WORTHINGTON — As Worthington city council member Alan Oberloh's term comes to an end — and he's not seeking reelection — two candidates are contending for the coveted council seat representing Ward 1.
Both candidates responded to a Globe questionnaire about their background, experience and policy positions.
Occupation: Operations Manager at Bud’s Bus Service – school bus contractor for ISD 518.
What qualifications do you have for the office of city council member? I proudly call Worthington “home” and consider myself fully vested in our future. My life history is scattered throughout many neighborhoods that make up Ward 1 — Sungold Heights, James Boulevard., North Douglas, South Shore, Omaha Avenue and, most recently, on Second Avenue.
I’ve taken the initiative to be a part of our community through the years by being involved with community-based planning efforts, committees at Minnesota West college, the Auditorium Advisory Board, Friends of the Auditorium, and currently as a member of Worthington’s Planning Commission. I’ve served on the Planning Commission since the beginning of 2017, and am presently the commission chair. I’m honored to be a part of this dedicated team of volunteer community members who are continually looking to the future of our city. These individuals come together to listen, discuss and take action when needed, even though we may disagree with each other at times. I hope to continue with that level of interaction and cooperation when serving on city council.
What is your top priority in city government? Generally speaking, I say it’s taking measures to ensure positive and sustained growth for our city. It takes us all working together, using a multitude of tools and talent, to thrive and be successful. I believe serving on city council calls for service to the whole of the community rather than narrowly focused issues that have the potential to misdirect us from a long-term goal of continued prosperity for Worthington.
I filed for city council with a personal agenda to serve, promote and help set up our community as someplace we all want to continue to call “home” for years to come.
Local governments are projected to have tight budgets in the coming year. Where would you prioritize funding? How do you propose to use funds the most effectively? The city will need to focus budgets more on necessity and operations funding. We’re fortunate that Worthington has earmarked funds from a half-cent sales tax to continue with a variety of community improvement projects that residents will enjoy and utilize. Although improvements to infrastructure such as streets, water and sewer systems aren’t “pretty projects,” they will need to remain a priority even in belt-tightening times as we find ourselves in today. Worthington needs to continue to be active in playing catch-up from years past when it comes to infrastructure improvements while maintaining the critical balance of fiscal responsibility expected when relying on taxes and public funding. We need to remember that city funding doesn’t just appear … it comes from our neighbors — the people and businesses that live here.
Where do you see opportunities for amenities/attractions to the Worthington community? I think it’s important that the city continue to be a part of building partnerships when addressing opportunities for amenities/attractions. One of the latest is working with Kiwanis in building an all-inclusive playground at Chautauqua Park. There are similar examples of partnered projects, with businesses and organizations, all across Worthington. Specifically, there’s a great opportunity for a park and/or recreation space in the North Grand Avenue area where Worthington is actively building and developing. It’s wonderful to see the growth and the potential that we have in Worthington.
Occupation: Bilingual program aide, Nobles County Integration Collaborative and Worthington community organizer
Office Sought: City council, Ward 1
What qualifications do you have for the office of city council member? For almost two decades, I have been a proud resident of the city of Worthington. I moved to Ward 1 almost 10 years ago with my partner and have been heavily involved in our community. I am a mother to three, wife, educator, community organizer, family advocate, citizen and sister in Worthington. From working one-on-one with youth and working to assist them in graduating high school and going on to college, to providing interpreting assistance so parents have access to education, health care and policy discussions, I have shown my passion and care for this community through public acts of service. I care a lot about bringing people together to see that we have more things in common than we do different and that we are all important to this community. I strongly believe that the city council should be representative of the community it serves and anyone, including me, is qualified to be a respected leader in this community if they are willing to work for it. I have spent 10,000+ volunteer hours driving families around, delivering food and resources to kids and investing directly in our youth’s future. I have made it my purpose to engage in our underserved people to provide them with resources to have access to a better life, affordable housing, proper health care and higher education opportunities. I believe our community leans on each other, and I look forward to helping to work to keep this town open, welcoming and vibrant.
What is your top priority in city government? If elected to the city council, my top priority will be workforce and community development. I will work with my colleagues to plan, organize and improve community outreach efforts and workforce development opportunities in our city. I envision a Worthington that is invested in a flourishing economy, diverse workforce and holds a financially secure community. I believe we need more opportunities, formalized partnerships with foundations and elected officials across the state, and grant-funding opportunities to provide opportunities for our working-class people in town. For example, we need to address the fact that COVID-19 has harmed small business owners, farmers, labor workers, schools and even childcare workers. We need to acknowledge that families have lost their jobs or had to move home to take care of their children because they now don’t have access to daycare centers or babysitters to watch their children while they are at work. I would like to see the city work toward seeking financial resources to invest directly into providing more jobs for our community, expanding their labor capacity and creating a more reflective workforce to serve the community.
Local governments are projected to have tight budgets in the coming year. Where would you prioritize funding? How do you propose to use funds the most effectively? Next budget year I want to prioritize housing, healthcare and our essential workers. We are in a state of emergency, and we need to stabilize our basic needs. Next budget year should highlight, prioritize and center community engagement work, direct community service and COVID-19 relief planning and implementation. We have had an influx of funding and will receive CARES Act funding; the city has received outside funding from places like JBS USA. I would like to see some of the funding for the budget cycle go toward small-business owners, displaced families and the 1600+ people in this community directly impacted by COVID-19. I want to see direct investment in finishing up the ongoing construction projects in Worthington while folks are still working from home and/or spending a little less time surrounded by other people. I would like to see investment in more affordable housing units for young professionals that are currently living in outside towns because they are priced out of single-family, regular market-rate apartment units and/or single-family homes.
Where do you see opportunities for amenities/attractions to the Worthington community? I see a growing opportunity to start to repair and replenish our downtown infrastructure, buildings on Oxford Street and Humiston that I strongly believe the city should think about bringing community amenities or gathering spaces to. In addition, I have appreciated the renovations and additions to the community such as the Beach Nook, splash pad, YMCA, the new movie theater, and more. However, as winter nears, I would like to see some inside amenities and facilities for our kids and families. I would also like to see a community gathering space or community center for our community, and I think we have some prime real estate opportunities in downtown Worthington that the city could invest in.