GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Rosalynn Bliss will be the next mayor of Grand Rapids.
Voters elected Bliss to the position on Tuesday. She will be the city’s first female mayor.
“I am excited. I am honored. I’m a little exhausted,” the mayor-elect told 24 Hour News 8 in a live on-air interview not long after declaring victory and thanking her supporters. “I’m really honored. What an amazing night.”
Bliss, currently a Second Ward city commissioner, earned 66 percent of the vote. Former Third Ward commissioner, Grand Rapids Board of Education member and state representative Robert Dean earned 30 percent. He conceded the race to Bliss before 10 p.m.
Dean said he was “a little disappointed, a little downcast,” following his loss. But he said, he was “still optimistic that the message got out there,” referring to his concerns about the city’s debt and what he described as a “fiscal cliff.”
>>Inside woodtv.com: Election results
The two other candidates, local politics newcomers John George and Willard Lee, garnered only 4 percent of the vote combined.
Bliss’ term as a city commissioner doesn’t end until Dec. 31, 2017. After she steps into her new position in January, the city commission will appoint someone to fill the seat she leaves vacant.
The mayor-elect said she plans to start “developing relationships,” preparing for a “smooth transition” and getting structures in place to “hit the ground running” come January.
One of her main priorities is going to be looking at what needs to be done to revitalize neighborhoods.
“I want to take time getting out into the neighborhoods and meeting people. The last three months I’ve been able to knock on a lot of doors largely in the First and Third Ward, but I need to get out and still meet people and listen to them to better understand the issues they’re facing,” said Bliss.
Tuesday was the first time in more than two decades that Grand Rapids voters chose a new mayor, as third-term Mayor George Heartwell is being forced out following the passage of a two-term limit last year.
Bliss, who has been a city commissioner for more than nine years, said she will ‘bring her own style’ to the office of mayor.
“Every leader is different and they bring different strengths,” Bliss said, highlighting what she said were her strengths of hard work, active engagement and accessibility. “I really am focused on local issues, but I also recognize the need to be a strong advocate at the state and federal level on issues that affect cities, so I’ll continue to do that as well.”
Bliss said the fact that she is Grand Rapids’ first female mayor is still sinking in.
“To be a model for young girls and women is a huge responsibility and I take it very seriously. I hope I can mentor and encourage other people to get involved and that’s the exciting part about moving into this position,” said Bliss.
Grand Rapids City Clerk Darlene O’Neal told 24 Hour News 8 before polls closed on Tuesday that she expected to see 15 percent voter turnout.
“Eight o’clock this morning, we had about a 5 percent voter turnout,” O’Neal said. “This afternoon, we had about a roughly 10 percent voter turnout. We’re trending. If we continue to come out and vote the way we’re voting, I look to see a 15 percent voter turnout — maybe a little higher.”
There were a handful of other issues on the ballot in other West Michigan communities:
- A runoff election will be held in November for a seat on the Kentwood City Commission. The three candidates on the ballot split the vote, forcing a runoff between Thomas Webb (who earned 42 percent of the vote), Steven Redmond (who got 40 percent) and Kevin Heine (who got 17 percent).
- A nearly $22 million bond proposal for Hudsonville Public Schools passed 52% to 48%.
- Voters approved a new millage for the Kalamazoo Central County Transportation Authority. That millage will replace funds from an expiring funding measure.
- A plan to build a new township hall and fire station in St. Joseph County’s Mendon Township failed overwhelmingly, with 74% of voters saying no.
>>Inside woodtv.com: Complete election results