Q&A with City Council Candidate Connie Herrick

Herrick is one of four candidates vying for two seats on the City Council. This is her first time running for public office.

Herrick at City Hall filing papers to run for City Council.
What is your age and how long have you lived in Piedmont?

I’m 63 and have been part of Piedmont for 51 years.

What do you do for work, either in or out of your home?

I am an acupuncturist, licensed in California and Hawaii. I practice using an integrative treatment approach and specialize in working with cancer patients and their oncologists. Acupuncture, Chinese herbs and nutritional supplements provide relief from pain and allopathic treatment side effects while patients go through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and their recovery. I also write a bi-monthly health blog for a prominent San Francisco integrative medicine practice and manage all their patient communications.

I have worked as Director of Marketing Communications at American President Lines and Vice President of Business Banking at Bank of America. For my full CV, please go to: https://www.linkedin.com/in/connie-herrick/

Have you worked or volunteered in the Piedmont community (or elsewhere) previously? If so, in what capacity(ies)?

As a full-time working mom, I volunteered as a Beach Elementary classroom helper, gave wellness and Chinese Medicine presentations at PMS and PHS, drove for field trips, soccer and water polo games, and served as a medic for our soccer team. My husband Mark and I are active in our newly renamed Community Resiliency Group (formerly known as Neighborhood Watch.)

For 25 years, I have been part of the Charlotte Maxwell Clinic (CMC.) We provide integrative cancer care for low-income, underserved Bay Area women with cancer. Our clients are mainly Latina, African-American and Asian, many are monolingual and 70% live below the federal poverty level.  I’ve been honored to volunteer at CMC in many capacities: acupuncturist, Board Vice President, medical advisor and Executive Director. Please visit www.charlottemaxwell.org. You will be touched and amazed at the stories of these women and the 250 wonderful volunteer practitioners who care for them.

What inspires you to run for office?

Running for Council was a decision I made more with my heart than my head. Living in unprecedented times has not been easy for any of us. Every day we face challenges to our health, safety and financial stability. So I felt that If there was ever a time to step up, contribute and effect positive change, it was now. Most of all, I have a strong desire to give back and a deep commitment to volunteerism and civic duty. That is what inspires me to serve and run for office. And I love our City.

What are your qualifications to be on the City Council? Any special skills or experience the voters should know about?

I’ve been part of Piedmont for 51 years, paid property taxes for over 25 years and voted on every measure to support the growth of our City. For 40 years, I’ve worked primarily in finance and marketing communications, held positions at an executive level, managed cross departmental business units for two Fortune 500 companies and worked with department budgets similar in size to Piedmont’s city budget. My financial expertise, operational experience and solution based project management approach would well serve our City. 

I have an MBA in corporate finance and MS in Traditional Medicine. Differential diagnosis is the basis of Chinese Medicine. It requires extreme attention to detail and the ability to analyze large amounts of disparate data to create the correct treatment approach. And I’ve run a successful private practice for over 12 years. These skills are 100% applicable to making successful, critical-path decisions.

What do you see as the most challenging issues currently facing the city?

I believe our top challenge will always be how to generate enough revenue to pay for all the services and infrastructure upgrades we need. There are many of us in town who are facing financial challenges due to Covid work displacements. There are many of us on a fixed or limited income. We support a variety of priorities, sometimes conflicting. So getting agreement for bond measures that increase our property taxes is always going to be a challenge. 

Currently, we will have the challenge of raising enough funding for a new community pool and the essential upgrades to our police and fire buildings.

What do you see as strengths of the Piedmont community?

We are extremely fortunate to have an abundance of strengths. Our citizens are smart, engaged, vocal, volunteer-oriented, supportive of diversity and deeply vested in community. Our City is beautiful. We have gorgeous parks and a large variety of trees, carefully chosen and placed by our Parks Commission. Our streets, sewers and sidewalks are all extraordinarily well maintained. There is no emergency our Public Works Department can’t handle. 

Our Recreation Department provides a wonderful selection of community activities to support our health and well-being. Thanks to our Police Department, we enjoy a higher level of safety compared with our neighboring cities. Our Fire Department arrives within minutes to aid with emergency health or property issues. City staff and the volunteer efforts from all our other commissions/committees keep our City running smoothly. And we have a variety of locally focused media to keep us well informed.

What will be your top priority if elected?

My top priority will always be to listen to the citizens of Piedmont and bring their input to the Council. That includes transparency in communication. Gathering and reporting diversity of opinion is critical to widespread representation and also to the making of good, solid decisions. 

From an issues standpoint, I believe I will not have the luxury of picking one top priority. An excellent decision maker must be able to assimilate large quantities of quickly changing data, work with a constantly shifting landscape and all the while staying focused on the most optimal end result. So I expect there to be many top priorities. From attending City Council meetings and reading staff reports, I see these areas currently floating to the top: new community pool, reach codes, essential building upgrades for police and fire, City budget requirements (transfer tax increase,) diversity and BLM, increase in crime and emergency readiness.

Do you see yourself being especially involved in any particular city issue or program, whether or not it’s your top priority?

I will be supporting Measure UU and the building of our new community pool. I hear and understand the concerns about incurring $19.5M in debt and why we should delay due to all the challenges we are facing. However, now is a good time to take advantage of low interest rates. And if we continue to delay, replacement costs keep skyrocketing, the pool keeps leaking 1K+ gallons per day and we keep spending more and more to maintain its degrading infrastructure.

Our pool is a midtown jewel that strengthens our property values. Potential home buyers find our community amenity extremely attractive. So I hope for a modern, green facility that can easily accommodate all our swim, health, recreation and community gathering needs. And I believe we will always reap significant returns on any investment we make in our health, wellbeing and community.

Talk about any leadership roles you’ve held and what you learned from them.

In any leadership role, you learn to reach any goal successfully requires you to know your customer and what they need, have a highly defined problem statement and a solution based project management approach, seek out diverse viewpoints, gather applicable data, spend the time in thoughtful analysis, communicate well and often with your stakeholders, be appreciative of people’s efforts, stay upbeat, and always surround yourself with people smarter than you.

In my Director positions, I faced the challenge of restructuring an entire non-profit organization and a large Fortune 500 business unit to put them on a path of financial and operational stability. I learned the importance of having a clearly defined strategic road map, frequently communicating updates and milestones, and managing expectations from a variety of different viewpoints. Mostly, I learned that no matter how insurmountable things may seem, anything is possible with hard work and an unwavering commitment to the goal.

Share an example of your decision-making style.

The Charlotte Maxwell Clinic provides integrative cancer care through its small staff of 6 and 250 volunteer practitioners. These practitioners come from a variety of modalities – acupuncture, herbs, massage, guided imagery, homeopathy and movement therapy. One modality’s concerns or issues were not another’s. To make any decision affecting the organization required buy-in from everyone.

I would hold modality group meetings to explain an upcoming decision, encourage discussion, and get feedback. I would then compile all the meeting information and distribute a report to everyone that would either confirm the decision or modify it based on those meetings. I would talk one-on-one with strong dissenters or anyone not comfortable going public with their opinion. When I had 90% buy-in, I executed the decision. Last, I monitored the efficacy of the decision and reported back the results to everyone.

What project have you worked on that you are especially proud of?

I created a private online forum for the Charlotte Maxwell practitioners. It was a place to share information on latest treatment practices, post patient alerts (ie: needs food or needs a place to live) and share ideas, articles, drawings and photos. I’m proud of this project because it enabled practitioners from different modalities to learn about each other, celebrate their diversity and share the treatment challenges they faced.

The forum fostered a deeper camaraderie than just sharing a common service mission. It gave them community. Frequent communication always makes everything work better.

City Council members must navigate a wide range of community opinions and demands. How will you handle those pressures?

I think you have to have the type of personality that wants to listen, enjoys talking with people and doesn’t take anything personally. A councilperson’s job is to represent all citizens. You can’t do that properly unless you hear a lot of opinions and demands. My nature is such that I don’t view these interactions as pressure. They are opportunities to connect, learn, confirm and change.

Also, a sense of humor is key. Those familiar with the TV show “Parks and Recreation” will know the city council character Leslie Knope and her catch phrase: “What I hear when I’m being yelled at is people caring loudly at me.” That’s a good attitude to have, right? When people care deeply or feel strongly about an issue, it can be expressed as a demand or delivered in a heated fashion. That’s just human nature. I don’t have any expectation that I will be able to please everyone or deliver on every demand. But I will always listen, seek out diverse opinions and be openminded.

Is Piedmont doing a good job addressing Covid-19? If not, what improvements would you advocate?

Our City’s Covid-19 email updates are excellent. They are succinct, quick to read, easy to understand and visually bright and colorful. The Recreation Department’s Park Ambassadors monitor compliance which frees up our Police Department to focus on crime. Given that none of us were trained or experienced in how to work through a pandemic, I’d say we are doing a good job.

I believe most of us are wearing masks and following the latest shelter-in-place rules. However, on daily walks around town, I still see people without masks and not practicing physical distancing. It would be great if those people would get on board so we can get through this pandemic quicker. I wear my mask to protect you. You wear your mask to protect me. We are all in this together. #LoveYourParks6FeetApart.

What do you think about the proposed bond measure to replace the pool?

In 2002, Josh Bernstein asked my support for a new pool and I gladly gave it. Our pool was old and worn out back then. If the bond measure passes in November, it will be March 2022 before construction can start. We really can’t afford to delay this project.

I became a swimmer late in life. I swim every day to alleviate chronic joint pain from past breast cancer treatments and injuries. I have modified my stroke to accommodate my torn rotator cuff and can now swim 1 mile. I ride a bike, run on a treadmill, jump on a trampoline and throw an 10lb medicine ball, all in the pool because I can’t do those activities on land. Swimming laps and aqua circuit training has made me strong, mobile and flexible. My personal healing experience in the water is why I feel so strongly that we need a new community pool. I know firsthand how important moving in water is for our bodies and minds. So as a swimmer and enthusiastic advocate for aqua rehabilitation, I will vote Yes on Measure UU.

What do you think about current taxes in Piedmont? Too low, too high, just right?

Taxes always feel “too high.” With the amount of City infrastructure upgrades needed, taxes are likely “too low.” We have the opportunity to get them to “just right” by increasing the transfer tax.

Property related taxes are 72% of our City’s revenues. In the 2020-21 City budget, we are anticipating receiving a decrease of $414,000 over the 2019-20 project actual. The decrease is mainly in transfer tax revenue due to slowing home sales in a Covid affected market.

Every year we expect to receive $2.8 million in transfer taxes. Some years we receive more, some years less. The surplus, designated for general use, can be used to fund facilities maintenance. I believe we should find additional revenue and target that revenue specifically for our maintenance needs, instead of relying on a fluctuating, undesignated surplus. Raising the transfer tax from $13.00 to $17.50 per thousand of the home sale will give us this needed additional revenue with minimal impact to our residents.

How would you deal with improving and maintaining City facilities?

One area I think needs examination is the facilities maintenance budget. Given the amount of necessary improvements coming for essential police and fire buildings, we need to make sure we have a correct budget to pay for that and any other upcoming upgrades for our city buildings. In the past, we’ve used the transfer tax surplus to pay for this maintenance. Going forward, I’d like to see a larger standalone budget for facilities, one that is not dependent on a fluctuating tax surplus. I would also interface with our CIP Review Committee. With all the projects they have been involved in, they can provide good guidance.

Between the city and the schools there are many shared facilities and programs. What is your perspective on city-school partnerships and collaboration?

We both face the same root issue – limited resources. There is never enough money, staffing, equipment or programs to meet all our goals. So open communication and partnering to come up with creative solutions that benefit both is key. PUSD, the School Board and City Council make a powerful and effective team. Sharing priorities, obstacles, and opportunities on a consistent basis is the best approach. Work together and we deliver more to our citizens.

What would you do to create more affordable housing available in Piedmont?

As we all know, we have very limited, buildable land available in our City. For affordable housing, there may still be a few available options in Zone C (multi-family district) and Zone D (mixed-use, multi-family.) I think our main opportunity is to encourage the building of more accessory dwelling units (ADUs.) The benefits to Piedmont homeowners who are able to build an ADU include extra income from rent and overall increased property value. The latest ADU designs and building materials used are extremely eco-friendly. It might be our best bet to increase affordable housing.

What would you do to promote diversity in Piedmont, including among City staff?

Living in our City as a person of color, I feel we are making progress promoting diversity. We need to continue our efforts and never let up. The Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee keeps our community engaged providing diversity education and events.  The Havens Mentorship Program, developed in partnership by PHS Advocacy for Asian Americans and Black Student Union, is a brilliant example of bringing cultural awareness and support to our elementary school children. I am looking forward to United Against Hate Week (11/30-12/6) and would love to see more movement oriented events. 

When we support diversity in the workplace, we want to ensure a variety of different perspectives and have employees with different characteristics and experiences. Given my personal interactions with City staff and watching them interface at City Council meetings and the various Commissions and Committees, I feel we are lucky to have an incredible variety of viewpoints, backgrounds and skills.

What would you do to improve environmental sustainability in Piedmont?

We have a good Climate Action Plan. I would continue following it. As a citizen, I am participating in the Piedmont Climate Challenge and working to meet the residential priorities of our CAP – reducing food waste, eating less meat, shopping local, recycling, turning off lights, using less heat and walking instead of driving whenever possible.

I also support implementing the Reach Codes. These Codes were carefully developed with much public input. There will be a menu of energy upgrades with many low-cost, easy-to-implement options. Replacing old, worn out gas reliant appliances, will only require completing a few of the easier, low-cost menu items. Only large scale building projects and new construction will require more costly options. Through these Codes, we continue to take the necessary incremental steps to increase our climate change resiliency and improve our environmental sustainability.

What do you think about current recreational opportunities in Piedmont, and do you have other ideas for adding, subtracting or changing programs?

Our Recreation Department does a phenomenal job and always has. Take a moment and think about all of their offerings – art, sports, aquatics, schoolmates, preschool, camps, workshops, exercise, and wellness. I probably left off several more. It’s an amazing feat to create and maintain such a roster. And I love using the Active Communities website to register for classes. Easy and quick.

I have one idea to add a program: aqua circuit training. There are bicycles, treadmills and trampolines specially made for the water. Training this way allows minimal impact to the joints, with huge benefits to muscle strength, flexibility, balance and bone density. It’s wonderful for physical rehabilitation after injury or working with chronic conditions. There are aqua circuit trainers who have their own equipment, so we would not bear the equipment cost. Might be an idea to consider when we have a new community pool.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with voters about your candidacy?

I am sensitive to the times we are living in and all that we face on a daily basis. So I am respectfully running my campaign a little differently.

I am not soliciting donations or asking you to put up lawn signs or calling you for your endorsement. I trust you will make the best decision for you and your family as you always do, with research and consideration.

If you would like to meet me, please go to my website and book a chat: https://www.voteherrick.com/connect 

Most importantly: Please vote! And drop off or mail your ballots as soon possible. I would recommend tracking your ballot. Sign-up at acvote.ballottrax.net to receive automatic email or text notifications. Thank you!!

Learn more and contact Connie Herrick with questions at https://www.voteherrick.com/connect.

This article was updated on Sept. 12 and the following sentence amended from “Raising the transfer tax from 13 cents to 17.5 cents per thousand of the home sale will give us this needed additional revenue with minimal impact to our residents.” to the corrected “Raising the transfer tax from $13.00 to $17.50 per thousand of the home sale will give us this needed additional revenue with minimal impact to our residents.”

5 thoughts on “Q&A with City Council Candidate Connie Herrick

  1. Thanks Connie – great answers – very direct. I agree with just about everything you say. The one point I would question you on is the transfer tax increase. The transfer tax hasn’t come in under $2.8M for 10 years now and is projected to be almost $5M a year by 2030.

    https://www.piedmontcivic.org/2020/06/23/opinion-piedmont-property-transfer-tax-increase-is-not-needed/

    The Transfer tax surplus above $2.8M has averaged about $0.8M a year for the past 10 years so the city is routinely taking in the funding the BAFPC said is needed for FM. The FM fund stands at $5M so any downturn in the tax is covered. Rather than needed funding, Measure TT will be a windfall to the city which may be why the measure is drafted as a general rather than dedicated tax – it will let the city spend the funds on any city need:

    https://www.piedmontcivic.org/2020/06/29/opinion-proposed-tax-measures-on-november-ballot-are-not-accurate-or-appropriate/

    If TT passes, I say split it with the School District – they really have little or no budget for facilities maintenance. Let the seller’s share go to the city and the buyer’s share go to the schools – that’s usually why they bought in Piedmont.

    Good luck.

    • Thank you, Garrett. I always appreciate your thoughts, comments and astute analyses. I like your suggestion to split the FM fund with the school district. Our schools are a vital, critical part of our City and as you correctly state, they have a minimal FM budget.

      If elected, these are exactly the kind of interactions and discussions I’m looking forward to. Open dialogue leads to better education and understanding. I am grateful you took the time to comment. And thanks for the good luck!

  2. Thank you Susan Kodani for catching this typo:
    “Raising the transfer tax from 13 cents to 17.5 cents per thousand of the home sale will give us this needed additional revenue with minimal impact to our residents.”

    The correct wording is:
    “Raising the transfer tax from $13.00 to $17.50 per thousand of the home sale will give us this needed additional revenue with minimal impact to our residents.”

    I’m sure we all wish it was cents! Apologies for the typo!

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