Commissioner Nikki Wolla has been serving the city since June 2018. Now in her third year as an elected city leader, Wolla has experienced firsthand not only the importance of community feedback but also how the community is vital when casting her vote on a decision that affects others.

As part of her commission duties, Wolla is appointed to five other boards as a city representative including the Dickinson Area Public Library, Dickinson Museum Center (Stark County Historical Society and Southwestern North Dakota Museum Foundation), Roosevelt Custer Regional Council, Downtown Square Task Force, Stark County Planning & Zoning and the Subsidy Grant Committee.

With the city currently surveying sidewalks as part of the sidewalk project, Wolla said that it has received “a lot of backlash” on the east side of Dickinson near The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Streets of concern ranged from North Drive, Alder Avenue, Tweeten Place and even as far as 10th Avenue, Wolla noted.

“... I grew up around there, so there’s a drainage issue. And I’ve heard over the years that Tweeten even has flooding issues with drainage, so I kind of made it a point to bring that up,” Wolla said, explaining, “So I kind of made it a point to bring that up, and I actually had one of my parents’ neighbors thank me for bringing that up because he actually goes down and breaks up at the end of the street where it just becomes a pool of ice in the wintertime. So if I know about something, I try to bring it up. But it’s hard if you don’t know to help speak for the public because I’m not everywhere. Believe me when I go running, I can notate sidewalks that need to be redone and everything. But you can’t make that decision for the property owner either.”

In the Voices of Dickinson series and from information gathered through online polling and door-to-door surveying in May, we highlighted residents’ viewpoints on the level of crime in the area. Some of the biggest issues respondents addressed included drug abuse, burglaries/thefts, domestic violence, driving under the influence and traffic issues/residential speeding. For Wolla, crime is not invisible even in a small town like Dickinson.

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“I think we all have our issues, and it’s just the manpower to deal with it. I think our police department does a great job at addressing and keeping us up to speed on what’s going on. I like the annual report that we get addresses… some stuff the public isn’t aware of,” Wolla noted. “Just with me having a 13-year-old daughter that thinks she can run around all over the place, there’s still human trafficking our there. We’re not guarded from all of that. It’s happening everywhere and I think we just need to be more aware of it and try to figure out what we need to do to educate and make sure that our youth are safe, and everyone really.”

Wolla has lived in Dickinson since 1986 and believes that the city is safe. While she raises her daughter here, Wolla highlighted the importance of teaching children safety — despite the relative safety of the Western Edge city. Wolla said that while she tries not to be a “helicopter parent,” and even though she feels Dickinson is a safe place to live, anything can happen.

“I deal with a 13-year-old on a regular basis and try to educate her on (the fact) that you just need to be aware of your surroundings. The sad thing is, it goes back to behavioral health (where) a lot of this stems — the crime. But then you had the influx with the oilfield, but we had drugs here. We just became a bigger avenue,” she said. “We’re not isolated from things that other cities are dealing with, and we just need to stay on top of it, which our police department has done a great job (with) investigations and staying on top of it from even just the drugs to... catching online predators.”

Wolla continued, “... You always have your good with your bad. So yes, I’m quite comfortable. I’ve lived on a street where we’ve had two drug houses. I have had a SWAT team escort me to my door one time because of it. But I always knew that if I called the police, they were there. But I can’t speak for everybody; obviously there are some neighborhoods where there’s more going on within it than I’m aware of.”

Starting with the youth is one way to help combat crime in the future, Wolla said.

“The youth are the ones that will hopefully stay here and become young adults and raise a family here. So it's good at staying in front of them and letting them know that police are not the enemy,” she said, adding, “... So I think it's just educating them (on) the harm of going down that path… because it all starts at home and we can't control someone's home. I mean we can do our best with social services and stuff like that but that's not always the answer either.”

As far as city spending goes, Wolla said that it is part of the commission's duties to make sure that they are not overspending or spending money on things that are more wants than needs. She also hopes the city will relook at its current liquor license ordinance. Right now, there are some issues surrounding that ordinance, Wolla said, explaining that it does not cover all retailers. Wolla added that there used to be beer and wine, but now it’s beer only — which restricts convenience stores in the city.

With the amount of survey input from more than 300 residents in Dickinson, Wolla is encouraging people to share their concerns at the Dickinson City Commission meetings that way the commission can take a “more proactive approach toward it.”

Wolla, who's an insurance advisor in the Benefits Division at Choice Insurance, has been a director on the board for Oreo’s Animal Rescue since approximately 2011 and volunteered for the organization three years prior. She has also volunteered with the Dickinson Area Chamber on the Ambassador Committee for more than six year and is part of the Power of 100 Women Who Care.

In the third part of this five-part series, we will feature remarks from Commissioner Jason Fridrich.