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Executive director of TEDxBloomington running for city council seat



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Kate Rosenbarger is running for Bloomington City Council’s District 1 seat. Rosenbarger got her bachelor's in policy analysis from IU’s then-School of Public and Environmental Affairs, now known as the O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs, in 2005. Ty Vinson Buy Photos

She has worked for seven campaigns ranging from state-wide to national bids for election. She has a dog who looks like a blond Toto from “The Wizard of Oz” named POTUS. She used to want to work in the White House.

Now, Kate Rosenbarger, 36, is running for Bloomington City Council’s District 1 seat.

“Change starts in our local community,” Rosenbarger said. “If we don’t have people in that liaison role, nothing will happen.”

If elected, Rosenbarger, who is the executive director of TEDxBloomington, said she would focus on engaging with her constituents, fighting for increased public transit, prioritizing climate issues and housing affordability and the redevelopment of the IU Health Bloomington Hospital site.

Rosenbarger got her bachelor's in policy analysis from IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs in 2005. She then went on to get a law degree from the Maurer School of Law in 2009.

Caroline Dowd-Higgins, who now works for the IUAlumni Association, was the director of career services at the law school when Rosenbarger was going there and has kept in touch with her ever since.

She said despite Rosenbarger’s young age, the candidate will be able to represent all ages.

“A lot of people might think a young person isn’t prepared,” Dowd-Higgins said. “I think she is prepared.”

The hospital site, which will be redeveloped while she is potentially in office, is just a block from where Rosenbarger lives.

The city bought the property in 2018 and is now formulating plans for the land. IU Health’s new Regional Academic Health Center is being built on 45/46.

Its proximity to the B-Line Trail and the urban core of Bloomington makes it a prime location to create more dense housing within walking distance of shopping and workplaces.

“The redevelopment of that is an enormous opportunity for the city to take climate action,” Rosenbarger said.

Rosenbarger said she envisions a variety of housing ranging in size and price as well as single and multiplex homes. She said she thinks the city can double or triple density in the area but also create what she called “forever homes,” or places where people will want to stay.

Climate change is interlaced with all the issues Rosenbarger cares about, including transportation. She said she wants Bloomington Transit to have more frequent weekday service and more routes on weekends to make public transit a convenient alternative to driving.

While in college, she worked as an intern on congressional candidate Baron Hill’s campaign in 2002 and John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004. Her most recent involvement in campaigning was her role as deputy campaign manager and field director of Liz Watson’s run for Congress.

Dowd-Higgins said Rosenberger's experience with canvassing for campaigns has given her good listening and engagement skills.

Dowd-Higgins said Rosenbarger’s ability to not only read and understand legislation but also write it is an important aspect that sets Rosenbarger apart from the other candidates as well.

“Her training as a lawyer is really important here,” Dowd-Higgins said. “She’s a really great critical thinker.”

Rosenbarger started her position at TEDxBloomington late last year. She said she likes how TED builds community around ideas. She has started bringing in local nonprofits to be present after TED events to engage people more in the community.

She said the skills she has learned through TED will serve her well as a council member.

“Engaging people is a skill,” Rosenbarger said. “It’s a job of a council person to engage people and be responsive.”

Rosenbarger said she would have monthly constituent meetings to hear what people from her district have to say about current issues. She said she is also interested in looking at other communities for inspiration to improve Bloomington just as TEDx shares ideas from all around the world.

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