Q&A: Betsey Buckheit, Candidate for Council At-Large Representative

Next Tuesday, Aug. 14, voters will be asked to choose two of three candidates to move ahead to November's General Election.

Three candidates are vying for your support as an At-Large representative on the .

Next Tuesday, Aug. 14, voters will be asked to choose two candidates to move ahead to November's General Election.

The three candidates for At-Large representative are:

Patch asked candidates to respond to a series of questions. Below, you will find responses from Buckheit. You can read Gasior's  and Ludescher's

On Thursday, we'll run responses from the four candidates seeking the  Council seat.

If you're interested in voting absentee, .

Betsey Buckheit

Age: 51
Family: Husband Justin London and daughter Elizabeth Buckheit, 17
Education: BA Swarthmore College, MA Syracuse University, JD University of MN law school, Humphrey Institute Public Policy Fellow, Blandin Community Leadership Program
Occupation: Community volunteer
Political experience: City Council 2nd Ward Council representative since 2008, Mayor Pro Tem 2012, Planning Commission (2001-2005), Library Board (1995-1998), Charter Commission (2008), League of MN Cities Improving Local Economies Policy Committee (2012), League of MN Telecommunications Policy Committee (2012)

Why are you running for a seat on the Northfield City Council? 

I want to continue to serve the people of Northfield and build on the strong work the Council has done to improve the economic, environmental, and community sustainability of Northfield.

What’s the most pressing issue facing Northfield and the City Council? 

Money is the limiting factor for everything the Council does or would like to do for Northfield with the particular challenges of a shrinking tax base from the decline in property values and long-term uncertainty of state aid. However, limited resources have also prompted the Council to work most strategically for long term sustainability.

There is no simple answer or single strategy for sustainability.  The most important strategies are:

  • longer term capital planning and budgeting which the Council as already begun following the 2008 unallotment by Gov. Pawlenty;
  • collaborating with townships, hospital, school district, colleges to reduce duplication, plan effectively, and leverage resources.  The Council is forming a committee to address fire service regionally.  I chair the hospital strategic futures task force looking for ways to collaborate community wide for better health and safety.
  • maximizing investments in existing infrastructure before building new
  • reducing obstacles to economic development
  • continuing to develop Northfield’s signature assets which contribute to the community’s quality of life and attract tourists, residents and businesses – downtown, Cannon River, and parks.

What is something you think the current Council has done well?

Working to improve Northfield’s streets.  The current Council recognizes the critical importance of a high quality street network for business, government and residents and we have made improving street quality a priority by addressing deferred maintenance and shifting spending to more preventive maintenance to help pavement last longer.

Beyond pavement, we have made large gains in bicycle and pedestrian improvements.  The Safe Routes to School Plan was adopted in 2009 and provides recommendations for improving safety near our schools; the Complete Streets policy was adopted in 2012.  Both policies help the plan street projects to make them safer for all users cost effectively by working within the existing right of way and avoiding costly retrofits. 

We have leveraged grant dollars to create safe crossings for Highway 3 including the Peggy Prowe pedestrian bridge, the TIGER grant project for an additional underpass and the East Side river trail development.  In addition to the big projects, we also changed light timing to allow more time to cross the highway and added new pedestrian controls as recommended by the Non-Motorized Transportation Task Force.

What is something you think the current Council hasn’t done well?

The Land Development Code does not meet expectations for streamlining the development process as called for in the Comprehensive Plan. The problem was complex: the City received a poor product from consultants long after deadline; staff did not address the problems directly; there was staff turnover.  The tension between doing the job well, limiting use of consultants, and finishing an overdue job prompted the Council to direct the Planning Commission revise the draft rather than deciding to hire outside help to finish or redo the job. I’ve blogged extensively about this issue.

What would you have tried to do differently?

In retrospect, I regret not advocating more strongly for starting over rather than the incremental solution we approved.  However, I applaud the Planning Commission’s commitment to revising the regulations, especially their engagement with stakeholders.  They vastly improved the regulations, but the Council did not provide them with the resources they needed to do such an immense job.  We will soon have a new community development director on the job and I am looking forward to helping him correct issues for a more efficient development approval process.

Why should constituents vote for you in the Primary Election? What makes you a better choice than your opponents? 

Balance, depth and experience.  I am not a single issue candidate, but committed to working on the full range of City issues and making decisions which balance competing interests and reflect the policies adopted by the City.   I have deep policy knowledge to help the Council effectively direct staff and avoid micromanaging issues.  And, I have 4 years of experience on the Council learning the business of the City, working with community members, and developing a reputation for clear thinking, hard work, and effective service to both constituents. 

Anything else you would like to add?

Most questions before the Council don’t have simple answers. I’ve blogged in greater detail about the issues here (and more!) during my entire Council term, so you find out much more on my blog.

I’ve enjoyed helping businesses and constituents during my term and would like the opportunity to serve Northfield for 4 more years; I ask for your support on August 14.

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