GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, a proud Democrat, keeps an iconic Republican in mind when she’s at work.
“We're the home of Gerald Ford, and he was a shining example of working with everyone for the betterment of this country.” Bliss said. “Being able to put aside your own self-interest, and really come to the table with the community's best interests at heart.”
That Ford mentality runs true to how Bliss has tackled the job since 2016 and some of the relationships she’s made along the way.
“We can respect different opinions and try to find common ground and build consensus. And when we're able to do that, quite frankly, we get better decisions and outcomes,” Bliss said.
“We knew that to best serve the community, if we work together, we would potentially be a force to really have some positive change,” Kent County Board of Commissioners Chair Mandy Bolter said.
Mandy Bolter is a proud Republican and the head commissioner in Kent County.
“We serve the public; we are there to get stuff done for you. And when you can't work together, you can't get as much done. And so I think that that's something we both feel at our core,” Bolter said about Bliss.
Despite party differences, Bliss and Bolter have forged a powerful working relationship.
“We have a very honest and genuine relationship, and when we disagree, we can have those disagreements and we can talk about the different opinions that we bring to the table. But we can do it in a way that doesn't damage our relationship.” Bliss explained. “And somehow, especially in the past, the past decade, I would say that we have lost that to some extent.”
Though here in West Michigan, the duo has come together to tackle issues like lead in homes and to support local businesses during the pandemic.
They are sharing and tagging one another in social media for Bolter's “Kent County Takeout Challenge” and lending their voices to spread the word about vaccinations, appearing together in a “Sleeves Up" PSA.
At a time when Dems and Republicans are at bitter odds, these two women leaders of West Michigan are bucking the trend and setting a model example of what can be done when leaders work together.
“Kent County always wants to be a leader, and we will be the example for everyone if we need to be, and we're proud to do it,” Bolter added.