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Town of Exeter Candidate for Chairperson - Terri Belz


March 21, 2019

Terri Belz

Age: 56

Occupation: Teacher and Sustainable Farmer

Years lived in township: 13

Incumbent? No

Have you been on the town board or held any other public office before? If so please describe: I have been on the Monroe Street Farmers market board as a vendor representative for the past four years. In that position it is my job to represent not just myself or my interests as a vendor of meats, but to fairly and equitably represent all the vendors in the market and the variety of products and needs they encompass.

I also was the onsite manager for the Hilldale Winter Farmers Market for one year where I had to demonstrate leadership by listening to and meeting the needs of all stakeholders (vendors, mall administration, customers) and be responsible for the physical set up, display and security of the market.

Finally, as a teacher for the past six years, I have been in leadership positions where I operate much like an assistant administrator including filling in when the building administrator is gone. I have interactions with various stakeholders in my role and am responsible for organizing some of the school functions as well as setting up school wide systems of operation to maximize resources and improve equitable access. I also strive for transparency and clarity around decision making and make communication a top priority which are things I want to bring to our township.

Why are you running for town board chair? I have been in leadership positions for over six years officially, and seen by my peers as a leader for much longer than that. I have also recently completed my second master's degree which was in leadership where I have learned a lot more about leading an institution for success with transparency, clarity and open communication. In the last year I have had more involvement with my town leadership, and have seen areas for growth to better meet the needs or all of the residents of Exeter. The demographics or our township have changed more dramatically than most of the other townships in Green County. Those changes bring a more diverse group of resident needs. It is time to meet all the needs, while continuing to remember we were a rural farming community first and preserving our heritage is important.

What issues do you find most important to the town board? List your top three priorities: Preservation and protection of family farms and farmland for citizens of the Town of Exeter as well as preservation and protection of our natural resources by applying the town's land use plan in every decision making process and updating it as necessary using citizen input.

Increased clarity and transparency of township operations including a fully functioning and updated website for equitable access to information, and regular public advisory opportunities for public collaboration in township priorities.

Maintaining fiscal responsibility while updating resident services to allow equitable access and services for all residents.

If you could reverse one town action, what would that be? I don't believe there is any one town action I would reverse. Instead, what I would change are the systems for conducting business utilizing more clarity, transparency and honesty. When a citizen or group of citizens bring forth a complaint the process of resolving it seems unclear, not just to me, but to a large group of citizens I have talked to. Concerns have ranged from fencing to water or flood issues. Everyone has said they feel like the board just keeps bringing up roadblocks or more steps the citizen has to take. Now, it may be that the burden is on the citizens, but that is not clearly stated from the beginning. In one case a citizen was asking for support from the town board regarding a state statute, and when they initially presented this problem they were told by the board that the statute was outdated. This was finally resolved when the board acknowledged that a state statute is the law, regardless of any personal feelings of its relevance today. This didn't happen until the citizen said they could hire an attorney, but did the board need an attorney to read the law? I would look to provide more clarity, transparency and honesty about who is responsible for what from the beginning as well as what the process may be. I also think this includes beginning all meetings with quick introductions of who our town employees present are, and a welcome to the citizens in attendance for inclusion.

Any additional comments? I look forward to bringing my administrative experience to the township as a way to include all the citizens in our community in our systems and processes with my collaborative leadership style. My hope is to build the sense of community for everyone, and celebrate the diversity of people and lifestyles that live within Exeter township. I also plan to honor the rural farming heritage of the township while looking to guard our precious resources like water, wetlands and farmland. Here is the cornerstone of my leadership: Leadership, in the final analysis, is the ability of humans to relate deeply to each other in the search for a more perfect union. Leadership is a consensual task, a sharing of ideas and a sharing of responsibilities, where a "leader" is a leader for the moment only, where the leadership exerted must be validated by the consent of followers, and where leadership lies in the struggles of a community to find meaning for itself. -WILLIAM FOSTER


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