WSU graduate runs for mayor

WSU graduate runs for mayor

McKenna Scherer, News Editor

Winona mayoral hopeful Scott Sherman will face off with opponent Jovy Rockey at the polls on Nov. 3 for the general election.

Sherman is a Minnesota native who has lived in Winona with his wife Lindsay and their three children for the last 18 years.

Having attended and graduated from Winona State University in the ‘90s, Sherman said he has been drawn to the area since the first time he visited due to its beauty.

“My best friend came to school here [in Winona] and I came to visit him, and I had no idea this place existed. When I saw it, I was literally shocked at how beautiful it was, how cool it was,” Sherman said.

Sherman has been and stays heavily involved in leadership positions in the Winona area.

He is a member of the Winona County Economic Development Authority, has served on several committees and boards in Winona and has attended nearly every City Council meeting the last two years.

Sherman also has several years of experience as a volunteer and deep knowledge of infrastructure as well as leadership-specific training.

“Some leaders in our community identified me as a leader in certain aspects of our town,” Sherman said. “They asked me to go to this leadership training program in 2015 and I learned a ton about myself primarily, but one of the biggest things was that I learned that other people saw me as a leader in our community.”

Sherman said that people continued to identify him as a leader and in the years following, people began to ask him if he had ever considered running for office.

At the time he said he had not considered it before and with his career and family commitments, he didn’t think he’d be able to find the time to run for office.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed that.

The pandemic affected a local triathlon called Trinona, which Sherman and his wife founded 2018, which was cancelled this year due to COVID.

“We had to cancel it because of COVID and I kind of looked at that like, hey, maybe this is saying to me, that this is a good time for me to take on this extra leadership role in our community,” Sherman said.

Since he began his campaign he has aimed to “keep everything above the belt.”

Sherman shared that the day he announced he was running for office on his personal Facebook account, he called his opponent Jovy Rockey.

“I’ve had conversations with all the other candidates prior to that conversation and in each one, what I’ve really said is, ‘we’re all in this together,’” Sherman said. “So regardless of who wins, I expect to be working with Jovy.”

He said that if Rockey wins he would expect her to reach out to him if she ever needed help and he would ask the same of her if he wins.

“If she needs help with outdoor recreation and street infrastructure projects where I really can hang my hat and am an expert in those fields, damn right I’ll help her out,” Sherman said.

However, Sherman said that he has many more years of leadership experience and has “put in a ton of work” for more than the last decade to learn how Winona works as a city.

He said he has seen Winona grow and has experienced the area in different ways than Rockey has since he went to college at Winona State in the ‘90s, moved back to his hometown of Eagan, Minnesota, then moved back again to Winona in adulthood with his family.

“I’m not taking anything away from Jovy when I say that,” Sherman said. “[But] where I think we really differentiate is that I have more experience than her in terms of knowing how the city works and why it works the way it does.”

However, Sherman credited Rockey with her downtown development and small-business knowledge.

If he wins the mayoral election, Sherman said that while COVID may affect what projects will be realistically on the table, he has ideas on how to maneuver around that.

“I understand a lot of people are suffering right now. Financially, businesses are suffering and to start throwing more projects at the wall… I don’t think that’s prudent at this time,” Sherman said.

Sherman instead said that he would want to focus on involving the public in city discussions. Through Zoom, he believes it would be easier to gather the public into discussion on topics like social programs, infrastructure, collaboration with local educational institutions and would like to get more city members involved in commissions.

There are 18 commissions in Winona, Sherman said, one of those being the Human Rights Commission.

Sherman said that after the death of George Floyd in the Minneapolis his eyes were “really opened” to racism, and specifically, racism in the Winona area.

He said that the Human Rights Commission was not currently working on any racial projects or topics around that time and it is something he would really like to push for.

“I think they have 17 seats on that commission, but at the time there were only seven people and they were all white people except for one gentleman of color,” Sherman said. “And I was like, ‘what the heck? Why?’”

Sherman said that to his knowledge, the Winona community is made up of 20% Black and Indigenous people of color (BIPOC) and they are not well represented.

“I thought, what can I do besides look at myself and start to really understand my white privilege as a potential leader of our community,” he said.

Sherman says he hopes to allocate more of the city’s $25 million budget to areas like the Human Rights Commission to work on current issues.

While the Commission had been working on topics and projects on sex trafficking, elder abuse and conversion therapy, Sherman said he would push harder for more projects in those areas as well as racism.

“Change might not even happen within our generation, but you know, what we can do is try to be good ancestors so that the next generation are better people,” Sherman said. “We do it step by step, day by day, we take our own accountability.”

Sherman also said that he supports the right to protest in the fight for change.

“Some of the best changes that have ever happened, and especially in the American society, are when people are upset about something and they protest,” Sherman said. “Protests bring about change.”

He also said that once things like rioting and looting are involved, no positive conversation can be had, and he does not support those types of occurrences.

“You have to be able to respect someone’s opinion,” Sherman said. “You have to understand that others’ opinions are based on their experiences.”

Sherman encouraged all Winona area residents to vote, whether in-person or with an absentee or mail-in ballot regardless of who they are voting for.

Sherman shared that he thinks voting is “one of the few privileges we truly have” and is “one of the easiest tools to make your voice heard.”

He said that he is shocked that in the last 16 years there have only been around 14,000 people vote in Winona even though there are roughly 28,000 residents.

He has taken his oldest child – who is now 18 – to vote with him at nearly every opportunity over the years, even if it was before he dropped him off at school, because he wanted to show him how it is a powerful and private way to voice your opinion in your community.

Grace Wagner, a third-year mass communication student and member of Student Senate, said she will be voting in the general election and will work at the polls.

Wagner said that one factor into her considering working at the polls during the pandemic is that she knows many people who have previously worked at the polls are retirees.

“The retired community is often in the age bracket of 60 years of age and up, which is about the same community that may be immunocompromised, and are at a higher risk of COVID-19’s impact,” Wagner said.

Wagner also said that she personally views making sure polling places are open and accessible as a duty.

While she did not want to comment on who she would be voting for for mayor, she said she believes it’s important to look at the values and policies that each candidate stands for.

“Get your butt out there and vote,” Sherman said.