GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After veteran Grand Rapids City Commissioner Elias Lumpkins decided not to seek re-election, two candidates are vying for his Third Ward seat.
David Allen is executive director of the Kent County Land Bank, the organization that takes over tax-foreclosed properties and redevelops them for sale. He’s also a former member of the Grand Rapids Board of Education. The-53-year-old moved to Grand Rapids in 1993.
“With term limits, you’re going to have to have somebody that’s ready to hit the ground running,” Allen said.
The other candidate is Rev. Bryan Blakely, a pastor at First Christian Reformed Church and the executive director of Bates Place Ministries. The 44-year-old is a lifelong resident of Grand Rapids.
“I love my community. I love my city,” Blakely said.
The Third Ward covers a large portion of Grand Rapids’ south side, reaching to the city limits on the south and east, Wealthy Street to the north, and a line that hugs the middle of the city to the west. It’s home to over 61,000 of the city’s nearly 188,000 residents, residing in diverse neighborhoods like Eastown, Baxter, Alger Heights and Eastgate.
Both candidates says disparity experienced by the predominately minority residents of the south side is their biggest concern, and both outlined their approach to dealing with that disparity and the role their past experience would play.
Allen talked about lessons he learned while on the school board about using large projects to help bridge the economic gaps in the Third Ward.
“They can use that leverage of the awarding of that grant to … encourage the developer to use local contractors, predominately minority contractors, minority suppliers as a part of their project and make that a requirement to get that grant,” Allen said.
Blakely also talked about how his life experience could benefit residents of the Third Ward. 10 years ago, he said, he and his family were part of Grand Rapids’ homeless population.
“It’s one thing to have a heart for certain issues and certain things people go through, but it’s another thing when you have a heart for it and you’ve feel their pain, because you know what, I’ve been through that.”
The candidates also talked about working with a new mayor and commission and what sets them apart from each other. You can watch the full interviews with each candidate above.
The Third Ward seat is the only contested race remaining in Grand Rapids. The August primary decided that Rosalynn Bliss would be the city’s next mayor and the vacant seat for the First Ward featured just one candidate.
The election is Nov. 3.