Who Is Running?

This post will be updated as the situation changes regarding the 2024 municipal elections.

Even Year Elections & Term Limits

2024 is not only an election year it is the first election where the impact of term limits and even year voting will be fully realized. Grand Rapids adopted term-limits via public referendum in 2014. City Commission elections were changed via public referendum from odd to even years in 2022; city commissioners who's terms would have ended in 2021 were granted a bonus year, terms extended to 2022. The mayor's term which would have ended in 2023 was extended to 2024.

The term limits language is:

no person shall be eligible for election as City Commissioner if they have served as City Commissioner for two terms, and no person shall be eligible for election as Mayor if they have served as Mayor for two terms.

The following current elected officials cannot seek reelection in 2024 due to term-limits:

  • Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, elected 2015 and 2019 [odd year w/bonus].
  • Jon O'Connor (1st Ward), elected in 2015 & 2019 [odd year w/bonus]

Current commissioners ending their first term who will be eligible to run for a second term in 2024:

  • Milinda Ysasi (2nd Ward), elected to first term in 2019 [odd year w/bonus]
  • Nathaniel Moody (1st Ward), appointed to vacancy in July 2018, elected to first full term in 2019 [odd year w/bonus].

Commissioners Drew Robbins (1st Ward), Lisa Knight (2nd Ward), and Kelsey Perdue (3rd Ward) were all elected in 2022 and are serving their first terms ending in 2026. All three will be eligible to run for a second term in 2026. In the 2022 election both Lisa Knight and Drew Robbins defeated incumbent candidates; Joe Jones and Kurt Reppart, respectively. Kelsey Purdue was elected to an open seat, the incumbent being ineligible due to term limits.

City Manager Government

Grand Rapids is a "City Manger" government. This means that the day to day operations of the city are managed by a City Manager who is hired by the city, selected by whomever is on the City Commission at the time a City Manager vacancy occurs. Yes, this means that one of the most powerful roles in city government is not elected by the residents of the city. As the non-elected City Manager establishes the City Commission agenda this creates a strange system where those running for or holding office neither advance policy ideas nor do they have much if any incentive to [publicly] state their policy positions - - - leaving citizens with little motivation to support or oppose candidates. This is reflected in voter participation in city elections.

In my precinct (Ward #2, Precinct 31) in 2022 - not a presidential election year - 37.4% of voters voted for neither Lisa Knight or Joe Jones. Lisa Knight won the race with 44.6% of the precinct, vs. Joe Jones 18%. The second place candidate was beat, in terms of percentage, by voters who didn't bother.

Declared Candidates

The deadline to file to run for mayor of Grand Rapids is April 23rd, 2024.

Mayor

  • David LaGrand. Founder of Wealthy Street Bakery, principle in Long Road Distillers, previous Grand Rapids City Commissioner, currently represents the 75th district in the Michigan House of Representatives.

    • Candidate Website
    • Endorsements: Grand Rapids' Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, Former Grand Rapids' Mayor George Heartwell, Tami VandenBerg
    • Policy Positions: none
    • News:

      • Former state Rep. David LaGrand announces run for Grand Rapids mayor, MLive 2023-05-30
      • Former State Rep. LaGrand announces candidacy for Mayor of Grand Rapids , WGUVU 2023-05-30
      • LaGrand leading Lenear in early fundraising for Grand Rapids mayor’s race, MLive 2024-02-09

        LaGrand said his top three priorities are intertwined. As mayor, he said he would work on issues around policing and justice, housing and homelessness and infrastructure investment and neighborhood support.
        
      • GV College Democrats host mayoral candidate David LaGrand, Lanthorn, 2024-02-26

        LaGrand said the “ideal city” that he wants to see as a mayor deplores the “middle-class suburban myth of America.” His vision of paradise is not everyone having an acre of land and a driving mower, but rather a community that works to fix the problems at hand so every citizen of Grand Rapids can have the support they need to be a contributing citizen in society. 
        When attendees pressed how LaGrand plans to address recent “anti-homeless” ordinances, LaGrand said he thought such a thing would be “a political mess.” 
        “This is a continuum issue. What I want to do is get (citizens) housing, virtually immediately,” LaGrand said.
        
      • 👉 2024-03-12: At a meeting with the Highland Park Neighborhood Association candidate LaGrand said: "Density is good.". That is a direct quote. No equivocation, he explain how it is the path to all the things people want; and that Grand Rapids is not a suburb, and that it should lean in to being a city. He also encouraged people to check out our friends at Slow Streets. 👈


  • Senita Lenear. Former Third Ward City Commissioner, through December 2022. Served on the Grand Rapids Public Schools board.

    • Candidate Website
    • Endorsements: 2nd Ward Commissioner Milinda Ysasi, The Future - Today & Tomorrow (PAC)
    • Policy Positions: fully funding the Safe Alliances for Everyone (SAFE) Task Force.
    • News:

      • Former city commissioner Senita Lenear announces run for Grand Rapids mayor, MLive 2023-11-21
      • LaGrand leading Lenear in early fundraising for Grand Rapids mayor’s race, MLive 2024-02-09

        Lenear listed her top three priorities as mayor as having more conversations at the neighborhood level and listening to the priorities of those residents and businesses; spurring local business development, including a plan to bolster business and housing growth along the Alpine and Plainfield avenue and 28th Street corridors and elsewhere; and expanding and fully funding the Safe Alliances for Everyone (SAFE) Task Force, which provides grants to grassroots organizations and people for anti-violence strategies in the city.
        
      • Empowering Voices, Driving Change: The Future – Today & Tomorrow Official Launch And Endorsementsr, Harlem World 2024-02-19.

        This ambitious fundraising goal highlights the PAC’s dedication to empowering visionary leaders and ensuring the representation of underserved communities. The endorsed candidates include Dr. Pamela Pugh and Tiffany Tilley for Congress in Michigan, Mary Waters for Detroit City Council, Rashida Tlaib for Congress in Michigan, Terris Todd for Congress in Virginia, Senita Lenear for Mayor of Grand Rapids, and Donna McLeod for Gwinnett County Chair.
        
      • Mayoral candidate Senita Lenear to host neighborhood listening sessions, 2024-05-02 WZZM13

      • Mayoral Candidate Senita Lenear Announces Her “Neighborhood Connections” Schedule

        Mayoral candidate Senita Lenear announces her “Neighborhood Connections” gatherings meant to engage with residents across the city. “Neighborhood by neighborhood I want to continue engaging the citizens of Grand Rapids to hear what is on their hearts and minds for the City’s future. I have heard stories from residents, businesses, non-profits, and other public institutions over the past 5 months, since announcing my candidacy, and this feedback is helping me to shape the priorities I will bring as mayor. The public is invited to join me at these Neighborhood Connections at a time that is convenient for them, please check out the schedule and locations and meet me there,” said Lenear.
        

DateLocation Time
Tue, 2024-05-07Last Mile Café 1006 Hall St SE8:00am
Tue, 2024-05-07Duds & Suds 1533 Langley St. SE6:00pm
Tue, 2024-05-14The Early Bird Café 1445 Lake Dr. SE8:00am
Tue, 2024-05-14Cousins Tasty Chicken 1209 Leonard St. NE6:00pm
Tue, 2024-05-21Mercadito Mexican Eats & Treats 1202 Fulton St. W12:00pm
Tue, 2024-05-21La Casa De La Cobija 2355 Division Ave. S6:00pm



  • Steve Owens 2nd Ward resident
    • Candidate Website
    • Endorsements:
    • Policy Positions:
      • Streets should be plowed more often, the threshold for plowing should be reduced from 3in to 2.5in
      • No tax funding for stadiums
      • Expand mixed-use zoning
      • Improve the city's credit rating
      • Tax incentives for child-care facilities and services


What will they do?

LaGrandLenear
Housing "think creatively" 🙄🙄🙄 "As mayor, commissioner Lenear will forge relationships with neighboring cities and municipalities to broaden the housing discussion into a regional discussion." 🙄

"regionalism": redefining a problem as someone else's problem as a distraction from the failure to use the powers one has to address the problem.

Transportation not mentioned 😞Cooling and heating sources at bus shelters
Climate Change "We need to invest city resources wisely to save money and protect our environment" 🙄 The candidate is interesting in learning about the plans the city has adopted. 🙄
Economic Development Some word salad about "smart investment" 🙄 Expansion of the city's Corridor Improvement Districts


1st Ward Commissioner

  • Dean Pacific: attorney at Warner Norcross & Judd, serves on the Grand Rapids Civilian Appeals Board, and the board of Head Start for Kent County.
  • Melanie Droski
    • No website
    • Endorsements:
    • Policy Positions: none
  • Mike Fassbender
    • No Website
    • Endorsements:
    • Policy Positions: none
  • Alicia Marie Belchak

2nd Ward Commissioner

  • Melinda Ysasi, incumbent 2nd Ward Commissioner.
    • Candidate Website
    • Endorsements: Grand Rapids' Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, 2nd Ward Commissioner Lisa Knight, ... candidate website contains an endorsement registration form and corresponding list.
    • Policy Positions: none

3rd Ward Commissioner

  • John Krajewski, former GRPD officer,
  • Al Willis
    • No candidate website
    • Endorsements:
    • Policy Positions: none
  • Joyce Priscilla Gipson
    • No candidate website
    • Endorsements:
    • Policy Positions: none
  • Marshal Kilgore : Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Western Michigan University, Director of Engagement WMEAC. Currently serves on the Vital Streets Oversight Commission, Urban Agriculture Committee, and Housing Appeals Board.
    • Candidate Website
    • Endorsements: Tami VandenBerg
    • Policy Positions: Inclusionary zoning (mandated affordable housing), expansion of community land trusts
  • Reggie Howard
    • No candidate website
    • Endorsements:
    • Policy Positions: none
  • Bing Goei : appointed to the 3rd Ward seat by the City Commission to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Commissioner Moody. At the time of candidate interviews to fill the vacancy Mr. Goei clearly stated he did not intend to run for the seat at the end of the appointed term. This was a factor in his appointment as it meant no appointment candidate would run with incumbent advantage. Mr. Goei subsequently filed to run for the seat he was appointed to.




Other Races

Kent County Board of Commissioners

Kent count commissioners are elected to two (2) year terms from roughly equivalent districts [in the context of population]. The district map for Kent county can be found 👉here👈. There are 21 districts; the shape of may of the districts is . . . interesting. County commissioners are not term-limited.

Grand Rapids Districts

  • District#6 : currently occupied by Stan Stek
  • District#12 : currently occupied by Monica Sparks
  • District#14 : currently occupied by Carol Hennessy
  • District#16 : currently occupied by Melissa LaGrand
  • District#17 : currently occupied by Tony Baker, who is seeking reelection.
  • District#19 : currently occupied by Kris Pachla
  • District#18 : currently occupied by Stephen Wooden, who is not seeking reelection.
    • Steve Faber (D)
      • Supports "Ready by Five" early childhood millage, supports the senior services millage, supports the Kent County Affordable Housing Revolving Load Fund, remembers to mention public transportation.
    • Dan Hesse (D)
    • James R. Rinck, no website (D)
  • District#19 : currently occupied by Kris Pachla
  • District#20 : currently occupied by Ivan Diaz

Michigan House of Representatives

  • District #80: Phil Skaggs (D), Bill Sage (R)
  • District #81: Stephan Wooden (D), Jordan Youngquist (R)
  • District #82: Kristian Grant (D), Ryan Malinoski (R)
  • District #83: John Fitzgerald (D), undecided (R) [John Fitzgerald vs. Tommy Brann]
  • District #84: undecided (D) [Carol Glanville vs. Justin Rackham], undecided (R) [Ben June vs. John Wetzel]

Related:

Michigan Senate

  • District #29 (southern Grand Rapids): Kyle Wright (D), James DeSana (R)
  • District #30 (northern Grand Rapids): Rick Kuil (D), William T. Bruck (R)

Related: