Heather Holmes is running for a seat on Rochester’s City Council
Days are starting early and ending late for Heather Holmes. In addition to all of the usual to-do’s on her list, she’s averaging six meetings a day to campaign and run her business, Heather Holmes Solutions, LLC. Then there’s the volunteering to do; and, the networking and fundraising events to attend.
Knowing her schedule must be beyond packed, I offered to meet via FaceTime or Facebook Video Chat to save her drive time. Her response, “In person would be nice, because it would be nice to see you.”
That settled it. Heather and I met for coffee at Dunn Brothers on Elton Hills Drive last Thursday. She shared that her Friday would start with Eggs and Issues at 7 a.m. and close with Go Red For Women’s event at 8 or 9 o’clock in the evening. “That’s pretty typical,” she said. “We haven’t even added in door knocking.”
So, you’re running for Rochester City Council…
“Apparently anybody can do it, because I’m doing it. Isn’t democracy cool?”Yes democracy is cool. Heather has some qualifications that may recommend her more for the job than others (like myself). For example, Heather works as former Vice President of Marketing at Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. (RAEDI) and Project Manager of the Journey to Growth initiative. She’s addressing area economic issues through her work with both organizations.
Q:What made you decide to run for Rochester City Council?
A: Truly, it was watching all of the transitions at the city. People are retiring. People are leaving their posts. Destination Medical Center – all of the intentional growth that we’re going to be seeing for the next 15 years. I want to have a front row seat, to be able to be part of it. That’s how it started.
Having lived and worked on the East Coast, Heather has an immense appreciation for Rochester’s quality of life. That quality is something she wants to protect while embracing growth.
It’s a beautiful city. When you pass by something day after day, you forget it’s there sometimes. You get used to it. It’s part of the landscape. I don’t have to get an alignment on my vehicle every two to three months like I had to on the East Coast. We had a whole section on our news called pothole patrol that would tell people where the worst potholes were. Sometimes when you’ve lived other places, you realize how blessed we are. You feel strong about protecting it. Let’s grow and keep that quality. That’s a lot of what I think I can contribute.
Our community is growing, changing. Change can frighten people. I can be a little bit of the calm. I think that’s one of the good things I can bring.
Serving others is always in style…
While Heather has always been the sort to volunteer, joining Rotary Club of Rochester took her service leadership and life to a whole new level. “Anyone who knows me knows I’m a Rotary nerd. It’s allowed me to grow as a person, given me multiple leadership opportunities, and speaking opportunities. The stuff we do locally and globally is mind-boggling.”
In addition to serving on the Rotary District 5960 Board of Directors and chair of the Rotary District Public Image team, Heather serves on the U of M Extension’s Rural Workforce Entrepreneur Recruitment and Retention Advisory committee and the Ronald McDonald House Board of Trustees. She volunteers her time to other organizations as well. “It’s important to remember the people who need assistance. If serving is beneath you than leadership is beyond you. I lead effectively, because I serve.”
Diversity of voice, gender equity, and collaboration are important to Heather.
“I am the person who sits in the middle and says I think that group had a good idea and I think you did as well. On their own, they can’t be done. We’ll have to come together, so we’ll have something we can move forward.”
Q: What are you looking forward to during the campaign?
A: Winning. The part that scared me the most is door knocking. Now it’s the part that I’m excited about the most. Meeting my neighbors. Meeting the thousands of other folks in my ward. I love to hear what people’s concerns are, what they see as challenges for their neighborhood, the city, what they love about the neighborhood, the city. You’re just extending your family every time you meet someone new.
Q: Campaigns can often bring out negativity and meanness, how do (or will) you handle that?
A: By no means do I have it all figured out. You reach a level of comfort with yourself. Whatever that is, I have more of it now in my 40s then I did in my 20s. As women, we have to work harder at that than our male counterparts. Maybe we read more self-help books, practice a little bit more in the mirror, Google more.
If I did as many good things as I could today without compromising what I feel, then it’s a good day. Somebody may have attacked me on Facebook, someone may have shut the door in my face, honked at me, cut me off, yelled at me…What I’ve realized is that 99% of the time, it’s that something happened to them, or it’s a result of their anger with something else. I just happen to be the receiver of that. Don’t internalize it. Don’t throw something back on that person. Half the time it’s not for you. Go home. Drink wine. Hang out with the dog. Watch Netflix.
Q: Do you think you’ll have to deal with the polarization that seems to be so prevalent in politics?
A: I don’t think it’s as much in our city politics as you see on a federal level. On the local level there are a lot of good people from both ends of the spectrum working together, because there’s a true love for this community…I’m not behind the curtain yet.
Q: Is going into politics something you’ve always wanted to pursue, y’know, like Amy Knope on Parks and Rec?
A: Negative Ghost Rider. I don’t even look at it as though I’m going into politics right now. I grew up in such a small town we didn’t even have student council. I’ve never been politically inclined. If everything’s running fine, I’m just going to do my job, raise my family and go to the grocery store. I really think it’s a privilege to be able to throw my hat into the ring. That our country allows it…I think that’s cool. I kind of nerded out a bit. I love to be part of the action, part of the solution, whatever it is – whether there’s ten of us, twenty of us, if nobody knows I was involved in it.
I have no political aspiration. It sounds actually quite terrifying.
Note: When Heather and I met for coffee, she had never seen an episode of the show. People keep mentioning Parks and Rec to her, so I believe it’s now on her list of shows to watch during all the spare time she has.
Q: Do you think technology will bring unique challenges to campaigning?
A: The challenges are still the same pre-tech time. There’s the good old fashioned door knocking is still one of the most essential pieces of a campaign. People still want to have a conversation. Using tech to support the face to face is important. Don’t use tech to replace the face to face. Part of the challenge is using it as a supplement, not a replacement. We Instagram and Facebook so people can see what we’re doing. Then I realize I haven’t talked to mom in three weeks, but I know what she’s up to. You should talk to mom. I should talk to my mom. I’ll do that tonight.
Q: Since this is in part a style blog, I have to ask…In your eyes, what makes a woman stylish?
A: Being true to yourself. I have to understand that the high rise pants that the young girls are wearing are not necessarily for me. Women who can put together contrasting and patterns are my heroes. This is where my 23-year-old daughter comes into the picture I have no eye for that funky combo that takes my outfit to the next level. I admire those who can go outside my comfort zone.
Ward 1 includes portions of southeast and southwest Rochester, MN. You can check which ward you belong to, by here.