The Rapidian

Unopposed 1st Ward commissioner prepares to take office

1st Ward commissioner candidate Jon O'Connor has long been involved on the West Side, as a community leader, a school board member and a local business owner.

Voting Information

  • Polls open Nov. 3 7 a.m.- 8 p.m.
  • Precincts are assigned based on where you register to vote
  • Find your local voting location at this link
  • Bring a photo ID
  • 1st Ward ballot will also include Grand Rapids Public Schools Bonding Proposal and the 75th District Special Primary 

Jon O’Connor will represent the Grand Rapids 1st Ward on the City Commission following the Nov. 3 election, in which he is running unopposed. He will replace term-limited commissioner Walt Gutowski to serve alongside David Shaffer, who O’Connor helped elect to office in 2009.

O’Connor has served as president of the West Grand Neighborhood Association, as a Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) board member, including two years as treasurer, and has been a member of various nonprofits. He owns his own real estate business, West Michigan Appraisers, and recently opened Long Road Distillers, the only bar/restaurant with its own distillery on site in Grand Rapids.

O’Connor says his experience on the GRPS school board has made him comfortable with complex budgets.

“My time serving on the GRPS board has certainly given me a wealth of knowledge,” O’Connor says. “I’ve attempted to deal with very difficult financial issues during very tough economic times.”

Housing development is something that should spread from growth that is happening downtown, O’Connor says, to all parts of the city.

“I love the things that have happened downtown,” he says. “I think that we in the city can do a better job advocating for all neighborhoods and all neighborhood districts.”

O’Connor adds that his career in real estate has given him an understanding of housing and property issues. He says that as commissioner he plans to help address a plethora of city needs.

“I take a look at it in a holistic manner,” he says. “There’s no one particular area that we need to focus on. We need to make sure that all of our services are functioning on a very high level.”

O’Connor says that, as the only candidate for the position, he is looking forward to a learning experience.

“Looking forward to what to do here, I’m not looking to go in with an axe to grind,” he says. “I’m trying to do my homework and try to understand the issues already. I don’t want to make any rash decisions about anything.”

O’Connor moved to West Michigan in 2000, where he got his first taste of politics on the Grand Valley State University Student Senate. In 2007, he began his real estate career, and in 2009, he served as campaign manager for Dave Shaffer, who successfully won his seat on the City Commission.

O’Connor says his desire to serve on the commission stems from his commitment to his local community and pride in the place he calls home.

“I’m proud to call myself a Grand Rapidian, and my wife and I just love living here,” he says.

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