Redwood Falls city council candidates - Ward 1: Denise Kerkhoff
Why are you running for city council?
A number of years ago I was one of 24 community members who attended a Blandin Community Leadership training. The purpose was to teach us how to lead and give back to our community. I have truly enjoyed putting those skills to work my first year and a half on city council. I have experience from serving on a variety of boards and enjoy the process of working as part of a team to serve others. People must be willing to step up. There are already exciting things happening in our community, and I would love the opportunity to be a part of seeing them through and creating even more growth and opportunity.
From your perspective what is the role of a city council member?
City council members have an obligation to the community and its citizens to be both their ears and their voice. We, in effect are their advocates. Community members deserve to have their voices heard. We listen and do our best to respond and address priority issues. While it would be great to make everyone happy, that isn’t our role and to say that we have the ability to do so is just politics. We have an obligation to act with integrity, manage the money responsibly, and work towards the greater good in every decision we make.
How would you as a city council member balance fiscal responsibility and ensuring residents receive the services they need?
The word balance really is key. When working with finances the council needs to look at both the small and broader picture; long term vs. short term benefits, as well as determining which things are needs and which are wants. It is important to do our due diligence any time we are spending the taxpayer’s money. This means seeking wise counsel as needed, assuring all aspects of an issue are looked at prior to funding. We need to listen, prioritize, and act for the long term greater good of the community.
What do you think is the city’s greatest asset?
The park, our library, the RACC, the Aquatic Center, our great school system...I couldn’t decide! Then I realized that we wouldn’t have any of these things without the incredible collaboration of inspired community members who worked first to make each of these things possible and then maintain and improve them throughout the years.
How would you as a community member best utilize that asset?
When there are community needs or issues to be resolved, we need to harness that community pride and collaborative spirit. We need to count on community members to step up and work together and then do everything we can to support them along the way. The community belongs to its people so utilizing residents to make it better just makes sense.
How would you work to collaborate with other units of government at the local, state and federal level?
I have found that the only barrier to working with others, at any level, is being afraid to ask. None of us has all the answers, but someone out there will be able to help us find them. If you have an idea or a problem, you need to figure out who knows more about the issue than you and reach out to them. Locally we have an amazing system of volunteers, of civic groups, churches and the Chamber of Commerce. We have a State Senator in our own back yard! I have had the good fortune to work with folks at all levels of government through working for a non-profit and the county, by being on a state board and by collaborating locally. Most people are more than willing to answer questions, provide assistance or direct you to someone who can help you.
How as a member of the city council can you best promote economic development?
Right now, our growth has been curtailed by a lack of housing available at all income levels and a lack of available space for new industrial growth. This in turn means that an industry looking for a community in which to locate may see ours as not having needed housing for an increased workforce and/or prime space in which to operate. The City Council Housing Committee, which I am a part of, has begun to address this issue through the purchase of land for both housing and industrial development. Increasing our tax base through increased housing and industry can bring new growth to the community.
Other than the above topics what do you think is the city’s most pressing issue that needs to be addressed?
There are a number of pressing issues in our community, but not all can be addressed by the city council. One that seems to affect most families is the need for daycare providers. Our rural area is in dire need of more qualified daycare providers. There are waiting lists for babies at most daycares and there are little to no emergency drop-in daycares or daycares for those working night shifts. This affects residents’ ability to earn a living and/or keeps families apart as one adult works days and one works nights to compensate.
How would you work to resolve it?
There have been several community meetings regarding this topic. I would connect with the leadership involved with those meetings, see what progress has been made and find out who, in the community, is motivated to work on the issue. That could be a combination of city and county individuals and businesses.
Please provide a brief bio of yourself.
I grew up the fourth of five kids on a small family farm about two miles from what is now Dakotah Ridge, so this area has always been my home. I think the farm girl still resides within me! I am a Morgan High School graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Minnesota, Mankato. Most of my career has been spent as an advocate for victims of crime, first for a non-profit and currently as the Crime Victim Services Coordinator at the Redwood County Attorney’s office. Being an advocate for the city seems like an extension of my work. My biggest source of pride is in my children and grandchildren. They bring joy to my life. My faith, friends and community round out the things in life most important to me.