City Council candidates talk childcare, economic development – The Globe


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WORTHINGTON — Candidates for Worthington City Council took part in a candidate forum Tuesday night at the Worthington Event Center. The event was hosted by FORWARD Worthington’s Governmental Affairs Committee.

Representing Worthington’s Ward 1 were incumbent Larry Janssen and challenger Christina Adame. Janssen, now retired, has served as a city council member since 2014. Adame is an engineer at Highland Manufacturing and moved to Worthington nine years ago.

Ward 2 incumbent Alaina Kolpin, who was

appointed

to fill the remainder of the late councilman Mike Harmon’s term in 2021, faces challengers in local business owner Nathalie Nkashama and JBS’ strategy health manager America Voss.

Early on, moderator Michelle Ebbers received a question from the crowd about what candidates’ top priorities would be, should they be elected.

Worthington City Council Ward 1 candidates include Larry Janssen (left), and Christina Esther Adame.

Worthington City Council Ward 1 candidates include Larry Janssen (left), and Christina Esther Adame.

Tim Middagh/The Globe

“My top priorities would be to get a better wage scale out there,” Janssen said, noting he has repeatedly heard from community members that low pay continues to be an obstacle in Worthington.

For Nkashama, dealing with the housing situation in Worthington and addressing the workforce shortage is a necessity.

Both Adame and Voss stated that fostering relationships among Worthington’s diverse population was a priority, with Adame adding that bringing in and retaining young people was a must for the city.

Additionally, Voss said improving the city’s childcare situation is something she would like to focus on, a sentiment echoed by Kolpin, who stated she has worked with Mayor Mike Kuhle on this topic as a city council member.

Kolpin also identified investments in infrastructure and promoting economic development in a way that is “fiscally responsible” as top priorities.

Following Voss and Kolpin’s comments on childcare, the

2021 study done

by First Children’s Finance was mentioned. The study identified a significant gap in accessible childcare in Worthington.

Kolpin said the city and county are in the process of doing what they can to address the growing need for additional childcare in Worthington, having obtained a

$75,000 grant

from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development. Partnering with organizations like First Children’s Finance and the Community Economic Development Associates has allowed the city to explore several different avenues.

“I think it’s really going to be important to continue looking for grants to establish these (childcare) programs because it costs a lot of money to get the facility ready or expand a current facility,” Kolpin said. “Another thing is just supporting those existing providers … providing them with whatever resources they need and support, and then exploring partnerships with other entities and businesses to get projects off the ground.”

Nkashama noted she was glad to see the city working with CEDA, and said she would encourage following the example of Rushmore as it works to develop a potential pod-based childcare center inside an existing school building. Providing non-English childcare training in order to bridge language barriers was also proposed by the Ward 2 candidate.

“I would love to work side by side with the bigger businesses … to see what are the needs,” said Adame, echoing statements from Voss that educating people interested in pursuing childcare was a must.

Janssen said while he was eager to see new childcare providers in Worthington, current regulations were in place for a reason and largely out of the city’s control.

City Council Ward 2 candidates include Nathalie Nkashama (from left), America Voss and Alaina Kolpin.

City Council Ward 2 candidates include Nathalie Nkashama (from left), America Voss and Alaina Kolpin.

Tim Middagh/The Globe

The topic of economic development was a common theme during Tuesday’s forum, with questions on how to bolster partnerships between the city and businesses, drawing in workers, and paying for recent amenities to the city.

All candidates acknowledge that the additions of amenities like the new JBS Fieldhouse and the Worthington Aquatic Center will benefit the city, with Kolpin saying the recent additions were requested and voted on by the Worthington community.

“If we want more, we’re going to have to spend more,” said Voss during her allotted answer time. “So the more that we bring to the community, we need to understand that the value is absolutely not for free.”

After receiving a question about how to retain young people to the area, Nkashama again brought up the development of amenities, advocating for services geared more toward young adults, such as reopening the bowling alley on Oxford Street.

“I believe in building things that will keep (young people) occupied here in town, nice, recreation places,” she said. “They’re leaving because it’s not fun for them. This generation, they like it fun. Let’s make Worthington fun.”

Adame agreed that more recreational activities aimed at young people would be a benefit to the city, though Voss said changing the perception of Worthington would go a long way.

Similarly, Kolpin advocated for “showing the beauty of Worthington” as it is, while focusing on bolstering employment and education opportunities, in order to help bring young people to the city.

Candidates were also asked about how to foster connections with Worthington’s diverse constituents. Janssen said taking a neighborly approach with people would go a long way. Kolpin acknowledged that during her 21 months as a city councilwoman, she hasn’t been able to connect with some of Worthington’s residents, and would like to create opportunities for one-on-one dialogue to hear from community members.

Worthinton Ward Women candidates (from left) Nathalie Nkashama, Alaina Kolpin, America Voss and Christina Esther Adame at the Worthington Events center for a City Council Forum Tuesday evening.

Four women are vying for seats on the Worthington City Council next month, including Nathalie Nkashama (from left), incumbent Alaina Kolpin, America Voss and Christina Esther Adame. They stood for a photo Tuesday evening at the Worthington Event Center. Also a candidate is incumbent Larry Janssen.

Tim Middagh/The Globe

Meanwhile, Voss and Nkashama pointed to their pre-established ties with minority communities as something that could be used, if elected, with Nkashama highlighting her background in multiple languages as a beneficial tool for reaching people. Both impressed a need for outreach and going out to meet with people when opportunities arise.

Adame said her involvement in multiple boards had helped her already with fostering connections in Worthington, and she is more than happy to make herself available to talk with people in the community.

As the evening neared its end, each candidate assured that, should they not be elected, they plan to stay civically engaged with Worthington, in order to continue making the city a better place to live.

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