Candidates for Kentwood’s second constituency seat share views ahead of August election

KENTWOOD, MI – Three candidates, including the incumbent, are vying to represent the eastern half of Kentwood.

Candidates will compete in the August 3 primary for one of two Kentwood Town Commission seats representing the second ward.

The candidates running to represent the Second Ward on August 3 are Tom McKelvey, Jessica Ann Tyson and Dan VanderMolen. The seat is non-partisan.

If a candidate on August 3 obtains more than 50% of the vote, he will automatically win the seat.

If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the two with the most votes will face each other again on November 2 in a second round for the seat.

Several other seats on the committee, including that of mayor, are also contested this year. However, since there are only two candidates in these races, the competition for these seats will take place on November 2.

To help readers learn more about the candidates, MLive sent out a questionnaire to each candidate asking for their basic information and why they are showing up.

General information is provided here in alphabetical order:

Tom mckelvey, 56, is the president of Leadership Consulting Associates. He was elected to the city board in November 2017. McKelvey holds an MBA from Western Michigan University and says he participates in various volunteer opportunities in the community, is active in his local church and sits in board of directors of his children’s school.

Jessica ann tyson, 49, owns three companies: JA PR Group; Confit yam, delicious southern cuisine; and Pink Lounge, Dry Salt Therapy. Tyson attended Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo Valley Community Colleges. She sits on the following boards of directors: Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan, Kentwood Economic Development Council, River City Scholars – National Heritage Academy, Kentwood Community Foundation and Hello West Michigan.

Dan Vander Molen, 38, is the project coordinator of a shared services pilot project at First Steps Kent, the nonprofit that oversees the county’s early childhood village. He holds a BA in Film Art and Science from Columbia College Chicago and a Certified Michigan Public Manager designation from Saginaw Valley State University. VanderMolen sits on the Kent County Community Action Advisory Settlement Board and the United Church Outreach Minister Board of Directors. He is also president of the Meadow Brook Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization.

Here’s how applicants answered questions about why they are running and their top priorities. Applicants were asked to limit their responses to 250 words and those who exceeded expectations had their responses cut off at the end. Otherwise, the responses were not edited by MLive.

Why should voters elect you?


When I decided to run in 2017, I ran because I wanted to get involved and make Kentwood a better place. Over the past 4 years I have focused more on building a strong future for Kentwood than I ever have been.

Kentwood is over 50 years old! It’s time to put in place a vision for the future that involves not only rules and ordinances, but a vision that includes all of our citizens.

The role of the municipal commissioner is not only to attend meetings and to vote, but it is to be a leader. This leadership involves making intentional decisions that propel the city towards a better future. The Town of Kentwood Commission must have a vision and a passion to understand how to increase career opportunities in Kentwood, how to transform Division Avenue into a healthy part of the Kentwood business district, and how to integrate the voices of our diverse community.

The role of the municipal commissioner is to lead! Kentwood needs leadership that improves safety, improves quality of life and respects taxpayer dollars. The Town of Kentwood needs leaders who are determined to listen to citizens, articulate the vision and achieve its goals.

I have proven over the past four years that I am ready to take on the leadership role, and I ask for your support.


I am a good choice to be your commissioner. I live, work and play in Kentwood so I know the culture. I understand Kentwood and want us to continue winning not only locally but nationally as well. I will put my many experiences to good use. My family and I have invested many years in structures and business relationships here. Our roots take root as we serve the community. I ask you to contact me if you have any questions regarding my thoughts or opinions. Please consider allowing me to serve as Commissioner for the Town of Kentwood – Ward 2. Vote Jessica Ann Tyson in the Primary on Tuesday August 3, 2021.


I have the right mix of lived and learned experiences to help Kentwood grow and prosper in the heart of western Michigan.

Professionally, I have a long and successful history of collaboration and strategic planning, spread across several organizations. This includes working to connect many different systems in the region, such as workforce development, financial literacy, transportation, food and nutrition, housing and child care, to to name a few.

Personally, I have had the opportunity to develop skills related to community building, nonprofit leadership, and city and county government that have helped influence and shape the political platform of my country. race.

I firmly believe that people want their local leaders to work with them, for them, so I would push the City Commission to play an active, not a passive, role in helping to improve the quality of life for all residents of Kentwood. This involves a focus on community building and creating places, including support for affordable housing, our local green spaces, and community events. It also means prioritizing investments in Kentwood’s economy and making a conscious effort to raise diverse voices in all areas of city planning, ensuring that all stakeholders have a place at the table.

Kentwood is an incredible place to live and raise a family, and we currently have an incredible opportunity to establish a long-term future of growth and development. If we come together, I truly believe we can create a city that works for everyone.

If you are elected, what will be your three priorities?


If you visit my website (, you can see a full overview of my five key policy initiatives. Of these five, the top three I’ll focus on are (in no specific order):

  1. Develop the vital broadband internet infrastructure needed to support distance learning and work opportunities for all
  2. Ensure that the Town of Kentwood’s services are inclusive and accessible to all new Americans living in our community
  3. Increase access to high-quality child care and strengthen the early childhood education workforce by supporting affordable professional development and career development opportunities

Based on this and to help launch these initiatives, I plan to take an active role in helping to inform the use of incoming funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. This recently passed economic stimulus package will provide a one-time inflow of funding to the state, including millions of dollars specifically earmarked for the town of Kentwood. If we are intentional about how we are using this money now, we can create institutional change that will have a positive impact on the community for years to come.


  1. Listening to voters and serving their sincere interests
  2. Unity – Keep Kentwood as a united front by working with the Mayor, other elected officials and those employed by Kentwood and work hard every day to get the best for the community.
  3. Kentwood has a lot to brag about. I want Kentwood to keep moving forward.


  • Investing in our Quality of Life in Kentwood: The citizens of Kentwood have overwhelmingly expressed in surveys their desire for park improvements that are appropriate for the various groups that inhabit Kentwood. This is why I am advocating that the Town of Kentwood act now to target park and trail improvements that can be completed within the next 24 months without increasing tax dollars.
  • Support public safety: I defend the police and firefighters to ensure the safety of citizens. NO Police Refunds! Public safety is also about ensuring that our streets, sidewalks and bike paths are properly designed and maintained to ensure that our neighborhoods are safe and enjoyable.
  • Fiscal Responsibility is My Responsibility: Kentwood weathered the financial storms of COVID-19, and Tom is now working to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent on strengthening Kentwood’s economic growth, which includes to help Kentwood’s small businesses be able to grow their businesses. I pledge that the city respects its budget and does not increase taxes!

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