Rosalynn Bliss is awesome for a lot of reasons. She's originally a Yooper (OY) and grew up one of ten kids. Being from a hard-working family, she started work at a fairly young age and received a bachelor's degree in psychology and criminal justice as well as a master's in sociology. She now has fostered a career in helping others as a social worker, focusing on domestic violence and child abuse. As Director of Residential Services at D.A. Blodgett in St. John's, a shelter for abused and neglected children, and Vice President of the Michigan Municipal League, she also served as Second Ward City Commissioner for a ten-year run. She made Crain's list of 100 Most Influential Women, and last but certainly not least, is the first woman ever to be elected mayor of Grand Rapids.
But that's just a shortened grocery list of accomplishments. This is a person who has described leadership as listening and gathering input from the community before making decisions. She values relationships, communication, and working with others to achieve a common goal. She believes a mayor should focus on local issues, particularly engaging neighborhoods and encouraging community events/projects.
I was able to attend her State of the City address as on-site photographer, a historic moment to witness not only being she's the first woman to give such an address in Grand Rapids, but also the youngest in over 100 years. In her speech, she touched on many of the major problems facing Grand Rapids, speaking in a way that exuded empathy and compassion. The crowd showed appreciation with applause, especially when she mentioned racial equity and affordable housing-two concerns that have become increasingly imperative. It seems most Grand Rapidians would agree, with Bliss taking 66% of the votes in the primary election, bypassing the runoff election and driving her straight into the mayoral seat.
As Grand Rapids moves forward, it doesn't totally leave behind the issues of the past. There's still much to be improved. But Mayor Rosalynn Bliss believes we can make positive change if we all are working together.
Watch the State of the City address here.