Occupation: Founder of Cannabiz Connection and publisher of Sensi Magazine
Education: Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communication, West Texas A&M University
Community involvement: Grand Haven Musical Fountain committee, 2016-present; Grand Haven Ellementa Gathering leader, 2017-present; West Michigan Cannabis Guild board member, 2019-present; Smart & Safe GR board member, 2018-2019; West Michigan Women Grow Chapter chairwoman, 2015-2017; Ottawa County leader for MiLegalize, 2015-2018
What unique qualities or experiences make you a good candidate for the council? In 2014, I moved to Grand Haven from Breckenridge, Colorado, where I worked as a marketing director for a vacation rentals company. Shortly after moving here, I accepted a position as the audience development director for a tourism magazine in Holland. With my experience in tourism, I bring a lot of viable ideas to the table when it comes to generating tourism revenue and working with that industry.
I’m no stranger to being a voice for the people. In 2016 when the Michigan Legislature passed a law creating the commercialization of the medical marijuana program, I started working closely with municipalities throughout the state to draft ordinances allowing medical marijuana establishments. After three years of observing and participating in city council and planning commission meetings, I felt I was confident enough to take on a similar role in my own community. My three years of service on the Grand Haven Musical Fountain Committee also helped prepare me for the work of being a commissioner.
What do you consider the top issues facing the city, and how would you address them? The two biggest issues our community faces are housing affordability and the downtown parking shortage. Housing affordability is something my own family faced in both Colorado and Michigan. Last summer, our landlord sold the home where we were living. This left my family with very few housing rental options—it was frightening to think that we might have had to leave Grand Haven because we couldn’t find an affordable place to live. We need to continue building a community that will offer more affordable housing options for working families and small business owners.
It’s also important that we create a downtown parking solution that is beneficial for Grand Haven residents, workers and tourists. With both of these issues, it’s important for us to remain focused on infrastructure solutions suitable for our growing community.
Another issue I hold close to my heart is cannabis accessibility. Whether I am elected to the City Council or not, I vow to continue working closely with the Planning Commission and the council to create accessibility for the more than 5,000 registered patients and caregivers that currently live in Ottawa County.
What do you consider the city's strengths and how would you build on them? One of our biggest strengths are the people in our community and make it great. Our citizens are the true infrastructure of our community. The front page of the city’s website says “The pillars of equality, diversity, and inclusion are vital to a vibrant community, and we believe that bringing diverse individuals together and encouraging all voices to be heard allows us to build a stronger community. The City of Grand Haven upholds these pillars as crucial to healthy people and a healthy community.” I could not agree more. I would like to stay true to this statement by continuing to build our community, keeping these equity pillars in the forefront of what we do.
Another strength is tourism. I have lived and worked in multiple tourist towns, and I’m able to bring a new perspective and fresh ideas to help us continue generating tourism dollars without jeopardizing the culture of our community. I’d also like to see our city continue to expand its business opportunities that cater to both visitors and residents. It’s also important that we encourage spending in Grand Haven, especially during the offseason when business is slower.
Is there anything you would change in Grand Haven? Why and how? I think it’s important that we change the way decisions are currently made in our community, which is a large part of why I am running for City Council. I attended a number of City Council meetings over the last several months and numerous times have witnessed decisions made based on personal beliefs, opinions or assumptions. As an elected official, I understand it is my duty to listen to the citizens and make decisions that will better our community and improve the lives of people here, rather than making decisions based solely on my personal beliefs.
I would also like to encourage the city to host more public hearings and citizen participation by better promoting public hearings. Often, when a decision is made by the city council, people say they didn’t know about the discussion until it was too late. Appropriate and active communication for these discussions and decisions are needed. As part of my campaign, I am hosting a series of meet and greets, giving voters the opportunity to talk to me about some of the things on their mind. I promise to have an open door policy and continue my meet and greets after I am elected. I also plan to write blogs and/or record Facebook live videos to help increase community input and participation. As an elected official, it’s important to keep an open dialogue with constituents.