WILMINGTON — Kristi Fickert will be sworn-in to city council for the first time Thursday evening. Having just turned 41, she is also a millennial by some definitions.
The News Journal interviewed her separately and posed the same questions asked of Kelsey Swindler, Jonathan McKay, Michael Allbright and Tyler Williams.
BIO: Kristi Fickert and husband Ron live in Wilmington with sons Cole, a seventh-grader at Wilmington Middle School, and Chase, a fourth-grader at Holmes Elementary. “Our family has strong roots here and we’re heavily involved with the schools and various youth sports programs.” She graduated with honors from Clinton-Massie High School and attended Ohio University, majoring in Public Administration and Political Science. She is currently Vice President of Marketing and Training for 30 Lines, a boutique digital marketing agency. She’s also been a speaker and presenter for the Cincinnati Reds Human Resources Department, Urban Land Institute, Commercial Real Estate Women and the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.
What’s it like to see a majority of the incoming Wilmington City Council members be of a younger demographic?
It’s certainly something to look forward to and it’s refreshing to see a younger generation putting themselves out there and getting involved and trying to influence our community in a positive way. However, aside from age, I am most excited about the diversity amongst our new council members. We will be fortunate to have some veterans to lead us, some new faces who I’m sure will bring innovative ideas to the table, members who bring experience to the group from a variety of professional business sectors and, most importantly, a common will to want to work together for the greater good of our city.
Did you face any doubt or raised eyebrows from voters simply because of your age?
I didn’t face much pushback due to my age, but I certainly had people question my timing of running for office, given that I’ve got a young family. I’ve often been asked why I didn’t wait for my children to be grown and graduated from high school before running for office. There was a general consensus that it would be easier for me to hold office if I waited until a time when my children might be more self-sufficient. Being a mom in office will certainly require some adjustments for our family, but it’s so important to me that my boys see me working to give back to the community I love. They’re at very impressionable ages right now (10 and nearly 13) and they are going to learn so much by watching me navigate this experience (they actually already have). I want them to know that the best way to influence change is to get involved and put forth effort and I am so proud that I have this opportunity to actually show them what that looks like. We’re going to learn a lot — together.
What do you think you did to win over the voter’s confidence?
I’m a lifelong Wilmington resident and have been fortunate enough to be involved in numerous organizations and activities here over the years. I have worked incredibly hard to make a positive impact in those organizations that I serve and do believe my integrity, energy, commitment and dedication to our community through these endeavors helped set me up for success. My professional business experience gives a good foundation for council-related work and I believe many would vouch for my strong work ethic and go-getter approach. But most importantly, I’m a people-person and like to think that my approachability paired with my reputation for being able to connect and collaborate with others effectively, also helped voters feel confident in electing me to serve them.
Can you recall the moment or reason that made you run for public office?
I was raised in a very community-oriented family and was first exposed to politics in elementary school, when my grandfather was elected as our county sheriff. Every four years we would assist him with his campaign and then spend election nights at the courthouse, watching the returns come in. It was always an exhilarating experience to see the process through from start to finish and the hard work it took to gain — and maintain — the public’s support and these experiences did have an influence on my desire to run for office. I went on to study Public Administration and Political Science at Ohio University and have enjoyed a very successful career in the private sector, but also saw an opportunity to bring new perspectives and experiences to our city. Running for any office, even at the local level, requires serious thought and even though it’s a big commitment, I kept coming back to the idea that I could positively use my energy and experience to represent and contribute to our city, in a way that preserves our small-town heritage we love, yet moves us forward in a way that offers more opportunity and sustainability for all. And so here I am.
Were you involved with student council or government during school?
I was a student-athlete mentor for the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office D.A.R.E. program in high school and I also interned with the Clinton County Juvenile Probation Department while in college.
When there are times of doubt or uncertainty who do you go to for advice?
Professionally, I’ve always had a great network of leaders and experienced veterans to approach and that has been so valuable to me over the years. However, the people I trust and rely upon the most are my family. We are extremely close and I know I can always count on their guidance, support and loyalty. One of the people I’ve sought advice from the most during my run for council is my grandfather, Ralph Fizer Sr. He ran for and was a member of Wilmington City Council (representing the 3rd Ward) in the 1970s and coincidentally, was the same age I am now, when he first got involved in local politics.
What are some common goals that you think you share with your fellow council members?
I am really looking forward to working with everyone. While each councilperson brings their own unique experiences and ideas to the group, I know we are all passionate about making Wilmington better. I do believe this is a council who wants to set aside the “me” in exchange for the “we.” Some of the most commons goals in my opinion are to continue working to make Wilmington a desirable place to live, work and play — through enhanced curb appeal (like street improvements, for example), economic development, improving or adding amenities (such as parks and recreational centers) and maintaining adequate levels of safety services and of course, investing our taxpayers’ money wisely. We do have some aging infrastructure, but I am confident the incoming council will intelligently and diligently explore all options and potential solutions, so as to leave things better than we found them. It won’t always be easy, but I’ve appreciated the good-natured relationships thus far and look forward to healthy discussions amongst this group.
What are you looking forward to in the next two years?
I’m looking forward to making an impact and to seeing the kinds of progress this council will have made by the end of 2020. There are some really positive things going on in our community today and I want to see that multiply. Personally, I’m excited to learn and to grow through this process and look forward to the relationships I’ll build along the way. I love Wilmington because of the people in it and I know that if we create the right synergy, we will accomplish great things.
Mark Rembert and Taylor Stuckert kind of got the groundwork started for younger people in the area. Any comments about them?
I think this has more to do with drive, determination and heart than age, but regardless, it’s so nice to see people — of any age and demographic — advocating for our city and county. These are two people who, like many of us, love and see the value in Wilmington. But, they’ve also been out to explore. They’ve seen and experienced other geographical areas and they also know what we’re lacking. I applaud them for working so hard to try to solve the challenges we face in attracting others (both new businesses and new families) to our community. In my limited involvement with them thus far, I’ve learned that they aren’t afraid to get creative or to try new things and I welcome those innovative conversations. Getting involved can be intimidating. It’s tough to put yourself “out there” and if any of us can help pave the way and make it easier for others to stand up and start engaging, that’s a wonderful thing.