Name as it appears on the ballot: Danielle Kowalczuk
Date of birth: November 18, 1983
Home address: 700 Lakewinds Trl, Rougemont, NC 27572
Occupation & employer: Program Manager, Duke University's Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics (COLE)
Describe your past leadership roles, both in career and community. How will these experiences help you serve on council? Please be specific about how these roles correspond to a council member's responsibilities.
I've been involved in leadership roles as long as I can remember. Growing up in a military family, and moving every-other-year, I learned at a young age that the best way to meet new people and become engaged is to become involved in your community. My first leadership role was when I was elected President of the Student Council in fifth grade. In high school, I was in various leadership roles, including Student Council Historian and Class Officer, and involved in other leadership activities at my school, including Key Club, Leo Club and cheerleading. In college, I was a member of the Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Course and a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars at Louisiana State University. After graduating, I moved to North Carolina, where my husband was stationed with the 82nd Airborne. I started working at the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership & Ethics (COLE) at Duke University, where I'm currently a Program Manager. Part of my role at COLE is managing the Women's Leadership Initiative. These roles have enabled me to participate in extensive leadership training and development. I was burned in a cooking accident at age one, and am currently a member of The Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors' Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery (SOAR), and I volunteer as a peer supporter at the UNC Jaycee Burn Center. I also sit on the Camp Celebrate Planning Committee at the burn center. I think all of these experiences correspond to a council member's role because I've learned to communicate with large groups of people, to have difficult conversations, and to use creativity and problem solving to get the job done. They have also helped to make me a respectful, compassionate person who is able to work in a team. As far as preparation for the Rougemont Town Council, all of the candidates have met for at least an hour a week for the past few months, to discuss ideas, timelines, and learn from each other. We have also brought in the mayor of a town similar in size to Rougemont, and a professor from UNC, to teach us about the roles and responsibilities of the town council.
How do you define yourself politically? How have you demonstrated this political philosophy in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I decided to run as a Republican, because in the past, I have identified more closely with conservative beliefs, however, I don't feel I completely fit into the conservative or Republican box. I definitely believe in conservative spending, and less taxation, but I also identify with some liberal philosophies. The bottom line is that I want to help accomplish the goals of the citizens of Rougemont. I do not have an agenda, and definitely don't have a political agenda.
Why should the Rougemont community become an incorporated town?
I believe Rougemont should become an incorporated town so the citizens have a say in where their money is being spent. Currently, the majority of our Durham County taxes are being used in other parts of the county, and it would be great to control some of these funds to help improve safety, boost economic development, and strengthen the sense of community in Rougemont. We will also have a better chance of getting city water if we are incorporated. Taxes will go up a little (about $50 for every $100,000 of property value), but for every $1 we pay in taxes, we will receive approximately $3.51 from the county and state. That money could do a lot for all the citizens and businesses in Rougemont.
List the three most important issues facing Rougemont, in order of priority.
Since deciding to run, I have learned so much from speaking with citizens, other candidates, and professionals who have met with the candidates. I feel like my ideas have evolved and grown over the past few months, and I know that will continue to happen over the months, and even years, if I'm elected and the town is incorporated. I know water is an extremely important issue for most of the residents, and being incorporated will definitely help in the fight for city water. We will also be eligible to receive government grants, which could help fund this. Beyond water, I think the three things that lay the foundation for a successful town are strengthening and maintaining the sense of community, improving safety, and boosting economic development, while ensuring conservative spending and growth. I think every project the town council takes on should touch on at least one of these points. I wish I could tell you that if elected, I'm going to do x, y, and z, but the truth is, until we incorporate, and start holding town meetings to talk to the citizens, I honestly don't know what the priorities are going to be. I would like to see a farmer's market, which I believe has the potential to establish an identity for Rougemont. We are capable of this because of our geographic advantage, with many farms within a small radius of the town. It will offer added conveniences to residents, without growing commercially, and therefore preserving the small town atmosphere. It will also bring in visitors, and in turn, business and economic growth. Long term, I envision the land where the farmer's market is held, doubling as a community park. Money generated from the farmer's market could be used for other programs, or used for improving the park and adding additional community amenities. Other ideas that have been discussed among the candidates are a small medical center, a senior center, sidewalks in the town center, a food bank so donated items can stay in the town, bike trails, and paving/repaving roads, which is paid for by the state.
If elected, how will you address these issues? Please be specific.
I want to do what the citizens want. I think one of the main roles of a town council member is to listen, and to come up with creative ways to implement these wants – for example, coming up with the most cost-effective way to implement the highest quality project or program.
Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
I am a strong supporter of smaller government and conservative spending. I think we need to have a certain amount of money saved in a "rainy day" account before spending money. I also think it's important to clean up and beautify the town center, but believe we need to do this in a way that doesn't create regulations.
If elected, would you support using Rougemont tax dollars to pay for broader law enforcement coverage by the Durham County Sheriff's Office?
I would absolutely support using Rougemont tax dollars to pay for broader law enforcement coverage, if it is what the community wants. Increasing safety is one of the three essential pillars that I feel builds the foundation for a successful community.
Aside from property taxes, what other sources of revenue would you initiate for Rougemont through town council?
I would like to apply for government grants. Some of the projects that could be funded by grants include running the city water line from Roxboro, and a farmer's market. If we decided as a community to have a farmer's market, this could also become a source of revenue.
What type of new economic development would you support in Rougemont, and where? If elected, what will you do to bring this development to town?
I would like to establish a farmer's market. I also think adding community amenities, such as parks, and beatifying the town center will boost economic growth just by bringing in people who will spend money at existing businesses. Increasing the number of small commercial businesses - "mom and pop" shops, would help with this as well. Creating bike trails would also bring people into town, and boost business at local shops. With that said, I'd just like to reinforce that I think it's important to maintain the rural authenticity of the town, but I believe there are many ways, like the ideas listed above, to do so while also boosting economic development.
If elected to council, what measures will you take on council to help Rougemont grow with residents and business?
Many of the residents I've spoken with, like myself, love our town exactly how it is. I think in our case, the role of the town council deals more with maintaining our environment, and improving our already strong sense of community. Rather than trying to increase the number of residents and large commercial businesses, I think the consensus is to add amenities, like parks and sidewalks, and add conveniences, including light commercial growth.
Long-range guidelines from the Durham City-County Planning Department indicate that Rougemont should remain largely rural. Do you agree with this long-range plan, and how do you plan to maintain this vision or change it on council?
Absolutely! The candidates have discussed this, and one of our goals is for a town council member to sit on the Planning and Zoning Commission.
How long have you been registered to vote in Durham County? How are you registered? Have you ever changed your party affiliation, and why?
I've been registered to vote in Durham County since I moved here in June 2010. I know I have only lived in Rougemont for about a year and a half, but growing up in a military family, the longest I've ever lived anywhere is the four years I spent in Baton Rouge, LA, while attending LSU. Considering this, it doesn't seem like such a short amount of time. I'm so happy that my husband and I have found a place with such wonderful people and such a strong sense of community, to lay down our roots and raise our growing family. We plan to stay in Rougemont for a very long time, and I look forward to raising my now one-year-old daughter in a safe place, where neighbors look out for each other, and the sense of community is very apparent to everyone. I truly love our town!