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Brainerd Ward 1: Terry sets focus on housing, public safety

Kara Terry is running against William "Jamie" Bieser and Leonard Skilling to represent Ward 1 on the Brainerd City Council.

Kara Terry sits at table.
Kara Terry is one of three candidates running to represent Ward 1 on the Brainerd City Council.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Kara Terry hopes to draw on her previous council experience to address affordable housing, economic development, financial planning and public safety support in Brainerd.

After serving a term on the Champlin City Council before moving to Brainerd in 2013, Terry believes her knowledge of city government will be beneficial if she is successful in her run to represent Ward 1 on the Brainerd City Council.

“I’m the kind of person that, regardless of the community that I’m in, I get very involved,” Terry said during an interview Friday, July 15, noting she also coached sports and served on the Parks and Recreation Commission in Champlin.

Her work eventually brought her north to Brainerd, where she has served as the Crow Wing County community services director for the past nine years.

While Terry plans to knock on doors in her ward soon to get an idea of what her neighbors feel are the issues that need to be addressed, she also has her own ideas, starting with affordable housing.

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Though Brainerd has several large employers, including the school district, Crow Wing County and Essentia Health, Terry said the city’s housing stock is not big enough to support that workforce and incoming staff.

“So how do we build on really quality housing to keep folks in our community?” she said, noting many workers end up having to live in other cities.

Next is continuing the economic development work that Terry said the city has already made great strides with in supporting small businesses and bringing the downtown area back to life.

She would also like to solidify the city’s financial plan and work to either maintain or decrease the property tax levy.

Another item on her list is ensuring public safety by supporting law enforcement officers, who she said are already doing a great job but need to continue to be supported.

As the current police chief nears retirement, Terry said the city needs to plan for a leadership change to make sure the city continues to run smoothly.

“We know that times are pretty tough for law enforcement, so how do we support them and ensure that we’re holding them accountable to providing good service too?” she said.

“... Over the years, we’ve really expected our law enforcement to kind of know everything and be everything, like a mental health case manager, substance use disorder experts and resource guide for people and how to direct them. And that’s really unfair expectations for everything else that they have to keep track of.”

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Through her work at the county, Terry said she is involved in efforts to add mental health supports, like social workers, to public safety offices. She also works with the Brainerd Lakes Area Drug Education program and with local hospitals to ensure needs are met.“There’s a lot of work going on in the public safety arena that I would really like to help bring forward,” she said.

The final item on Terry’s list is building up the city’s parks programs and ensuring they are available to everyone, regardless of income level or ability.

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When not in the office, Terry serves on the Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Foundation Board of Trustees and the PORT Group Homes Board.

Terry grew up in Spearfish, South Dakota. She and her husband have a blended family with six grown children and three grandchildren. When time allows, she enjoys traveling to Washington to visit her youngest son, who is stationed there with the U.S. Air Force.

Terry said she believes in honest, open dialogue and is willing to use whatever methods are needed to communicate with constituents, whether it be phone, email, newspaper, radio or face-to-face meetings.

“How do we utilize all of those resources to get the messaging out in multiple ways to multiple folks?” she said. “I’m not opposed to any of them and certainly would support any way that would work for the folks that we serve.”

Terry is committed to making a difference in her community and said she is not the type of person to just complain without taking action.

“I have a bit of experience with council work, so I would hit the ground running as soon as elected,” she said, noting she would still work to learn the ins and outs of Brainerd’s status as a charter city and specific budgetary items.

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“I really, really believe in having a voice in government and being a part of and understanding government,” Terry said. “And I know I can do that well.”

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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