I’m Katie Startzman and I came to Berea in the 90s to attend Berea College.

My husband Michael grew up here and I’m so grateful to live here, close to both our parents and my sisters. I founded and own Native Bagel Company, and am proud to have a business on Chestnut Street.

I love living on Jackson Street, and I’m so grateful to live in such a close-knit neighborhood, especially during the recent Covid-19 shutdown. I have two teen boys, Julian and Avery, and three rescue dogs. In my spare time I enjoy sewing clothes for myself, researching new business ideas, and taking my family to mountain bike trails around Kentucky.

For more information about me and my platform, please visit Facebook @KatieforBerea, or my website www.katiestartzman.com.

Please feel free to call or text my personal cell (859) 302-1463 if you’d like to talk more about any of the issues facing our city.

Why are you running for Berea City Council?

I’m running for City Council because I believe it is time to have more leaders serving with vision and conviction. I ran once before in 2014 and came in 9th place in a field of 20 candidates- so close! :)

Here’s my vision for what Berea can be: I envision a welcoming, diverse community with healthy residents living fulfilling lives. I see a Berea known for its vibrant small business culture, lively arts scene, and bustling industry. Our city’s schools, child care centers, and college will be standard-setting institutions for our children to grow and thrive. Our town’s sustainable infrastructure will support a growing population. Successful public/private partnerships that address the social service gaps in our community will underscore the commitment of city leadership to address the challenging issues Berea residents face. This work will be conducted by a city leadership that is forward-thinking, proactive, and thoughtful- able to work together towards the common good of vibrant, resilient, and inspiring Berea.

People in Berea will benefit from my service as a city council person as I will use my entrepreneurial skills to bring innovation and creativity to the council. I will strive to work cooperatively with city leaders, citizens, and other stakeholders to work towards a shared vision. Also, I will be a responsive, engaged council member who serves with integrity.

What is the single biggest issue facing Berea and what is your solution to that issue?

The fractious, divisive rhetoric of current national politics has found its way to Berea with a vengeance. I believe this division is the biggest issue we need to overcome if we wish to move forward as a city.

I (maybe naively!) believe that it is possible for us to do the work of the city alongside folks who don’t agree with us. It is imperative we can seek common ground and work to serve all Berea residents. If elected, I will do this work.

I pride myself for building a business that is a welcoming space for everyone in our community, and I will bring this sense of kindness and congeniality to council. I will listen to differing opinions with respect and care, and serve on council with humility and thoughtfulness. Our city is facing unprecedented challenges and I will be a council member that can work with all other council members, not just those who share similar values.

So to me the most important issue comes down to this- as a city we need to treat people with humanity and lovingkindness, work together towards common goals, and build a culture in town where we treat everyone with respect. If we can’t handle these basic skills, how can we hope to achieve the real work that needs to happen in town?

What is the role of the city government?

City government’s primary responsibility is providing essential services and maintaining the infrastructure of Berea. The number one job of Berea City Council is to pass the city budget. This important task demonstrates the priorities of our city leadership, stewards the money of taxpayers, and defines how we as a town will respond to the challenges and opportunities we face.

I’m proud to own a successful business in Berea and that has informed how I would approach my service on City Council. Even though the majority of folks on council have been of the conservative ilk for at least the past two terms, and have the political capital to basically push through any ordinance they like, I don’t see how they have made significant impacts on the bottom line of our city’s budget. They talk about things like repealing the restaurant tax around election time, but still happily take the money (which is has very specific ways it can be spent, according to state law), and then complain about the work Tourism is doing. They need to find new talking points that they are truly interested in enacting, and which will affect our city finances in a positive way.

The other primary way council members can serve Berea is the council committees. There are currently four committees: Audit and Finance (which is the committee that presents the budget to council), Economic Development, Parks, and Personnel. Because of my interests and experience, I’m most interested in serving on the Economic Development and Parks committees. There are many new projects I’m passionate about that would potentially fall under the Parks committee’s purview. For example, I’d like to include more placemaking/beautification projects in the city’s work plan, as well as work on expanding the growing trail network in town. Also, I think the recent consolidation of the Tourism and Business Development departments has created a great opportunity for the Economic Development committee to renew its vision and work on important new projects. I’m disappointed that according to posted meeting minutes, this committee has only met 4 times in the last 2 years. This feels like a huge missed opportunity.

What can be done to attract more businesses to Berea?

As someone who has started a business in town, I have direct experience with the business development work of the city of Berea. Five years ago, I participated in a business startup class series that the city sponsored- the Kauffman FastTrac program delivered by the Mountain Association. Through this ten-week class, I created the business plan for Native Bagel Company and set out on my entrepreneurial journey. This relatively small investment of the city has paid huge dividends in my personal life, but also has created 9 high-quality jobs for my employees, allowed me to purchase a building on Chestnut Street, and has generated thousands of dollars in the taxes my business collects and pays. This one, very personal, example demonstrates the power of strategic support for small business, and the value in capitalizing on the high-quality resources we already have here in town.

Also, Berea leadership needs to actively work to create a community where business leaders want to live and want to locate their businesses. In order to compete with other communities across the region for new companies and businesses, I believe it is important to champion a town that is inclusive, diverse, and forward-thinking.

What is the most underrated thing about Berea and what would you do to make sure it becomes the most noted thing the city has to offer?

It’s the people. We have so many great people here- caring churches, service-driven nonprofits, Berea College, successful businesses, and high-quality schools. Our community is rich with people who care deeply about our town, and we need leaders who are tuned-in and ready to listen to them, capitalize on their talents, and celebrate the work they are doing.

I believe we need to widen the circle of folks who have input in decisions that affect city residents and consider the quality of life for all Berea residents.

We need to make space for the diverse mindsets, faith expressions, and values that residents in Berea possess. We should actively welcome challenging conversations with courage and vulnerability. Finally, we need leaders of conviction, creativity, and vision who can continue to build and harness the social capital we have and create a Berea that is a vibrant, resilient, and inspiring place to live and work.

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