Bio: Caroline oversees over $2 million annually in community development funding and programming for the City of La Crosse. Prior to this position, she worked in Washington DC for an international non-profit Freedom House. She holds a master's degree in Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, New York. She has worked at the City of La Crosse for five years. Caroline grew up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Residence: La Crosse
Occupation/company: Community development administrator
Family: husband (David), son Conrad, and twin girls on the way — expected any day
Why do you believe you were nominated for this recognition — and were you surprised?:
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Yes, I was very surprised and happy to find out the news. I think because my job has allowed me to lead a lot of interesting, varied projects on behalf of the City of La Crosse. They have ranged from catalyzing new, affordable housing in the City, to making neighborhood improvements, to strategic planning for Senior Centers and for La Crosse’s homeless. Someone also once told me that I am really collaborative person — I learned long ago that every great project needs good partners, community buy-in, and lots of patience. I think I’ve been able to do that well.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
I’m proud of the ways that as a team in the Planning Department, we’ve launch some innovative community development programs that no one else is doing anywhere in the nation, and they are working to make our city better. I love being part of that. I also enjoy being able to drive (or walk or bike) around the City and see the development taking place and know that I’ve played a role in helping make it happen. Like the new homes being built in the neighborhoods, people making home improvements, 2219 Lofts and Roosevelt School Apartments, plus a lot of cool projects we’ve got in the works like the Kane Street Garden Terrace and Riverside North.
Please tell us what community and volunteer activities you’re involved with — and why:
I always say my job as “community development administrator” means I get to be involved with a lot of community activities and still call it work. I’ve been part of the Collaborative to End Homelessness and sit on a Steering Committee helping to drive that collaboration. Through this experience, I learned a lot about homelessness and dispelled a lot of myths that I personally held. I also enjoyed helping many of the neighborhood associations throughout the City. I’ve gotten to meet people who care about their neighborhood and put a ton of work into it, on top of their daytime jobs. (In terms of pure volunteer work, actually I don’t do a lot because being a full-time working mom, on the weekends and evenings, I want to spend time with my wonderful but active 2 year old. I love taking him to parks and the library).
Tell us what inspired you to be a leader in your organization and in your community:
I work with an incredible group of people — ranging from the Mayor, to our Planning Director Jason Gilman, to my colleagues in the Department who make it easy to be creative, try out new ideas and see if they work. Also, I just love being able to watch our City thrive and change so it’s inspiring to be part of it all.
What advice would you offer younger leaders to aid their success?
Find a job that really matches your personality and caters to your strengths. I landed in a job I love after both reflection and lived- experience really taught me about who I am and what I did well at and what drove me. I think part of my success is just having a job that really “fits me”. When I got the job, I actually knew very little about the technical aspect of the job but I was able to pick it up quickly because it fit my personality so well.