Carrie Evans — Minot City Council Q&A
Carrie Evans says she wants to bring a fresh and different voice to the Minot City Council. She is one of five candidates seeking three seats in the June 9 city election.
Evans grew up in Minot and graduated from Bishop Ryan and Minot State University. She left the state to pursue her master’s and law degrees. She worked in the areas of domestic violence and human rights, spending 27 years in Lousiana, Washington, D.C., and Maryland before returning to Minot in 2017.
Evans provided the following answers to questions from the Minot Daily News about city government.
Does the city need more office space, and if so, what do you feel is the best option to create more space?
According to external and internal reports, the City needs more office space. The current plan is to purchase the old Wells Fargo building. This space appears to meet the City’s identified needs, including moving the 911 dispatch center. While I agree the City needs to devise a solution for the lack of office space and keeping our 911 dispatch center safe from a flood; I would approach our solution cautiously. There is still too much unknown about the impact of COVID-19 on Minot’s economy and until we get an accurate assessment of this, we should be holding off on big expenditures like this.
What is your position on the council’s decision to terminate City Manager Tom Barry? What should the city do differently in developing a city manager contract and establishing a positive work environment in the future?
The City Council is the elected leadership of Minot, and I respect that. They are elected, in part, to make difficult decisions. We expect them to consider the information and make thoughtful and informed decisions; with the ultimate goal of doing what is best for Minot – its residents, its businesses and its employees. I believe the members of City Council did their due diligence before casting their votes on whether to terminate the City Manager’s contract.
There are at least two things I would advocate for doing differently in the hiring process for a City Manager. First, I believe the process should be subject to the Open Meetings law. In the past, the hiring committee for City Managers has not been subject to these laws (because there has not been more than three Council members on the hiring committee). If elected, I would advocate for a committee comprised of any of the seven City Council members (who are interested and able), some department heads, and at least three rank and file city employees. All of hiring committee meetings (expect those that require an executive session) would be open to the public for observation. I believe City Council needs to be more transparent in doing the work of the City, and I will urge transparency whenever possible. Second, I will not support a “golden parachute” clause in any contract the City makes with an employee. These clauses providing guaranteed money to a terminated employee are wrong.
To be sure, there is a lot of dissatisfaction among City employees. Rebuilding trust and morale is not going to happen overnight. It will come when City leaders make a genuine commitment to engaging in the work to turn this around. Part of this will come from hearing from rank and file staff. Currently, much of what City Council hears is filtered through department heads. I don’t think this process fosters complete truthfulness. I think we need to provide city employees the opportunity to be honest about their work environments, without fear of retaliation. Employees, whether they work in government or private industry, want to know that they matter. They want to be appreciated and have input into their work environment. As an employer, I believe Minot can do better. I would welcome the opportunity to work with my colleagues and City employees to make the workplace everything it can and should be.
What would be your goals for the National Disaster Resilience Program as the city works to designate and spend funds by September 2022?
Most of the NDR Program funds are designated for existing activities we see going on around the city. It is my understanding there may be funds for one or two more activities. My goal would be to get up to speed on the NDRP – how much money do we have committed and/or designated for current activities? And, how much is left to spend by September 2022? I would rely on Mr. Zakian (the NDR Program Manager) and his deep knowledge of the history and implementation of this program in Minot to guide my ideas as we work to ensure we use the funds in the best way before the deadline.
The coronavirus pandemic has affected the city’s revenues by an amount estimated at more than $6 million, which would be partially offset by a council decision to delay construction of a fire station and City Hall retaining wall. How do you feel the City of Minot should respond to that potential shortfall and what do you see as areas of cost savings that could be either immediate or long term?
We don’t know the precise economic impact the pandemic will have on Minot. I think we need to wait until we are on the other side of it to make final decisions. If there is a shortfall, then the Council will be in the unenviable position of having to make hard decisions when it comes to the budget. If a shortfall comes to fruition, I think the Council can look at several areas: (1) thoroughly reviewing new, unfunded projects; especially those that involve local funding; (2) exploring opportunities to increase funding on State match projects; (3) exploring not filling (temporarily) open jobs in the City. However, I will not support any effort that seeks to close budget deficiencies that involves cutting or freezing guaranteed pay increases or benefits to our City employees (4) increasing our collaboration with private businesses to stretch our City dollars farther. I think our collaboration with Trinity on the CTE (Center for Technical Excellence) is a great example of this model.
What is one initiative or project you would like to see the city pursue in the next four years?
This is not something I can answer right now. If elected, I will hold town halls across the City to hear from residents on their thoughts and answers to this question. Often, elected officials assume, with little or no public input, what the important initiatives and projects are. I am not of that ilk; I think the people who live and work in Minot should provide input for what projects and initiatives we pursue as a community. Certainly, there are projects like flood control and ensuring an adequate water supply that are mandatory and non-negotiable, but there are also projects and initiatives the public should help guide. I think we have a lot of smart and engaged people in this City and there is no downside to listening and a willingness to hear new ideas.
What are your top three priorities when it comes to city spending?
First, increasing the transparency of the budget (revenue and spending) and allowing for more citizen input into the process. I, (and hopefully my fellow Council members and department heads) would hold an annual “Taxpayer Night.” This event would occur before the priorities are set for the budget. It would allow for taxpayers to get a better sense of what money is coming in and what the Council’s initial thoughts are on spending priorities. It allows taxpayers to ask questions and provide input into how the City plans to spend their money. Second, I will not support initiatives that spend money the City does not have, (or have a great likelihood of getting) and third, ensuring we maintain and improve city services and retain our city employees.
Please describe your background and the perspectives you would bring to the city council.
We moved to Minot (from Regina) when I was 11 years old. My Dad is a retired Air Force Master Sergeant and worked with the U.S. Postal Service after that. My parents live in Minot, as do my sister and brother.
After graduating from MSU in 1990, I left Minot to attend graduate school in Illinois. From there, I went to law school and held jobs in Louisiana, Washington D.C. and Maryland. In 2017 I returned to Minot; not sure I was going to stay. However, the Minot I moved back to is a lot different than when I left in 1990. Some of that may have been my perspectives from having lived away for almost 30 years and from being older and wiser! Regardless, it was a Minot I loved and wanted to remain in. Moreover, being in the same city with my parents and siblings and my two nephews, is such a blessing. My professional background has focused on policy and state legislative work and working with survivors of domestic violence. If elected, my experience with state legislatures will definitely be an asset to Minot when leaders go to Bismarck and weigh in on bills impacting Minot. My full resume is available on my website, www.Evans4Minot.com.
If elected, the voters of Minot will get:
– Someone who speaks her mind and is willing to ask the hard questions and take unpopular positions.
– Someone who is not the “same old thing.”
– Someone who will work hard to ensure residents have opportunities to genuinely participate in our City government.
– Someone who is not afraid of trying new things. Sometimes, there are different perspectives or ways of doing things and we can’t be afraid to move out of our comfort zone, “because that is how we have always done it.” Sure, there will be times it won’t work, but that should not make us afraid to try.
– Someone whose core value is integrity. Everything I do, in my private and professional life, is done with 100% integrity. This is one of my indelible traits.
– Someone who treats everyone with respect and dignity; even when we may not agree. A healthy democracy rests on the civil and respectful exchange of different perspectives and I am committed to this goal.
– Someone who knows that being elected is getting hired by voters to do an important job. The voters are my bosses. No one else.