordable, but if he doesn't win, he says this will likely be his first and last foray into politics.