Nelsen is focused on turning challenges into opportunities in Willmar, Minn.'s,Ward 4
WILLMAR — Audrey Nelsen says Willmar is facing some interesting challenges and she would like to help find a positive way to deal with and turn those challenges into opportunities if she is elected to the City Council from Ward 4.
Nelsen has served on a number of boards and commissions, including the Charter Commission during the past three years, and she’s interested in seeing the city grow and prosper.
“I’m hoping I can contribute to the City Council and to the city as they face the challenges,’’ she said.
Those include dealing with the possibility of changes in state and federal funding and accepting and turning diversity into an opportunity for growth.
“We’re one of the few outstate cities that continues to grow,’’ Nelsen said. “I also think we have to work with communities around us and different counties to make the best of the finances, make the best of the opportunities and utilize our resources.’’
Nelsen said she has been telling people that her goal is to be elected, that she has a lot to learn, that she wants to see the City Council be a positive force in the community and work through the issues that seem to be there right now.
“We need to understand maybe more why there are sides with that because I do feel that both sides mean well, that there is a positive message out there about the city, and moving forward,’’ she said.
Nelsen has a number of interest areas. She has worked with senior citizens her whole career and she wants to make Willmar a senior-friendly city and is interested in the services that will be available for seniors.
She’s interested in parks and ensuring that parks are friendly to all ages, and she likes the trails and riding bike.
“I’m not coming with a specific agenda. I did not agree to be appointed to the Charter Commission with a specific agenda, either,’’ she said. “I’ve had a diverse career, a diverse background and I think that brings a positive human-being role to the City Council.’’
During the Willmar League of Women Voters’ candidate forum Tuesday evening, Nelsen was asked how the city can support immigrant businesses.
“We need to take time to learn about them. There are a lot of them that have been here for many years who are citizens in Willmar who own businesses, and I think we see them from a distance. But we have not found a way to meet them and know and understand them,’’ she said.
“We need to respect each other and respecting each other means we care enough to understand each other and to see how we can work tougher. I feel having conversations, having community meetings, creating an understanding of our lifestyles, those types of things will help us to work and integrate together.’’
Regarding Willmar’s homeless problem, Nelsen cited awareness and recognition of the problem, supporting churches that are working with other agencies, and encouraging the community to respond.
Nelsen was asked how council members can recognize and avoid temptation to slip from leadership to micromanagement.
“Sometimes things get intense and you get into a situation where you want to know more and it can snowball,’’ she said. “You have to know when to step back and look at the big picture and say what is the big picture, what is our goal, what are we trying to accomplish for the city.’’
Nelsen said she has been encouraged in the past to run for the council, as well as the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners. But she said time was not available because her daughters were involved in high school and sports. Also, Nelsen was a caregiver for her mother.
However, Nelsen said she has time now because her mother died last year and her daughters are in college.
“I feel like I have the time I can commit to this and I have an interest for that,’’ Nelsen said. Her employer supports her candidacy and she will have the flexibility to attend the meetings that she needs to attend.
“It just felt like it was the right time to do that,’’ she said.
Voters in Willmar’s Ward 4 will go to the polls Tuesday in a special election to fill the unexpired term of Doug Reese who was elected to the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners in November’s general election.
Ward 4 candidates are Jay Lawton and Audrey Nelsen.
Ward 4 is located in the southeast part of Willmar. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday. Polling locations are:
Precinct 1: First Baptist Church, 1000 Sixth St. S.E.
Precinct 2: Calvary Lutheran Church, 302 Olena Ave. S.E.
Precinct 3: Redeemer Lutheran Church, 1401 Sixth St. S.E.