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FIRST & 42 Forum: Meet Tara Gish

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To help our community members make informed choices in the upcoming November 2, 2021, election, we asked candidates running for local seats to participate in our Candidate Forum to help you get to know them better. Today, meet Tara Gish.

Citing a need for need leaders who understand community building and change leadership, Tara Gish is seeking the position of City Commissioner in the City of Portage in the upcoming November 2, 2021, election. Tara is motivated in her run for office by a strong desire to increase government accessibility, economic vitality, transportation connectivity, and the ability of families to thrive. If elected, she promises to make herself available to her constituents. “Cities are strongest when residents are civically engaged. Civically engaged residents deserve true opportunities for involvement and leaders that listen. I will create opportunities for residents to discuss issues in their neighborhoods and request feedback on my priorities and voting history from the citizens of Portage,” said Tara.  She looks forward to contributing to the many assets of the place she calls home which she cites as a vibrant small business scene, proximity to nature, a diverse economy, outstanding educational opportunities, and a rich arts and culture scene. Today, meet Tara Gish.

NAME
Tara Gish

POSITION SEEKING
City Commissioner

DISTRICT POSITION REPRESENTS
City of Portage

EMAIL
gishforportage@gmail.com

WHAT ARE THE TOP ISSUES/CONCERNS THAT MOTIVATE YOU?

  • Government Accessibility: Empowering civic engagement through increased accessibility.
  • Economic Vitality: Developing a thriving local economy that builds wealth for all residents.
  • Transit and Connectivity: Safe, reliable, convenient transportation by bike, bus, foot, or car.
  • Thriving Families: Attracting/retaining young people and families to stabilize and strengthen our community.

SHARE YOUR PAST EXPERIENCES OR SKILL SETS THAT MAKE YOU A GREAT FIT FOR THIS ROLE.
I have served the City of Portage as a member of the Park Board for the past three years and as Vice Chair of the Park Board for the past two years. As a City Council member, I will bring leadership that is accessible, transparent, equitable, and engaged.

WHY DO YOU BELIEVE THE KALAMAZOO REGION IS THE BEST PLACE TO LIVE AND WORK? 
A vibrant small business scene and great restaurants; proximity to rivers, lakes, and other green spaces; diverse economic opportunities spanning small businesses and major employees; outstanding K-12 and post-secondary educational opportunities; and a rich arts and culture scene all make the Kalamazoo region a great place to work and live.

WHAT DO YOU FEEL ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FACING OUR COMMUNITY?
One of the biggest challenges in the Portage community is government that just doesn’t feel accessible for citizens. We need to be intentional about broadening civic engagement. I will increase transparency in policy making and increase engagement in public hearings, boards, and commissions. An accessible government is an accountable government.

HOW DO YOU PLAN TO SUPPORT THE GROWTH OF THE ECONOMY IF ELECTED? 

  • Small businesses are foundational for a healthy economy. I will engage with local businesses to support the creation of local jobs.
  • High quality infrastructure and services help Portage attract both large companies and small businesses. I will work to ensure capital improvement planning emphasizes strategic infrastructure investment.

HOW WILL YOUR ELECTION IMPACT THE REGION’S WORKFORCE AND COMPANIES WHO CALL SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN HOME?
I will explore the use of existing federal block grants to address pandemic-related health problems, information access, and job losses among our most vulnerable populations. Social equity must be incorporated in pandemic recovery efforts, especially at the local level.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE MEASURES AT THE LOCAL LEVEL?
Environmental justice and equity are inextricably tied. We must ensure every Portage neighborhood has protected green space where citizens can safely recreate and build community. We must also ensure that every Portage citizen has access to clean drinking water and acceptable air quality.

OFFER AN EXAMPLE OF WHEN YOU PERSONALLY USED HONESTY AND INTEGRITY TO SOLVE A VITAL ISSUE.
Being employed by a global company requires that I am able to work with my colleagues from around the world to reach our common goals despite differences in worldviews. Finding common ground does not require losing one’s values or unique point of view, rather it’s about better understanding each other.

HOW CAN ELECTED OFFICIALS CREATE A PLACE WHERE WORKING TOGETHER TOWARDS MEANINGFUL PROGRESS IS THE PRIORITY?
Portage needs city government leadership that reflects the people it serves. We need leaders who understand community building and change leadership. I will be accessible to constituents and work to increase transparency in policy making and increase resident engagement in public hearings, boards, and commissions.

IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU PLAN TO CONNECT WITH CONSTITUENTS TO RECEIVE THEIR INPUT?
Cities are strongest when residents are civically engaged. Civically engaged residents deserve true opportunities for involvement and leaders that listen. I will create opportunities for residents to discuss issues in their neighborhoods and request feedback on my priorities and voting history from the citizens of Portage.

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