Northfield’s newest City Councilors, Patrick Ganey and Suzie Nakasian, met with the downtown stakeholders at Tuesday’s Forum. Dozens of Northfielders turned out, on a cold morning in January, to enjoy an early dialogue with Patrick and Suzie.
Patrick simply loves Northfield. He shaped his career path so that he and his family could live here. He liked the natural beauty, the historic charm, and, in particular, the good schools.
He listed what he sees to be Northfield’s strongest assets: 1) Intellectual Capital, 2) the Cannon River, and 3) an Active Citizenry. Patrick suggested that our political and economic strategies build on these assets and look for increasing the leverage from them.
Patrick warned that there are tough decisions to be made this year. It won’t be easy trying to find a balance between services and taxes. He believes that our assets should shape our prioritizations.
Suzie wants her kids to grow up with Midwest values. That’s why she’s happy that her husband’s job brought their family to Northfield. Suzie has been very active in building local groups including the Northfield Contra Dance Association and the Northfield Transit Initiative.
She’s worked in politics her whole life. Suzie believes that politics draw from the well of individual motivation and that the political energy in Northfield is nourished by all the incredible people who live here.
Working both with community-created organizations and government-created organizations in Northfield, Suzie suggests that both types of group can contribute to our quality of life. She looks for the potential to contribute, and collaborate, in all groups.
Patrick and Suzie believe that the current challenges that Northfield faces can be met by drawing upon the resource of our active and informed citizenry. They argue that encouraging discussion, and even debate, is more effective than trying to limit it. They acknowledged that sometimes we are going to disagree but that it’s just part of the process and we need to keep working together in spite of the disagreements.
They both advocate for more unfiltered and unencumbered communication between the citizens and the councilors. In particular, they proposed more direct communication between boards and commissions and the council, noting that reducing staff involvement will not only remove filters but lower the cost. Patrick and Suzie stated that the boards and commissions should have a clear charge, the freedom to recommend, and pursue community-derived goals.
Patrick and Suzie closed their remarks with the recognition that when anxiety increases, relationships are often the first thing to go. We need to accept the fact that we will disagree and make the commitment to keep talking.