GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Next year, three new members will join the Grand Rapids City Commission.
Among those leaving is Senita Lenear, who set precedent for women of color on the commission. Her term will end on Dec. 31 at 11:59 p.m.
“I feel accomplished. I feel satisfied. I feel like I left nothing on the table,” Lenear said.
She was elected in 2013 as the first Black woman elected to the commission. The historic decision by the voters paved the way for more women to have a seat in city hall.
In 2017, she won another four-year term.
“I absolutely think that this was trailblazing,” she said. “I’m excited that there are two
Black women now and three women of color who will serve on the commission going forward.”
From suiting up as a firefighter to celebrating the reopening of the historic Indian Trails Golf Course, the last nine years are packed with memorable moments for Lenear.
Addressing police and community relations was a top priority for her though “slow change” quickly set her and other city leaders on a pedestal for residents’ frustrations.
“What do people not understand about being a commissioner,” News 8’s Gabrielle Phifer asked her in an interview.
“A lot,” Lenear responded. “People don’t understand a lot.”
She added, “We exist in a system that is broken. American cities have broken policies in them. It was built on broken policies historically. So, when you are dismantling them, it takes a lot of time. People may not immediately see the outcome of that so it feels like nothing is being done, but over time you will experience those outcomes.”
What she is most proud of is the 3rd Ward equity fund she championed alongside other commissioners like former City Commissioner David Allen.
Lenear said she and Allen chose not to participate in an exercise about capital improvement projects across the city, which showed the underinvestment in that ward.
“David Allen and I boycotted. We didn’t participate. It opened up a conversation amongst the commission about how we have presented information and how it comes to us in equity,” she said. “After that, the economic development came out with their own study and supported what we were saying and what this exercise disclosed.”
Since then, the 3rd Ward has received more financial resources from the city.
Lenear says it has driven more business and has made neighborhoods more vibrant. She hopes that funding remains a priority.
“That’s one of the most important things that has to move forward,” Lenear said.
It’s been a privilege for Lenear to serve the residents of Grand Rapids and as far as what is next, she is waiting to find out too.
“You never know if I’ll be called again to public office. Accepting that calling would be the exact same thing that I did this last time.”
Lenear owns a business and plans to dedicate more of her time to that venture.