West 7th/Fort Federation Candidates Offer Values, Insights

Dana DeMaster Candidate for President 

What makes the Federation mission meaningful to you? Why are you interested in being a Board member? It is important to “bloom where you are planted,” meaning that I have a responsibility to contribute positively in my community. There are many ways to do that, but for me, board leadership with the Fort Road Federation is a clear and direct way to influence and shape my community. I want to live in a community with schools, businesses, and social/recreational opportunities nearby so that the community is supportive to all — whether that is families like mine, an elderly person who wants to age in place, a business looking to expand, or a new resident looking for connections.

What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community? Through my work on the Federation board I have been privileged to engage with many neighbors. Again and again I hear that the people are the greatest asset of the neighborhood. This is so true, and the Federation has been investing in outreach and building capacity of neighbors to be engaged in a myriad of ways. I want to continue and grow that work so we can build on our greatest asset. 

What do you see as the primary challenges for our community?  We share many of the same challenges the rest of the city faces — housing affordability, aging housing stock, stressed infrastructure, and economic vitality and diversity. Demographic changes are impacting us as Baby Boomers age and new young people move in. How do we support each other through these transitions and changing needs?

What skills or strengths would you bring to the Federation’s Board of Directors?  I have a growing knowledge of the organization and its needs, strengths, and challenges as current president. I am a skilled facilitator and have a leadership style that is focused on mission and strategy while building on the diverse skills, time, and talent of community members to achieve that mission. Professionally, I work in program evaluation and bring more than 15 years’ experience in strategic planning, performance measurement, and program development, as well as staff supervision and management.

What is your connection to the West 7th neighborhood? I have been a resident of the neighborhood since 2015 and a St. Paul resident for 16 years. I served as an Area III coordinator in 2018 and board president in 2019.

Wendy Underwood Candidate for 1st Vice President

What makes the Federation mission meaningful to you? Why are you interested in being a Board member? The core role of the Fort Road Federation is to ensure equitable opportunity throughout our community. I live by these values, both professionally as an employee at Catholic Charities and personally as a West 7th resident and volunteer. I have truly enjoyed furthering this goal as a Federation board member.

What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community?  We are showing the region it is possible to meld old and new, leverage artistry for economic development, and blend generations of West 7th neighbors with new, diverse families. Our awesome neighborhood associations are drivers of this success; they need our consistent support. It is important these values are reflected in our District 9 Plan currently being updated for submission to the City.

What do you see as the primary challenges for our community?  West 7th’s growing vitality is inherently its biggest challenge; as we navigate this growth, it is critical we maintain affordable single-family homes and business rents, improve pedestrian and bike safety, and ensure new developments honor and maintain West 7th’s identity. We also need to do more as a community to address the needs of our children, seniors, and people with disabilities.

What skills or strengths would you bring to the Federation’s Board of Directors?  I have been on the Board for two years and am very excited with the work underway to stabilize our budget in a changing economy; expand our board membership and outreach; and grow our community engagement efforts. There are a few things I would like to see over the finish line and so am seeking a one-year term to continue my service. I would be honored and humbled to be able to continue with this awesome group!

What is your connection to the West 7th neighborhood?

My husband and I are the proud owners of a Lauer Brother home in the Little Bohemia Neighborhood. Over this time, I have been a member of the West 7th Community Center and Community Reporter boards, I have helped small businesses enter into the neighborhood, and I’ve been a champion for neighbors at City Hall. Last year we participated in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul Home Tour as a way to promote our fantastic neighborhood.

Tracy Farr: Candidate for 2nd Vice President 

What makes the Federation mission meaningful to you? Why are you interested in being a Board member? People. People living in community with one another. I see the Federation working together to provide opportunities for the people around us to thrive as we seek the common good.

What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community?  Everyone should regard our neighborhood council as a forum of ideas where they will be heard and exposed to alternate views, and then join in determining the direction of our community. Engagement fosters understanding, and understanding diminishes fear and resentment. The redesign of the Riverview Corridor offers the chance to better connect people to our local businesses and the neighbors who live and work along the route, increasing both the safety and the vitality of West 7th.

What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? Too many people feel isolated. If they felt free to share activities and ideas with their neighbors, they could discover that others share their interests and views, or they might find that we delight in their difference. Maintaining a broad spectrum of housing options would allow various people to enjoy and contribute to the life of our neighborhoods. We need to expand our tax base so that moderate rates can fund the services we expect.

What skills or strengths would you bring to the Federation’s Board of Directors? Natural curiosity and active listening skills mean that I can completely disagree yet remain fascinated to understand how or why someone holds a different opinion. Cordial relationships with elected officials at the city, county, state, and federal level have evolved from my years of experience advocating policies and positions with them. My career and long service on the executive board of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota puts me equally at ease in the political, business and nonprofit spheres.

What is your connection to the West 7th neighborhood?  We chose to live and grow our family here seventeen years ago because the blue-collar, immigrant history of this place reminded us of our Pittsburgh roots. The access to downtown and the airport remains vital assets to us, as are the local businesses that earn the vast majority of our spending. I gladly serve as a precinct chair, but I’m interested in any way to promote the well-being of our neighborhood and the common vision for this part of our city.

Nicole Loran: Candidate for Treasurer

What makes the Federation mission meaningful to you? Why are you interested in being a Board member? It embodies a sense of community and community pride. It says to me we want to make West 7th neighborhood a place people want to come to and can thrive in.

What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community? The opportunities to tap into all the different views of both those living in the community and those working or owning business here. West-7thers are very proud of being West-7thers and using that pride to make the neighborhood somewhere business want to open or people want to live will only help the community thrive.

What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? We have a very diverse community where people know what the community needs. The challenge is trying not to do too much at once but being able to strategically plan and organize what will have the most impact and do that the best we can.

What skills or strengths would you bring to the Federation’s Board of Directors? I have worked in the accounting world for 15 years. I have mainly worked with small to midsize growing companies establishing budget processes and cashflow investment scenarios.

What is your connection to the West 7th neighborhood? I have lived in the neighborhood for 5 years now.

Secretary Position Vacant

Area 1 Coordinator Candidates (three positions available, one of which is dedicated to a renter).

Jessica Callahan (eligible for renter-dedicated position): Candidate for Area I Coordinator

What makes the Federation mission meaningful to you? Why are you interested in being a Board member?  I truly love this neighborhood and want to be part of its change for the Positive. I like being part of the Solution.

What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community? Keeping a vibrant mix of people in our Neighborhood. Keeping older folks in their homes and adding young families into the mix. Promoting Artists and new retail without compromising the History of our great area.

What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? Promoting growth and renovation without gentrification. Finding the balance between progress and everyday life.

What skills or strengths would you bring to the Federation’s Board of Directors? Lived in the Area for six+ years and know many of my neighbors. I work in the neighborhood at the Keg & Case. Did theatre for 15 years, I know how to work in a group toward a common goal. I can speak well in front of a large group.

What is your connection to the West 7th neighborhood? Lived here as a renter for 6+ years. We live three houses away from the Grand Oak Opry.

Casey Carmody (eligible for renter-dedicated position): Candidate for Area I Coordinator

What makes the Federation mission meaningful to you? Why are you interested in being a Board member?

I find significant value in the Federation’s mission to advocate and build our local community. As I’ve continued to live in the West Seventh neighborhood, I’ve come to appreciate the close, rich community we have as it has grown and diversified. This appreciation has developed a desire in me to join an organization that is instrumental to West Seventh’s growth and strategic direction. I want to help the Board continue to build a strong community throughout the West Seventh area, and I believe membership on the Board would help me give back to the community I love.

What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community?  The greatest opportunity for the West Seventh neighborhood is that people are viewing it as a desirable place to be. We’ve had an influx of new residents, businesses, and organizations join our neighborhood in the past several years, which has made West Seventh an exciting place to live, shop, and work. Building a neighborhood like this doesn’t happen by accident, and I believe we should continue to find ways to attract vibrant and diverse neighbors to West Seventh.

What do you see as the primary challenges for our community?  In the same breath, the fact that West Seventh is such a desirable place to be also creates substantial challenges. As our neighborhood continues to grow and change, I think we face the risk of losing the feeling of a strong, connected community. However, the solution isn’t to become insular and turn potential community members away. Rather, we must work hard to integrate new members into our community, share its rich history, and solicit their ideas about what type of community they desire to create with us.

What skills or strengths would you bring to the Federation’s Board of Directors? I am well-versed in communication skills through my educational and professional background. I can bring these listening, speaking, and negotiating skills to the Board to help find common ground among members and within the West Seventh community. I’m always willing to work with others, even those whom I may occasionally disagree with, to find solutions to complex problems. I will not hesitate to speak up and take leadership roles to ensure the Board’s vision is met while also willingly join teams as a supporter to carry out the work to successfully meet Board goals.

What is your connection to the West 7th neighborhood?  I’ve been a resident of the West Seventh area for eight years, and I’ve been a renter the entire time. I’ve seen the exciting new developments and addition of several new businesses in the neighborhood. I walk along West Seventh on my way to work near the Capitol, and I regularly visit many of the businesses in the neighborhood. I’ve been a member of this community for a while, and I would be honored to serve the West Seventh neighborhood as a member of the Fort Road Federation.

Margaret Hinrichs (home owner): Candidate for Area I Coordinator

What makes the Federation mission meaningful to you? Why are you interested in being a Board member?  I have lived in the area for six years, I worked in the area in the 80s for two years, as a block organizer for West 7th Community Center. I love the history, and diversity of the area.

What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community? To continue to grow, with respect for the values of our past, and an eye to emphasize our diversity.

What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? We are a desired neighborhood. We need to remain focused on what we value, and not to give in to easy, or short-term efforts.

What skills or strengths would you bring to the Federation’s Board of Directors? My past experience as a social worker in nonprofit organizations with a goal of personal and community well-being.

What is your connection to the West 7th neighborhood? I own a home on Superior Street. I have worked as a member of the West Seventh Enhancement Committee of the West 7th Business Association, I am a member of St. Stan’s Parish.

Elyse Jensen: Candidate for Area I Coordinator

What makes the Federation mission meaningful to you? Why are you interested in being a Board member? I deeply love our community and have put down roots to raise a family, run a business, and live vibrantly here. I’m interested in being a Board Member, because I’ve seen the opportunities and challenges West 7th has faced in the years I have lived here and would like to take a more proactive role in advocating for and planning what happens in my neighborhood.

What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community?  The unique location, character, and history of our community makes us a gem within the City of St. Paul and desirable for investment and growth. I believe our greatest opportunity is to preserve what makes us special while adapting to exciting growth and changes. We have the tools and drive to include everyone in the discussion and create a vision of how major projects and investment will impact our neighborhood.

What do you see as the primary challenges for our community?  Our community is in the midst of unprecedented uncertainty. On every level of our lives, we will be navigating the aftermath of a global pandemic and the economic and social changes that result. Our City has already faced budget, infrastructure, housing, and crime challenges. We need steady, informed, and inclusive leadership, now more than ever, as we navigate these issues in an even more challenging environment.

What skills or strengths would you bring to the Federation’s Board of Directors?  I spend my days helping families and small businesses be their best financial selves and have served in local, state, and federal leadership positions for both industry and community organizations. I have advocated to both state and federal elected officials on complex professional topics, and even provided council to small business owners in third world countries. Through working with such a broad spectrum of people, I’ve honed my ability to communicate complex topics in a relatable, meaningful and understandable way.

What is your connection to the West 7th neighborhood?  I have been a resident of our neighborhood for almost seven years. During that time, I’ve established my small business, started my family, and restored my historic home. We love West 7th!

Area 2 Coordinator Candidates (3 positions available, one of which is dedicated to a renter).

Kelsey Peterson (eligible for renter-dedicated position): Candidate for Area II Coordinator

What makes the Federation mission meaningful to you? Why are you interested in being a Board member?  The words: a place where people want to live work and play resonate with me. West 7th is a working class, working, living and unique place. I am drawn to being on the board to offer my insights about my aspect of the community and to continue to help build the connections between small business, neighbors, the natural world, and the people that inhabit this area!

What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community?  Greater involvement of young people, LGBTQ people and POC. We have a lot of people living in our community that don’t have a lot of representation, including our substantial homeless community. West 7th as a community is privileged in being a representative for so many groups and it would be great to see those groups participating in more community events in spaces that are accessible to those people.

What do you see as the primary challenges for our community?  Lack of representation and lack of resources for lower income and young people in the area. We are also in a time of a lot of isolation for people. Many people young and old are starving for community.

What skills or strengths would you bring to the Federation’s Board of Directors? I am a young person, in my 30s, and a renter at Schmidt, which provides me with a diverse view of our population. I am a trained actor and feel comfortable in public speaking and activism positions. I grew up in this neighborhood so have seen how the neighborhood has changed and feel a duty to serve the community.

What is your connection to the West 7th neighborhood? I grew up in Irvine Park right off West 7th. I spent much of my childhood biking along West 7th, playing at Palace playground, getting groceries at Mississippi Market and Cooper’s and spending a lot of time near the river. I now live in Schmidt Artist Lofts and I am getting reacquainted with this aspect of the community.

Area 3 Coordinator Candidates (3 positions available, one of which is dedicated to a renter)

Tanya Beck: Candidate for Area III Coordinator

What makes the Federation mission meaningful to you? Why are you interested in being a Board member?  After almost a year on the board, I’ve reinforced my commitment to the neighborhood and making the board reflect the neighborhood and its interests. It wasn’t enough time! There is much more to be done.

What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community?  I think we as a board need to figure that out, by better engaging more of the community. We have honed in on a couple of things from feedback from neighbors, including affordable housing, transportation and green initiatives.

What do you see as the primary challenges for our community?  There are a lot of underutilized assets and resources in this community — arts organizations, community centers, services, events and other ways to connect with each other. I think making sure that everyone knows about them and has an opportunity to connect in a meaningful way is important.

What skills or strengths would you bring to the Federation’s Board of Directors? I’ve spent over ten years of my career making sure that folks have fair access to housing. I’ve learned to communicate across barriers. I am energized to engage folks to have a voice in the direction of the board and the neighborhood.

What is your connection to the West 7th neighborhood? I have lived in the neighborhood for over 15 years. I also work along West 7th for a nonprofit housing organization.

Meghan Redmond: Candidate for Area III Coordinator

What makes the Federation mission meaningful to you? Why are you interested in being a Board member?

To have a vibrant community where all can live, learn, and grow, there needs to be physical, social, and economic opportunities for all. The Fort Road Federation is a steward of the community to ensure the neighborhood has these qualities into the future. As a neighbor who loves this community and has a family, I am invested in making sure that our community remains vibrant.

What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community?  The greatest opportunity is to be a strategic player within the development of the Riverview Corridor. The community is at a critical juncture and we must acknowledge our history, but not let history limit our potential to grow and evolve our community in a healthy and productive way. Included in this is to be forward thinking to the challenge all communities will face as our population ages and the importance of developing and stewarding the growth of a neighborhood that is relevant to all people across the spectrum of age, economic status and ethnicity.

What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? West 7th is in the midst of multiple transitions. Our neighborhood is in demand with new restaurants and breweries, small businesses, and housing being developed at a rapid pace. In addition, longtime residents need access to amenities and services to meet their changing needs, new residents need community resources for growing families, and our growing artistic community needs opportunities to showcase their work. Ensuring that our neighborhood is diverse and inclusive ethnically, economically, and socially; be walkable, approachable, and supportive of all of our residents’ needs, is our primary challenge.

What skills or strengths would you bring to the Federation’s Board of Directors?  I have more than 12 years of professional experience in volunteer management and community engagement — currently with AARP. In addition to being a current board member with the Fort Road Federation, I’ve also served on other working boards. I’ve worked with diverse communities and understand the issues that individuals of all ages and families across the economic spectrum face. Currently, I’m finishing my Masters in Public Affairs at the U of M with a concentration in community engagement and program evaluation.

What is your connection to the West 7th neighborhood? I’ve lived in the West 7th Neighborhood for seven years and my husband bought our home 11 years ago. My children attend neighborhood schools and on a typical weekend can be found at Palace or Keg and Case. My husband and I both work nearby, and have built up our social network around the great people here, and when not working can usually be found in Mojo Monkey, Skinner’s, JR Mac’s, Joe and Stan’s, or Clutch Brewing, in which we have invested, and we would never miss the Annual Spaghetti Dinner at West 7th Community Center.

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