Grand Rapids could elect its first female mayor.

Kicking off her campaign for mayor at Wealthy Theatre on January 28, current City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss drew on her experience in government leadership and shared her vision for more growth and inclusivity in the future of Grand Rapids.

“Ten years ago when I was first elected, we were on the verge of an economic downturn. We worked very closely with the community to make things happen, to find smarter ways to do things,” Bliss said at the announcement. “We came together to revamp city government to foster business development in our neighborhoods, to improve parks for our children and to improve our local roads and infrastructure.”

Following the approval of the referendum requiring term limits for local officials, George Heartwell, current mayor of Grand Rapids, is required to step down from his office after serving since 2003.

Bliss has served as second ward city commissioner since 2005 and was elected to her third four-year term in 2013. The local term limits, however, will force her out of office in 2017. Over the past 10 years, Bliss has set a tone of leadership and a focus on relationships.

During her time in office, Bliss served on many committees and commissions, working with community organizations and businesses, as well as individual citizens. “Citizens want someone who listens, who cares enough to work hard to solve those concerns and come up with solutions,” she said. “I see it as my responsibility to make sure that all of you benefit from the services you support in the city.”

“Together, we have done a lot in 10 years since I first was elected to City Commission,” Bliss said at her announcement. “We are definitely the bright spot in Michigan, but growth has to occur in a balanced way. I see it as my responsibility to make sure that all of you benefit.”

Only one other candidate has announced intent to enter the mayor’s race: Jared Funk, a 24-year-old self-described “average citizen” who has worked on governor campaigns in the past. Bliss is the only candidate with experience to declare candidacy thus far.

In addition to her role as second ward city commissioner, Bliss is also a licensed social worker and serves as the director of residential services for DA Blodgett-St. John’s.

At her campaign kick-off event, Bliss established her credibility. “Clearly, we’ve had great leaders in the past. My hope is that people will vote for me because they see I have leadership abilities to move our city in the right direction,” she said.

At the Dec. 2 City Commission meeting, Bliss stood in for Mayor Heartwell and responded to citizens calling for police body cameras, saying that events in Ferguson, Mo., give space “to listen and talk about racial disparity and race-based tension, and to ensure that Grand Rapids has a police department that is diverse, committed to respecting the rights of all citizens and is transparent and accountable.”

Local leaders including Lupe Ramos-Montigny of the State Board of Education, five members of the GRPS School Board, State Representatives Brandon Dillon and Winnie Brinks, and many current and former City Commissioners have pledged support for Bliss’ campaign.

If elected, Bliss pledges to continue her work to support local businesses, advocate for the disadvantaged in Grand Rapids and strengthen neighborhoods.