Lynn Vincent

Candidate for Council-At-Large (2-year term)

vincentYou may recognize me as the CEO of the Girl Scouts of Cannon Valley, now retired, and a small business owner of Vincent & McBride. Two years ago my husband and I chose Northfield for our retirement because we love the small town feel, the colleges and great educational system, the dedication to the environment and involvement of the citizenry.  

I’m an involved member of the community, serving on the Healthy Community Initiative Board and its Grants, Finance and Personnel Committees, President and founding member of WINGS (Women In Northfield Giving Support), and on the America In Bloom Committee.   

I’m an innovative experienced leader who knows how to interact positively and successfully with volunteers. I ran a successful capital campaign and built a new office and program center for a Wisconsin Girl Scout Council, doubled the capacity of the Cannon Valley Girl Scout Council and led it successfully through the merger process.  I’ll be that kind of leader on the Northfield City Council.

I have a vision of Northfield as a progressive caring community that is inclusive, cherishes its heritage, believes in its future, and practices environmentally sound principles. I have unwavering faith in the future of Northfield if together we confront the issues and create a culture of discipline and accountability, we can plan and build for the future. I can help get that done.

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Responses to questions submitted by participants:

1. Have you had experience as a landlord of rental properties? What do you think about the current rental ordinance? Would you recommend changes? What enforcement mechanisms do you recommend?

I have not been a landlord of rental properties, but I have lived in a few over the years.  Some were great places to live because the tenants kept the area clean, the landlords were on-site for very quick service, and the tenants respected the privacy of others.  In others it was a miserable experience because there was no enforcement of codes set in rental agreements and the landlord was very difficult to reach.

I think there was a lot of thought that went into preparing the rental ordinance.  It seems like all parties have been heard and their concerns included in the ordinance as much as possible.  I might change the 20% rule, particularly in the “old town” residential area.  That neighborhood is a part of the history of Northfield and needs to be protected.  I think the 20% rule puts too much density into a neighborhood that cannot sustain the increased population. 

The oversight committee is a good idea.  I understand that the rental inspection position has been eliminated from the 2009 budget.  I think it is a vital position to ensure compliance by tenants as well as landlords.  In fact, I think the city staff has been reduced to the point that there will be little enforcement of many of the codes.  The budget and the economy have a major impact on staffing city positions, and the economy is not looking good.  Citizens are going to have to fill in the gaps and take steps to communicate respectfully with tenants and landlords about any concerns they may have about what they perceive as ordinance violations. 

2. What will you do to help ensure the economic vitality of our downtown area? What vision do you have for what Northfield should be like in ten or twenty years?

We need to provide due diligence in the investing and oversight of the City’s funds, and the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan.

Northfield has had a spate of residential building in the past few years, and in some developments around 50% of the housing units are sitting empty.  I think it is time to lay the groundwork for bringing in industry that can provide jobs for the residents dwelling in the housing. This will result in more industry, a stronger more diversified tax base, more jobs, more people, more money spent in the downtown shops and businesses, more funds deposited in the banks, etc.  The City council must approach the expansion of the tax base and the courting of industries thoughtfully and cautiously, providing reasonable incentives to corporations to locate in the annexed areas and the infill areas.  Any further annexing of land needs to be done to benefit the City, not just the township.  Agreeing to reimburse the township for the lost taxes at the level of what could be built on the annexed land (potential zoning city residential could allow 3 homes per acre vs. one home per 5 to 30 acres as dictated by township zoning) doesn’t add up to common sense to me.  Northfield should be an integrated carefully planned and laid-out community that has self-sustaining neighborhoods, a thoughtful and green industry base, and a strong progressive school district.

I have a vision of Northfield as a progressive caring community that is inclusive, cherishes its heritage, believes in its future, and practices environmentally sound principles.  I have unwavering faith in the future of Northfield if together we confront the issues and create a culture of discipline and accountability, we can plan and build for the future. 

3. What are the particular skills you bring to the council? What are the most important personal attributes a council member can bring to the table?

I have been involved very successfully for 14 years as the CEO of three different Girl Scout councils, the last being the one headquartered here in Northfield prior to the merger.  The structure of city government and city staffing is extremely parallel to the structure of Girl Scout boards and staffing.  I fully understand the roles of the City Council, the Mayor, the City Administrator and the City staff because they are somewhat parallel the Board of Directors, The Board Chair, the CEO and staff of Girl Scout positions. 

Organizational effectiveness/development refers to the ability to align, promote and encourage the improvement of an organization so it can meet its mission, fully realize its potential and maximize its ability to make positive and lasting contributions to its constituencies.  The skills I bring to the table are:

I am an innovative, experienced and skilled leader, not afraid to make decisions – even the unpopular ones. 

4. Can you identify an area where you will need further information or experience before you can be an effective council member?

It would be good to know more of the history behind some of the concerns and ordinances that are being brought before the council in the near future.  Currently I am familiarizing myself with city issues by researching in the local media,, talking to citizens about their concerns, and attending city meetings. Because of my background I can pick up quickly on ways of work within the council and the city.  Being the new kid on the block has certain advantages, however.  I come to the City Council with no baggage. I have no property I want annexed, no ownership of buildings other than my home, no hidden agendas – just a strong and abiding interest in the welfare of all the citizens of Northfield.

I also feel that an opportunity to understand how other council members process information would improve how the council interacts, which is why I like the suggestion of an orientation for new council that would include understanding one another’s learning preferences.  This would be useful to everyone and would cut down on the likelihood of miscommunication and misunderstandings.  We could become resources to one another by sharing our diversity of opinions in a respectful thoughtful way that promotes civil discourse throughout the community.

5. What role does the city play in developing a sustainable energy supply for its citizens? What plans should be set in place?

The City can play a key role in the development of a sustainable energy supply for its citizens by creating an Energy Board, an Office of Sustainable Energy and staffing it with an Energy Coordinator.  The City can recruit the new City Administrator based on expertise and experience in sustainable energy.

The Northfield Energy Task Force was charged with answering this question and has made several great recommendations in the Energy Report to the City Council.  Among them are to create a FTE for an Energy Coordinator who would work closely with the city to manage energy use in all city operations in order to fund the position from savings from the more than $1,000,000 the City spends annually on energy.  This person, among other duties, would evaluate the Johnson Controls energy program and review current City policies and procedures and ordinances to bring them in line with sustainable design criteria.  Other suggestions in the report were:

  • Partner with private sector parties to create a wind farm or biomass facility.
  • Promote conservation of energy throughout the community
  • Set up an Energy Action Fund with proceeds from a carbon surcharge for energy use based on electrical use to finance energy conservation/efficiency and clean energy projects and the office of the Energy Coordinator.
  • And a multitude of other ideas that could save this City significant expense in the future. 

I would strongly recommend that all City staff, Managers and City Councilpersons read the report carefully.  A great deal of thought and expertise has gone into the preparation of it.  In addition the Non-motorized Task Force has made a number of excellent recommendations to the City Council to reduce the use of carbon based fuels by automobiles and other motorized transportation while promoting the use of non-motorized vehicles.

6. What is the state of relations between the city and its major employers, particularly the two colleges and Malt-o-Meal? How should these relationships be improved and sustained?

The relationship between the City, the Colleges and Malt-O-Meal is a symbiotic one that has not been leveraged as successfully as it could be.  Presently the colleges pay for services they need, as does Malt-O-Meal, like sewer and water, fire and police protection; services the City provides the three.  Entering into to a more collaborative relationship could benefit the City as well as the Colleges, Malt-O-Meal and the schools and citizenry.  The City could partner more closely with the Colleges to provide internship opportunities for students as experiential learning opportunities to test what they have learned in theory.  Not-for Profit organizations could partner more closely with ACT at Carleton and similar services at St. Olaf to provide opportunities to volunteer in the community.  Malt-O-Meal could become a sustaining partner of the City in the same vein as the State Bank of Faribault is in Faribault, or Hormel is in Austin, MN.

7. As a candidate, what are your top two or three priorities for the next two years?

My top priorities are:
Review the City Charter during a City Council work session and come to a consensus on the interpretation of the document, and set a “ways of work” process in place that all can agree on.

Hire a City Administrator, someone experienced in sustainable and green development as well as small town culture – see the following response to the administrator question

Implement the Comprehensive Plan

Build trust in the City Council by continuously behaving in an adult manner with honesty, integrity, respect for the community and city staff and practicing active listening and validation of concerned citizens.  I have noticed during the open mike sessions and the opportunities for citizens to voice opinions to the City Council that some of the members are not paying attention – are turned away from the speaker, looking down, and projecting by body language that indicates no listening is being done.

8. What steps should be taken to ensure that the city employs talented and motivated public servants?

Having a talented and motivated City Council and Mayor would be a good step.  It is not the council that hires city employees.  The Council can best ensure the hiring of talented and motivated employees by finding the best candidate for the City Administrator position, provide strong guidelines and policies for the work of the City, and create a positive work environment.

Getting the right people on the bus is the key to success in any venture.  Based on the work plan, each position should be reviewed for talents and skills needed to provide a clear position description, and to set a criteria for the hiring for that position. 

It would be a great help if the council could reduce the work load of the staff by focusing the budget on increasing FTE’s in critical positions in spite of the worsening economy.  By a careful examination of the various income streams it might be determined that there is a small amount at the end of the year that could be used for bonuses, unless they are forbidden to city employees.   This next budget has cut any recognitions for staff and for managers, and managers are not getting a raise – their salaries are frozen in order to reach budget restrictions.  There are ways the Council could show appreciation that would not be costly with a bit of innovative thinking.

9. How do you think the council should go about hiring the permanent city administrator?

This is a critical position for the city council to fill, and I think they need to be cautious and thoughtful in their approach, and not rush the decision.  I would first determine what exactly is needed in a city administrator - what skills and understanding the person should bring to the position.  For example, knowing how a small town culture differs from a metropolitan culture would be important.  I would also recommend an opportunity for citizen input on what they would like to see in their administrator.  This is a position that works very closely with the Mayor and the council, and is the interpreter of the council policies and plans to the staff.  The administrator should have a very clear picture of the role of the council, the administrator and the staff in carrying out the work of the city. 
My recommendation would be to appoint a search task group charged with doing a national search for candidates with the best fit to bring three or four finalists to the attention of the council.  An interview process similar to the hiring of the police chief appeals to me – I like the working together aspect to find the best candidate for the position.

10. What will you do to try to recover the missing 2.3 million city dollars.

It is my understanding that Rate Search, the company who invested the money, is no longer in existence, and that a criminal investigation is under way.   I will cooperate fully with the authorities in their investigation.  If the principals of the company are known, it might be possible to file a civil suite against them, but before I launched into that I would want to know the likelihood that there are any assets to access should the suite be won.  

The most important thing I can do is everything in my power to make sure it does not happen again.  By practicing and requiring due diligence and taking the fiduciary responsibilities of the City Council extremely seriously, the Council should be able to avoid another such incident.  Conducting an in-depth vetting of any investment opportunity, making sure the investment is secure and fully insured, ensuring that the investment officer is licensed with a clear track record, and investing locally should be some of the steps of the due diligence process.  

11. Northfield and Dundas share a sewer plant that may be approaching its capacity. In an effort to not find out in 2012 that we "broke the plant" in 2010, the Dundas planning commission and city council have in place a simple worksheet that is used to evaluate every platting request to see if it would make us exceed the capacity. This should keep us from finding out after the fact that we have overpromised this growth-limiting resource to developers. This simple analysis will also let us not have to go to taxpayers and have them subsidize other people's profits in an unjust way. As a city council person, are you willing to ask for and use this question of capacity BEFORE you consider and approve new growth?

The simple common sense answer is “yes”.  Any tool that can give insight into the potential success of expansion should be used as part of the due diligence the Council, Mayor and Planning Commission should undertake in a thoughtful and cautious approach to annexation or any growth to Northfield.  If nothing else the tool would let the planners know that they need to include expansion of the sewer plant in the expansion plans and projected costs of the project.

12. Given the fatal traffic accident that occurred at Jefferson Parkway and Division Street, if elected how would you prioritize the concern over the safety of this intersection against the other infrastructure plans?

I live just blocks away from the Jefferson Parkway/Division Street crossway, and I am surprised there have not been more accidents at that intersection.  It is becoming one of the direct streets into and out of the city, and more congested due to the increased housing of the Parkway.  Adding to the regular traffic is the school-related congestion every morning and afternoon that includes cars, and kids in cars from the High School, on bicycles, skateboards and afoot.  The four way stop I think has outlived its usefulness and a traffic light needs to be considered.  I would test for increased traffic times first to see if a stop light is warranted.  In the mean time, I think posting a police officer at the intersection during before and after school hours would help a great deal, or perhaps the use of crossing guards.

13. What is your plan for integrating the working poor into the economic growth potential of our community?

There are a couple of things the City can do to integrate the working poor into the growth potential of our community. The very first that comes to mind is to provide opportunities for living wage jobs and transportation to those jobs. Next is to provide housing that is indeed affordable and integrate that housing into existing neighborhoods, or require developers to build a percentage of affordable housing integrated into the residential development plans.
The transportation availability in this community is dismal! Other cities can underwrite the cost of a transit system that meets the needs of the community, and with the emphasis on the greening of Northfield, I think the City Council should be looking at this option not only to provide ways to get around the city and to work sources, but to reduce the number of cars emitting greenhouse gases as well as relieving traffic congestion that is beginning to plague Northfield just as it does in the larger communities.

Encouraging companies to call Northfield home will bring jobs to the community, and the EDA is working to do just that. However, will the work force be prepared educationally to fill the position in green industry? One solution might be to recruit a technical college to come to Northfield, or to contract with an existing technical school to hold classes in available classrooms after school hours for those who want to learn a new career, and provide transportation to and from those class sights. Such an enterprise could partner with the local colleges to provide internships for students from the colleges who are looking for an experiential educational opportunity.

I know of one technical college in Wisconsin who met with businesses and industry in their region to find out what skills those corporations would be requiring in the very near future, and then designed the learning opportunities around those needs and scheduled classes after work hours, on weekends, and offered classes on line or electronically as well as in the classroom. Educators from the college went into the community and held classes in churches, or any buildings that could accommodate the class.

My plan is to work towards all these options.

14. Do you have plans or goals for the City of Northfield regarding the health, welfare, and wellbeing of children in the community? Specifically, I see on the City of Northfield's website that the City Council has pledged its commitment to the 2001-2010 International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World. I would like to know how you plan on supporting this effort.

I have been involved in the support of this concept all my adult life, and it is reflected in my choice of career and in the agencies in which I choose to be involved.  It is what the Healthy Community Initiative and WINGS are all about.  I think the City has made strides towards this goal - it is one of the founding support organizations for HCI.  A City representative fills the permanent City seat on the board.  I would be more than willing to represent the City on the HCI board. I would continue the Mayor’s Youth advisory board, and the Mayor’s Task Force on Youth Alcohol and Drug Abuse.  I support and applaud the efforts of the Skateboard Coalition, and other efforts of youth leadership as evidenced by the PRIMETime Fellows that were recognized nationally and honored locally Monday the 13th of October at the School Board meeting.

Are you aware that in 1996 the Children's Bill of Rights was drafted and ratified by over 650 children from seven countries? The Bill lists the rights that all Children have so that they can grow up free from abuse, thrive in the world, and participate in influencing the shape of their future. It does not ask adults or governments to ratify the Bill before it takes effect. It is adopted by the children themselves, and serves as the basis for their demand that adults treat them as partners in the processes of human progress.  

I believe that a successful society invests its best resources and hopes in the success of its children. Children are our future, and how a society treats its children is a direct reflection of how that society looks at its future. A moral and competent society is one that respects and upholds the rights of its children. The Children's Bill of Rights proposes rights for children that all adults on Earth should honor, so that we may help create the very best future for ourselves and, in turn, our own children.

15. What is your position on North Avenue?

North Avenue used to run through the area that is now a green space that truncates the continuation of the road from being a main artery east and west for the city.  Fifteen or so years ago when the land was being developed, as I understand it, the green space was created to meet a requirement for the development.  At the time it probably seemed like a good solution to a current need, and the City Council approved the truncation of the road.  Now the city has grown and the good idea has become a barrier to traffic flow in and out of the city.

Some on the City Council want to continue to honor the original decision seeing it as a promise to those who bought homes in that area.  Others refer to the changes and growth in the city over the past fifteen or so years and want to extend and build North Street so it can carry a heavier traffic flow east and west in and out of the city.  Whether it is North Street or a street above or below it, something has to be done to move traffic in and out of that area.  It has become a barrier rather than a solution.  While we want to the best of our ability to honor past decisions, there comes a time in the growth of any city when past decisions need to be revisited.  As an At-Large member of the Council I would be representing the entire citizenry of the community and would support the revisiting of the North Street decision and base my vote on what is best for all.