What are your top three priorities if elected County Commissioner?
During the past two years, I’ve worked with fellow Commissioners on a number of critical issues – partnerships with non-profits, housing, safety, economic development, environmental protection, changing County demographics, and support for young families and seniors. I plan on continuing to work on these important issues, but my top three priorities are responsible fiscal management; representation of ALL residents; and community partnerships to support young families, business owners and seniors.
What is your view of the role of county government?
The County Commission has responsibility for adopting a budget, levying taxes, setting fees, evaluating the County Administrator, adopting rules, regulations, ordinances and policies, representing and serving the residents and advocating for community partners and residents. The Constitution mandates certain responsibilities but it also allows supplemental programs to benefit residents.
The majority of Commissioners have argued for limiting responsibility to mandated services. This approach results in lost opportunities. I believe we should ask ‘What is necessary?’ 'How can we preserve and protect what makes our County great?' ‘Can we do it within our budget?’ What are the opportunities to partner with others to provide services and support residents without raising taxes?
Please tell us your views concerning the role of county government on at least two of the following topics: affordable housing, early childhood support, sustainable agriculture, water quality, and senior services.
I believe the County has a responsibility in all five. I have served on the County’s Senior Services Committee and I am an advocate for County leadership in clean water and environmental protection. My views on the role of county government on affordable housing and early childhood are summarized below.
HOUSING: County government cannot solve the housing problem, but collaboration with non-profits, business, investors, and state/federal government can address the challenges. There is potential for impacting housing by partnerships, zoning policy review, promotion of private investments, planning for affordable housing development and participation in state and federal housing programs. Space does not allow for details, but a full report and recommendations from the 2015 Leelanau Housing County Task Force is available here. I chaired the Housing Task Force and I will continue to push for these recommendations.
EARLY CHILDHOOD: A strong county depends on having stable young families with adequate housing, full-time employment, access to quality childcare, and parenting skills. Of course, government cannot address the challenges alone but it does have a leadership and advocacy role.
How will you seek citizen input into important decisions, and other than citizen input, where do you turn for information and solutions to problems?
I currently have a website, published phone number and Facebook page. I use the Facebook page to post regular updates on meetings, agendas, issues and published reports and news. I also use my FB Page to solicit input and concerns. I am actively involved in the community by regular participation in the Northport Lions, the League of Women Voters – Leelanau, the Suttons Bay/Leelanau Rotary Club, the Leelanau Township Foundation Leadership Team. I use involvement in these groups to have discussions and listen to constituents. I also regularly attend Township meetings, volunteer in a number of community groups, join community coffee groups and have sponsored ‘Commissioner Chats’ at the Leelanau Township Fire Hall in Omena. In addition to seeking residents’ input and suggestions, I rely on the County’s talented departmental staff, seek advice and council from ‘experts,’ attend conferences and training, and have a close relationship with a number of appointed and elected officials.
How important is civility and collaboration to the effective running of county government?
In a 12/24/15 Enterprise Forum column on civility that I wrote just after Commission Jean Watkoski resigned, I referred to a recent NY Times columnist who stated, “Too many of our political leaders are putting party before country, power before principle and cynicism before civility.” The column’s message has relevance to us all. It is far too easy to spend time defending personal philosophies and partisan viewpoints and too little time considering the merits of opposing views.
In the book, Reclaiming Civility in the Public Square, the authors suggest that civility can “flourish, but it must be cultivated by the individual actions of the elected representatives.” According to the authors, polarization reflects negatively upon the quality of decision making in politics. As Commissioners approach the next year of service we must hold ourselves accountable for focusing on civil discourse and recognize that the process of making decisions is critically important.
Please tell us about a specific instance in which you worked to forge a compromise among disparate groups or individuals to solve a problem.
During the past two years, I’ve represented the County Commission on two Northwest Michigan regional boards – the Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Board and the Networks Northwest Board. Both boards have memberships across several counties with competing ideas, strong opinions and competition for budget dollars. As Leelanau County’s representation to these boards, I have been instrumental in solving problems, establishing priorities and addressing consumer concerns. I also hope that those who attend County Commission meetings see my work to forge compromise and consensus among the Commissioners on Leelanau County issues.
And, as an educator with over 40 years experience, I used my problem-solving and modeling skills to resolve issues between teachers, administrators, parents, students, board members and community members.