GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two big upsets during Tuesday’s election will bring some major changes to the Grand Rapids City Commission.
In the 1st Ward, Kurt Reppart, who was first elected in 2017, was defeated by newcomer Drew Robbins by a 352-vote margin.
In the 2nd Ward, Joe Jones, who served since 2016, was defeated by Lisa Knight by a wide margin, 12,935 to 6,893.
In the 3rd Ward, Kelsey Perdue will fill an open seat, defeating Kenneth Hoskins 10,209 to 8,162.
Knight once worked for the man she defeated at the Grand Rapids Urban League.
“I think people have struggled a lot in the last couple of years, and have really looked forward to having somebody that they could connect to even more and engage with and that has a true heart for community. And I think I do,” Knight said.
Term-limited Commissioner Senita Lenear opened up the 3rd Ward seat that pitted one-time Grand Rapids School Board President Kenneth Hoskins against political newcomer Kelsey Perdue.
Perdue won the seat.
“In a time of great opportunity and in a time of crisis as well, I think folks want fresh faces. Folks want representation. … I am the second Black woman ever elected to the city commission, which is historical,” Perdue said. “With Senita Lenear being termed out, I think folks recognized that we needed some of that representation.”
Perhaps the biggest upset was in the 1st Ward, where Robbins defeated incumbent Reppart. The campaign was the subject of a Target 8 investigation into alleged dark money funding of Safe GR, a campaign targeting Reppart’s reelection bid.
Robbins denies any ties to Safe GR.
“From the very beginning, my commitment to all the voters was to keep this race issues based. I listened to what people had to say and what their biggest concerns were, and we mobilized based on what they had to say,” Robbins said. “We also kept it nonpartisan. I think people are very disenfranchised by partisan politics at the moment, and my commitment to the people was to keep that completely out of local politics. We honored that commitment and I think the combination of those things is really what pushed us across the finish line.”
All three talked about their priorities, from affordable housing and crime reduction to improving relations between Grand Rapids police and the community.
Tuesday night’s results will create an interesting mix of three newcomers and three veterans on the commission next year.
News asked all three how they plan to make that combination work.
“It’s not about personalities. It’s not about me against them. It’s about us working together as a whole, to do the work that we’re supposed to do: And that is serving our communities,” Knight said.
“So we have our learning curve, we have our experience … and expertise to bring. I think it will be fun. I think it will be challenging for sure. I’m not naive to that, but really hoping that we can find some sort of of unified force to move forward the issues that are really important,” Perdue said.
“Everybody cares about the city, that’s why we’re all doing this is because we want to see Grand Rapids thrive as a city. I’ll maintain that always. Obviously, we’re going to have conflict at times and disagreement on our approaches to solving these solutions, but at the end of the day, we’re all trying to accomplish the same goal,” Robbins told News 8.
The new commissioners will take their oath of office at the end of the year.
**Correction: The original article started Robbins was mentioned in Safe GR literature. It was actually Reppart, Robbins’s opponent, whose name mentioned in their literature. We regret the error.