Liz Terborg Sporrer is running for the at large seat in the 2019 City Council election on November 5th. Sporrer is running against Chris Meyers and incumbent Tony Bokhoven.
Full interview with Liz:
Written Responses from the PACE Alliance City Council Candidate Forum:
1. What is the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity for the City of Pella? What unique experience would you personally bring as a City Councilor to help address the challenge and opportunity that you identified?
“Pella is staring down a critical point in its journey. Founded by those willing to take risks, Pella has made a name for itself as a beautiful town with a hardworking population dedicated to values we consider foundational. Our citizens have built it all – from big global businesses to small personalized experiences. Our biggest opportunity lies in our people. We have a city full of active people living full lives. They’re movers and shakers, dreamers and creators. Our city’s biggest challenge has, quite frankly, been our leaders blocking wanted opportunities from coming to life. We are at a turning point. Decisions need to be made that encourage our community members to keep dreaming, keep contributing and keep taking the risks that have always made Pella stands out as the community to live in, work in and play in. I’m bringing the voice of those not currently represented in our council. That voice is desperately needed: young professionals. As gatekeepers of change, the City Council’s challenge lies in skewed representation. Pella is full of young families and individuals building their lives here. Without this important perspective represented when it comes time to address the issues that face the future generations of Pella, we miss our voices being heard, our priorities being respected and meaningful change impacting our daily lives.”
2. Whether earned or unearned, Pella has a reputation for not always being business friendly (e.g., difficult to open or expand a business, restrictive regulations, lengthy approval process, etc.). What role should the City Council play in helping the community overcome that perception? As a City Councilor what is your vision for encouraging our existing businesses and corporations to expand in or attracting new businesses to Pella?
“This is a theme I have heard grow louder and louder over the last few years. The frustration is real within our community. What has been so neat to see is the way our bigger employers have stepped up and made things happen in our town. I, and our entire community should, thank our organizations for their commitment to our community and willingness to invest. Without their support, we would be in a very different place. However, this responsibility should not lie on our businesses, nor is it fair for smaller investors to need to rely on our organizations. My vision for City Council is to bring together existing businesses along with city and community support to attract new businesses that are desired by our community. Additionally, whether this difficult reputation is earned or unearned, this perception will become reality. City leadership needs to be inclusive and welcoming in their approach to investors willing to take risks in and for this community. A collective effort, fostered by the city, can bring a shift in our thinking as we all work together for the betterment of our future.”
3. In thinking about your role as a City Councilor, how can the business and corporate community support you in your role on the City Council?
“There is so much potential in our community – our people, our history, our organizations, our work ethic. A strong dialogue must exist between businesses of all sizes and our city’s representatives and leadership. This dialogue does not exist effectively today. It needs to be about supporting each other, learning from each other and, in the end, making fair, consistent decisions that will ultimately drive economic success for our community. In turn, this sets us up for a bright future for generations to come.”
4. Generally speaking, do you view population growth as a good thing for Pella? As a City Councilor, how would you work to support efforts to grow Pella’s population?
“Growth is good for Pella. I’m not saying wild, explosive growth, but growth is necessary. If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward, and we’ve seen this as Pella’s population has hovered at the same number for nearly a decade. Yet, companies in Pella have seen significant growth and success. This raises a red flag as that means people are coming to Pella to work, but they’re not living here, they’re not spending time here and they’re not contributing from a financial perspective. We want people to come visit Pella, come live in Pella, come thrive in Pella. Population growth will be required if we want to see our community continue to stand out as a successful attraction.”
5. Workforce Availability is the biggest challenge for our business and corporate community should the City Council play in attracting new workers and retaining them once they are here?
“We have great organizations that are leading the way when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. Recognized by the state, and even at a nation level, for the new and unique ways they are attracting talent, I believe it is the city’s role to walk alongside our organizations. This isn’t limited to the larger organizations. It’s a collective improvement for all. As our bigger businesses pull in talent, they pull in families, children and friends, ultimately creating a larger talent population. It is also the city’s role to proactively create a community that attracts and retains talent. With a current estimated median age of 34.2 years, we have a large population that has vocalized their desires – requesting restaurants, breweries, dog parks and other community-based experiences. Additionally, affordable housing continues to be a much-discussed topic. I am the median age. I agree. I want to represent this group in our community in a way that it has not been represented before. I believe it is the city’s role to lead these conversations, support those who are trying to make it happen and drive these offerings in Pella. We need this young professional demographic to live and stay in our community.”
6. Think specifically about the recruitment and retention of young professionals (e.g. Millennials and GenZ). Research indicates that young professionals are choosing communities they want to live in based on affordability and quality-of-life factors such as recreation, robust restaurant and social or cultural attractions. As a City Councilor, how will you work to support the efforts of the City and the business and corporate community to attract and retain young professionals?
“Attracting and retaining talent is part of my professional role every day. Working directly with our talent acquisition team, I hear their struggle selling Pella and instead answer questions about commuting to Pella or commiserate in the difficulty to find housing. It is one of my biggest frustrations when I hear talent chose not to come to Pella because they didn’t want to make the leap of leaving their city to come to Pella. It is equally frustrating when I hear new talent is going to live in Des Moines because I believe we absolutely have the capability to be, and should be, the community of choice. Unfortunately, recent decisions by civic leadership have limited this capability. We have done ourselves an incredible disservice with the decisions that were made surrounding the brewery last year. I saw firsthand the frustration and fatigue in trying to bring something new and different to Pella. However, the issue is far bigger than a single business venture, it’s about City Council not only allowing young, talented entrepreneurs see their dream come to life, but rather support and encourage them along the way. It’s about finding ways to make things happen, not limit the city to what already exists. The city’s role needs to be one of actively looking for ways to connect to and support the vibrant population we currently have and the one we’re trying to attract.”
7. One issue of importance to young professionals with children is having access to quality and affordable childcare. The Marion County Childcare Needs Analysis released in March 2019 found that 61% of parents in the community had difficulty finding childcare. Given the results of the Analysis, what role would you play as a City Councilor in assisting the City with the need for childcare capacity for the community?
“The need for childcare has been evident for some time. Businesses, schools and others continue working towards meeting this need. The city needs to be actively participating in this conversation. Not only walking alongside these efforts, but driving the collaboration and bringing childcare offerings to our community allowing our residents the ability to live and work in Pella. I will represent the demographic of young professionals and young families. This is one important item that needs to be addressed so our community can continue to grow.”