Meet the Candidate: Dylanna Grasinger
Erie County Executive
USCRI-Erie (International Institute of Erie)
Dylanna comes from a large and diverse working-class family. She moved to Erie in 2012, after leading human services agencies in Pittsburgh and Akron, Ohio. Dylanna has over 20 years of experience leading and positively impacting local communities. She was drawn to Northwest Pennsylvania’s potential and quickly realized that Erie County was the place she wanted to grow her roots.
Dylanna understands that people are what make Erie County special, and this is what connects her to our community. Whether biking through the countryside, volunteering with animal rescues, or helping to organize a neighborhood watch, Dylanna loves working with residents from all walks of life.
In addition to her work leading a human services organization, Dylanna volunteers her time with the Certification for Healthcare Interpreters Board of Commissioners and the Erie Mayor’s New American Council, and as a board member for Bike Erie, Multicultural Healthcare Evaluation Delivery System (MHEDS), and UPMC Hamot Diversity Committee. She is one of the founding organizers of Boulevard Park Association, an Erie neighborhood group working to connect neighbors.
Dylanna earned her B.A. in English from Kent State University, where she also received certification in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), as well as a Master of Science in Negotiation and Conflict Resolution from Creighton University. Dylanna is now proud to call Erie County home. She and her husband, Greg, live in Erie with their three dogs and enjoy working alongside their friends and neighbors to create a better Erie County for all.
Why are you running for Erie County Executive?
Throughout my career, I have been committed to investing in not only our local businesses and economy but our human capital. I am passionate about creating and building a region that is both scalable and sustainable. In essence, I want to make the place I call home, the best it can be. The transformational growth we want to see has a short window, and the pandemic has tempered much of what we have already begun. We need to move on to the plans that we already have in place and spend more time doing and less time talking. I have the record to do this – and I will not only protect what I love about Erie County but also ensure we move it forward.
What are your top three priorities you wish to work on if elected?
1) To promote smart growth strategies into policy so we can build economic opportunities and reinvest in our current assets to make communities more attractive, diverse, economically stronger, and affordable for all Erie County.
2) To create a model county that that brings a diverse group of public-private partnerships to the table to enact systemic change making public health and safety a priority.
3) To foster a more modern, transparent, and open government that strives to make data-informed decisions, create equitable access for all residents, and serves as a good steward of tax-payer dollars.
How would you be an advocate for key education initiatives such as the Erie County Community College, K-12 education, and early education as they relate to workforce development?
Having been a successful advocate for vulnerable populations, I understand that communication is a dynamic, multi-directional flow of information and ideas that is needed to make progress. It takes active listening, patience, and persistence to achieve a longer-term strategic initiative. I also understand the importance of getting those who have the authority to make changes on your side. Using data-informed decisions to advocate for key initiatives is imperative. I also believe articulating – through extensive research and community informed opinion – that key initiatives like early education are investments in our community’s future. We are providing opportunities for children to thrive and adult residents to grow their skills and develop the tools they need for success in turn creating a more economically vibrant community.
How will you work to advocate for the modernization of public health infrastructure and encourage public/private partnerships to address deficiencies in our public health system?
Again, advocacy is a developed skill set and takes persistence and time amongst other things to see results. In this case, the modernization of the public health infrastructure will require a drastic change in the way we collect, share, and analyze data at a multitude of levels: Local, State, and Federal. In addition, we also know that many public health problems are shouldered by marginalized communities. I would advocate for effective public-private partnerships that enrich the quality and reach of services. I would also say that we need to support, fund, and defend our public health experts and organizations, bring a diversity of voices to the table to reduce inequitable burdens, and create an advocacy team that addresses Erie County’s needs at both the State and Federal level.
According to TrackTheRecovery.org, Erie County is estimated to have lost over 28% of small businesses. How would you work to encourage financial stability within local and state governments without overburdening the small business community?
Having had direct oversight of a small business lending program for the past five years, I believe a thriving community is one where local government is friendly to small business owners. I would encourage financial stability within local and state government by being a good steward of taxpayer dollars and adhering to a budget that does not overburden the small business community. By bringing public-private partnerships to the table, we can create access to capital for minority populations who may have traditionally been underbanked or have low or no credit score, offer low-interest loans, and help increase energy efficiency by offering incentivized loans. This is key! However, using all available resources and actively working with the Small Business Administration identify ways to help local small businesses thrive will be important as well.
Our community is expecting a total of $225 million or more in American Recovery Plan funds. As a community leader, how would you prioritize this funding?
The American Recovery Plan funds are tied to specific uses and should be utilized as directed to remain compliant. With that said, to employ funds by the end of 2024, Erie County will need a diverse group of stakeholders at the table acting with one cohesive voice. Within this expenditure timeframe, we should look at stabilizing operational budgets that have negatively been impacted by COVID-19 and strategizing so that we can invest in infrastructure and support workers and small businesses. We should be immediate in our response, inclusive in our approach, and intentional about making long-term positive impacts and investments in the region.
Pittsburgh has seen success with tools such as Tax Increment Finance and Transit Revitalization Investment District to spur their City’s revitalization. Are you willing to make long-term investments in economic development?
Yes, I am willing to make long term-investments in economic development. By working with local leaders and assessing all the tools, such as gap financing, historic, and other credits, we have available we will ensure that we are moving forward rather than being tied in place.