Meet the Candidate: Mona Bernhardt for City Council
Mona Bernhardt, a licensed clinical social worker supervisor, is running for one of the atlarge City Council seats because she wants to give back to the community that gave her great values and a mindset of helping others. Ms. Bernhardt graduated from Olney High School and attended Texas A&M University for her undergraduate degree, and University of Texas at Austin for her master’s of science in social work. She returned to Olney in 2022 to be closer to her father, former Olney Mayor Herb Bernhardt (1984-1988), and quickly became involved in a local effort to expand mental health services in Young County. She helped Olney Police Chief Dan Birbeck shape the concept for a mobile mental health team and last year lobbied in Austin for the passage of funds to create it. She now is assisting with a grant application that will turn the Critical Access-Rapid Response-Evaluation [CARRE] team into a reality – a first-of-its-kind program for rural Texas.
Enterprise: What inspired you to run for Olney City Council?
Ms. Bernhardt: Olney was a great place to grow up and I learned a lot of great values and watched a lot of really healthy ways of mutual support and a volunteer culture. People are there for each other and so I want to carry that forward … I got such a great foundation here, I want to give back to that. I think it’s great that Tower [Extrusions] is so involved in representing Olney and it would be good for other voices to be heard. With my skill set as a social worker, I have training in how to hear people. I have a desire to empower others so I would be very open to feedback from the community.
Enterprise: What do you believe are the most important issues facing the City of Olney?
Ms. Bernhardt: To work within the City’s fiscal resources, to increase transparency, which doesn’t cost anything. To take care of the harassment allegations [brought to the Council by former City Administrator Arpegea Pagsuberon] and put those to bed. Do the investigation and complete that and put it behind us. Hopefully Mr. Parker will do the right thing and step down while the investigation is taking place. To do what we can to help Olney thrive. That includes improving the City’s Insurance Service Office [ISO] Fire Suppression rating which has to do with more than just the volunteer fire department … the ISO impacts everyone’s homeowners insurance as well as some people’s car insurance. It will also enable us to attract more businesses to town.
There may be things we could engage people in the community who want to volunteer or who have that motivation to do something about beautification of the lake [and] to create more interest for people to visit Olney Lake … I have a friend in Davis, Oklahoma, which is a town that’s smaller than Olney but they have Turner Falls Park there. Their community is thriving and a lot of it is because they optimized the appeal of their natural attractions. We could see what people feel inspired to do as far as landscaping, creating trails, that kind of thing. [Replatting the lake’s] lot lines have to come first; we need to get clear on that but there may be opportunities to make the best of what we have. It’s good for the soul to be in nature and even if our lake is not like Turner Falls it’s still a lake and … people will naturally be attracted to it.
I would love to see the Olney Savings Building become a hotel, and that’s another reason why I’m interested in improving the ISO rating. I think that would be an ideal location for a hotel and it might be a way to wrap in the history of the building with the hotel. We might be able to attract a hotel that wanted to do that.
One of the things I love about Olney is our public housing … we are so generous and provide so many opportunities for people whether it’s House of Mercy or the [Olney Housing Authority] housing. We have several food banks [operated] by churches. I’m very excited about that.
Enterprise: Will you continue to be involved in the CARRE team efforts?
Ms. Bernhardt: I will continue to be available for any kind of consultation that might be helpful in getting that off the ground including providing supervision of the [social workers] who are hired for those roles. It will be an excellent opportunity for them to work on their hours toward licensure.