The Rapidian

Meet a candidate for 3rd Ward commissioner

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In 1971, Volunteers In Service to America sent a young Carol Townsend to Grand Rapids. Having seen the bright lights of two big cities, Carol was bummed to be here. Early disappointment soon evolved into deep appreciation.

“If I had stayed in Chicago or Detroit, anything I did would be a drop in the bucket. Here I feel I can make a real difference. Grand Rapids has some of the neatest, coolest people in the whole world,” says Townsend.

Townsend is squaring off against incumbent James White for a seat as 3rd Ward Commissioner. This is the first time Townsend’s run for public office. She says she is up for the personal challenge. She also believes the city needs to restructure government so more taxpayers have their say.
“We need to analyze what we want, get creative and innovative to position Grand Rapids for the 21st century...We need more education for people to understand budget cuts and know how taxpayer dollars are being used,” Townsend said.
Ms. Townsend is a Community Development Educator for Michigan State University. She worked with the Garfield Park Neighborhood Association for 12 years. She plans to look into the city’s funding for neighborhood groups. 
“Most neighborhood associations are struggling or even non-existent," She said, "I firmly believe in them. People can get involved and create their own quality of life. These are mandatory for a viable city.”
Townsend says people at her age sometimes think about their own golden years and not future generations. Townsend, who is single and has no children added, “ I had no kids in public education, but I’ve always supported millages. Who will support me in my old age?"
So, why does Carol Townsend say someone should vote for Carol Townsend? In her own words, “I’ve always worked really hard and would continue to do that as a city commissioner. I look forward to it.”
I tried to contact Commissioner James White three times for an interview. If or when I hear from him, I will share his story with you.
Here are the links for Commissioner White and challenger Carol Townsend. You can read more about each of them before you cast your vote on Tuesday, November 3rd.

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Very interesting! This may be a silly question, but what exactly is a city commissioner and where do they fall in the political hierarchy?

What would be Carol's responsibilities if she were elected and does the role have the power to restructure local government?

Denise, thanks for asking what a City Commissioner does - many people have asked me the same thing as I've campaigned this year.  In brief, the City Commission is responsible for hiring and supervising the City Manager, who then hires and supervises department heads (Police Chief, Fire Chief, Assistant City Managers, etc.).  The City Commission also approves the budget and passes any ordinances.  Through these activities, the Commission really sets the direction the City will take, and yes, has the authority then to restructure how the City delivers services and what services will be delivered to its citizens.  I should also point out that the city is divided into 3 wards, with 2 Commissioners from each Ward.  The Mayor is elected at-large.  City Commissioners also play the role of advocating for their consituents and can work to help resolve any issues within their ward.  There are, of course, many informal roles a Commissioner can play also, dependent on how active a person wants to be in that role.  So, in summary, your City Commissioner has quite a lot to do with the quality of life in your neighborhood.  Hope this helped a little!