Exit Interview

Photography by Lori Sax By Susan Burns March 1, 2011

Moving On

Young, earnest native son Kelly Kirschner, who was the neighborhood associations’ answer to encroaching development when he was elected just before the real estate crash, is stepping down after one term. Now 35, Kirschner has changed and so have the issues.

Why did you decide not to run again? I’ve had two children since running for election, and it’s a whole new world raising a family. I don’t think it’s possible to do a good job as a commissioner, work a second job and be a responsible partner and parent.

What is your job? I work with my brother managing accounts at Media Maquiladora, which does Spanish language marketing throughout America and Latin America. If I weren’t working with him it wouldn’t have been possible to be a commissioner. A family business provides flexibility.

Your biggest goal when you ran? To have greater citizen participation in government. It’s their government, and they should not be intimidated.

Are the issues the same today? Part of the platform I ran on was based upon the boom of the early to mid-2000s when people felt disenfranchised with the speed and clip with which things were happening. That’s not the case today.

Some city residents think the neighborhood associations have too much power and that all commissioners should be at-large. You hear that frequently, but to be honest that whole debate seems so old and passé from a world in 2006 and isn’t relevant anymore. All three districts were smartly drawn to include portions of downtown.

What’s your position on an elected mayor? I’ve been discussing this. There are two schools of thought. If you want a certain degree of predictability and consistency with your city and you don’t want politicization, then the city manager form of government is the way to go. On the flip side, the city manager form of government inhibits some things, particularly in an economy where you need to be aggressive. This form of government can hamstring us. In this economy I would vote for a mayor.

The biggest issues facing the city right now? If we don’t stop kicking the can on some of these critical issues like pension reform, then we will become irrelevant, with city taxes going more and more to legacy costs and not to core services.

Biggest accomplishments: A voter referendum on campaign finance reform that dropped the maximum contribution from $500 to $200 per individual, the Palm Avenue parking garage, the Five Points roundabout, one of the state’s first Conservation Efficient and Renewable Energy Funds and pension reform.

Biggest disappointment? The media. Too little substance, too much hype. So many stories on women in bikinis on [parking meter signs] and kissing soldier statues and so few on issues like pension reform (hello, we’re talking about a nearly $600 million liability for the city over the next 30 years).

Will you run for office again? Possibly. I don’t know if you’d asked me in 2005-06 if I was going to run that I would have known.

What’s next in your life? I’m not sure. I’m applying for competitive positions in international development outside the area up in D.C. In this stage of my life and career, I’d better start being a more responsible parent. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I didn’t care as much about money, but having children makes a difference. I want to give them the same opportunities I had.

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