Rosalynn Bliss planned to be a social worker. But while she was getting her master’s in social work at Michigan State University, she had an opportunity to hear Debbie Stabenow -- who was at the time a state lawmaker and is now a U.S. senator -- speak about the importance of electing more women in order to implement change.
Bliss was inspired. After a stint on the campaign trail for Stabenow, Bliss was elected as a city commissioner in Grand Rapids in 2005, a post she held for a decade. She ran for mayor in 2015, and won handily to become the city’s first female mayor. She’s focused on racial equity and environmental sustainability, and has set a goal for Grand Rapids to get 100 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2025. She’s also earmarked money to incentivize new affordable housing units and to support minority-owned small businesses in the city.
Bliss still teaches social work at Grand Valley State University as an adjunct professor. Just like social work, she says, public service “is fundamentally about believing that people are the experts in their own life.”