Grand Rapids’ Prominent Women Lead the Way to a More Egalitarian Future

GRCC Trustee Brandy Lovelady Mitchell, Moderator Shannon Garrett, Senator Winnie Brinks, Kathleen Ley-Bruinsma , Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, and Representative Rachel Hood.

Photos by Mariela Aguilar-Solorza

By Grace Giroux, Reporter

Four local community leaders were featured on a panel titled, “Running for Office: Demystifying the Process” held at Aquinas College. The event was sponsored by the Women’s Studies Center and it focused on encouraging women to run for office. 

The panel was fittingly moderated by Shannon Garrett, a co-founder of the VoteRunLead organization that helps women run for public office nationwide. The panelists included GRCC Trustee (and Aquinas alumna) Brandy Lovelady Mitchell, Representative Rachel Hood, Senator Winnie Brinks, and Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, former city commissioner and the first female mayor of Grand Rapids. 

Unlike most men who run for office, the panelists discussed how women often don’t even consider running.

“Apparently women really need to be asked,” Hood said.

These panelists stressed the importance of having women in office. Mitchell specifically commented on the importance of diverse representation.

“I hope that you’re noticing that I’m the one person of color up here,” Mitchell said. 

They discussed how working as a public servant is about more than having the perfect resume. According to Brinks, the most important requirements for running for office are:

“That you are curious, that you want to learn, that you care about the people you represent and that you will listen to them.” 

Mitchell, Brinks, Bliss, and Hood answering questions.

The panelists further discussed how public service jobs should be valued and compensated. Bliss’ and Mitchell’s positions aren’t even considered full time jobs. Bliss is paid roughly $48,000 per year, and supplements her income by teaching part-time at Grand Valley State University. 

Mitchell isn’t paid at all, so she maintains a different full-time job and fulfills family responsibilities with her husband and kids. Even though Mitchell acknowledged she isn’t monetarily paid, she said she is paid in currency, which she defined as, “the ability to impact,” and, “the invisible social capital and experiences you gain.” 

Although there are obstacles for women in the world of politics, the panelists were clear in their message: women need to be at the table where decisions are being made. In order to have a seat at that table, women need to run for office.

In the end, the panelists spoke about the importance of just trying to run for office, expressing that anyone with passion and a good work ethic should throw their hat in the ring.

“If you’ve run, you’ve won,” Hood said.

For more information about how to get women in elected positions, visit

Categories: News, The Saint