Kirsten Wyatt's passion for local government runs deep.
After serving within city government, on volunteer boards and for an organization dedicated to helping local representatives, she's now hoping to affect change by becoming an elected official herself.
"(I) definitely just loved how working in government, you could see how you were making a difference in people's lives," she said.
Wyatt, who serves as the chair of the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board Budget Committee, is running for position 3 on the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board. Her opponent, Craig Tiffany, opted not to campaign and in recent weeks West Linn resident Heidi Klein announced a write-in campaign.
Along with her work on the district's budget committee, Wyatt is the co-founder and executive director of Engaging Local Government Leaders, a professional association that provides training and learning content to people in local government across the country.
She said her time on the budget committee has been a great introduction to the district's responsibilities, and joining the school board would be an interesting and fulfilling way to give back to the school community.
Wyatt, who's lived in West Linn for 14 years, graduated from Willamette University, where she focused her studies on politics and had several internships at the state capitol. She has two children who attend schools in the district.
Wyatt also worked for the city of West Linn from 2007-2016, serving as finance analyst, assistant to the city manager and assistant city manager during that time.
She said serving as assistant city manager gave her the experience of working with a variety of viewpoints and taught her about listening to the community.
"Working in public service and with competing priorities and perspectives and viewpoints, it takes a certain approach and personality and willingness to listen. And not just listen and then continuing to go on the path, but allowing community members to guide processes and guide decision making," she said. "And so, for me, working for the city of West Linn was such a wonderful experience of realizing that people can look at the exact same situation and they see it very very differently."
And, if elected, she plans to take that experience to her role on the board.
"Looking ahead and the possibility of being elected in the school board I think about that a lot — about how, especially when it comes to something as important as our kids' education and the quality of our local schools, how important it is to elect somebody who has experience working with those trade-offs that are just inevitable when it comes to public services," Wyatt said.
Wyatt is running on four main positions: safely reopening schools to full time, financial oversight, anti-racism and equity, and creative and innovative leadership.
She wants to ensure the district progresses toward a full reopening of schools.
Additionally, she said her prior experience in government finance lends itself to finding resources for continued equity work.
"I think after times of pivoting and transition that we've been through, really making sure that that prior commitment to a healthy fund balance is something that continues into the future — even as we're grappling with all of these changes that our district has had to accommodate — is really critical," she said.
She also wants to see a path for more student involvement on the board.
"I often think about that decision-making process, what it looks like if a student voice is asking questions, especially about some tricky policy items of decisions," Wyatt said.
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