Makeaninformed Decision

This election guide focuses on the races for county commissioners, city councils, mayors, and school boards for the cities of Isle, Onamia and Wahkon.

Candidates were asked a number of questions ranging from local issues to state to national issues, depending on the seat they are running for.

Some candidates chose to write less and some chose not to respond. Next week, the Messenger will publish responses from uncontested races.

The Messenger does not endorse any of the candidates listed; however, we wholeheartedly support the democratic process and want our readers to make informed choices for candidates who will represent their values, opinions and hopes.

That’s what our country and this election guide are all about.

Questions for Mille Lacs County commissioner candidates (Dist. 5):

1. What will be your No. 1 budget priority if elected?

2. What will be your No. 1 program or service priority if elected?

3. What is the biggest challenge that your constituents have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic?

4. What is your interpretation of the Reservation status of the 1855 Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe 1855 Treaty?

5. What is your opinion on the co-management system currently in place for the Mille Lacs fishery?

Bradley Harrington, Mille Lacs County Commissioner (Dist. 5) candidate

Biographical Information: Bradley E. Harrington; City - Onamia; Education - Certificate of Tribal Administration and Governance from UMD; Occupation - Tribal Liaison for the MNDNR; Years in the county - Born and raised on the Mille Lacs Reservation, District 5 of Mille Lacs County; Family - Father of seven children; and community/civic involvement - Football and baseball coach for Onamia Schools.

1. My number one priority would be in Community Services. Getting the services we need for safety during this pandemic is number one. Getting the grips on drug use in our community will also be a priority. Ensuring our community members and relatives have the assistance they need to heal will begin the process for our whole community to become well. Support for the friends and family of loved ones who are “doing fine” is also needed. The stress of seeing loved ones hurt lessens the wellbeing of our community.

2. Chemical Dependency. Although the percentage of active users is less then non-users, the percentage of people affected is 100%. We experience this crisis as a whole. Even if you have never used or never had family that used, someone you know and care about has. We also are affected by the sense of safety that shrinks in a high drug use area due to crime. I have experience as a person who was in addiction and a part of the criminal activity. It was through state programs that I was able to get better and able to serve our community.

3. During this pandemic, the services provided has served many – some more than others.

Where I seen the most impact was in the local worker and local business owner. Services for our essential workers were minimal. Local businesses had to compete for relief “Loans” and many that I have talked to did not receive much if any at all. I believe that the Local Businesses are a huge part of our community. They employ our residents and serve the visitors to our area. They are by no means “Small” businesses. They support families, and that is BIG.

4. The Reservation exists and the Treaty is valid. Pure and Simple. It would be like, what is the status of the town of Isle? The town of Wahkon? Onamia? Those Treaties are the “Supreme Law of the Land” as defined in the Constitution of the United States. Those documents which are Historic and Old are very relevant today. Those Treaties provide the opportunity for Americans to occupy space within the Ceded Territories. We all have a Treaty Obligation to our ancestors and each-other to co-exist in a shared area.

5. My opinion is there is a lot of science but not enough understanding. Trying to measure the amount of fish in such a big lake is like trying to count mosquitoes in your yard. You porch may be 10x10, count how many skeeters may be in the area of the porch. Figure a formula to apply to your 1 acre yard. My way does not do justice to what real scientist go through. I trust the science with the limitations the scientist tell us about. Maybe I should have listened more in biology class. We shall learn more.

Dave Oslin, Mille Lacs County Commissioner (Dist. 5) candidate, incumbent

Biographical Information: Dave Oslin; City - Isle, long time resident of Mille Lacs County; Family - married to his wife Judy for 35 years, has two stepchildren, ten grandchildren and four great-grandchildren; Occupation - retired construction worker with over 30 years in the water, waste water, grading and pipeline industry; and community/civic involvement - Dave has served as commissioner on the Mille Lacs County board and several other committees for eight years.

1. To provide quality services that are necessary, efficient and affordable.

2. To provide quality service in public safety with respect to law enforcement, probation, prosecution, courts and detention.

3. The overreach of state government.

4. I believe that the 61,000 acres former Mille Lacs Reservation was ceded, relinquished and disestablished through treaties and court cases after 1855, currently it is about 4,000 acres of federal land held in trust for the Mille Lacs Band.

5. I believe the Mille Lacs Lake fisher is being managed politically, not biologically with short term decisions, instead of using long term trends. These decisions directly affect the economy. We currently have good walleye fishing with catch and release only and also closure.

Questions for Isle Mayoral race:

1. What will be your No. 1 budget priority if elected?

2. What will be your No. 1 program or service priority if elected?

3. What is the biggest challenge that your constituents have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic?

4. What is your assessment of the state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the governor’s use of executive orders and the Legislature’s actions?

5. What are your ideas for jump-starting commercial and residential development?

6. Why are you running for office?

7. Why should you be elected to this position?

Donald A. Dahlen, Isle mayoral candidate

Biographical Information: Donald A. Dahlen; Family - spouse Linda; Education - Graduate University Minnesota BSEd., MD; Occupation - family physician; Years in city - Isle resident for 6 1/2 years; and community involvement - Major in Civil Air Patrol, Isle City Council for 3 1/2 years.

1. Evaluate all City departments for efficiency and, where applicable, profitability. Make adjustments or changes that keep the quality of our City’s efforts, but make changes that save tax dollars for Isle Citizens.

2. Sewer and water project completion along with new equitable sewer and water rates.

3. During COVID-19, many constituents have financial difficulties due to loss of employment, emotional issues due to loss of interaction with others, and difficulty with child care with kids out of school.

4. The reaction of government during the COVID-19 pandemic has been heavy-handed and one size fits all. Rural Minnesota did not need the same restrictions as did the more highly populated areas within the state. Restrictions were also placed on local governments that were not needed.

5. The city will soon have sewer and water to the industrial park which recently became city-owned. This will allow for more industry in the area with its benefit to the community and jobs. The city also has land that has sat empty for a number of years now that is due for development. Residences could be placed in this area with benefit tax revenues to the community.

6. Work with other city council members to formulate a vision for the city and its future as well as fulfill the goals outlined in our comprehensive plan. Reverse the trend of loss of businesses in downtown and fill the vacant buildings on Main Street. Work towards bringing businesses to the industrial park. Work towards getting affordable housing for younger families and single level housing for our independent senior citizens. Work on more rental housing in the city. Increase options for eating and socializing after 5 PM at night. (Family friendly options.)

I’m running for office because I see a need for better leadership in this community. The last years have shown a reactive type of government instead of one that looks to the future and plans ahead.

7. Have leadership experience as president and CEO of a five-member family medicine group with over 20 employees. Have been involved in Civil Air Patrol for 19 years, three years as a squadron commander and also Air Operations Branch Director and Qualified Mission Pilot. Have served on the Isle Airport Commission as chairman for six years. My background qualifies me for mayor because I know how to work with, organize and manage people in a way that facilitates teamwork, results, and what is in the taxpayer’s best interest.

Ernie E. Frie, Isle mayoral candidate

Biographical Information: Ernie E. Frie; Family - Happily married to Jeanne for 35 years, two happily married daughters and four Grandchildren; Education - Bachelor’s degrees: Business Economics and Criminal Justice (1985); Years in City - Isle Resident since July 2006; Occupation - Former Mayor (2017-18), Former City Council (2015-16), 35-year Retiree of the U.S. Department of Justice working an upper management role; and Community/Civic Involvement - Former Volunteer Fire Fighter.

1. Incorporate priority-based budgeting. This starts with a thorough review of past budgets and available funds. Compare these figures to community values, citizen preferences, and essential priorities of the city. Do the important things well. Cut back on the rest.

At a time of revenue uncertainty, it is essential the we identify the services that offer the most value and continue to provide the necessary funding. At the same time, those services of lesser value may be reduced or eliminated. We need to question past patterns of spending. We need to keep spending within the cities means. We need to be transparent and demand accountability in reaching our objectives.

2. This will depend upon available revenue, including grants. We need to address the essential priorities which will be created through the budget process as referenced in question one. However, I believe we must focus our efforts on our infrastructure such as city water, sewer, roads, etc.

3. Revenues have fallen for small businesses in Isle. Even before the virus, many of our small businesses have struggled to stay afloat. Morale has dropped, and community spirit has waned during the pandemic as summer festivals and local events have been canceled. Our local school has changed the way they do business. This is all a strain on our mental health.

4. Walz has taken actions that exceeded any push from the federal government. Initially, he had used his executive powers to close schools, businesses, and most public places. I believe he may have overextended his power in some cases. However, I must respect his decisions as I am not the Governor. I believe in taking the necessary precautions as recommended by the CDC. I do not believe we should live our life in fear.

5. Research the idea of developing a direct marketing and outreach strategy to local businesses and entrepreneurs to ensure they are aware of Federal, State, and local loan programs, including the SBA. Get as many of the local business owners involved as possible.

6/7. Because I believe it is time to have a mayor who truly cares about the City of Isle. I am retired and have the time to make a difference. I am very transparent and honest with no hidden agendas. I have 35 years experience in multi-government operations. I am results-driven and have the knowledge to get the job done. I love this town and the people that live here. Go Huskies!

Robert “Bob” Koelfgren, Isle mayoral candidate

Biographical Information: Robert “Bob” Koelfgen; Years in City - have been in the community since 1997; Family - a son, Jacob, who is a sergeant in the army, and a daughter, Molly, who works in human resources; Occupation - self employed businessman and have owned multiple successful businesses; and Community/Civic Involvement - current city council member.

1. My number one budget priority would be to make the city accounting more transparent so residents can easily see exactly where city funds are allocated and why they may or may not be profitable.

2. My number one service or program priority would be water and sewer complaints received because of ongoing problematic issues such as 100 year old water lines that haven’t been addressed, bad smelling water, water lines not looped, and rates. Because of prior inaction, federal grant money has been passed up to pay for these projects. I would like to hire a grant writer to see if we can get this money back.

3. Business closures. The absolute biggest challenge constituents have faced during the pandemic is business closures due to limited operations.

4. It’s broken. They have greatly overlooked the impact of the executive orders and the legislature placed on small businesses. There has not been nearly enough support to small businesses or relief programs offered by the state during the pandemic.

5. We need to entice commercial development by offering grants and low interest loans. We need to focus on commercial development in order to further residential growth. By revitalizing downtown Isle, we will create job and recreational opportunities to fuel our local economy to draw people to the area.

6. I am running for office to revitalize downtown Isle. The continued restrictions on Mille Lacs Lake has greatly impacted our ability to run effective business and drastically affected our local economy. Along with the issues I have already addressed, I will work with the DNR to promote better regulations and once again restore Isle to its previous glory.

7. I bought a building in Isle 24 years ago, invested in the town, and built my businesses to employ hundreds of people in Isle over the years. I know what it takes to bring an opportunity to the area and change the way the town is headed. I know I can make a difference.

Questions for Isle City Council race (2-seats, 4 year terms):

1. What will be your No. 1 budget priority if elected?

2. What will be your No. 1 program or service priority if elected?

3. What is the biggest challenge that your constituents have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic?

4. What is your assessment of the state government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the governor’s use of executive orders and the Legislature’s actions?

5. What are your ideas for jump-starting commercial and residential development?

6. Why are you running for office?

7. Why should you be elected to this position?

Naomi Creech, Isle City Council candidate

Biographical information: Naomi Rose Creech; Family - Fiancé Chad Gross, two boys Sean Weed and James Carne, two step kids Aubrie Gross and Lucas Gross; Education - I received my GED in 2002, proceeding with 1 semester at Phoenix College; Years in area - I have lived in Isle since 2016 and originally from Phoenix Arizona; Occupation - I own and operate 2 small business on Main St. “Naomi’s Pet Grooming” and “Isle Outfitters”; and Community Involvement - a member of the Mille Lacs Scenic Byway committee with the Mille Lacs Tourism Council and The Lake Mille Lacs Water Trail group.

1. With this pandemic crushing a good portion of our 2nd and 3rd quarter budget for 2020; my number one priority for 2021 budget would be to maintain and slowly recoup our losses. While trying to keep taxes low for the community, there are many other ways to build revenue. Promoting events that would bring in vendors, food trucks and a farmers market. Additionally, it would be my focus to promote what we already have - tourism and make it grow! The Municipal Bar needs a facelift for its patrons, making it a desirable place for visitors to return. It’s going to be hard to judge what the new budget will bring for 2021, I do know with a superior team effort this town will thrive.

2. The Mille Lacs Water Trail is one of the top programs I am interested in because it would promote tourism in Isle. Chairman Steve Dubbs has been diligently working on bringing amazing opportunities to our “Life Around the Lake”. With having a posted water trail and information about our lake, it will help bring kayakers from around the state and the country. Also, our City Park needs to be updated and maintained to provide safety and a beautiful place to play.

3. The biggest challenge our community has faced through the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping business and tourism alive. Through safe practices in our community we can lesson or prevent any fear from further invading our lives. I am also concerned about keeping our elderly and nursing home population safe and at the same time keeping them connected with their families and community.

4. At first, I believe our State acted accordingly, upon the recommendations of the CDC, to mandate confinement, close businesses, social distance and mask wearing in order to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients. Now, seven months later, the statistics show that the mortality rate has not proven to be as severe as predicted. With that being said, and our economy declining, I believe the Governor should relinquish his executive order and let the Minnesota Legislature debate the issues and represent their constituents to make the final decision about this pandemic issue. Our government was put into place with “checks and balances” and we need to get back to that system.

5. Because many people are now working remotely we need to promote further housing and business development in order to attract people to want to move to Isle. I believe advertising in the Twin Cities area promoting healthy, quiet lake living in Isle could jump start our economy. I realize that many of us love the uncomplicated, small-town living (I know this first hand coming from a huge metropolitan area) but if we don’t promote further growth we may experience an economic downturn.

6. I am running for office because I want to make a difference in the lives of the Isle Community.

7. I should be elected to the Isle City Council because I am a woman of character, with strong beliefs, and will work hard for the people.

Dave Keding, Isle City Council candidate

Biographical information: Dave Keding; Family - wife Monica and three adult children with 10 grandchildren; Education/occupation - a veteran US Army Paratrooper, worked in law enforcement for a total of 34 years (nine for the City of Fridley and 25 years for the Anoka County Sheriff’s Department; Years in area - I retired and moved to the City of Isle 11 years ago; and Community Involvement - currently on the City of Isle Planning and Zoning Commission.

1. It is important to keep taxes down the best we can while still providing quality services for the community. Balancing spending and revenues is a major responsibility of an elected official. Each City of Isle department has worked hard to stay within budget. Projects need to be prioritized or completed in well planned increments to remain within budget.

2. The City is currently working on development of the Industrial Park which is expected to provide jobs and revenue for the City. Our community is reliant on tourism, I would work with other communities, businesses and organizations to develop ideas to draw more visitors to our area.

3. The impact of COVID-19 for our community has been huge. Businesses have closed, some for good, many are suffering. Jobs have been lost. Schools and churches have been pushed into models of operation that fail to meet the needs of the community. COVID created a shut down of everyday life. Families have been kept apart. The ties that bind our fundamental values of family have been frayed.

4. The governor’s initial intent was to flatten the curve of the pandemic but his actions have put far more restrictions on small businesses than large businesses. Small businesses and communities were far more financially burdened by these actions. This community has already been sorely tested by the State’s management of the lake. I believe the governor should have the ability to issue executive orders in time of emergency. However, the governor needs to put more thought into the impact on small communities vs large cities, small business vs large. A one size fits all approach isn’t always the best option in these trying times.

5. As a current member of the City of Isle Planning and Zoning Commision, I will continue to work with residential and commercial development. Local residents and businesses are our best resources for feedback and suggestions on how we can promote economic development.

6. My wife, Monica, is currently on the Isle City Council. I have seen how hard she works for the City and the community. I want to do what I can to help. With my life experiences including 34 years in law enforcement, two years with the Army, and 47 years of marriage and family, 11 years in this community, I feel I have something to bring to the table.

7. I grew up in a small three bedroom rambler with my parents and seven siblings. We were a happy family even though we didn’t have much. My parents taught us how to live within our means. I will use these values as we deal with our City’s budget. It is of utmost importance that city officials recognize the impact taxes have on our citizens.

Shannon Brown, Isle City Council candidate

Biographical information: Shannon Brown; Family - Significant Other, John, Children, Alex, Hunter, Jayden; Education - Minnesota School of Business, Hennepin Technical College; Occupation - Office Manager for State of Minnesota; Years in area - resident for five plus years; and Community Involvement - Mille Lacs Area Health Foundation, Isle Food Shelf, McGregor Food Shelf, Isle Days

1. New business development and existing business expansion is one of my top priorities. We’ve been a tourist community for a long time. Being a small-town girl, I deeply appreciate the quiet life. However, I’d like to see Isle become one of the state’s leading small cities in business development. Specifically, I would like to see expansion in recreational business in our area. Take advantage of everything our community has to offer. There is so much untapped potential here, that it can be a challenge to wrap our minds around it all. Recreational business expansion will help stimulate the local economy.

2. As anyone that has ever started a new job knows, there is always a learning curve, and a certain amount of training required. I would like to see the city council implement a new and existing council member training program. Isle is a member of the Minnesota League of Cities and Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association. Both of these groups offer training to educate city council members on many different subjects. Implementing a program like this, would benefit the community as a whole, as our constituents will be more confident in the decisions made by their city council.

3. There are the obvious financial challenges but I believe that the lack of social activity has taken a huge toll on people’s mental health during COVID-19. There is no good answer to fix this. We are all doing what we can to get thru it. I would encourage people that are having issues with mental health caused by this terrible virus to reach out to your support group. I never thought I’d see something like this is my lifetime but here it is and I’m doing what I can to get my loved ones through it. Reach out.

4. Tough question; I am a state employee and we have a Code of Conduct that we are expected to uphold. I believe the decisions the governor and the legislature have been facing the last 6 months are very difficult based on science that is imperfect. Do I wish that we didn’t have to wear mask? Do I wish for businesses to be operating normally? Do I wish for my children (one of them a senior this year) to be back in school with a normal school day? I absolutely do. That’s just not our reality today.

5. The city needs an Industrial Park Development Committee that can make contact with and develop relationships with all types of businesses that would entertain the idea of starting up or expanding in Isle. I also believe that there’s a huge opportunity in recreational business development: fat tire biking, public small game hunting walking trails, city owned bike/skateboard park, et cetera. Affordable housing isn’t easy to come by anywhere. The Merritt lot would be a perfect location for a four-plex apartment building that can house four new families in Isle. We have to start somewhere.

6. I’m proud to say I’m a Gen Xer, born between 1965-1980. The typical Gen Xer is happy, active and achieves a work and home life balance. Oh yeah, I’m definitely a Gen Xer! I don’t know if Isle has ever had a Gen Xer on their council, but I think it’s time for one, maybe even two. I plan to set a great example for future council members and show through my actions, that one person can make a difference. You never know, some day that future council member might be your child, or your grandchild.

7. I believe that I have very valuable experience to offer both in business management and government. I was an elected township clerk, municipal liquor store manager and currently an office manager for the MN DNR, Division of Parks & Trails. I’m in it for the city. I love Isle. If elected, my decisions will be made based on facts and what I believe to be the best decision for all citizens and visitors. My intentions are pure, and I care about everything that is happening in our community.

Questions for Onamia School Board (3 seats open)

1. Why are you running for school board and what are your top three priorities if elected or re-elected?

2. In your opinion, what is the three greatest challenge this district faces in the next three years?

3. What is the biggest challenge that your constituents have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Lisa A. Anderson

Biographical Information: Lisa A. Anderson; Family - Mark Anderson and four children Heather, Kayla, Katelynn and Zachery; Education and Occupation; - Associate Degree/Mgt., Retail Banking Manager at Deerwood Bank; Years in area - 30 years; Community Involvement - Auxiliary President Post 955; Mille Lacs, Electric Community Trust Board Member, AARP Driver Instructor, American Legion Auxiliary Post 395, American Riders Legion Post 395, Combat Vets Motorcycle Auxiliary 48-1.

1. After eight years of being on the school board, I feel that my job is not done yet. I still have a passion in providing a great education and a safe place for the children in our district. Over the past years, our district is moving in the right direction we are becoming more financially stable, retaining the best teachers, and creating a school that welcomes all children into our community. The top three priorities in my opinion are continuing to be financially sound; making sure our administration team is supported on giving the students the best education; focusing on getting our elementary students involved in sports at an early age.

2. A) Smaller school districts have a harder time hiring staff; so, I will continue to push for the looking of grants and other resources; and for legislation to increase funding for smaller districts like Onamia; B) Retaining and gaining more students to attend Onamia. I will continue to keep the courses like wood shop, home economics, band et cetera. as electives for our students to keep our kids and gain kids from other districts; C) Focusing on students 9-12 to ensure they are ready for life outside of the halls of OHS whether that will be joining the workforce right away, furthering their education or joining the military.

3. Technology has been great during this time Zoom, Facetime, Skype, et cetera. has been a way to still connect with family and friends, have meetings, jobs can continue from the home, business and education can still happen. However, this technology does not replace the person to person contact that we all need and seek. We all crave that human contact, whether it be a hug from family or friend, learning in a classroom with your classmates, worshiping together or just opening a door for a stranger. Once this pandemic is over, I pray we can be a kinder and more understanding world for the next generation.

Jason Blomer

Biographical Information: Jason Blomer; Family - Married with three school aged children; Education - 1992 OHS graduate, attended Bemidji State University and graduated with degrees in Psychology and Liberal Studies; Occupation - Currently working with a non-profit organization serving Mille Lacs County residents on public assistance.

1. As a school board member, I want to contribute to the decisions that will impact the district academic, arts and athletic programs. I bring many years of experience working with youth and adolescents and have seen the impact that their education can have for better or worse. My education and experiences at OHS prepared me for college but I know that not everyone had the same experiences and opportunities. I hope to work within the community and the other school board members to make OHS a positive experience for all students.

2. The three greatest challenges over the next three years are going to be alternative teaching and learning methods, access to technology, and student engagement. Over the last year there has been significant changes on how Onamia Schools has had to educate our students. During this transition our educators have had to redesign their lessons and focus within weeks to meet the needs of our students. Likewise, our families have had to support the schools with bringing much of the classroom into their own homes. Not everyone has access to the same technology and the school needs to work on how to better address this. Finally, we need to keep the students engaged in their education.

3. I think the biggest challenge has been the school’s ability to communicate throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The school needs to focus on improving school-wide communications. Especially during the pandemic it is essential to convey changes and information that is consistent on all forms of communication be it social media, paper, or telephone. Understanding the need to be flexible in changing school formats based on new information daily shows the need to have one message across all formats to the community. This will be one of my focuses if elected to the Onamia School Board.

Virgil Otis Wind

Biographical Information: Virgil Otis Wind; Family - proud father to five of the best kids that a parent could ever ask for. My significant other and I have both resided in the OPS district for the majority of our lives. We currently have two children attending OPS. They are the reason that I got involved with the parent committee many years ago. I felt the need to give back to the school and community that helped me become who I am today.

1. If re-elected I would prioritize the need to help every family with whatever their particular needs are. Each family comes to the district with differences that we need to recognize in order to be effective at meeting those needs. The educational needs of every student differs from the next and I would do my best to represent every student. My top three priorities are:

• Relationships with every family

• Trust for those educating our children

• Fiscal responsibility while utilizing all the districts resources to best fit the changing needs of our unique families.

2. The three biggest challenges that I feel the district will face in the next three years are;

• Increased need to recruit and hire the best special education teachers to meet our students needs.

• In world full of division the need to promote a family atmosphere that promotes family, strength and togetherness. We need to provide a safe and secure place that all students thrive in.

• As the world changes we have to be constantly evolving to meet those needs, with a proactive approach we can achieve more. Being willing to change with the needs of our students, family and the world is one of the most important parts of being on the school board.

3. In my opinion, the three biggest challenges our constituents have faced during the COVD-19 pandemic were;

• Confusion and the lack of information provided to make informed decisions. These are unprecedented times with lots of contradictory information everywhere. We need to have the ability to sift through all the different information to make the best decisions possible for our families.

• Lack of internet and the ability to stay connected. Our families all have differing circumstances some don’t have the ability to provide the internet connection needed to accommodate distance learning. As a district we have to know what these needs are and how to address them. Equitable education is one of the biggest challenges that we face as a district.

• Providing a safe place to teach our children has been one of the biggest challenges during COVID-19. We have never some this before so we are constantly changing to stay up to date with the vest training and equipment to keep our families safe.

Sarah Zambrano

Biographical Information: Sarah Zambrano; Family - married with three children; Education - University of Minnesota with a degree in Spanish and Global Studies, currently seeking a Social Work degree from Bemidji State University; Occupation - work for a local county and assist residents who need public assistance.

1. I’m running for Onamia School Board because I love our community and care a great deal about our students, teachers, and school staff. Healthy, effective schools are essential for a thriving community, and I believe in quality, equitable education for all. My top three priorities will be: (1) improve communications sent out from the district so they reach all families in a timely manner, (2) improve distance learning methods and technology access, (3) ensure that we are being proactive/preventative in our schools with regards to the health and safety of our students, their families, and our school staff members.

2. In my opinion, the three greatest challenges our district faces in the next three years are (1) improving and expanding distance and alternative learning methods for our students in the event that they cannot attend school, (2) maintaining and improving district learning standards so that more students can meet the State of Minnesota averages on standardized tests, as well as be well-prepared for life after high school, (3) improving the quality and quantity of elective classes and extracurricular activities available so that students are more engaged and so that even more parents want to send their students here.

3. The biggest challenge that my constituents have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic is how to keep their lives and livelihoods afloat. It has been incredibly difficult for parents and community members to try to keep their jobs so that they can keep food on the table and maintain their housing. Students and teachers have struggled to learn and teach remotely; many parents struggle with daycare. Many are struggling with the uncertainty of the virus and worry about the potential spread of the virus in our community. I believe if we work together we can better address these challenges.

Editor’s note: Onamia School Board Candidate “Becky” Rebecca Clitso-Garcia did not send in responses to the Voter’s Guide questions. 

(1) comment



I fell asleep reading the same old, same old boring carbon-copy answers to 'changes' and 'priorities' for what these candidates would do if elected. Not one provided anything new that would show they are willing to think outside the box and offer new ideas and perspectives to struggling communities with glaring problems and issues, especially in the schools

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