The League of Women Voters sent each candidate two questions that they will publish in their Voter Guide. There is a 1,000-character limit for each question so what is published is a very abbreviated version of my answers. Here is the full version of my responses.
Please provide biographical information and explain why you are running for City office and relevant qualities and skills you would bring to the position.
I moved to Berkley in 1995 when a friend and life-long Berkley resident convinced me to look at houses in her hometown. One drive through the city had me convinced this was where I was meant to be. I love the small town feel yet it’s close to almost everything.
In my nearly 25 years in Berkley, I have enjoyed raising my daughter Olivia (a 2015 Berkley High graduate) here because of the great schools, one-of-a-kind shops, and the uniqueness that is Berkley. I have also made many close friends along the way.
The reason I am running for city council is that I have been actively involved in the community for years, but I wanted to do more to help. It became apparent in 2016 that the City had lost touch with residents after a series of missteps including a serious lack of code enforcement, as well as seeking a very ill-advised and unrealistic “form-based” rezoning. I believe that more communication between the residents and the City could have avoided the backlash and allowed residents a voice on the future of Berkley.
My education background includes a Bachelor of Science in Management from Oakland University, a Master of Business Administration, with an international business specialization, from Walsh College.
Professionally I have held positions within a regional bank for over 30 years and I am currently a Vice President in Wealth Management and have a Certified Trust and Estate Advisor professional designation. My advanced education and lengthy background in banking, business and management provides an important skill set for an effective City Council. Better decisions come from a wider range of knowledge and experience than the current makeup of Council provides.
As a Trust Advisor I am a professional fiduciary meaning I take care of other peoples’ money and I look at things differently. My decisions impact real people and their lives. I also work closely with my clients and their advisors, as well as other experts who make suggestions or recommendations. I use critical thinking to make sure these suggestions or recommendations will truly benefit my clients. Critical thinking is a skill that is valuable when items are presented to City Council and they need to be reviewed; my work skills will be a strong advantage as a council member.
I am a fair and open-minded person with the ability to work together and find common ground with others who may be on opposite sides of issues. One of the biggest challenges facing the city is getting feedback from the public. Now that residents want to be more engaged, Council needs to change how they interact with them. There needs to be more open, honest and thoughtful communication between the city and its residents.
I truly love Berkley and look forward to continuing to support the residents and stakeholders while serving on City Council if elected to help make Berkley stronger for the next generations.
What are the top 3 Priority Issues that the city should address and what actions would you take regarding each of them?
My first priority is communication. One of the biggest challenges facing the city is getting feedback from the public. Now that residents want to be more engaged, Council needs to change how they interact with them. There needs to be more open, honest and thoughtful communication between the city and its residents. This cannot be done by quickly creating a survey or holding town hall meetings at times that are not family friendly. For large projects or projects that have a big impact on residents, a more long-term approach is needed. And City Council needs to do a better job facilitating the middle ground between the wants and needs of newer or younger residents and older or more long-time residents.
I would like City Council to use what I call the 3 E’s – Engagement, Education and Empowerment. Engagement-listen to the resident regardless of their position on issues; understand their concerns; ask questions. If you do not hear from a wide cross section of residents, ask why. You can’t afford to interpret silence as agreement since it usually means the opposite. Education-answer residents’ questions and make information available to the residents timely. Empowerment-Empower the residents to make informed decisions. You never want to hear from a resident that they did not vote for something because they did not have enough information to make an informed decision.
The Citizens Engagement Advisory Committee reviewed the latest draft of the Communications Plan which will provide tools for the city, however, communication needs to become part of the city’s DNA at every level.
My second priority is roads and infrastructure. With the recent road and infrastructure millage being passed I want to formulate a long-term plan on what we are going to do about the sewers. What that may look like will require working with Oakland County and the State of Michigan. Some cities have already started separating their combined sewer systems. The question becomes will the State make a mandate to separate the combined sewers in the future? What I don’t want to happen is a road be replaced and then we need to rip it up to separate the sewer lines.
My third priority is the improvement of processes through Berkley’s Redevelopment Ready Community (RRC) certification, which I have been interested in since 2017. This certification looks at every aspect of the City’s practices including the Master Plan, Downtown Master Plan, Capital Improvement Projects, zoning, ordinances, communications plan and educational training to name a few. Berkley received their RRC Baseline report which shows Berkley is meeting best practices in some areas but needs to work on others.
I fully support Berkley’s effort to achieve this certification, because it will streamline the approval process by making redevelopment transparent, efficient and predictable. This could bring good things to Berkley, but this certification does have a lot of moving parts that require a great deal of work and to coordinate efforts between the city’s departments, various boards and commissions as well as large scale public engagement. I want to work with the City in achieving this certification.