We at the TeamPurpleMN blog want to highlight local legislators because the work they do is so important to their constituents. They directly impact everyone who lives in their jurisdiction, yet few know who they are, and fewer still appreciate the time and effort they regularly put into their work. So we ask 10 questions to help provide some insight into their jobs, perspectives and issues impacting local communities.
This week, we are highlighting City Councilperson from Hastings, Lori Braucks. (since this was done over email, the Q and A was edited only for grammar/clarity).
Question 1. Hi Lori, thank you for taking some time out of your day. Tell us a little about yourself.
Ms. Braucks– I’m an eDiscovery Case Manager for Thomson Reuters by day and Mom/Council member by night. I’m a graduate of William Mitchell College of Law and UW-Eau Claire. I live in my hometown of Hastings with my husband, Tommy, two children and dog, Teddy. I love hanging with my family, traveling, reading and doing OULA at the YMCA.
Question 2. How did you get involved in local politics?
Ms. Braucks– I became involved in politics because I always wanted to change my community for the better. I’ve been writing letters to the editor and various leaders since I was a little kid. Communication is something I’m good at and there is a lot of communication required in politics. I also believe in just and fair laws so I want to be involved in making them.
Question 3: Do you feel local issues get overshadowed by national ones and hot button issues?
Ms. Braucks– The sphere of people who pay attention to local issues is far too small. While issues like roads, parks and public safety don’t seem the most glamorous, they affect our quality of life in real, tangible ways. We need more citizen involvement at every level, but certainly at the local level
Question 4: What local issues in Hastings do you see constituents most vocal about?
Ms. Braucks– I hear from constituents about a variety of topics. The most frequent concern I’ve heard is about economic themes like availability of certain chain stores and restaurants. The city’s role is to create an economic climate where businesses can thrive. How we create that climate is something I think about a lot. There is no magic answer. I think we’ve ramped up our communication about what Hastings has to offer. We can do more to streamline the processes necessary for certain licenses and approvals. We can do more to make the aesthetic aspects of our main thoroughfares more attractive. We can’t fill all the empty spaces or do it all. It’s a community effort to support our small businesses and make Hastings a welcoming place to visit and live.
Question 5. About how much time monthly do you spend in your job as councilperson?
Ms. Braucks– I spend 5-8 hours per week on average in committee, constituent communication or meetings. I try to attend as many community functions as I can. The thing that surprised me is how much mental space this role takes up. I am thinking about something city-related most of the time.
Question 6. What is the best thing about your job? What is the worst thing?
Ms. Braucks– The best thing and worst thing are closely related. The best thing is seeing all the good and positive investments many people are making in our community. There is a story every day about something heroic or charitable going on in Hastings. It makes me so proud.
The tough thing about being an elected official is seeing all the community need and not having enough resources or expertise to address all the needs.
Question 7. Do you see yourself working in elected office 10 years from now?
Ms. Braucks– I don’t know if I’ll be an elected official in 10 years. I will if the residents want me to be. I enjoy the job and people.
Question 8. Do you see current polarization seeping into the local level? How do you build consensus?
Ms. Braucks– Yes, the polarization is happening at the local level. I am a person that tries very hard to respect other viewpoints and ideas. But ideas matter especially in policy making. We all bring our values, experiences and beliefs to the table. I think the key is respectful disagreement and forging stronger relationships on the council as a team. We get more done even we’re working towards the same goal and vision. It’s really challenging to do that when the “team” changes every two years (election cycle).
Question 9. Any advice for those who would want to run for office someday?
Ms. Braucks– It’s a tough gig but we need good people to do it who are truly interested in serving the public. We do not need people who want to use politics for their personal gain. I think it’s best to have a broad agenda at the local level and not to get mired in partisanship.
Question 10. Parting thoughts– anything else you would like to offer to those reading out there?
Ms. Braucks– There are always local opportunities to serve on commissions and citizen committees. I think everyone interested in politics should try it out by serving on a commission. I was on our Charter Commission for several years before I ran for city council. If it’s in your heart, go for it!
Thanks Lori for your time.
Would you like to suggest someone for an spotlight interview? Please let us at the TeamPurpleMN know and we’ll be glad to contact them.