Jennifer Wolff • 925 E. Maplewood Drive, Madison, SD • (605) 256-3982 • wewantwolff@gmail.com

Friday, April 3, 2015

Madison Daily Leader City Commission Candidate Survey

It's city commission candidate week for the Madison Daily Leader. By order of the alphabet, I've been saved for last. For those who don't have access to the paper,  here are my unedited answers to the questions MDL posed to the candidates. (We were asked to keep answers around 120 words.)


Name: Jennifer Wolff

Age: 32

Occupation: Communications Coordinator at East River Electric Power Cooperative

Educational background: I graduated summa cum laude from Dakota State University with a degree in English for Information Systems and a minor in Multimedia/Web Development.

Personal history as a Madison resident:  I have lived in Madison for 13 years, but became well acquainted with the town long before that. Growing up on a farm near Howard, I made frequent trips to Madison, and compared to Howard, considered it quite the big city at the time. I officially became a resident in 2002 when I moved here to go to college.

Organizational involvement: Water Advisory Committee, Interlakes Area United Way Board of Directors, Chair of the Madison Friends of the Public Library, Madison Toastmasters, Community Center Fitness Instructor, Totland Park Improvement Committee, DSU Community Theater, Madison Central Schools Educational Foundation Philanthropy Dinner volunteer, East River Electric Employees’ Committee, Junior Achievement, graduate of Leadership Madison and served on planning committee for three years

Why are you seeking a seat on the Madison City Commission?

I have many reasons for running, but ultimately it more about who I am running for than why I am running. I am running for all of you, who—like me—want the best for Madison and its residents. I believe I have the right attitude and aptitude to be able to represent my fellow citizens. Spending the last ten years working for an electric cooperative has ingrained in me a mindset that the ultimate decision factor in everything we do at the co-op is “What’s best for the member?” Serving in public office requires much the same mindset. The city commission needs to be accountable to the residents at large, and if we can’t honestly answer yes to the litmus test of “Is this best for our residents?” then we better be able to defend that decision.

What experience, skills and/or abilities would you bring to the City Commission?

Working for East River has given me more than a cursory understanding of electric utilities. Not only do I understand the infrastructure required for reliable power delivery, I am well-versed in the many factors—environmental, legislative, regulatory, etc.—that affect rates. This knowledge translates easily to other utilities and has been very useful to me as a member of the Water Advisory Committee.

Between my professional and personal involvements, I’ve had plentiful opportunity to develop the leadership expertise, experience working with committees, practice in policy formation, and critical reasoning skills it takes to be an effective elected official. I’m actively engaged and involved in the community, have good rapport with many of the other leaders I’ll need to work with, and am prepared to do the hard work necessary to give fair representation all of my constituents. 

What one significant economic development issue do you foresee the city facing during the next several years?

As a member of the Water Advisory Committee, we have been discussing vulnerabilities and shortcomings to our current water system. So far, improvements to the water plant have mostly been to replace aging infrastructure, not for capacity improvements. In order to be able to attract growth, we need to have a water system that can service that growth. The needed improvements will not be cheap, but are essential to being able to meet increased demand. As a further complication, these improvements will take a number of years to implement. We need to do our best to predict what future demand might be so we don’t end up with an over or under-sized system.

If you could change one thing to improve city services (municipal electricity, solid waste pick-up, city parks, recycling program), what would it be and why?

We need to think of city services not only in terms of financial impact, but also in terms of the economic and social value those services bring to our residents. In the hierarchy of needs, having a solid infrastructure for commodity-based services such as utilities is a critical foundation, but in order to truly flourish we need to find ways to move beyond that to incorporate more value-added programs.

I think one of the best ways to improve quality of life and strengthen sense of community is through high quality parks and recreation programs. We are fortunate to have many nice amenities—the Community Center, the Aquatics Center, trails, playgrounds—but there are certain areas of town where these community spaces are lacking.

The county and city have begun discussions regarding the transfer of ownership of the SD-34 bypass (County Road 38). What is your position on this proposed transfer?

It is too early in the process for me to be able to make an informed decision. There are many factors that need to be considered, so I’m pleased the city and county have formed a joint committee to more fully examine the issues before moving forward. Both sides need to work together in order to be successful. There are benefits to the city taking over the bypass. The county states they are not equipped to manage such a heavily trafficked area. This is an important road in our transportation system, even more so with the relocation of the hospital. Having complete ownership of the road gives the city more control to ensure it is properly maintained. But again, it comes down to what’s best for the residents, and I don’t have enough data to be able to confidently make that judgment at this time.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

If at first you don't succeed ...

No one likes to lose.

Missing out on getting elected to the commission last year came with a healthy dose of humility and dejection. So when it came time to decide whether I would run again, it was hard to ignore the part of me that didn't feel up to investing so much of myself in putting together a campaign, didn't feel up to volunteering for a job that I've been told many is a thankless one, and quite frankly didn't feel up to putting myself at risk for rejection again.

But I've not been one to back down from a challenge.Nor have I been one to let setbacks stand in my way. After last year's election, I continued to involve myself in the community and look for new ways to grow and develop. I:
  • Was appointed to the Water Advisory Committee
  • Participated in the DSU Community Theater production of Oliver with my children
  • Added cycling classes to my fitness instruction repertoire at the Community Center (it's lots of fun; come check it out!)
  • Helped with District 8 Senator Scott Parsley's successful election campaign
  • Got promoted at work
  • Began a six-week Management Internship Program
  • And kept up with everything I had already been involved in ... Interlakes Area United Way, triathlon training, Toastmasters, Friends of the Madison Public Library, teaching yoga, staying active with my kids' school and sporting activities ...
So even though running again is risky and uncertain and vulnerable, it is also empowering and exciting and gives me the chance to expand the potential I have to positively impact this community that I love. Thanks for your support last year; I hope you will support me again for Round Two!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

It's a Beautiful Day to Vote

It's April 8th -- Election Day! If you need a few more reasons to vote for Wolff, or even just to vote in general, read on.

A call to action for all my Madison friends. Please make sure to vote in today's city election. Maybe you aren't interested in politics, or you think this election doesn't affect you. But if you care about things like: your utility rates, snow removal, taxes, recreational opportunities, quality of life, safety and employment, you care about who gets elected to the commission. So take 10 minutes out of your day to have your say. The polls are open at the downtown city armory until 7 PM.
 
Your vote really does matter. In 2008, there was a tie between the second and third place candidates, and in the last commission election, only 14 votes determined who got a seat and who didn't. Your vote could very well be the tie-breaker.

If you're still on the fence about who to vote for, here are five reasons to say "We Want Wolff."

5. Electricity is your highest utility expense. I know how electric rates work and what can be done to control rising costs.

4. Communication between city government and citizens is key. A communicator by trade, delivering messages effectively and exploring new ways of communicating is my daily bread.

3. Collaboration is also key. We are stronger when we can build positive relationships with citizens, organizations and other governments. From being part of founding Totland Park Improvement Committee, to directing the East River Employees’ Committee, to chairing the Friends of the Madison Public Library, I thrive in that leadership role of making connections and getting things done.

2. One of the values of the electric cooperative I work for is “accountability.” That’s a value I will also carry to the commission, to ensure the right decisions are being made and city funds are being used effectively. In return, I expect to be held accountable, ensuring that I am serving you in a fair and responsible manner.

1. Political leaders often take an “I know best” approach. But truly good policy is made when we are open to listening to the ideas and input of others. I am humble enough to put my ego aside to do what’s best for the majority.


Thanks to all of you for taking an interest in local politics. Now go spread the message to your Madison family and friends.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Giving Back

When I made the decision to run for city commission, I promised myself that I would not be a typical politician. I've never been much good at doing things the typical way ... just ask the people I work with! The running joke among my colleagues is that if you want things to stay the same, "don't involve Jenny."

The typical way for a politician to advertise would be to purchase newspaper and radio ads. But being into marketing myself, I knew there had to be a more effective to way to reach my target audience. It was also important for me to do things that have a positive impact on the community, win or lose. Putting on my What Would Jenny Do innovator/problem-solver/trailblazer thinking cap, I came up with a solution to advertise in a way that directed the money to a good cause.

Thus, We Want Wolff for City Commission's Campaign for a Cause was established. Over the course of four weeks, more than $250 in charitable contributions has been donated to Almost Home Canine Rescue, the Madison Polar Plunge raising funds for Special Olympics of South Dakota, the East River Electric Children's Care benefit, and the most recent beneficiary, Fundraising for Amelia Phoenix.

I realize $250 is not a huge amount of money. In fact, my donation is rather insignificant. But combined with your donation, and the donations of others, it becomes a catalyst for advancement.

Good government works much the same. It's about doing together what we can't do on our own. If elected to the commission, I look forward to accomplishing things, together.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Letter to the Editor


A supporter who wanted to write a Letter to the Editor in support of my city commission candidacy reports the local paper doesn't publish political letters. I appreciate the effort our District 8 House representative and District 8 Senate candidate went to to try to let voters know who he supports for Madison City Commission. Though the paper is reticent to publish his words, I am more than happy to do so.

I've worked with Scott for many years and have a lot of respect for him. I am honored and humbled to receive his endorsement.

Here is the letter he sent to the Madison Daily Leader.
Dear Editor:

On April 8th the voters of Madison will go to the polls to elect two new city commissioners. We are fortunate to have five candidates running for the two seats. One of these candidates stands out from the rest and should be elected to serve the citizens of Madison. I have worked with Jennifer Wolff for over ten years and have had the opportunity to watch her mature and develop into a strong leader, not only in the work setting but in the community as well.

Jennifer has been given more and more responsibility in her job demonstrating the ability to master new opportunities. Jennifer has also demonstrated her leadership in the community with the many challenges she has undertaken and completed. The renovation of Tot Land Park and completion on the Leadership Madison program are just to name a few.

Having worked with Jennifer these past 10 years has given me a unique opportunity to watch her grow and mature, and I am giving Jennifer my highest endorsement for city commission and hope you will give her one of your two votes on Tuesday, April 8th.

Thanks,
Scott Parsley

Monday, March 24, 2014

Madison Daily Leader City Commission Candidate Survey

It's city commission candidate week for the Madison Daily Leader. Each day, they'll be profiling one of the five candidates. By order of the alphabet, newspaper subscribers will have to wait until Friday to read my responses. But why wait until Friday when you can read my survey online now? Here are my unedited answers to the questions MDL posed to the candidates. (We were asked to keep answers around 120 words.) 

  1. Name: Jennifer Wolff
  1. Age: 31
  1. Occupation: Education/Outreach Specialist at East River Electric Power Cooperative
  1. Organizational involvement: Interlakes Area United Way Board of Directors, Chair of the Madison Friends of the Public Library, Madison Toastmasters, Community Center Triathlon Planning Committee, Totland Park Improvement Committee, Community Center Yoga Instructor, Madison Central Schools Educational Foundation Philanthropy Dinner volunteer, East River Electric Employees’ Committee, Junior Achievement, graduate of Leadership Madison and served on planning committee for three years
  1. Educational background: I graduated summa cum laude from Dakota State University with a degree in English for Information Systems and a minor in Multimedia/Web Development.
  1. What is your motivation for seeking a seat on the Madison City Commission?

    I have many reasons for running, but more important than why is who. Among others, I’m running for:
  • my children, and their friends, to ensure they grow up in a town that offers quality educational opportunities, plentiful recreational activities, and a safe environment.
  • my husband, in the hopes that he and others like him who commute to Sioux Falls, Brookings and elsewhere will one day be able to find quality, competitive employment in the town they live in.
  • my parents, who rely on the outpatient health services provided by the hospital for my dad’s treatments on a weekly basis.
  • my brothers, who have special needs and are able to live with some degree of independence thanks to the services provided by ECCO.
  • and for all of you, who—like me—want the best for Madison and its residents.
  1. What experience, or skills and abilities would you bring to the City Commission?

    Working for East River for nine years has given me more than a cursory understanding of electric utilities. Not only do I understand the infrastructure required for reliable power delivery, I am well-versed in the many factors—environmental, legislative, regulatory, etc.—that affect rates. I am a certified energy auditor and provide safety and energy efficiency education. Just as I use this knowledge to help our cooperative consumers, I can use it on the commission to keep electricity safe and affordable for my fellow citizens. 


    Aside from my professional background, I’m involved in many community activities. These involvements have given me familiarity with many aspects of Madison, and have bred extensive leadership skills, experience working with committees, and plentiful practice in policy formation.
  1. In terms of economic development, what goal should city officials have as a priority?

    The 2008 Madison Comprehensive Plan is supposed to be the city’s guide for the physical, social, and economic growth and redevelopment of the city. While the implementation plan offers goals for transportation, land use, utilities, and parks, recreation, and public facilities, specific economic development objectives are mentioned only in the context of the LAIC and Forward Madison program.

     
    Like our neighboring towns of Brookings and Sioux Falls and similar cities such as Sioux Center, IA, Marshall, MN, and Wayne, NE, Madison should adopt economic development as an official city function. Establishing a Community Development committee to develop a strategic plan with actionable goals and measurable outcomes would add a layer of transparency, citizen engagement, and accountability not currently offered by Madison’s economic development organizations.
  1. Madison’s long-term debt currently totals about $13 million for Enterprise Funds. Adding in government long term debt, the city’s total debt is about $16.8 million. Some residents are concerned about this. What is your position about the city’s debt load?

    That concern is justified. Twenty years ago, the debt was under $1 million. Ten years ago, we hit what was then an all-time high of just under $12 million. For the past two decades, we’ve been on an undulating wave of ever-increasing debt.

    I’m worried about the sustainability of the current model. As close as we’ve been getting to our debt limit, there’s not a lot of wiggle room in case of an emergency. The water well collapse is a good reminder that the unexpected disaster could hit at any time, and while fortunately the issue was resolved quickly and without too much expense, things could have been much worse. 

    Purchased power is by far the biggest expense in the city’s budget. This is an area where we need to be especially vigilant and proactive to curtail rising costs where we can.
  1. City Commissioners recently increased monthly electric meter fees, and switched from a 3-tiered to a 2-tiered system to maintain its electric fund reserves. Should the city consider enacting a single-tier rate system for electricity charges in order to encourage less electricity use?
     
    This was recommended in the recent rate study, and the Electric Advisory Committee recommends considering this move from two steps to one in January 2016. While a single-tiered rate would make bills easier to understand, I’m doubtful it will have a measurable impact on electric use. 


    Just this month, our Cooperative Research Network released a 68-page study on Using Electric Service Plans to Promote Energy-Saving Behavior. The inclining block rate was the only structure believed to promote conservation, and only anecdotally so since most consumers lack the monitoring to know when their usage crosses the threshold to the next rate level.

    The bigger goal for the city should be reducing peak load. There are plans and programs that have been proven to be effective at that, such as time of use rates, load control, and issuing critical peak alerts.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Money Buys Elections?

Money wins elections, according to common knowledge. I'm not sure that applies on quite the same level to small town local races, but hey, it can't hurt right? In an race where I am up against candidates who have held previous political positions and who are Madison natives, a major roadblock for me is not having the same name recognition.

To overcome that, I could blitz the airwaves and newspapers with advertisements. But, with no offense to KJAM and the Madison Daily Leader, if I am going to invest hundreds of dollars into my campaign, I'd really like to use the money on something that will help improve Madison, win or lose.

To that point, here is the post I put on my We Want Wolff Facebook page earlier this week:
I could spend hundreds of dollars on newspaper and radio ads. But I'd rather do something with my money that will enable me to have a positive impact on the community even if I don't win the election.
I've decided to make a donation to one of Madison's fine charities and public assistance organizations. I'll donate $1 for every Like this post gets, up to $200. But I need your help to decide which one to donate to.
Here's what you need to do:
1. LIKE the We Want Wolff Facebook page & this post
2. SHARE this post on your timeline
3. COMMENT which organization you'd like me to donate to
The choices are:
• Madison Central School Educational Foundation
• Domestic Violence Network
• East Central Habitat for Humanity
• Interlakes Area United Way
• Almost Home Canine Rescue
• DSU Foundation
• Madison Parent/Teacher Organization
• Lake County Food Pantry
• Lake County Relay for Life
• Madison Rotary Club
• Lake/Kingsbury American Red Cross
• Lake County Search & Rescue
The organization with most votes in the comments as of Friday, March 14 at 5:00 PM will receive the donation (only one vote per person).
Did I miss you favorite organization? Let me know, and if this goes well, I would love to do another campaign donation!
LIKE, SHARE and COMMENT away!
As of this writing, I'm only up to $37. I'm sure we can do better than that! Please visit the post, give it a like and put in a vote for your favorite organization.

Consider this good training for me to listen to how much and on what money should be spent on, for when I'm on the commission. :)