Central Ward citizens to decide alderman race

Vermillion voters will go to the polls to elect a Central Ward alderman on the Vermillion City Council and two members to the Vermillion School Board in local elections scheduled June 5. The Plain Talk asked the city council candidates about their views on local issues and what has prompted them to seek office.

Vermillion City Council – Central Ward alderman

Kelsey Collier-Wise

Family: Husband Royce, daughter Aurora (2 years)

Education/Occupation: BA, University of Minnesota; JD, University of South Dakota School of Law. I recently became the Executive Director of United Way of Vermillion and have served as an adjunct professor at the USD School of Law for the last two years.

Why do you want to be an alderman on the Vermillion City Council? I grew up in Vermillion and after graduating from college, my husband and I decided to return and make our life here. As a participant in Citizen's Academy, I got an opportunity to learn more about the way our city functions and was incredibly impressed by the work of the staff. Vermillion is a great community and I'd love to be part of setting policy and making it even better.

Identify what you believe are the three biggest challenges facing the city in the next five years, and how you will address those challenges.

Economic development, as a broad category, will continue to be a challenge for many years to come. It's no secret that income levels in Vermillion could be better and some of our citizens really struggle. The City has a part to play in both addressing the needs and facilitating growth, but I believe we need to be deliberate and thoughtful in the policies we make in order to protect the character and quality of life that make our community unique.

To that end, I think we need to have more conversation about the kind of city we are and what we want to be. For some people, growth means large employers and an increased population. For others, it means opportunities for mobility and higher wages for people who already live in Vermillion. Policy needs to be driven with an end goal in mind, and right now that goal isn't really articulated (and certainly not widely agreed upon). It's really the job of the elected representatives to have those conversations with citizens and bring those ideas back to the city staff.

Finally, I believe a greater focus on sustainability is necessary for both the environmental and economic future of the city. We have seen positive moves in that direction with things like the addition of curbside recycling and the Bright Energy Solutions program, but I get the impression in talking with folks around town that it's an issue on many people's minds. I am especially hopeful that the current discussions about transportation will result in a greater focus on making Vermillion more walkable and bikeable.

What makes you the best person for a seat on the Vermillion City Council? I believe my dedication to the community, my educational background and knowledge of law and policy, and my ability to work well with a variety of people would all be assets as an alderman.

Jennifer Anne French

Family: Husband Tom, Daughters: Mikaela, 16, Shantel, 14, Tasia, 11 and son Rollie, 6

Education/Occupation: I am the infant room teacher at USD Children's Center. I have four years experience on Vermillion City Council

Why do you want to be an alderman on the Vermillion City Council? I like being involved and working to continue the high quality of life in Vermillion

Identify what you believe are the three biggest challenges facing the city in the next five years, and how you will address those challenges.

I feel the biggest challenge facing Vermillion is housing.  We have a need for suitable housing for the "local" residents – those who live and work here.  I feel that there is an adequate supply of rental housing at the moment.  The City is working with the Vermillion Area Chamber and Development Company to survey the current housing needs.  After we get a good sense of the housing needed, we will work with the VCDC and other interested parties to see how we can fill the need. 

The current city pool will soon be 50 years old.  We are  working with a consulting firm to develop conceptual plans for a new facility -which we hope to begin construction on in 2014.

 The downtown water tower is at the end of its life.  We are in the process of finding funds to help replace it.

What makes you the best person for a seat on the Vermillion City Council? I was in the very first Vermillion Leadership program.  Upon graduating from that, I became involved in the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce.  I was a board member and then president.  I was on the committee that worked to merge the Vermillion Chamber and the Vermillion Development Company.  I then served on the Vermillion Planning and Zoning board.  Following that, I successfully ran for city council.  I guess you could say I "came up thru the ranks."  I have been involved in the many different organizations/committees that work with the city to make our city so great.  I am on the board of Ribs, Rods & Rock 'n Roll – Vermillion's Signature event.  I am very involved and very visible.  I am easy to find and easy to talk to.  I truly listen to the people and vote in their best interests.


The responses of the Vermillion School Board candidates will be published in next week's Plain Talk.

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