Spring Grove Mayor Candidate, Heather Gray
Tuesday, October 30, 2012 7:42 AM
Three candidates are seeking the position of mayor in Spring Grove. Incumbent Saundy Solum faces challengers Heather Gray and Bruce Poole. They all responded to the questionnaire from the Spring Grove Herald. Below are their responses listed in alphabetical order. Each response was limited to 150 words.
Heather Gray, age 41 - Managing Editor of the Spring Grove Herald for the last 10 years
1.) Please tell us about yourself and why you are running for office?
I have lived in Spring Grove area for the last 20 years, the last 15 years in the city. I have been married to Paul Gray for 21 years, and we have two children, Benjamin, 14, and Hannah, 10. I am running for mayor, as I am deeply concerned about the direction of the city. There are so many areas in which we can be doing better than we are today, and there seems to be no vision or goals for the city. I realize the Main Street project seems to be all consuming, but what are we going to do after that? How are we going to keep the city's day-to-day spending in check so we can afford to save for the future? How are we going to attract new businesses and jobs to town? With my years of experience in government, I can hit the ground running day one.
2.) The Main Street project has seen its share of controversy. Do you agree with the current council's proposal of improvements? Tell readers why or why not and what changes you would make.
I don't agree with it. I am not for narrowing the road one inch. The aesthetics plan is over the top. Some of the improvements are obvious - the street overlay, the street widening around the school and related safety improvements, the widening near Roble Funeral Home, the one-way street at Maple Drive, and the replacement of the sidewalks and light poles. I am also in favor of the storm water improvements, which are needed for our downtown businesses. I remain unconvinced of the immediate need of replacement of the water and sewer lines. With the increased reliability and affordability of slip lining for sewer pipes and underground boring for water lines, we should be able put them off in the short-term and package them with the replacement of the water tower and have time to apply for grants and keep the financing more affordable for the public.
3.) How do you feel the city has done the last year on transparency, and is there any room for improvement?
Starting with the Main Street project and ending with the unresolved police chief issue, this council has done a terrible job of being transparent. There is much talk of "communication" through newsletters and meetings, but most of those are one-sided conversations where the public's input is neither valued nor encouraged. The administration has kept everything it can out of the public eye - through removal of meeting notices at the post office bulletin board and from the newspaper. None of the Technical Team meetings were ever promoted to get the public's ideas. Neither was the Planning Commission's comprehensive plan. If elected, besides the obvious idea of returning notices to the normal places people look for them, when hearings are held, there will be in a meeting space LARGE enough for everyone to sit. The public will be allowed to speak again at council meetings. The open meeting law will be followed.
4.) Do you feel that the city needs to look at reducing its current budget, and if so, what areas would you look at cutting?
Looking at recent spending, there are areas that can be cut or reduced without affecting services. We need to figure out ways to drive down electrical costs by negotiating with Tri-County Electric, looking closer at alternative energy options and figuring out a way to install smart meters throughout the city. A couple of fiscal policies need to be put in place to put the spending decisions back in the hands of the council - just because something is budgeted doesn't mean it has to be spent. I'm not looking to gut our city services. I just want to scale back the frivolous spending especially any that adds long-term costs to our overall budget so we can start nesting away money for additional projects and capital improvements down the road. I want SG to be affordable for all of its residents. I want businesses to feel comfortable expanding.
5.) Tell us why you feel you are the best candidate.
I think I am the best mayoral candidate as I have the most government experience. I won't have a learning curve if elected, I can hit the ground running. I am a fiscal moderate - we had a zero percent increase and 1 or 2 percent increase the two years when I was last mayor. I love this city very much and work so hard to try and make it better a little bit at a time. I enjoy finding little ways to make things work more smoothly in our small town and always remember that Spring Grove is a small town - we aren't a little version of the Twin Cities. There are a diversity of people who live in this city, and they all deserve to be heard and respected. My mind can be changed on issues if valid points are raised.
6.) If elected, what are the top three issues you want to see addressed in the next four years?
Well, Main Street is the obvious priority. But that matter will be settled one way or the other by the end of January if not before. After that, there are so many things that need to be addressed from enacting better fiscal policies and streamlining city hall to starting conversations about our under-utilized parks system; looking at the Planning Commission and our zoning, to better planning in our city for an emergency; refocusing the efforts of our EDA to marketing our business lots and recruiting businesses; and so much more. I think it is important to have goals for the city and take things one day at a time and finding as much consensus as possible to move forward on those goals.