May election preview: Platform of uniting community, informing citizens
Terri Winston-Abri wants citizens to be in the know.
The former, one-term member of Ashland Town Council is seeking one of two open spots up for grabs this May. She said that making sure that citizens remain informed and involved in local government is one of her main goals in seeking a second run at town council.
Wanting to know more about what was going on in town is actually what got Winston-Abri, 58, involved in local government. Though she had been involved in community service most of her life, in 1998, Winston-Abri got her first taste of Ashland politics by helping with a campaign for town council.
“Becoming involved with that process, I don’t know if, necessarily, at that time I was thinking of being a part of town council but I was more interested in knowing what was going on in the town,” she said.
The experience also brought her closer to the community after moving back to Ashland in 1990.
Winston-Abri served on council from 2008 to 2012. She said that she’s proud that the town has followed through on an idea she presented while serving on council. Recently, the town debuted its “Granicus” software, which live-streams videos of town council meetings and also serves as an interactive video archive.
Winston-Abri said she brought the idea to the town after attending a conference in Washington, D.C. where the technology was featured. When she first broached the topic around 2010, Winston-Abri said cost was an issue.
“You want open government, you want people to know what’s going on, even those people who are not able to come to meetings,” she said, adding, “I’m just so excited that we have that now because it brings us more into the 21st century in terms of communication with our citizens.”
Winston-Abri also helped establish Ashland’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and remains dedicated to emergency preparedness. She said it’s important to have a good idea of Ashland’s community make-up, made possible by better organization.
“Part of being prepared in an emergency is knowing what useful tools you have available in your community,” she said. “Knowing whether or not you have a doctor or a nurse or useful, resourceful people in your community.”
Winston-Abri remains active with Ashland Community Outreach, a group dedicated to helping put homeless people on the path to self-sufficiency.
“To be homeless does not necessarily mean that you have no understanding or knowledge of what it means to be a homeowner,” she said.
Some of the people ACO assists lost their jobs and have had trouble getting back on their feet. Others have never had a home and don’t know how to budget, save or manage the money they do make.
ACO, as an organization, wanted to teach people how to be self-sufficient.
“It’s more than just a ‘Band-Aid’ fix,” she said.
Winston-Abri is campaigning on a platform of fairness and working to bring the community and town closer together in terms of what residents know about the town and how it operates.
She also wants to invite increased public participation in government and help build community relations between the town and its citizens.
Maintaining a healthy business climate is also important as a way to generate tax revenue for the town and also help keep citizens’ tax rates reasonable so they can afford to live in Ashland.
In this age of digital media, Winston-Abri also wants to make sure that senior citizens aren’t left behind and have equal access to emergency or town communication.
“It is assumed that everybody understands social media, or everybody had a computer and everybody checks their email or checks the Web every day and that’s not the case,” she said.
Since being off town council, Winston-Abri said there are some issues that she might have handled differently, following in line with the independent voice she said she had while seated behind the dais at council meetings.
“You’re never always going to agree with everything that everybody does,” she said. “I didn’t necessarily agree with everything and didn’t vote for everything the way everyone else did when I was on council. So, being off council doesn’t change anything.”
If elected, Winston-Abri pledges to continue to vote her conscience.
“Whatever I vote on, will be my vote. It won’t be something that was persuaded by another council member because I want them to vote on something for me,” she said. “It would be a vote that I have prayed on, and made, and assessed and hopefully made the proper decision.”
Winston-Abri still has concerns that the town has not invested in certain communities, pointing to a sidewalk project on New Street that hasn’t come to fruition.
Winston-Abri was on town council during the debate over whether to connect New Street, a roads issue that raised racial tensions at the time.
“I was not in agreement that it was closed and I felt that it was unfortunate that it was closed for the period of time that it was closed because it separated people, it separated the community,” she said.
“From a personal standpoint, it insulted me and it insulted people on the other side of the barrier because it was a sheer indication that there were some people that didn’t want certain groups of people in their community,” Winston-Abri added.
Improving race relations through community building is another one of her goals.
She also said that she hopes to remain responsive to citizens’ questions.
“Number one, I’m concerned about your issues. If you were to come to me and ask me something and I don’t have the answer for you – if it wasn’t something I could answer right away, I’d direct you to the right person,” she said.
Winston-Abri also promises to always be fair and to make herself available to citizens, except on Sundays.
“That’s God’s day,” she said. “But if it were an emergency, I’d be available.”