Candidate Questionnaire: Shannon Semmerling – District 1
By Joe Bachman
STEVENS POINT — General elections are on the horizon, and the Portage County Gazette asked candidates from multiple districts questions about why voters should pen them in on April 2. Answers are verbatim.
What is your general background?
I possess a broad perspective of our community and its potential, informed by more than two decades of professional experience and personal service.
Prior to establishing Ask Shannon PR, LLC in 2014, I held communication leadership roles in athletics, healthcare, insurance, manufacturing, non-profit, philanthropy and retail. I’ve gained the trust and respect of individuals at all levels of each organization, having worked closely with volunteers to union leadership and CEOs. I understand business and have experience with membership organizations.
I’ve engaged with local government, emergency management and residents on previous occasions including communications delivery during two historic communitywide events – the Wisconsin River drawdown and in 2010 the 100-year flood.
Volunteerism is central to my belief system and I’ve served on the board of directors for the United Way of Portage County, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Makah Foundation to name just a few. I’m a third-grade reading tutor in the Learn for Life program and have served as the professional advisor to the UW-Stevens Point chapter of Public Relations Student Society of America.
I’m also a registered yoga instructor and in late 2018 launched SAYL Yoga, a passion project to help individuals connect to their breath through yoga, to neighbors through a shared experience, and to resources that have the potential to lift us all.
Since 2001, my husband Wayne and I have resided in District One in the heart of Tribecla (the TRIangle BElow CLArk Street). We both graduated from UW-Stevens Point and each returned here, following brief work periods outside of central Wisconsin after graduation.
Do you have any background in local government?
If elected, this would be my first role in local government.
However, through participation in the 14-week Citizens’ Academy this past fall, I’m now more familiar with our emergency management system and how the police (city & village), sheriff, fire and paramedic teams work together to serve our county. The understanding I gained of our EMS system, coupled with the relationships developed through this experience, will certainly help me as an alderperson in any decisions related to this talented team and community asset.
I’m also a graduate of the former Portage County Leadership Institute, a yearlong program to educate community leaders on all aspects of Portage County life, including our local government. The knowledge gained through this experience laid a solid foundation to support learning how our government functions today.
What is your vision for Stevens Point? What, if any, changes would you like to see in the city?
Simply, I envision a community where everyone feels valued, and our place is one where people choose to live and businesses thrive. When there is pride in place this resonates outward and attracts further interest. Our region has a rich history of innovation and locally we continue to expand our focus on creativity. I celebrate these efforts and encourage expanding further.
What changes, if any, would you like to see come to common council and local government?
I would encourage greater involvement from constituents and this starts by creating a culture where ideas are not only sought but also heard. We need to strip away the perception that participating in local government is complex and make it an admirable pursuit for anyone with a desire to better our community. And we could all benefit from practicing a bit more kindness toward one another so more people want to be involved.
I’ve learned many details in my journey to Election Day. The city staff has been incredibly supportive and informative with my inquiries and desire to learn more. If elected, I commit to providing education on the process to inspire more participation and hopefully, future leaders. I’d like to see a coordinated effort to identify and foster young talent interested in common council and local government.
What are your thoughts on some of the more controversial local projects? (Stanley Street, Roundabout, New City Hall)
I support forward-looking ideas that are beneficial to residents and business, while demonstrating to visitors and potential new business that we are an advancing community with much to offer.
Regarding Stanley Street….
From what I read and witnessed through the public process to arrive at a decision, it was not clear why the decision was made to convert Stanley Street from 4-to-3 lanes; especially when there were numerous reasonable requests to reconsider.
In my experience, understanding ‘why’ helps to define next steps – including identifying who could be impacted, and working together to arrive at shared understanding, then continuing with broad education and communication to further understanding and support. If the answer to ‘why’ is unknown, I’ll often pause, engage more perspectives, and seek more information before moving forward.
When part of a comprehensive plan, road diets, like roundabouts, can be a physical representation of a city’s forward momentum. However, as a resident of District One, I simply do not understand the reason for this particular project.
Regarding the Roundabout…
I’ve found the roundabout to be effective in moving traffic along and once public art is installed, I believe this could become a warm visual welcome for visitors to our city.
Regarding City Hall…
I’ve learned there are space constraints with the current facility and I’m still learning more about the issue. I look forward to participating in the forthcoming public meeting regarding a possible property swap with Portage County as a potential solution.
What, if any, housing concerns in Stevens Point would you like to see addressed?
According to the 2017 LIFE Report, affordable housing is one of our community’s four priorities (the other three being financial stability, mental health, and alcohol & other drugs), with the Report snapshot stating the number of households spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs has increased significantly in recent years. Hearing this need and recognizing that people are living differently today than in previous generations – unrelated persons living together, multi-generational families under one roof, entrepreneurs/small business owners residing where they work, etc. – I believe our housing options must reflect our community’s immediate, changing and future needs. Therefore, like most cities our size, we need to offer a variety of housing solutions.
If elected, what do you promise to do with the power of your position?
If elected on April 2 as District One Alderperson the concerns of my neighbors will be priority, using those and considering them as such, when weighing in on topics that affect the city-at-large. Alderpersons have the unique opportunity not only to represent their districts; they set the course for the city.
I promise to bring people along on the journey, readily share knowledge, and celebrate others. Because I know we are stronger together. Everyone wins when no one cares who gets the credit.