New Northfield Mayor Mary Rossing talks about her first day


I surprised Mayor Mary Rossing in her store Present Perfect this morning with my video camera. I mostly asked her questions that had to do with Monday night’s City Council meeting, which you can read a bit about here. We touched upon her changes in meeting procedure, her tactics on facilitating meetings and her outlook on information exchange in Northfield and on the financial health of the city’s businesses.

*Note 1/7 8:45 a.m.: To clarify, Mary told me over the phone that I could interview her at the store and when I got to the store and asked if I could videotape our interview she gave me her permission. Mary has always been very accessible and I appreciated her willingness to once again speak to me with the camera rolling.

Mayor Mary Rossing’s First Day from Bonnie Obremski on Vimeo.


  1. John S. Thomas said:

    Bonnie, I give you an “A” for effort, but I must give a “C-” for the methodology…

    I am not real thrilled by the methodology being used here. You are trying to be a journalist, yet you just showed up, expecting to get your questions answered. It just doesn’t seem very professional to me.

    A professional journalist would have called first, and made an appointment for an interview. Please tell me you called first, and did not just show up. Walking in with the Camera running… Very paparazzi, very much an ambush style of reporting.

    The methodology you utilized does not respect Mary, or the Office of the Mayor. I appreciate your efforts, but I think you went about it all wrong.

    I think Mayor Mary was tremendously gracious in granting you nearly thirty minutes out of her day, while she is attempting to run a business. You can tell from your video that she was on the phone when you walked in…

    Bonnie, I love what you do, but I think you could have done this much better. I would have like to have seen a much longer interview, and allowed Mayor Mary to expand on her thinking. This could have easily been an hour, but in the rush to be first, it came across as a very heavily edited, not continuous, jumble of soundbites. You also seem to chop off a lot of her responses mid stream.

    I would personally like to see you do another more in depth interview. I think Mayor Mary has a tremendous amount to say, and this video technology is a great way to do it. I just think an interview request, and forwarding some prepared questions before hand will get you a better result set.

    January 6, 2009
  2. Martha Cashman said:

    Bonnie, you consistently conduct great interviews — no matter what the subject. LOVED IT! By the way, what is a vimeo?

    Mary, great interview, thoughtful answers. If your start as good as your ‘finish’ , you will indeed get Northfield back on track! Congratulations.

    January 7, 2009
  3. John,

    I did call ahead on Mary’s cell phone and on her store phone. I left a message on her cell phone saying I would bring the camera, but when I reached her on her store phone, she told me to come on down anytime but I accidentally forgot to tell her about the camera. When I got to the store, I asked her if a camera would be alright. She said it would. I turned the camera off when she had to attend to customers and tried to be cognizant of the customers to make sure I wasn’t making anyone feel uncomfortable.

    In my understanding, the Paparazzi try to sneak up on celebrities, get no permission to use their cameras and refuse to leave when asked or when their subject tries to get away from them. I have never been this kind of journalist and do not aspire to be one.

    If you would like to hear more from Mary, I invite you to watch the other video I did during Mary’s campaign. I like to keep videos like this one relatively short and I thought 10 minutes in this format was actually on the long side. I want readers to see a focused discussion that they have the time and bandwidth to watch in full.

    January 7, 2009
  4. John,

    Also, I was in no rush to be “first” on talking to Mary. At that point in the day, as she said in the video, she had already been at least through one interview on the radio. In addition, as far as I know, no one else was in line to conduct a videotaped interview with her.

    If you have questions of Mary that you would like me to ask her in future interviews and would like to share them, I’d like to hear what they are.

    As for editing the video, I admit that I am working with tools that I am getting better at using, but I’m still by no means an expert. I appreciate your feedback and will try and make smoother transitions with my next video.

    This has been eye-opening because I see now that I wrote “surprised” with an element of tongue-in-cheek humor in my mind, but of course none of that could have possibly shown through in the way I presented it. I am sorry for any confusion and will be more conscientious about that in the future.

    January 7, 2009
  5. Mary Rossing said:

    I will weigh in just to clarify. I was surprised when Bonnie came in with video since I had not checked my phone messages. However, I agreed to the spontaneous interview since the store was pretty quiet, and usually is on a Tuesday morning in January. I did stop the interview a couple of times in order to answer the phone and to help a customer.

    It is tricky combining mayoral /citizen time with running a business and am looking forward to having regular hours to be available at City Hall in the future–most likely a block of time on Mondays (“Mondays with Mary”).

    By February we hope to have the area which had been the mayor’s office transformed into a space for the entire council to use. They will be able to meet with constituents, do research, leave information for each other, prepare for meetings, and be be interviewed–in a quiet, private space.

    I agree with John that the editing on this video is a little choppy sometimes, but so was my first council meeting!
    We’re all finding our way…

    January 7, 2009
  6. Mary Rossing said:

    One more thing, I will be on locallygrown on KYMN (1080 on your am dial) this evening at 5:30, so if you have questions for me perhaps you can contact Griff this afternoon.

    I will also be on KYMN every Tuesday morning at 7:35am following the regular council meetings, (sometimes also after worksessions) so I am trying to be available to the media as much as my schedule allows.

    Next I have to get into the habit of blogging regularly on my site. Always more to do!

    January 7, 2009
  7. Bright Spencer said:

    This was an enjoyable bit of video and Mary is a good communicator. I do have a question,
    Is it a conflict of interest to use Mary’s store as a place to do a mayoral interview? I imagine it’s not, but it kinda looks like it might be.

    January 7, 2009
  8. Hi Bright! I see what you’re saying…free advertising for Present Perfect? I could have arranged to meet the mayor at a different time and place, but I don’t think this presents too much of an ethical problem this time around. Maybe if I interviewed Mary every time she had a sale and had her stand in front of the bargain table, that would be a different story.

    It sounds like the mayor will soon have a good neutral space for such discussions in the former mayor’s office.

    In this video, I think I had it in mind that I wanted to show her in her “day job” position, to enrich what people might have seen when she was in her mayoral role at the City Council Meeting.

    By the way, I responded to John but I also want to say to Bright and Martha, thank you for your encouragement and to Mary, thank you for the clarification.

    January 7, 2009
  9. P.S. Martha, Vimeo is a relatively new Web site that is somewhat like YouTube because it allows you to upload and share videos with friends, family, etc. I’m not exactly sure of all the pros and cons of Vimeo vs. other video sharing Web sites. I have found Vimeo easiest to use, however, after trying out YouTube and Google’s video sharing site.

    January 7, 2009
  10. Ross Currier said:

    Hey Mary –

    I would suggest that you create a little display on your counter, with a clearly legible sign that says “This Week’s RepJ Special”, and stand behind it for your future interviews.

    You gotta keep generating those sales so you can pay them commercial property taxes.

    See you soon,


    January 7, 2009
  11. kiffi summa said:

    So, M.Mary, what will happen with the upstairs room that has been used as an office for all the councilors? All of their reference materials . etc, were supposed to be there for their workspace convenience.
    I don’t know how much it was used by the entire group: Jon Denison seems to do a lot of work out of that space, gave interviews, etc.

    Would the use of the Mayor’s first floor office space interfere with the redevelopment of the “black hole” if the City Hall renovations were pursued? Will the new Mayor’s office have to wait for that issue to be resolved?

    P. S. Did ‘they’ give you the keys?????

    January 7, 2009
  12. John S. Thomas said:

    Bonnie and Mary,

    Thank you for the clarification. Sometimes responding or commenting on posts is really tough when you have to interpret the intent of what is being said against what the writer is trying to say.

    I would agree that the word “surprised” in your first sentence is what sent me along the path.

    I am really proud to say that Mary is my Mayor, and I feel that she is going to do great things for this town of ours. Her responses and ideas about how to interact with the media and public are outstanding, and the conversion of the mayors office into council work space is an outstanding idea.

    However, I think that interviews such as this should be conducted in that environment when set up.

    Your doing a great job Bonnie, and I see that you modified your post. Just go with the perception that the folks that are reading your works know NONE of the facts about anything your doing, and go from that baseline. 😎

    On a different note, I wanted to run something by Mary, as well as Bonnie and Griff.

    What if some of these Cable TV funds were utilized to buy another server for the city, as well as a couple of digital video cameras that could be checked out by residents.

    All of this digital video could be stored on the cities server, along with city council meetings, and any other meetings. Mary and council members could do videos to their constituents, (ala Obama and You-Tube) and folks could also put up School concerts, sporting events, and other content.

    NTV could be linked to pull and run content on a schedule. Enable the community to utilize and develop content for community television.

    The high schools and ARTECH could get involved in television production, and edit and assist with programming.

    There are so many resources that could be recorded and presented.

    I challenge you to take a look at Channel 12 and Channel 16 NTV and compare it against what LakeVille does on Channel 22. The model is similar, but Lakeville has a better infrastructure, and more folks producing low or no cost content.

    Since it would be in digital format, it could be broadcast, or as it is sitting on server, media resources or websites, or blogs could link to it as well.

    Think about these things:
    1. Welcome to Northfield videos.
    2. Tourism videos
    3. Video press releases
    4. Community events for shut ins.
    5. Video classes for seniors.
    6. Library programs, language classes.
    7. Gardening classes, composting classes, how to classes.
    8. Public Works video how to’s
    9. Explanations of various ordinances.
    10. Involvement of the NCRC and Senior Center for classes, etc.
    11. Video tours of “Shovel Ready” development sites.

    I am just shooting off the cuff, but think of the content that could be put out there.

    These things could also be on the city website, and viewed on an “On-Demand” basis.

    Community television is created by the community, for the community, and should be funded with the taxes paid by the community. These funds should not be going to the general fund, or just sitting in a bucket for years and years, waiting for a project to come along.

    Instead of keeping NTV minimalistic and run by a single source, lets give him some content, and some assistance to grow! 😎

    The technology is here. The bandwidth is here. We have a great IT director, and we have funds in the cable pool. All we need is a concept, a plan, a goal, and some approvals… and it can happen.

    There are lots of geeky people in this town that I am sure would like to serve on a council appointed board to help this project move forward.

    Its not all about blogs, or websites, or any one media… its about putting content out there, and allowing the city to engage its residents while leveraging new technologies. Northfield with its academic community and Internet2 infrastructure running through town should be a LEADER of technology utilization…

    Just my $0.02. Thanks for the vent.

    Mary… thanks for being so accessable.

    Bonnie… Keep up the good work. One learns by continuing to do. 😎

    January 7, 2009
  13. John S. Thomas said:


    Post #6… You forgot the URL to your site. {Smile}


    January 7, 2009
  14. Thanks for your understanding and constructive criticism John. Your thoughts on Cable TV Fund dollars help, too. I’m speaking with Melissa Reader, IT person for the city, tomorrow on that subject.

    January 7, 2009
  15. John S. Thomas said:

    Interesting Bonnie.

    I would be very curious to hear Melissa’s thoughts in regards to the 1, 3, 5, 10, and 20 year action plans for the cities technology infrastructure, and how it fits into the capital improvement plan.

    Technology infrastructure is equally important as other infrastructure items when it comes to the smooth interaction between city departments.

    Also, I would like her thoughts on leveraging city wide wireless as a public utility run by the city, or if she feels that a private vendor could implement and run it better.

    Also, if you could ask about:

    1. What improvements are coming to the city website?

    2. Have they considered a transactional interface on the website. I.E. the ability to use a credit card to pay a water bill, or pay city fees, etc.

    2a. Can we at least get credit card processing to be able to pay a water bill over the phone or in person? Mailing in a paper check is SO last century.

    3. Leveraging technology on the web to allow citizens to interact with the city, doing simple transaction, freeing up clerical labor for other tasks.

    4. Online reporting of water meter readings.

    5. Continued utilization and implementation of GIS systems for property management. For instance, a database that can be leveraged by the fire department in a laptop, that has building structure information, age, sprinkler systems, business type, hazardous chemical storage, and other firefighting information in it.

    6. Enhanced Mapping of city assets.

    7. Computerized database of all crime activity within our city, for utilization by the police department for crime trending, etc.

    8. A searchable content management system, and more information readily available at a department level on the website.

    9. An area for press releases.

    10. Getting the police blotter out in a timely manner. It used to be a few days old when published in the paper. It is now over a month old. Is this an IT issue, or is there some other reason it is so far behind.

    11. Self service technology kiosk at City Hall, where basic transactions can be handled with minimal city staff interaction.

    12. How does Melissa see the utilization of technology to leverage process improvements, time and cost savings within various departments within the City of Northfield.

    For Melissa and Joel:
    Is there someone working as, or should there be established, a communications coordinator, that is responsible for defining standards for web content and other materials published on the city website, to include visual presentation, location on the website, searchability, currency, and accuracy.

    This should be someone like a spokesman, or a public affairs officer, that also fields media requests, and helps to ensure that the city is speaking with “one voice”.

    Also, is there a Northfield Information Technology Strategic Planning and Vision document in the works? 😎


    I hope those questions help. I have seen Melissa in passing a some of the city meetings, but I have not had the privilege of meeting her, or speaking to her in depth. I will have to do so at the soonest opportunity.

    I hope the meeting goes well, and look forward to your story/video.

    January 7, 2009
  16. Griff Wigley said:

    John, I’m going to copy/paste your cable/NTV-related comments to the message thread where that issue is being discussed/tracked.

    And I’m going to copy/paste your more recent technology-related comments to a new blog post that I’ll post shortly.

    So let’s continue both those conversations there, not here.

    January 7, 2009
  17. Griff Wigley said:

    Martha, given the history of contention between you and Kiffi here on LG, it’s pouring gasoline on the fire for you to lecture her. I’ve removed your comment.

    January 8, 2009
  18. Mary Rossing said:

    My understanding is that we could make good use of a second meeting room upstairs as many groups, boards and commissions and staff use the one right next door to the current council room and sometimes overlap. This will free up space for this purpose.

    As to remodeling of city hall in the future, I’m sure we can address any office issues at that time, but it would seem that having the council office next to (if/when this happens??) council chambers would work well. And no, I don’t have keys quite yet, but hope to be able to have this space available to myself and the other councilors early in February. We will probably have a sign up sheet to reserve the space for regular office hours. Ross suggested on locally grown that we have some consistency there–each councilor take a day–but I don’t know if this is possible with everyone’s schedule.

    Thank you for you comments and ideas. This topic is a perfect opportunity for citizen input and eventual involvement as you suggested. As soon as we can find a identified “champion” on council who will move this ahead with some dedication we can start. Our plates are full and getting fuller, but this is important. I would like our other local media to also weigh in soon on how they can work together.

    January 8, 2009
  19. Anne Bretts said:

    Mary, perhaps the first step would be to outline how much money is expected to be available from the cable fund each year and what the city is spending/doing now in communications/television/website activity. A summary could be made available all the media, the colleges, and the general public, asking for input and ideas. It wouldn’t be a formal request for proposals, but just an informal way to determine wants and who should be involved as the city moves to the formal determination of how to structure a new system.

    January 8, 2009
  20. Holly Cairns said:

    Griff said:

    Martha, given the history of contention between you and Kiffi here on LG, it’s pouring gasoline on the fire for you to lecture her. I’ve removed your comment.

    I’d appredicate it if you’d remove John’s lecture and later patronizing comments, too, then.

    January 8, 2009
  21. John S. Thomas said:

    Okay Holly…

    I was admittedly harsh in my posting, and probably more so than I would be to an individual in a face to face conversation. But, I was not going for fire or flames.

    However, I strongly objected to the original posting as presented, and I reacted to it.

    It was not my intention to lecture Bonnie. My intention was to express my displeasure at the approach presented in the wording of her posting.

    In viewing the video, without the enhanced information in the blog posts that came later, it strongly appeared from my vantage point to be an ambush interview, and I was displeased with that.

    The video could have had the first 15 seconds of her walking into the store edited out, and she could have removed “I surprised” from the first sentence, and the outcome would have been completely different.

    Again, I was just trying to express my opinion, and I may not have done it as elegantly as it should have been done.

    I have a great deal of respect for Mary, and I think there should be some separation between her role as mayor and her role as a local businesswoman. She is going to have to define how those two positions do or do not interact. But it appeared to me at the time that the decision was made for her, and it didn’t seem right.

    Bonnie, Holly, and whoever believes they need an apology… so be it. I apologize. However, it will not limit me from continuing to express my opinion, good, bad, or otherwise. I need to continue to ensure that my opinions are opinions on the topic, or the behavior, and not an attack on the person.

    I still have “old school” beliefs on what a journalist should be, the structure of editorial review, multiple sources, editing, and fact checking that I struggle with in these new mediums. I like the RepJ concept, but struggle with the Citizen Journalist moniker. I struggle with the word Journalist, because with that title, I feel there is a responsibility to live by the old school print rules.

    Bonnie is a Journalist, but in a new and exciting form, in which the rules are changing. There is a bit less structure than the traditional print rules of old. In some ways that could be good, but in some, it could be detrimental as there is less oversight. It is up to the individual now to keep high standards and provide good quality work.

    I just need to learn and understand and absorb the direction and methodology of RepJ, and see if I can adjust my views to both it, and blogs as a journalistic medium as a whole.

    Again. My apologies. I will try to edit myself better. The “Post Comment” button can be a dangerous thing.

    If Griff feels the need to remove my posting, then so be it. That is what a moderator does. If I violated the rules, I am sure he will let me know.

    January 9, 2009
  22. John and others,

    Not to worry! I think John’s original conclusions about the video were legit considering the information I had posted. Maybe he jumped to conclusions, but why not? We do not know one another “in real life” and for all John knows I could have a lifelong dream of being a Candid Camera producer. To be fair, John did make an obvious effort to be nice in his criticism of the video posting, which I appreciate.

    I think living in a city that is known (at least among some people) for its opinionated citizens, we need to take what we can from our neighbors and try and not let the rest get to us. Although I know that’s easier said than done, at times, for me!

    January 9, 2009
  23. Julie Bixby said:

    I know I am a little late in commenting…
    Bonnie, I thought the interview was very good. Mary is a gracious and available mayor and business person and you are a respectful journalist. Thank you.

    One point I need to make is that I sincerely hope that citizens do not “look” for what they might perceive as a conflict of interest because our new mayor owns a business in town.

    What is wonderful (among many things) about Mary is that she is always willing to talk to people and hear their concerns. I do hope people are understanding and considerate of the fact that she has a business to run and a living to make. Seeking her out at her place of business for political concerns is not IMHO appropriate. When she gets herself set up at City Hall that will be best.
    By all means check out her store if you haven’t. She has great merchandise. Just visit the store as a customer and visit her at City Hall as a concerned citizen.

    Mayor Mary is prepared to do the best possible job she can in leading this city. We all need to support her efforts to do so.

    January 9, 2009
  24. Peter Millin said:


    I think the interview was great. It was honest and straightforward.
    Some might argue the lack of style or details on professionalism and I would have to disagree with them.

    I rather see interviews that are honest, without an agenda and “maybe” not perfect in style, then some of the junk that passes as journalism today.

    It is sites like these and honest reporting like yours that will clean the media landscape as it exists today. Which is insulting, stupefied, bias and in search of sensationalism rather then reporting the news.

    Keep up the good work.

    January 10, 2009

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