Candidate Q&A: Sara Schmitz for Incline Village General Improvement District trustee

Sara Schmitz

Voters within the Incline Village General Improvement District boundaries will narrow the field of six candidates on the June 12 ballot to four ahead of the November election. A total of two seats are up for grabs this election cycle.

To help inform that decision, the Tribune posed a series of questions to each candidate via email. The candidates were asked to restrain their answers to specific word counts for each question. All the answers appear as submitted by the candidates.

Name: Sara Schmitz

Age: 56

Current occupation: Semi-retired. Part-time ski instructor and community volunteer.

Do you have any prior experience in elected office? If so, please share.

I’ve been a Board Member for a volunteer organization. While residing in Danville, California from 2006-2015, I took an active role in improving our community. In addition to volunteering my time and skills, I successfully influenced the Town’s strategic plan for the benefit of all and worked to oppose tax increases at the County level. Through all of my teamwork and individual efforts, I gained the respect of my community and government leaders.

Please list any clubs, organizations that you are a part of and would like to mention:

AAUW, Boys and Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe, Galapagos Conservancy, IV/CB Republican Women, IV/CB Veterans Club, Incliners, Monterey Bay Aquarium, PSIA, and Tahoe Family Solutions.

Why are you running for the IVGID Board of Trustees?

Upon moving into our community, I began attending IVGID Board meetings and community forums. I observed a fraying partnership among our Board, Senior Staff, and our citizens and thought, this can be fixed. When I see a situation I believe I have the skills to improve, I jump in with all of my heart and soul. In my leadership career, I learned the importance of open communication and the establishment of common goals as the first steps toward bringing people together. I also learned the importance of accountability and taking responsibility for our actions and outcomes. As your Trustee, I will improve communication, implement fiscal accountability, encourage everyone to share their best ideas, and work diligently to enhance our Incline Village/Crystal Bay community.

In your opinion, what is the most important issue facing the Incline Village General Improvement District? How should the board address that issue?

Openness. We need open communication and complete transparency. I would begin by reinstating public comments for each agenda item at Board meetings, ensure public correspondence is included in the Board packets, make public records more readily available, and implement a foundation for our Board and Senior Staff to respond to citizens’ comments, questions, and concerns. This will improve everyone’s decision making and reinvigorate community involvement. We have a diverse community of hard working, skillful, talented, entrepreneurial, and experienced individuals willing to provide additional expertise and resources to support our Board and Senior Staff. I have been told that all our District needs to do is ask and they are ready to assist.

We also need improved openness and accountability related to the District’s finances. Budgets and the reporting of actual spending compared to budget are presented in a confusing manner. We all need to clearly understand where our dollars are being budgeted and spent. Spending needs to be aligned with the policies and priorities set by our Board and our Board must set priorities that align with our community’s priorities. Improved open communication and financial transparency builds a strong foundation for our Board, staff, and community to rebuild their partnership and trust.

Recreation services are one of IVGID’s primary functions. How do you feel about the current offerings?

The recreation opportunities are one of the many reasons people raised here choose not to leave and those whom discover our jewel in the Sierra enjoy living here. Our golf courses, skiing, tennis, recreation center, and parks make our community uniquely enjoyable. Unfortunately, over the past few years, considerable amounts of spending have been on things the community did not identify as their priorities. Much has been spent on legal fees, consultants, consideration of purchasing the Parasol building for administrative office space, and advertising to promote Incline Village/Crystal Bay as a tourist destination. I would like to see our Board place our community’s priorities at the forefront. In surveys conducted in 2017, the community identified a desire to have our current recreation facilities operated and maintained at their optimum condition for their recreation, rather than spending on new initiatives and promoting tourism. With improved direction and oversight from our Board, the recreation services spending and the use of our punch cards can be aligned to best serve our homeowners, residents, and local businesses.

For our residents with beach access, there is a concern about overcrowding. With proper analysis, a solution can be designed and implemented. For residents without beach access, they should be able to review budgets and expenses to ensure their Recreation Facility Fee is not being used to financially support the operations and capital projects at the beaches.

Is there anything else you would like the voters to know about you?

Growing up in a small town in the Upper Midwest, I learned the value of community spirit and civic engagement. I learned from my parents’ commitment to local charities, Park Boards and City Council that every citizen has an opportunity to make a difference. Change for the better is a partnership – a goal that can be achieved when we all listen, learn and work together.

In my career as an Information Technology executive, I led a team of 45 Project Managers and oversaw over $20M of projects. My organization was responsible for formulating the plans, strategies, and solutions to meet the goals of business leaders. Along with mastering the details and assembling exceptional teams, management to budget and schedule was paramount.

After moving from Minnesota to Danville, California in 2006, I embarked on a second career as a Realtor where I grew my business each year. Once again, listening carefully to the needs of my clients and delivering to exceed their expectations remained my primary focus. At the same time, I became actively involved with the local chamber of commerce as well as town, county, and state government.

We spent our honeymoon in Tahoe 35 years ago and have been returning ever since! Incline Village/Crystal Bay is now the place we are blessed to call ‘home’. Since moving here I’ve become a volunteer at the local Boys and Girls Club, am a part-time ski instructor, and I’ve been very involved with the workings of the IVGID Board.

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