Newly elected mayor of New Brighton Kari Niedfeldt-Thomas received 57% of the votes in the 2020 election. Along with her role of mayor, she is also the managing director of the Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose. She has more than 30 years of experience in the corporate, civic, and the nonprofit sectors, blending her values and bringing that to the city. She came on our podcast to talk about her plans as she enters this new role.
Passion to serve
Niedfeldt-Thomas said she has always had a passion to serve. In the past, she’s volunteered for activities her kids were involved in and served on a number of committees. It was just a matter of time before she ran for office.
“I have a lot of creativity and can see a lot of opportunities. Certainly, there were a number of ways where I saw that I could bring my leadership skills and support New Brighton, the residents, and the businesses,” said Niedfeldt-Thomas.
Campaigning during COVID
Many candidates had to adapt their campaigns during the pandemic. New Brighton does not have a community newspaper, so Niedfeldt-Thomas relied heavily on creating and pushing out her own messages.
Niedfeldt-Thomas and her team created their own mailings and went door-to-door hanging the mailings on the doors. They did it this way to avoid direct contact with residents.
“There’s a lot of thought that had to be put into how you were making this feel pandemic-appropriate for reaching out,” said Niedfeldt-Thomas.
She also reached out to residents virtually through social media, Zoom meetings and phone calls.
“Work of the city is going out in our community, and safely, we need to be able to look for opportunities when we can engage,” said Niedfeldt-Thomas.
Breaking the news
On election night, Niedfeldt-Thomas found out she’d been elected mayor while sitting on the couch beside her mom and husband. They were all refreshing their phones on the Minnesota election’s website anxiously waiting for the results.
It was actually one the volunteers on Niedfeldt-Thomas’s campaign who broke the news to her.
“He was like, “I was the person who told you?” He was super excited,” said Niedfeldt-Thomas.
Niedfeldt-Thomas wants to focus on long-term goals for the community. First, she wants to focus on delivering information and resources regarding COVID to the community. Overtime, they will also be pushing out information about vaccines.
“We as a city need to make sure that we’re providing accurate information for our residents and other community members,” said Niedfeldt-Thomas.
Three years ago, the city put together a task force to come up with recommendations to enforce diversity, equity and inclusion. However, the city has not yet implemented these recommendations. Niedfeldt-Thomas wants to resurrect this.
“The ultimate goal is that we would achieve equity in our community, but this is another area where there will be an evolving set of priorities and evolving set of conversations. We’re going to have to spend a lot of time and effort to make sure that we’re getting out there and we’re connecting with community,” said Niedfeldt-Thomas.
Niedfeldt-Thomas said she wants the residents of New Brighton to reach out to her with any questions or concerns. She will also come up with a regular communication plan so that she can reach out to the community.
“We as a city need to have our residents be willing to step forward and say how they want to volunteer and how they want to make a difference. We’re open to any ideas that people have,” said Niedfeldt-Thomas.