Willard Lee, 26, running for GR mayor to lower taxes, ‘change things’

Posted at 5:00 PM, Jul 31, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-31 17:05:57-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- He says he's running to 'change things,' but with no prior political experience or much of a platform to run on, Willard Lee says that shouldn't really matter.

26-year-old Lee, if elected, would become the youngest mayor ever to serve in Grand Rapids. But he's not convinced his age or lack of experience is much of an issue, saying he hasn't been "tainted" by the political process yet.

“It may be for the people who are already comfortable with the people they’ve already seen in offices. But what you need to realize, government positions are the same as everywhere else: It is a job and an occupation," Lee told FOX 17.

"If you go to a job or anywhere else you don’t really have experience for that until you get in there."

FOX 17 asked why Lee wouldn't consider running for a lower-level elected office, like school board or commission before making a run at the top of the ticket.

"You can do that also and start from the bottom and get experience, but every position has its own knowledge base and information," he said. "Just because you learn something in commission or something in education system doesn’t mean it’s the same information you need when you get into the mayor’s seat.”

Lee is a graduate of Ottawa Hills High School and a military veteran, but his grasp on policy and city issues could be considered loose, at best.

Asked where he falls on the political spectrum, Lee initially answered "as low as you can go." When asked to clarify whether he fell toward the left or right of the spectrum, Lee answered neither.

"I'm going independent, I don’t really care for sides," he said.

As far as pinpointing the biggest issue facing the city, Lee said he'd like to do more to lower taxes, adding that the cost of living in the city has become unaffordable for many people he knows.

“I say we just do like California  and other states are doing a put taxation on marijuana and legalize it,” he said when asked how he'd plan to make up for lost revenue if taxes were lowered.

Lee classifies the relationship between community and the city's police department as "horrible" but something "we can work on and make it better."

There are no records showing Lee has raised any money for his campaign. The Kent County Clerk's Office told FOX 17 that Lee submitted a waiver saying he would not be raising or spending more than $1,000 and therefore did not have to file paperwork.

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.