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Meet the candidates: Muskegon mayoral election

Posted at 5:37 PM, Oct 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-26 17:37:10-04

MUSKEGON, Mich. — Election Day in West Michigan is officially one week away.

FOX 17 heard from the two candidates vying to be Muskegon's next mayor.

Incumbent Stephen Gawran has been in office since 2012 and is looking for another term.

His opponent, Ken Johnson, says it's time for someone new to hold the title.

There are a few things these candidates agree on: they love Muskegon, and are excited about where the city is going.

Stephen Gawron says his family is ready to work for the place he loves and continue the growth and prosperity the city has seen.

“That’s really something I’ve been involved in for the past 20 years, as I sat on the city commission or 20 years before I was mayor,” Muskegon Mayor Stephen Gawron said.

Gawron touts the growth of downtown and affordable housing as accomplishments the city has achieved together under his leadership.

Gawron touts the growth of downtown and affordable housing as accomplishments the city has achieved together under his leadership.

“Our population has stabilized. Our population was supposed to go down, according to the census bureau, but we’re stable at 38,000, which is a phenomenal thing,” Gawron said.

He wants to focus on creating strong neighborhoods and expanding affordable housing.

“Prosperity really starts at the kitchen table. And the engagement of the people that live here. We have to take care of the people in our neighborhoods while providing a vibrant downtown,” Gawron said.

Gawron's challenger Ken Johnson has spent eight years on the city commission. He says it's time for a change.

“Ensuring resources are shared fairly and equitably. There’s been a number of incidents where that hasn’t been the case,” Muskegon Mayoral candidate Ken Johnson said.

Johnson says the city hasn't always followed its own policies. He also says he doesn't believe Muskegon's Economic Development Loan Fund was spent properly.

“$950,000 of that went to three entities owned by people that don’t live in our city. And the policy says it’s supposed to go to locally-sited businesses with an emphasis on women and minorities entrepreneurs. And that $950,000 did not go to women or minorities living in this city," Johnson said.

Johnson says he's kept the money he's spent printing campaign items local. He says it's important to him to practice what he preaches.

“I’d like to shore up that fund, get some money it again, and use it for what it’s intended for,” Johnson said.

Gawron says he's ready to watch downtown become more residential. His main focus is making Muskegon a place anyone can live.

“A lot of that growth I want to see focused on safe, clean, and accessible neighborhoods. The potential for good housing for everyone. Regardless of who they are,” Gawron said.

Johnson wants to expand trade-work opportunities for young people. He says he's proud of the connection he has with the Muskegon Community Education Center to implement a new program.

“Called 'City of School.' To get students, out in the community on job sites doing career exploration. Getting paid a wage or school credit on a construction site, or new development. Getting skills. Helping them explore what interests them,” Johnson said.

Both agree, one person can't change all the progress made in Muskegon.

"We have one of the most improved and fastest-growing economies in West Michigan,” Gawron said.

“I see Muskegon. It has such great value. And tremendous potential,” Johnson said.

Both agree: they just want to be a part of what's next for the city.

“The progress that you see in what we’ve experienced here in Muskegon isn’t based on one person,” Gawron said.

“I’m excited about Muskegon, regardless of who gets elected,” Johnson said.

Watch our full interviews with Muskegon Mayor Stephen Gawron and Ken Johnson below.

Full interview with Muskegon Mayor Stephen Gawron
Full interview with Muskegon mayoral candidate Ken Johnson