Christen Mitchell is one of four candidates seeking election to Saline City Council this November. She is running along with incumbents Janet Dillon and Dean Girbach and Mike Gudith. Council members are elected to two-year terms that begin in January.
Meet Christen Mitchell.
Name: Christen Arnold Mitchell
Family: Michael McVey, husband; children Abby-21, Meredith-19, Bethany-12
Education: Saline High School; Bachelor of Science, Eastern Michigan University; Master of Arts, Eastern Michigan University
Career experience: I hold two part-time positions: I’m a teaching assistant at University of Michigan’s Medical School, where I help medical students improve their patient experience and communication skills; also a floral designer right in downtown Saline at Maureen’s Designs. My past work includes program coordination at Eastern Michigan University’s Office of Research Development during my graduate school years.
Government experience: City of Saline Zoning Board of Appeals and Arts and Culture Committee
Volunteer experience: Over the past twenty years I have volunteered for Girl Scouts of America, PTO, Saline’s Holy Faith Church, the Saline Be Green Committee, and Saline Main Street.
Why are you running for election?
I grew up in Saline and believe deeply in giving back to my community. My experience on city committees, including Zoning Board of Appeals, has deepened my knowledge of city processes and issues which remain as interesting to me now as they did my first day.
Why should Saline voters elect you?
I have strong critical thinking skills and a deep technical skillset that, combined with a cool head and steady manner, will be good assets when working with my fellow council members. My interest is listening to our community as best I can and working to help find solutions to our challenges.
Describe your approach to solving problems and making decisions in a group setting?
I believe less in my own power as one person and more that I am a member of a strong team consisting of my fellow council members, our mayor, wonderful city staff, and other layers of local and state government. I listen well, am comfortable researching best practices, and adept at shaping policy to follow them. I am open-minded, positive, cordial, and thoughtful. In other words, I try to be the kind of person I want to work with.
The City of Saline has many identified needs, but limited financial resources. What do you see as the priorities for spending?
We need to spend our dollars responsibly and make good decisions that will serve us well over the long-term. For example, I greatly appreciate our superior city services. I believe they offer extraordinary value when attracting new homeowners and business to our area and as a result are a worthwhile investment.
How should a city council member engage with the public?
As a city counselor, I will be open to listening to many different opinions and willing to do the work to help my community. When several citizens addressed city council about problems with the wastewater treatment plant odor in their neighborhood, I talked to them individually after the meeting and then drove out that very night to experience what they described. I certainly would like to help find a solution to this problem.
What factors will you consider when deciding on requests for tax breaks, zoning variances, price cuts, etc from developers and business interests?
I think each case needs to be analyzed before making a blanket statement that tax breaks are either the right or wrong decision to make. The recent hotel/expanded hardware store purchase agreement that was before city council on September 12 is a good example for me to illustrate. In that case I would have voted in favor of selling the property, even though moving the electric cable came in at such a cost. The hotel is a type of business that will give tremendous service to our area and make quite a difference to our established restaurant and retail businesses. The property would generate income in taxes as well. So the short view is, the utility cost is higher than what we want, but the long-term benefits greatly outweigh the short-term drawbacks.
In talking to one of Saline’s small business owners recently, he expressed concern that he felt larger companies have some negotiating room while he had less flexibility. I am a loyal customer of our local businesses, and working for a small, family-owned business has certainly made me more sensitive to the challenges they face.
When city employees identify perceived problems within city government, do want them to come to you with those issues?