Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Share something most people don’t know about you.
I grew up in International Falls, a community famous for being the coldest spot in the nation. My parents, now in their 90s, still live in my childhood home. I feel fortunate to have lived in Orono for 30 years. When I leave my office, I feel a sense of peace and serenity as I turn off 394 and drive the last miles home.
Here I find the quiet I need (I am a grief therapist) and the inspiration for writing (I am a published author). Here also I find the opportunity and joy of being involved in our city through my various volunteer commitments.
What sorts of thoughts come to mind when you think of Lake Minnetonka?
When I think about Lake Minnetonka my thoughts turn to its beauty. As I walk the Dakota Trail and look out across any one of its many bays, I can’t help but feel awed by the immensity of the lake and its ever changing surface.
Lake Minnetonka is an exceptional resource. Orono has 40 miles of shoreline, much of which is wooded and protected due to hardcover and setback regulations that our citizens respect and abide by. Our city has a strong presence and commitment to protecting the lake. We are home to five marinas that provide a valuable service to lake users.
Are invasive species a local, state or federal issue? Or is it a mix? Describe your views.
Ultimately, our federal government must have the strongest role in protecting the country against invasives. Many species have entered our country through intercontinental transport and intentional importation. It falls to state DNR's to put forth considerable effort to control invasives.
As local stewards, Orono is best served by continuing our collaboration with the state and upholding our part at the local level. This means talking with stakeholders, including marina owners, boating organizations, fishing groups and aquatic researchers to find solutions to these difficult problems.
What is the most common issue people talk with you about while campaigning? What do you tell them?
1. Taxes. Our citizens want my commitment to a flat levy. This is one of the primary reasons I started attending city council meetings three years ago. Like others, I saw the value of my home dropping amid steadily increasing levies. I believe we can manage our city more efficiently at our present levy rate.
2. Roads. Citizens want road repair to become a priority. I respond by pointing out that this is also a priority issue for me, and I note that the repair of both Old Crystal Bay Road and Orono Orchard Road were undertaken in 2012. I supported Mayor McMillan’s push for a redesign of Old Crystal Bay Road. That move resulted in a $93,000 repair rather than the $2.5 million reconstruction project approved by the previous council. The savings will allow Orono to tackle another Minnesota State Aid (MSA) road in the immediate future, rather than pushing repairs back indefinitely.
How do you feel about the current property tax levels? What about school district taxes (understanding the city council has no control over them)?
Like others, I sometimes worry if my home’s value will ever regain its former level. Having lived in my home for 30 years, I want to be able to count on its equity should my future needs require it. Mayor McMillan is committed to a flat levy and so am I.
Schools are a separate taxing authority from the city. I am highly supportive of education (having earned a Ph.D. is proof enough!) and believe every Orono child deserves the best academic experiences possible. Four separate school districts serve Orono children: Orono and Westonka most predominantly. I support co-operation between Orono and the school districts that serve our children.
Currently, both the Long Lake Fire Department and the Orono Police Department provide on-site services. I believe these important joint ventures must continue.
If the funding were available, what projects—either shovel ready or on the drawing board—would you advocate dedicating it to?
1. I would expand our online capabilities so that routine requests for such things as building permits, business licenses, fire permits, kennel licenses, and so forth could be processed online. This would save citizens and businesses considerable time and effort, while also freeing up staff.
2. I would re-examine our current Pavement Management Plan , prioritize road repairs and tackle roadways given the available funds.
3. I would take the plans currently being discussed for upgrading the Navarre business district and move that forward to a public hearing so that a detailed plan would be devised and bids sought. That upgrading would include pedestrian and vehicular safety improvements, beautification of the corridor, signage changes and a link from the city park to the Dakota Rail Trail.
Are you satisfied with the public safety services being provided to city residents?
Yes. I believe that Chief Farnoik and his staff are dedicated to keeping our community safe and expend the time and resources necessary to achieve that goal. I trust the Chief’s expertise in law enforcement and believe that our police force is well-run.
How would you encourage the average citizen to become more engaged in local government?
I became involved in local government by attending city council meetings and work sessions. This is an easy, first-step to becoming familiar with our city leaders and to understand Orono’s governing process. During the public comment period of council meetings citizens can offer ideas and comments.
Public hearings and open houses are another opportunity to stay informed, offer input and become involved. The Planning Commission is one of the best ways to participate in governing our city as commissioners take an active role in the zoning and planning process by reviewing building applications and providing recommendations to the city council.
Open forum. Why should voters cast their ballot for you this November?
From day one, I will be able to make informed decisions without hesitation. I have spent the last three years attending city council meetings and work sessions. I have been a Planning Commissioner for nearly two years.
I know how our city functions and what the issues are. I attend every budget session and understand our budget constraints. I have strong working relationships with staff, council, planning commissioners and citizens. I come prepared with ideas, energy, and commitment to keep the city moving forward in a positive direction.
I believe I am the best candidate for Orono City Council.