Flagstaff City Council and mayoral candidates have been given the chance to answer a weekly question in no more than 150 words. This week’s question: When have you changed your mind?
I have passions and steadfast views, but I take pride in my ability to admit when I’m wrong. And as a scientist with a master’s in Conservation Biology, I’m trained to rethink my preconceived notions whenever I’m presented with compelling evidence to do so.
When I worked in inner-city Sacramento, I was once awarded a competitive $675,000 grant to launch an effort to incorporate youth into positions of genuine authority within the governing structures of a coalition of neighborhood organizations. Initially, I was openly skeptical of the effort. I didn’t believe such a model could succeed.
As the process unfolded, however, I was delighted by the transformations I saw firsthand as young people demonstrated responsible decision-making with their authentic governing power. The effort made the organizations stronger and generated community buy-in and higher youth participation in neighborhood endeavors. My skepticism was unfounded, and I’m happy to admit I’d been wrong.
I’ve changed my mind on personal and professional commitments on situations when my continued commitment no longer served the parties or organization involved. I learned, as part of adulting, that thoughts and perceptions are not static and stagnant. The way I think, perceive and understand people, situations and issues evolve, as time goes by, with more information, data, research, discernment, and insights from experts and stakeholders.
Pursuing balance and pragmatism to serve Flagstaff’s diverse communities, my belief system and core values are anchored on cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude with the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. These virtues, ingrained in my consciousness, will keep me grounded on my commitment to serve our community. Maya Angelou’s wisdom also inspires me: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
In 2015 the city of Flagstaff worked towards banning single-use plastic bags. Single-use plastic bags aren’t recyclable -- they break down into small fibers and pollute the ocean and land. I organized events, clean-ups, films and discussions with 50+ community members through local organizations to advocate for the ban. We had support from both businesses and community members. Council and city manager Jeff Meilbech proposed a working group to meet and devise a plan.
They were able to reach a compromise and planned to phase out plastic bags rather than push for an outright ban. I struggled with the plan, but thought for the sake of bringing both sides together and fostering collaboration, phasing out the bag made the most sense. Finding common ground and collaborating with as many parties as possible is of high value to me, worth making compromises and changing my mind to allow for positive change.
My time in Afghanistan changed my mind on many things. In fact, it changed my whole direction in life. I took a semester off from school to coach soccer and teach English at a Kabul elementary school in 2003. Seeing children walking to school six miles with barely any shoes left and barely any food in their bellies made me value what privileges I’ve been given — to be born in America, to have food and a good education, to not face disease or disability without medical care. After talking with the school principal, who nonchalantly told me his house was burned down by the Taliban because he refused to stop teaching girls, I returned home with new purpose.
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I was intent on learning policy and government expenditure to provide proper services to those in need. I was dedicated to public service, and using my skills for the greater good.
I have a philosophy of listening, reflecting and responding to folks. Growing up in a wonderfully diverse inner city neighborhood, has provided me the ability to understand and respect different opinions. Respecting all opinions is an important attribute for a leader to have and which folks can understand.
My parents taught us (five siblings) not to be judgmental nor marginalize folks. Seeing Bobby Kennedy come to our neighborhood as a young man was inspirational and instilled in me a sense of understanding one’s community needs and caring for one another.
As a business executive, I provided opportunities for colleagues/customers to present their views and facts. When appropriate, my views or conclusions on matters have moved. As an example, when recruiting human talent, my team members would offer advice as to the pros and cons of hiring candidates and I have listened to their advice.
I have changed my mind regarding centralized decision making to more personalized and local decision making.
As a young school principal, I felt that all schools within a school district should have a standardized curriculum and instructional format. My educational training pointed in the direction of this being the best way of leveling the playing field for public school education. We tried this for many years and it simply did not work. Much like industry, our focus on productivity and positive results was narrow. We were having to go back and having to do product recalls and remedial education which is very expensive.
In education, insightful school districts went to site-based decision making and implementation and industry went into total quality management with decision making at the closest point of implementation. Test scores and student productivity went up and industry product recalls went down, thus, I changed my mind.
This may come as a surprise, but I frequently change my mind. Being on city council or being the mayor is not about ideology, it’s about governance. We have a police force to maintain, the trash needs to be picked up, water needs to come out of the pipes. These are pragmatic matters.
When an issue comes before council I take into account the recommendations of our extraordinary staff, I read all the research provided to us, I talk with stakeholders and constituents, I read the emails you send me, and then I weigh all the factors and do my best to make the decision that is in the best interest of Flagstaff. In this process I may change my mind several times, it’s not unusual, and in fact it makes for more informed, reasoned decision making.