Ariel Ross

Stillwater

To the editor:

Dear Stillwater friends,

I am writing to say that I am running for Seat #4 of the Stillwater City Council. Honestly, it feels like a strange, even a crazy time to be doing that. I can’t imagine that the current councilors anticipated the kinds of decisions they have had to make this year, any more than we all could have expected the uneasy compromises, awkward conversations, or the everyday heartbreak of numbers that represent people, that have come to characterize life during a pandemic. So why, now, did I choose to run?

I want to help, if I can, though I’m under no illusion that I have answers other people don’t. In a normal time, I would list the experiences I think have prepared me for serving on the City Council, and as they’re still relevant, here they are: I am a teacher, so I get practice every day listening to people, working to understand their questions, and making confusing things more clear. I served a three-year term on the Stillwater Planning Commission, where I was regularly a part of conversations about how we use land, and how decisions about land use foster a healthy, harmonious community.

I spent one year as the Planning Commission representative to the Board of Adjustments, where I saw firsthand the conflicts that can arise between neighbor and neighbor, or between residents and businesses – the inescapable frictions of a diverse community. And I have been a member of the Block 34 Trust for several years, which has introduced me to so many people who care about the soul and identity of Stillwater. The Trust has partnered with organizations that value beauty, culture, sustainability, and accessibility – things that contribute to a higher quality of life for all of us. This range of experience has given me a broad view of how the City of Stillwater continues to redefine itself, from our big dreams for the future to the nuts and bolts of how we try to realize them. The City Councilors stand square in the middle of this, as the elected voices of the community, and I think I could make a valuable contribution to their work.

Yet it is not a normal time, and I would argue that another set of qualifications are also needed in any person who aspires to hold a position of power now, at any level. We need community leaders who have experienced uncertainty, anxiety and loss. We need people making financial decisions who haven’t always been in a position of financial security. We need decisions about transportation and development to include the voices of people who have relied on a public bus, or a bike, or their own feet to get to work, or get their shopping done.

Though I’m fortunate in many ways, I have lived with loss, I have agonized about how to stretch my paycheck to the end of the month, I spent years without a car, getting around however I could. As a City Councilor I would listen to and stand up for the members of our community who are the most vulnerable. My family has been hit by some hard times since we’ve lived in Stillwater, and in response the Stillwater community embraced us and helped us. So I want to help now, if I can.

Thank you for reading; I hope for your support. More than that, right now I hope that you are safe, that your loved ones are healthy, and that you have the support you need.

I look forward to meeting with you and talking about Stillwater, my hopes for it – and yours.

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