Meet The Candidates: Sandra Lizza, Summit Common Council, Ward 2
Friday, November 1, 2013 • 12:21pm
Editor's note: As we count down to election day November 5, The Alternative Press of Summit continues a series of profiles on candidates running for local and district office. Similar to the ongoing Meet The Leaders series, the objective is to provide our readers the opportunity to hear from the candidates regarding their background, their motivation for seeking public office, and their take on our present and future outlook. In order to keep the format consistent, The Alternative Press presents each individual with the same five questions. We publish their answers unedited.
Today - Summit Common Council - Ward 2 - Sandra Lizza
Born in a small town outside of Pittsburgh, I was raised in Alexandria, Virginia, a suburb of Washington DC, with many families like mine who were affiliated with the military or government. With a public school education, I was valedictorian of my high school class of 600, going on to receive a BS degree in Commerce, with distinction, from the University of Virginia, and an MBA from the College of William and Mary. My 24–year career included leadership positions in finance and purchasing, where I was responsible for accounting, budgeting, controls, strategic planning and implementation of technology projects. I am effective in bringing diverse groups together, building teams to improve processes and achieving results. I have strong fiscal management and project management skills.
My husband Charlie and I chose Summit as our home 18 years ago to raise our two sons. With David a junior at Georgetown, and Michael a sophomore at the University of Chicago, I decided to commit my time to the responsibilities of a Council member and also to having a visible presence in our community for outreach to residents. My involvement in our community includes Summit's Historic Preservation Commission, Summit Support Our Troops, volunteer in the schools and Scout troops, tutoring ESL students, and as a religious ed teacher at St. Teresa's. As a trustee of the Summit Area Public Foundation, I have had the opportunity to learn of the needs and assist many of the non-profits in our area.
What led you to pursue a position in public office?
My decision to run for Council is the culmination of many years of community and civic volunteer service in my hometown. I have the skills, the temperament and the civic motivation to be an effective Council team member, and I'm raising my hand to help and to add a new voice. As an involved Summit resident for 18 years volunteering in the schools, my church, and non-profit groups, I have worked with many segments of our community. This wide network of community contacts is an opportunity to make connections and get more people involved in our town. I am approachable and will reach out to residents in many different settings to bring our community closer to address issues. My business background in finance and project management equips me with key skills in guidance, analysis and decision-making with groups of many disciplines.
What are the biggest challenges facing Summit?
Controlling our taxes so that Summit can be affordable for current and future residents is even more challenging during this time of slow economic recovery. This statement encompasses many issues and concerns.
For City and school taxes, managing spending for competing needs within our priorities for safety, school excellence, sound infrastructure and services. For the county portion of our tax bill, which has grown to about 28% of our total taxes, convincing Union County Freeholders that they must bring down spending since their increases are limiting our local decisions and the affordability of our town. If our municipality and school district and even other counties are making the tough decisions to limit spending, Union County must do so, also. Merck's announced departure is a potential challenge. Summit will support Merck's efforts to find a potential buyer and mitigate a potential tax issue in several years. There's an opportunity here, also, with the site's new owner, to broaden, and even energize, Summit's profile.
Summit will need to be creative and assertive to reach further for shared services, for grant assistance and to expand public-private partnerships.
What are the biggest opportunities for Summit?
Our challenges discussed above are also our opportunities.
Another opportunity is to harness the energy and talent of our residents to contribute to enhancing life in Summit. I see an opportunity to educate, expose and involve residents to civic and community issues from the time they move to Summit (and also even before, with the City's web presence).
I truly believe that Summit is a great city, and every way that the public has to see our city, from driving into it, to riding through it on the train, to seeing it on the internet, should make one say, "wow, I'd love to live in that community."
What would be on your "to-do list," if elected?
First, I would address the challenges discussed above. Merck’s departure is a high priority.
Second, I believe we can provide a better framework for choices and decisions by expanding our operating budget beyond one year. We should also understand the impact of our capital plans. By providing a wider lens to view programs, these plans and budgets will show the impact of decisions and obligations going forward, helping the decision and planning process.
Third, I would like to see the progress and evaluation of current programs on an on-going basis, especially emergency management and parking. I believe the City should post progress on the City's website. Also, posting goals and results for each City committee and commission would provide residents with insight on what they do and what is accomplished. This would broaden outreach and create more civic awareness in our community. For residents who have either an expertise or interest in the subject areas, this may stimulate interest to volunteer for these committees.
What are 5 words to describe Summit?
"A great place to live."