Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, November 2, 1998

Winsted mayor candidates

Opening statement

Floyd Sneer: Thirty-seven years ago, my wife and I moved here and became residents and taxpayers. For 25 years, we published the Winsted Journal. I spent a lot of time running for various committees, and this is one thing I haven't done.

I've been the city's economic development director for 10 years, served on the Ridgewater College board, and other things listed in the paper.

In the upcoming years, the city will have problems, and I hope my experience will help us take those problems, figure them out, and propel us into the next millennium.

There's talk about regional government - you don't want that. It's likely we would become the Winsted Township of Hutchinson.

My experience will assist me, and I seek your vote.

Aaron Wiemiller: Are you looking for a mayor with Winsted pride and values? Then let me introduce myself. My parents always taught me the value of pride in the community.

I graduated from Holy Trinity, then graduated from Alexandria Tech in '93 in law enforcement, and started in '94 as a deputy with the McLeod County Sheriff's Department. My Winsted upbringing helped me accomplish goals, and now we're raising our children in the community I grew up in.

I would provide leadership and dedication for the citizens of today and the future. I am open-minded and would work with the citizens together. Approach me with your ideas. We want Winsted to be a step ahead.

Winsted should be what the citizens want it to be, not just what one, two, or three people think it should be. I would strive to serve all residents.

A series of yes/no questions were asked:

Are you in favor of a municipal swimming pool?

Both said yes.

Would you favor a junior/senior rec center funded by public funds?

Wiemiller - no, Sneer - yes.

Should the city have its own police department or share services with the county?

Both said have its own.

Would you favor changing the speed limit so all city streets are 30 mph?

Both said keep it the same.

Is it important to have the new Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted High School here?

Wiemiller: It's important to be looked at closely, with the Catholic school in town. If there's an opportunity for a public school to be in the Winsted area, it would be in the best interest of the citizens to go ahead and try to get it. It would boost the economy.

Sneer: Everyone wants the new school located in their town. There is a committee appointed to study the issue and until that report comes in, it's a moot question. All of us have said "I know where there's a spot." We still have to wait and figure it out, weigh it against the parochial school, and see what happens.

Recently, the council granted itself a pay raise and hired a city administrator. Would you rescind the raise since the administrator will handle some of the work the council did?

Sneer: Leave it as it is. People who serve don't get much glory, they might as well get a few bucks. I'm for the city administrator 100 percent. It will free up the city clerk to devote full time to her job.

Wiemiller: I wouldn't change it. I would respect the decision of the council. It's not a lot of money, but carries a lot of responsibility.

For tomorrow, what is the most important industry Winsted needs?

Wiemiller: It's important to develop the industry we have now and keep growing. If we start to lose industry, the town will close its doors and people will move out. For tomorrow, I can't give an answer now. I want to know your views and will work closely with you to accomplish that.

Sneer: I would say probably something that is really jobs-oriented to bring people in. It probably should be high tech, that's usually not polluting and is the wave of the future. Technology has come into its own and is here to stay. We might as well get used to it.

What are the top two things for the city administrator to work on first?

Sneer: See where the industry we have now is. Some are being sold, and that's not a knock against them - they're too successful.

Try to develop the industrial park, put grants together to expand trails, get funds for a library.

Wiemiller: First, get grant money from the federal government to better the city. Look strongly at developing the industrial park.

Several options have been brought up regarding city hall, both the old building and the city offices. What do you think best serves the city?

Sneer: There are many variables. Before we build, we would need a general obligation bond of $1.3 million.

The Economic Development Agency of the state builds buildings like this. That's how Hopkins, Edina, Eden Prairie got beautiful edifices. The state builds them and leases them back.

We could fill up the old building with a museum, a library, or offices. We have to wait for the re-use committee, which should take about two months yet. Then sit down and determine the options. Ultimately, the taxpayers have to make the decision.

Wiemiller: It's important the city establish a permanent place for its offices. It costs money and things are damaged to keep moving. Wait for the re-use study to know what the options are. It could be great for a senior citizen center, or a family center.

It is a historical building, and it would be tough to see it used for other than a city function. It's important for people to vote on it.

Will the city administrator be accountable for all decisions with approval from your office?

Wiemiller: I think decisions of the city administrator will have to be discussed with the council. The council needs to approve or be informed. If it's by council approval, the administrator and council are held accountable.

Sneer: He has five bosses. The city administrator does what the council and mayor want him to do, normally city business. It's not one person telling him what to do. It's the city's business.

Are you in favor or printing the council minutes and bills in the newspaper or just posting them?

Sneer: The League of Minnesota Cities got the statutes changed so cities could summarize minutes of meetings and just have a line item of bills paid without a listing. It didn't say you couldn't print the full amount, but that you could summarize.

Wiemiller: It's important that residents know where their money is going. I would want that published.

What is your major goal as the city changes through the years?

Wiemiller: My three biggest things are:

1. City hall - first priority to complete.

2. Once a week have the city offices open longer than they are now. People who work can't get in there. One night a week it should be open to benefit the residents.

3. Industrial park. It's vital to the economic and physical growth. If we develop it and attract more population, it's means more revenue and a better city.

Sneer: Everyone wants industrial development. It's hard to get, but everyone wants it. We're doing well in promoting residential development. Population is important because we get paid by the state based on population.

We know Winsted is pushing 2,000 in population, but the state demographers will only give us credit for 1,700. I sit on a board with the president of Hutch Technology. I told him we have 40 acres to build on. He said "I'll pour the foundation tomorrow if you can promise me one thing: workers."

We need the city to grow. Industrial development helps. Residential development helps.

Would you do business locally for all expenditures that are available?

Sneer: For 25 years, JoAnn and I have preached the gospel of shopping at home. I would be very remiss to drop that now. I would buy anything I can locally.

Wiemiller: It's important the city gets its goods within the city. That looks good and brings business in. For large purchases, we have to look for the best possible price and go outside if we need to.

Closing statement

Wiemiller: I will work with the citizens and council to get what you want. Stop by my place or give me a call. I'm more than willing to discuss any issues or concerns you have.

Sneer: I'm like an old fire horse: when I heard the alarm, I took off. Some people asked me to run for mayor, and I thought "Why not? I haven't done that yet." My experience should help me with this job.

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