GRID 4 CANDIDATES

Grid 4

Grid 4 Ballot

Margaret (Marge) Isom – Grid 4

What is your connection to the Highland Park neighborhood? Our family moved to Highland Park 13 years ago, returning to St. Paul after completing my graduate school studies and working at the U of M Medical Center – Minneapolis. Both of our kids attend St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS), and are now at Highland Park Sr. High and Middle schools. I’ve been active in their schools and our broader community, ranging from volunteer coaching, SPPS parent task force, and in learning and sharing about recent issues such as proposed changes at the Highland 9 golf course, Ford Plant development, public safety and city garbage changes. I have also served as a delegate in local school and political conventions.
What makes the Highland District Council mission meaningful to you? HDC’s mission provides a concrete mechanism that includes, invites ideas and builds connection. This nurtures an environment where all can contribute, grow as an individual and with something larger than oneself, spurring opportunities that otherwise may not be realized. I find that energizing and the ideal place to raise our kids!
What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community? I guess I don’t feel it’s any one thing, but more the framework of thinking in our community. With attention and reasoning to the issues that arise — from parks, schools, libraries, and commerce to transportation — keeping open, honest communication alive and strong feels our strongest asset and best opportunity to reason through the ongoing challenges we face regarding neighborhood development.
What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? Despite the invested and mindful ways of Highland, it seems the ongoing challenge across all communities is how to further local problem solving conversations amidst our busy lives. With more minds involved in community conversation, I feel we’d gain more creative ideas, resulting in stronger, more representative solutions.
What strengths would you bring to the Highland District Council? I have a sincere interest to contribute to my community. I’m an independent thinker and lifelong learner, eager to layer new knowledge while respectful of unknowns. I ask questions, strive to be a strong listener, and respectfully engage with different view points and experiences for collaborative teamwork. Through varied work experiences, I’ve developed this foundation, and believe amongst even the most difficult challenges, we can find solutions that can be meaningful for all.

Andrew Sweetman – Grid 4

What is your connection to the Highland Park neighborhood? We moved into the neighborhood in November 2019. I have been a teacher in the St. Paul school district for the last 5 years and am happy to finally be living in the city I have served.
What makes the Highland District Council mission meaningful to you? It is extremely important to connect the individuals and families who live in this community to the decision being made on a larger scale. As a teacher in St. Paul I know first hand that everyone in the community is impacted by the choices made large scale systems. When those who are invested in the system (in this case neighbors) have a voice in the decisions being made, more equitable outcomes may be achieved.
What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community? Allowing community voices to be heard and issues to be resolved through collaboration.
What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? Learning the needs of our community members and how to achieve their goals.
What strengths would you bring to the Highland District Council? Collaboration, communication, and my relationship with the school district and teachers union.

 

Diana Tastad-Damer – Grid 4

 Diane
What is your connection to the Highland Park neighborhood? I first came to Highland Park in the fall of 2007 to attend St. Catherine University. I lived in Merriam Park for two years after graduating, but moved back to Highland after my wife and I finally found a house! I’ve had the pleasure of representing Grid 4 on the HDC since last October when our former grid rep stepped down.
What makes the Highland District Council mission meaningful to you? I grew up in a small town in northwestern Minnesota, and when I came to the “big” city for college I quickly learned how “small” St. Paul really is. The HDC’s mission reflects values that are a big part of why I love this neighborhood. I have found that the residents of Highland care about their neighbors, and embrace living in a diverse community. The vibrancy of local restaurants and businesses make Highland such a great place to live. We have an opportunity right now, as a community, to live the HDC’s mission by helping to make sure these businesses and our neighbors weather the storm of COVID-19.
What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community? There will be a lot of change coming to Highland over the next couple of decades, and we’ve already seen this year how fast change can happen. While change can be scary, it can also be exciting and an opportunity. During this unprecedented time, we have a great opportunity to build and foster new community ties. The HDC has already thought outside of the box to hold a virtual annual meeting and online voting. I want us to continue to think outside of the box to support local businesses and neighbors who are in need.
What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? I currently sit on the community engagement committee of the HDC. One challenge is making sure everyone in our community knows who and what the HDC is, and what the HDC can do for them. How do we (the HDC) keep and engage community members who work the 4-to-midnight shift, or for whom English is a second language? How can our neighbors who must be physically isolated to remain safe, not be socially isolated? I don’t have the answers to all of those questions, but I do believe by working together with our neighbors we can come up with some ideas.
What strengths would you bring to the Highland District Council? As a union organizer and representative I bring many skills to the HDC. I am a good listener, and skilled at negotiation and meditation. A big part of my job is making sure I understand the concerns that other people have, and helping them communicate those concerns to others. These are skills that have been useful in HDC meetings and in understanding different neighborhood concerns.