Nicolle Picray is not unlike many new, young professional residents of Pella. She and her husband are raising two little girls, with a third child on the way, and would like to see the community continue to thrive.
Picray is the Public Relations Manager at Pella Corporation. This allows her to see a great deal of what goes on behind the scenes. What she believes is that the City is not receptive to new ideas. While the Pella City Council should be a gatekeeper, they have become more prone to shutting down new ideas.
Pella’s Dutch heritage and classic architecture are important to preserve, but she also believes the town needs to have a vision for the future and establish communication with residents to best convey it.
Some areas need to have the Dutch front preserved, but Picray does not believe it is necessary to make all businesses conform to the style. She is willing to bend on these requirements if it makes the project unaffordable for a developer or entrepreneur. If everyone prefers keeping the Dutch fronts, she suggests offering incentives to make the project more affordable. In recent years, large corporations such as Walmart and Casey’s have conformed to the look, but they can afford to, she says. “Mom and pop” shops, which Pella wants to welcome, may not be able to.
“They can’t afford to do these things,” Picray said. “How can we help them?”
A resident of Pella for three years, Picray has been with Pella Corporation for five. This is her first run for any office.
She is interested in the Ward 2 seat to also represent her age demographic. Picray believes that young professionals are not adequately represented on the council currently. If Pella wants to attract and retain young families, they should have more of a voice in community matters, she believes.
One way she believes the council can improve operations is through its communications. Unless you actively seek out minutes from recent meetings, or have a vested interest in a topic, there is a lot of information that is not widely spread.
If elected, she would like to see the council utilize platforms more popular for communication today – such as social media and the website. Print materials are great, she says, but podcasts, Instagram and other forms are as well.
She agrees that issues that will face the council in 2020 and beyond include providing day care and reasonably-priced housing. Picray wants Pella to remain an upscale community with the neighborhoods to match it, but many young people have “sticker shock” when they look to purchase homes in town.
“The home prices in Pella are similar to prices in Omaha,” Picray said. She wants to add to the housing inventory and find ways to make prices more affordable. Currently, the options for home buyers are buying low and fixing it up.
“I think the whole community feels that,” she said. The worst thing she believes can happen to Pella is it becomes a bedroom community. As she mentioned, home prices are similar to Omaha, but amenities in Pella are not as readily available as they are in that community.
Picray wants to see the community center renovated, but also wants to explore other opportunities for new facilities to provide services. She wants to ensure that Union Street Players continue to have a place to perform in a facility the community can enjoy. She does not want the community center torn down if it can be renovated.
“I think we have other building opportunities,” she said, “other ones in town can be used for community services.”
She is interested in learning how the City can leverage the Recreation Center. At last report, the center is owned by the bank that provided the loan for its construction.
What Picray believes is that, while millions of dollars to renovate a building sounds like a lot, it is not when one looks at the scope of the budget spread over a period of years.
The community offers a great sense of togetherness, Picray believes, but more community involvement is needed. There are many ways to connect and she encourages everyone to find a way to be part of what makes Pella great. She would like to create more opportunities for people to get to know each other – part of the reason for this is because so many Pella Corporation employees choose to live in Des Moines because there are activities and groups that more suit their social desires.
The future of Pella will require partnerships among PACE, the City, the business community and everyone else. Fresh ideas and perspectives should be sought.
“We have to modernize a little bit or we’re going to lose in the long term,” Picray said. “Saying ‘no’ to everything is not an option.”
In closing, Picray says, “We have a beautiful community, people want to come here.” To bring the young people, they should be catered to more. That will also help retain those who are already here.