Q and A with city council-woman Betsy Smegal Andersen


Meet the newest member of city council, Betsy Andersen, appointed to fill the empty seat left by Mayor Jeff Wieler’s resignation. Andersen has been serving since Oct 3.

How were you appointed to city council?

I was one of 12 applicants. I’m guessing they were looking for someone who could hit the ground running with the issues in front of the city, someone that they thought would get along well with the members of the council.

What’s the main role of a city council member in Piedmont?

We work with the city administrator, Paul Benoit. He really runs the city day to day. We’re not really involved in the day to day. Policy decisions come to us, for example, if there’s an issue with parking, cell towers, facilities. We also pay attention to the roads the streets– all the public spaces in Piedmont that fall under the purview of the city council. When there are issues that need be decided on, they are brought to the city council, and the city council decides.

How often do you meet?

We meet twice a month, the first and the third Monday of each month. From time to time we have special meetings. In addition to the city council meetings, we also are assigned to be liaisons to the different commissions.

What’s your background?

I am an attorney– that’s my professional hat. I did two years on the public safety commission. Most recently I was the chair of the recreation commission.

What first led you to become involved in city government?

My motivation in getting involved in the recreation commission was because of the Piedmont Pool, which is nearing the end of its useful life. It’s really old, I think at least 53 years. Outdoor pools typically have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years, so we’re already on borrowed time. We could have a much nicer, much more usable, much more energy efficient facility if we could figure out how to pay for it.

I was also motivated to join city council because I am a woman, and I thought it would be really cool for the city council to be a majority of women, which is the first time that’s happened since 2001.

What are your priorities for city council?

I’m quite passionate about public safety. That has to be priority number one. My second priority is infrastructure and fiscal responsibility, sort of how can we deal with and address our aging facilities in a prudent manner.

My goals are to continue to promote public safety, fiscal responsibility, and to try to find a way as a community so that we can renovate and maybe replace these aging facilities. What we want to have is resources for everyone.

When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, the pool was a real hub of activity. People were really hanging out there. I would like to see that be a hub of activity again in that same way. With water polo, swim team, lap swimmers, triathletes, there are so many users would like to use the pool, and right now they can’t use it at once. It’s just gotten too crowded. One of my goals is to come up with a solution for that. Right now there is no money to redo the pool.

What’s preventing the city from renovating the pool?

The city has a budget every year for a facilities maintenance fund, that we use to maintain our facilities, but it doesn’t have a big capital projects fund. There is no “pool” of money on the sidelines waiting to be invested in a new facility.

Right now the city is trying to figure out what the options are. If we can’t come up with the money to renovate the facilities, maybe there won’t be a pool. We don’t know when the maintenance is going to become too cost prohibitive, but that date is coming.

How do you think growing up in Piedmont has given you perspective on the issues the city faces?

We moved to Piedmont when I was five, and I started as a kindergartner at Wildwood. Then I went on to Piedmont Middle School and Piedmont High School, graduating in 1988. My parents still live in Piedmont, and I think growing up here and knowing my parents, and my parent’s friends and other adults in the community who I’ve grown up with helps me to think about other perspectives of residence. I’m not just thinking of my 40 something perspective. I’m also thinking of what it’s like to be an 80-year-old living in Piedmont and what challenges those residents face.

During your time in Piedmont, what kinds of changes have you seen?

I’m a parent– I’ve got two kids in the high school– I remember growing up with the level of parent involvement we have today. I think it’s wonderful that the parents are so involved in supporting the schools, so involved in our communities. Piedmonters, in my opinion, have always been engaged, but right now they’re especially engaged with current events, and what’s happening with the schools, what’s happening with the city. The city belongs to all of us. This is a welcome community involvement.

Piedmont’s always been a small town. The spirit of Piedmont is the same as what it’s always been with people being really excited about being part of this community, wanting to be active.