Kent County commissioner faces challenger in race for 16th District

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A Kent County commissioner will defend her seat against a challenger Nov. 8 in a race to represent the county board’s 16th District.

Democrat incumbent Melissa LaGrand will square off against Republican John Brooks Twist in the November general election in a race for the board seat representing a portion of Grand Rapids.

The county’s 16th District is situated in the center of Grand Rapids, encompassing downtown and adjacent portions east of the Grand River, between Wealthy Street at the south and Knapp Street at the north. It also includes a small portion of the city’s West Side between Leonard and Knapp streets, near the Grand River.

LaGrand, 54, has served as a Kent County commissioner since 2021. She has built three neighborhood businesses – two bakeries and a coffeehouse – and has previously served on the boards of Cherry Health, Network180, Michigan Works!, Mobile GR and the city’s Vital Streets Oversight Commission.

Twist, 34, is the owner of an accounting services business. He’s earned an associate degree from Grand Rapids Community College and a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University. Twist did not fill out the entire candidate questionnaire.

MLive/The Grand Rapids Press partnered with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Michigan to provide candidate information for readers. Each candidate was asked to outline their stances on a variety of public policy issues listed below.

All responses in the voter guide were submitted directly by the candidate and have not been edited by the League of Women Voters, except for necessary cuts if a reply exceeded character limitations. Spelling and grammar were not corrected. Publication of candidate statements and opinions is solely in the interest of public service and should NOT be considered as an endorsement. The League never supports or opposes any candidates or political parties.

Information on other state, county and local primary races can be found at Vote411.org.

Why are you running for office?

Melissa LaGrand:

I am dedicated to improving life in Kent County–for all residents across the board. I am particularly focused on access to health care and mental health care, criminal justice and law enforcement reforms, housing security, and environmental protections. At a time of explosive growth for the county, we need to ensure that all people experience prosperity and opportunity.

John Brooks Twist:

I love West Michigan! I am running for County Commissioner to offer my talents, time and skills to the place I have called home my whole life. I want to be a part of the continued growth that Kent County has seen through the efforts of those before us, and those that will come after us. This opportunity is a way that I can make a larger impact on our community as a whole. As a listener, a creative problem solver and someone who embodies the West Michigan spirit of rolling their sleeves up to get hard work done, I am committed to building opportunities for all citizens of our county and those specifically in District 16.

What is the greatest challenge facing the office you seek? How will you address it?

Melissa LaGrand:

Balancing the diverse interests and perspectives of different parts of the county. County government has been viewed by many as a government for suburban and rural areas, while the cities “take care of themselves.” As a Commissioner who represents the core of the city of Grand Rapids, I strive every day to bring city priorities to the attention of the county, and to find the common threads between my constituents and those of more rural commissioners so that I can build good relationships and make good policy.

What strategies would you use to remain responsive and accountable to the public between elections?

Melissa LaGrand:

I have found social media to be a great way to update voters on what I’m working on and what my priorities are. That said, the best communication is two-way. I give everyone my cell phone number–and they use it! I very actively answer email as well. Nothing is more important than helping constituents with county concerns and I make myself as available as possible to solve problems, alleviate crises, and explain complex situations in county government.

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