Amherst Media has posted video statements for the Town Council candidates on its website. Thanks go to Amherst Media for providing this valuable public service and allowing me, and all other candidates, time to speak to the residents.
Watch my statement below. To see all the statements, click here.
Here is a transcript of my statement:
Hi! I’m Mandi Jo Hanneke and I’m running for an At-Large seat on Amherst’s new Town Council. I’ve lived in Amherst with my family for 7 years and have enjoyed every minute of it. We live in a great Town, with terrific places to shop, eat, play, and visit. Yet, Amherst faces some big challenges in the next three years, and beyond. I am running so that I can be a part of finding solutions.
Experience matters when tackling the Town’s challenges. My service in Town government and the community has prepared me for this. I was Vice Chair of the Charter Commission, sat for seven years on Town Meeting, served on the committee that proposed and implemented electronic voting in Town Meeting, and currently serve as the renter representative to the rental bylaw implementation group, which looks at ways to improve Amherst’s rental registration program. I am a Court Appointed Special Advocate at Friends of Children in Hadley, putting my legal training to good use helping children. I was President of the Pioneer Valley Symphony for three years, and have been on the Board for 6. In all of these positions I have worked collaboratively with others to find the right solutions to the issues at hand.
So what do I want to accomplish on the Town Council?
I want Amherst’s government to actively engage all residents, including those who have traditionally been left out, as we work towards solutions to the challenges facing Amherst. While on the Charter Commission, I learned that there are many voices in Amherst that are not regularly heard in Town affairs. And as Vice-chair, I worked hard to listen to all opinions, including by organizing and attending over 16 public forums. We held these sessions at various locations in Town and at a variety of times, in order to engage as many residents as possible. We even had booths at the downtown block party and first day of school celebrations. If elected to the Town Council, I will continue these efforts to ensure that every resident has a voice. This will require partnerships with apartment complexes, non-profits, and businesses in order to host meetings in locations and at times that are more likely to draw non-traditional participants to our government. It will also require regular requests to Town staff, boards, and committees to ensure that they reach beyond the traditional times and places to hold meetings. We need to “go where the people are” instead of making the residents come to us. I’ll make sure it happens.
My next priority will be dealing with Amherst’s aging infrastructure. Our library system, especially the Jones, is a gem for both our own residents and those in surrounding towns. We need to make sure the programming and facilities are updated for how children, families, adults, and seniors use libraries today and in the future. Replacement of two of our elementary schools is on the horizon. Our students deserve updated, safe, and healthy schools that promote learning instead of hinder it. We need a new fire station south of town—one that’s been discussed for over 50 years. And, our DPW building is falling down.
The voices of Amherst’s voters matter on these projects — projects that represent a huge investment. They require thoughtful and fiscally responsible legislators scrutinizing them. If a capital project is approved by the voters at the ballot box, then I will find a responsible way to fund it, even if I personally don’t support the project. For projects that do not need voter approval to move ahead, I will work hard to determine whether Amherst’s residents support it. I’ll also use my best judgement on the necessity of the project and the cost vs. the benefit realized, all while asking the team proposing it hard questions.
I want to see Amherst thrive in all aspects of government-by involving more residents in decisions; by improving our infrastructure; and through responsible, coherent, and deliberate planning that strives to maintain the character of our Town. The first Town Council will also set important operational precedents. My focus on open, transparent, and inclusive decision-making will result in processes that give a voice to Amherst’s residents. My experience, leadership, and collaborative efforts both in government and the community will be valuable to the first Council. If elected, I will jump right in and represent Amherst well. Please vote for me, Mandi Jo Hanneke, on September 4th and November 6th for At Large Town Councilor. Thank you.