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Local candidates sound off

By Staff | Oct 21, 2012

In contrast to the recent presidential debates, a candidate forum on Thursday night for Blue Earth City Council and Blue Earth Area School Board candidates was civil and had the candidates mostly agreeing on the issues.

Ward 1 candidates for the Blue Earth City Council, John Huisman and Chelsey Haase, are the only contested city race and both were in attendance.

So were Rick Scholtes, running unopposed for mayor and Dan Brod, running unopposed in Ward 3. Ward 2 candidate Glenn Gaylord, also running unopposed, was unable to attend.

One BEA School Board candidate, Shane Becker, was also unable to attend due to prior family committments, but incumbents Frankie Bly and Dawn Fellows and challenger Mark Maher were there to answer questions posed by moderator Jim Beattie.

All of the city candidates seemed to agree on several issues, including the need to work hard on getting jobs into the community.

All said they felt the new industrial park project north of I-90 freeway, should be pursued.

Huisman called for developing more “family-supporting” jobs and thought the city has the tools in place to do so. Haase says she supports working hard to develop new jobs but also wants to make sure to keep the ones the city already has.

“We also need to make sure we give young families a reason to stay here and come live here,” she says.

Brod favors the industrial park project, but adds that the city needs to also look out for their small businesses.

“It’s not just going after the ‘big hit’ business,” he says. “You can shoot at an elephant and miss and then you have wasted a lot of time and effort.”

He called for working towards helping smaller businesses, especially those that might be having trouble.

Youth was another common theme.

Huisman says there needs to be more for the youth of the community, and says he favors both a new ball field being built as well as things such as a skateboard park area.

Haase wants to see the parks kept and developed more. Scholtes says the playground equipment should be replaced and Brod said the youth of the city are an important asset and the city needs to do all it can to keep families here.

Brod and Scholtes also spoke in favor of keeping a campground at the fairgrounds.

The four candidates all agreed on the recent law enforcement issue, saying they endorse Blue Earth keeping its own police force and having 24-hour protection.

Huisman added that it was worthwhile, however, for the city to explore other options when the chief retired.

One area of disagreement were the two questions that will be on the ballot dealing with the city charter.

While all four felt there was no need to change the percentage of votes needed to change the charter from its current 51 percent to 60 percent, the other question dealing with at-large councilmen was not favored by all.

Scholtes says he favors the amendment which would keep the wards but have the council elected at large. Haase agreed, saying she never knew which councilmen were here in her Ward anyway.

“People should be able to go to the councilman they know,” she says.

Brod and Huisman both said they favored keeping the Wards system in place as is.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Huisman says.

The School Board candidates also agreed on almost every point made during the forum.

“I think all those running for the board would make fine board members,” Fellows says. She adds she has enjoyed serving on the board since 2006 and feels knowledgeable of all aspects of the school.

“I am excited about where we are and I strongly suppurate our new leadership team,” she says. “I am pretty passionate about our school but I am not afraid to ask questions about what we are doing.”

Maher says his background in both business and education would qualify him to serve on the board.

“I am throwing my hat in the ring and would be honored to serve on the board,” he says.

Bly noted his knowledge of the school system both from serving as a teacher and from his years on the board were his main qualifications.

“It’s exciting to be a part of this transition time,” he says. “I think we have a strong district. I told our superintendent candidates that we have a great school and are not looking for anyone to ‘fix’ things; we are looking for someone to take us up to the next level.”

He also pointed out Maher is one of his former students.

The two-hour forum was sponsored by the Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce. It was attended by 18 persons.