Jon O'Connor

First Ward Commissioner


Jon was born and raised just outside the small rural northern Michigan town of West Branch on land that his family settled over 100 years ago. His father Mike is a Snap-On Tool dealer and his mother Linda a hair stylist. He is proud of his middle class roots and public school upbringing that gave him a great foundation for life. He credits his family for instilling in him a hard work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to create a better community.

In 2000, Jon moved to West Michigan to attend Grand Valley State University where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration. College was a great gateway to governance, service and a love of Grand Rapids. Jon served on the Student Senate at GVSU as well as worked as an intern at West Grand Neighborhood Association (WGNO). During his time at WGNO, he was instrumental in establishing and developing Adeline’s Promise, a program which serves seniors in the neighborhood.

Upon graduation from GVSU, Jon knew there was only one neighborhood for him and that was the Westside. He purchased his first home near John Ball Park in 2005 and shortly after he began serving as a board member of WGNO. In 2009 he was elected by the board to serve as President. 

Jon worked his way through college as the foreman for a smaller property management, lawn care and snow plowing company. He obtained his real estate salespersons license while in college, at the encouragement of his Grandfather, a real estate broker. After graduation, Jon began work as the office manager for a real estate appraisal company and studied to earn his real estate appraisers license. In 2007, he began work as an independent real estate appraiser eventually starting his own company – West Michigan Real Estate Advisors. Jon currently holds a real estate Broker’s License.

Jon's experience as owner and operator of West Michigan Real Estate Advisors as well serving as First Ward Commissioner of the City of Grand Rapids allowed him to recognize the unique potential of the Westside of Grand Rapids as an urban environment that is so closely connected to rural agriculture. Jon's vision to link the two through a growing craft distilling industry, allows Long Road Distillers to be part of the revitalization of a historic Grand Rapids neighborhood at the same time as committing to support West Michigan’s rich agricultural diversity.     

Jon is a former member of the Grand Rapids Board of Housing Appeal. He has served on the boards of West Leonard Business Association, John Ball Area Neighborhood and the Grand Rapids Parks Commission.  He is also a co-founder of WelcomeWest and WinterWest which celebrate our Westside neighborhoods as well as organize an annual winter festival at Richmond Park. 

In 2009 Jon served as the campaign manager for Dave Shaffer during his successful election to become city commissioner. 

Jon currently serves as First Ward Commissioner in the City of Grand Rapids and previously served one term on the Board of Education for Grand Rapids Public Schools.

In 2010 with the encouragement of Commissioner Shaffer and community members concerned about the closing of Stocking Elementary and the direction of GRPS under the superintendent at the time, Jon successfully won election to the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education. He is proud of the work he did helping lead the district through their Transformation Plan as well as the hiring of the Superintendent Neal. 

In 2015 after two nearly two years of planning and construction, with Jon opened the first distillery in the history of the city of Grand Rapids and did so in the neighborhood he loves and calls home. Located in Beer City USA, Long Road was founded based upon the belief that world class spirits could be crafted by taking advantage of the abundant agricultural resources and diversity found in West Michigan. Jon and his business partner Kyle have a firm commitment to doing things the right way, hence the name Long Road, there are no shortcuts. Their commitment to quality in sourcing ingredients, utilizing world class equipment, practicing time honored processes and ultimately being honest with their customers has earned them accolades from across the country for the quality of their spirits.

Jon is married to his amazing wife Monica, they live near Blandford Nature Center on Grand Rapids Westside with their cat Murray. They enjoy hiking, antique shopping and traveling.