VOTERS' GUIDE 2010
Herald Journal / Dassel-Cokato Enterprise Dispatch / Delano Herald Journal
Connie Holmes has filed for the position of mayor in Waverly.
Why are you running for office?
Waverly is a unique city a city with a proud history, quiet living, and friendly people. But, it is a city with many challenges brought about by the poor economy, multi-year housing crisis, and lack of business opportunity. These factors affect us all.
I have been privileged over the past two years to serve on the city council, and to be part of our effort to address our residents’ real and valid individual concerns about tax levels and utility charges.
These are the direct result of the City of Waverly’s own financial difficulties caused in part by the economic downturn, but primarily by debts incurred and decisions made early in the decade.
While some progress has been made in addressing these issues, we have a long way to go.
I am running for mayor because I want to use my past business, economic, and leadership experience, along with the knowledge gained in the past two years, to make certain that we continue the progress made in reducing the city’s debt levels and operating costs.
It is important to accomplish this goal while minimizing any economic effects (in terms of taxes, utility charges, and service levels) on our residents and businesses. I am fortunate to have the time available to work with the council and the staff as a full-time mayor as we continue to address these challenges.
What do you think are the two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?
Clearly, the first major issue is finances. Taxes and utility rates in Waverly are too high.
On the tax side, over the past two years, the council has done a number of things to lower expenses. Just as households must cut down in lean times, so must city government.
The council has instituted a “bottoms up” approach to budgeting in which the council looks at every budget item before approving it.
Despite losing all state-provided local government aid (LGA), the deficit in the general fund has been reduced over the past two years. These careful efforts, along with cooperation on the part of staff, meant that expenditures were held flat in 2010, and will be reduced significantly in 2011.
The total amount that taxpayers will fund will be less in 2011, and many should see slightly lower city taxes in 2011. But, the general fund deficit remains, and must be returned to a positive balance, so we have to continue to toe the line.
We must focus on the “must haves,” not the “nice to haves.” This means that the mayor, with the council, must continue to monitor the budget, question expenses, and make certain that every taxpayer dollar is spent as efficiently and effectively as possible.
The council must continue to make hard decisions, prioritize spending, and find additional ways to “do more with less,” in order to hold city taxes at current or reduced levels.
We also must look at ways to increase the tax base, through encouragement of orderly housing development, and by working to attract new industry and business activity to Waverly.
Utility rates (sewer and water) are another justifiable concern for the residents of Waverly, but they are not easily addressed.
Expansion of the city sewer system early in the decade to meet expected (but unrealized) growth was expensive, and we are all now paying the bill. Our water fund has come into balance. However, revenue from sewer charges still falls well short of mandatory debt payments and the cost of annual operations.
In the long term, new houses, new residents, and new businesses will bring this account into balance, allowing lower rates for everyone.
In the short term, we can only make certain that our operating and maintenance costs are as low as possible (given the need to maintain a viable system), that interest rates on our debt are as low as we can get them, and that every efficiency possible is introduced into the system.
No one can promise that rates will be reduced, but, as mayor, I will work hard with the council to make certain that rates are no higher than absolutely necessary to maintain adequate levels of service for everyone.
The second major issue that the city must address is preparation for the future.
Although the economy and housing are not in good shape now, things will improve. The city was not prepared for the building boom early in this decade. We must be prepared for the time when economic activity and the housing market starts to pick up.
The city took a significant step in planning for the future in 2009 and early 2010, when the council, Economic Development Authority, parks commission, and planning and zoning with input from our residents completed and adopted the first Waverly Comprehensive City and Parks Plan.
This Plan (revised about every five years) is a broad, general blueprint for Waverly’s residential, industrial, and business development for the next 20 years and beyond.
We need to look hard at ways to make Waverly even more attractive to new residents and business, increasing our tax base, while keeping our small-town, friendly way of life.
As a first step in going beyond the comprehensive plan, I intend to convene a group of city leaders to begin discussing our needs and how they might be met.
As mayor, I pledge to work hard to attract new industry and business to Waverly. We will increase promotion of our city outside the city limits with revision and broader distribution of the new Waverly Community Guide, and will leverage our resources by working with the newly formed “Best of 12” coalition, the local chamber of commerce, and other organizations as the opportunity arises.
Why should you be elected?
I have the time to serve as a full-time mayor for Waverly. I have worked all my life in full-time and challenging positions. I have kept as busy in retirement.
In addition to being on the city council (two years), I have been president of Waverly’s Economic Development Authority (three years), Waverly’s representative to the Wright County EDA, active in the Waverly American Legion Auxiliary Post 309, a member of the Buffalo Hospital Foundation board, and currently volunteer at Buffalo Hospital three days a week.
I believe in service to the community, and as mayor, will work for Waverly on a full-time basis. I plan to hold office hours twice a week (and once a month on Saturday), and be available by phone and e-mail.
I will represent and promote Waverly at county and state government meetings and wherever else there is a promising opportunity to do so.
I will communicate with all our residents. During the past two years, the council has expanded the city newsletter with a mayor’s letter to the residents. I plan to work with council and staff to increase the frequency of these newsletters. My goal is to keep all residents informed.
And, if there is a council decision that affects our residents directly, we will put out a special communication telling you what decision was made and most importantly, why it was made.
We plan to use our new website (to be launched after the first of the year) to enhance the city’s communication capability, but those residents that would prefer paper copies of these communications will hear from us directly.
But, to be most effective, communication has to be a two-way street. Therefore, I will always welcome comments, views, and input from all Waverly residents, whether it be at a council meeting, by note, or personal communication. Our residents will always have a voice in city government, and our residents will be given every opportunity to have that voice be heard.
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