I got my start in local government by watching, listening and encouraging another group of community leaders from the chairs in the Council Chambers for the general public. I attended almost all of their council meetings for over a year and was inspired by the potential that these leaders had to help improve our community. I found the 2008 presentation of our Parks, Open Space, and Master Trail plan particularly inspiring. Since that time I have gained a better understanding of the complexities of our community and I’m still learning.

Over the past three years we have made significant progress toward our goals for affordable housing, climate change, and diversity, equity and inclusion. We as a community have naturally and passionately mobilized around these three priorities. The advocacy surrounding our affordable housing, diversity and climate initiatives has been amazing. I am so proud of the work that our community has done for these priority areas and I’m excited to see them continue.

For the three other priorities of economic development, infrastructure, and operational effectiveness, the mobilization advocacy and support haven’t been as strong. This isn’t because people view them as unimportant. Rather, they seem to be areas where finding solutions to them in our community is both a challenge and opportunity that requires more time and energy.

This, together with limited staff time and a community with really high operational expectations, creates a unique situation.

It’s imperative that we continue to grow our businesses and industries which provide a strong financial foundation for our community and drive resources for the quality services and facilities we desire. Dense, contiguous business growth and development that uses existing infrastructure is financially responsible and will provide jobs for those who desire to both live and work here.

We value health and recreation as a community. We need a financially sustainable plan to address the many needs for maintenance and improvements in our park and recreation system.

These should be implemented through our annual capital improvement plan, just like all other infrastructure needs.

We have made marginal improvements within our parks system over the past 12 years. Modest improvements at our athletic facilities would better equip them for hosting tournaments and increase local tourism. Additionally, a FiftyNorth expansion, riverfront park improvements and Mill Towns Trail completion would increase the vibrancy and regional draw of our community and need a financially responsible solution as well.

As we now move into finalizing the priorities of our second strategic plan, desired outcomes, targets and initiatives, we will be keeping essentially all six of the previous plan priorities. The priorities will be housing availability, climate action, diversity, equity, inclusion, economic vitality, quality facilities and service excellence.

I earnestly hope that we will give the time and attention to our priority areas of the latter three, that they require and deserve to keep our local tax base strong and the built environment of our community up to 21st century standards.

Rhonda Pownell is the mayor of Northfield.

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