I think most (if not all of us) can agree that politics has become incredibly divisive. In fact, political science research confirms this. For the last four years that I have been on the School Board, I have been incredibly happy to see that this divisiveness has mostly stayed away from our local politics. We have been a community and we have worked together. In fact, last year I wrote another letter to the editor discussing just that.
I am an incredibly involved member of this community. I chair the Dakota County Extension Committee, serve on the Friends of the Library and HPAAC Boards, and I am currently Chair of the Hastings School Board. During my four years on the School Board, we have accomplished some wonderful things. We have worked to remain on budget and complete a $49.5 million bonding project, entered into a solar garden contract that saves the district an average of $100,000 per year (while covering 100% of our energy needs), adopted the AVID program at Hastings High School, and kept community engagement at the forefront of our work through the Superintendent search and strategic planning process. I have worked hard to make sure the voices of our students, staff, and community are represented at the decision-making table and that our decisions are presented in an open and transparent way for all to see and understand.
My race for re-election to the Hastings School Board this year will be my third campaign. Through those campaigns, I have had my fair share of negative statements toward me. This is part of political life. I have no issues with people critiquing votes that I have taken or stances I hold that they may disagree with. However, even in this time of political division, a line must exist. Sunday, this line was crossed when a group of parents decided to not only attack me, but to attack my children. Families are off limits, this is true for my family and the family of anyone running for or holding office.
Local politicians are a part of the community. We go to your schools, your church, and we may even be exercising next to you at the gym. If we want to see political division end, it begins with us. It begins by treating each other as humans. It begins in recognizing that there are boundaries that should not be crossed. And it begins by communicating with one another, as people and as fellow community members.
I believe that many people are hesitant to reach out to their elected officials. While I cannot speak for each and every person who holds office, I can speak for myself and assure you that hearing from members of the community is something that I value most as an elected official. This communication is how I hear your perspective, understand your concerns, and work with you to become a better team. I remain committed to this community and to taking the time to answer each and every one of your concerns to the best of my ability. Let’s work together to keep the communication open and support one another and our community.
By Kelsey Waits
Hastings School Board Chair