Herald Journal - Voters' Guide 2010
Herald Journal / Dassel-Cokato Enterprise Dispatch / Delano Herald Journal

Dassel Mayor

Larry Oberg

Why are you running for mayor of Dassel?

I am running for mayor of Dassel for several reasons:

First, and foremost, is the need for more transparency with information to the citizens of Dassel.

Second, there is a much better way of getting the job done as a servant of the citizens of Dassel, in being open with communication, leadership, and direction for the council, and for all the employees of the city, and its citizens.

The mayor position is the proverbial straw that stirs the drink, and, therefore, needs to be knowlegedable of the past, present, and future ramifications of actions to be made by the city council, in that “what manner is the project(s) helpful, and/or, harmful to the majority of the citizens of Dassel.”

I believe that there is a better way, and a better choice in getting the job done.

Third, in the position of mayor, it is of great importance to listen, hear what the citizens of Dassel are saying, learn from what they are saying, research what they are saying, and to act accordingly to what the citizens are saying.

What do you believe are the top two issues facing the city, and what are your proposed solutions?

The city debt has become overwhelming, and little, it seems, is being done to slow down the increases taking place in that debt.

There needs to be a concentrated effort in curtailing the expenditures, and finding new alternative revenues to meet the debt service and obligations of the city.

Particular emphasis needs to be in the development of new business in the community, not only for the creation of jobs; we need the business growth to increase the tax base, so the homeowner is not bearing the burden at such a high level.

The city levy keeps increasing each year (6.6 percent for the coming year), with no apparant slowdown of increases.

City reserve funds have all but been depleted, and yet no attempt has been made to replenish them as of this date.

I believe the buck has to stop somewhere – and soon.

The city is operating without the knowledge of financial reporting from accurate accounting of general ledger information to alert the council as to the financial standing of the city on a monthly basis.

The city is a business, and must be run as a business, with financial information at the ready, so that intelligent decisions can be made and detailed in a cost-effective manner.

Fourth, it is important to remember that as a mayor and city council member, we hire professional people to get a job done. We must let them work at that job without interference. They are supposed to be the experts, reporting to the council any and all pertinent information.

Last, I would stand up for all city department heads that have been doing a great job over the years, and not hold them responsible for individual acts that are not in their control.

What specifically can the city do to cut costs and operate efficiently, while still maintaining service to taxpayers?

There needs to be an accounting of all financial matters of the city, and that means all departments of the city. If accurate accounting by use of general ledgers is made, then mistakes of overspending would be cut to a minimum.

Certainly, the layoff of the city administrator is not the answer to saving money, when in reality, it will cost the city greatly to lose that professional expertise.

We have effectively reduced the city offices from three positions down to two, when, in fact, we probably should have been looking to increase that staff for more efficient reporting.

I believe that the present council (save Bob Lalone) has opted to over-estimate the value of some top individuals, and essentially overpaid for those services, which in turn could have been spread out to more staff and greater service of financial record keeping.

When decisions are reached based on like or dislike, those actions in themselves are worthless, and in the end, are costly to the city.

Decisions must be made on, “How is this job going to be performed, and at what cost?”

Again, I believe there is a better way, and a better choice.

Mike Scanlon

Why are you running for mayor of Dassel?

I have been the incumbent mayor for the past four years, and have enjoyed the position. I think the city has made great strides in the last four years. We have added multiple businesses in town. Our occasional stores, along with the other retailers in town, have made Dassel a destination for retail shopping. I am running for another term to keep the momentum going in Dassel.

What do you believe are the top two issues facing the city, and what are your proposed solutions?

The two top issues are our low city reserves, and loss of local government aid.

The proposed solution for low city reserves – my solution would have been to eliminate the city administrator position. That position receives $90,000 per year with benefits. I wanted to shift that $90,000 to our reserve funds for the next three years.

Our reserves right now are at $150,000. The recommendation is to keep city reserves at 35 to 50 percent of budget. Our budget is $1,000,000 a year, so our reserves should be between $350,000 and $500,000.

The proposed solution for loss of local government aid – over the last four years, we have had more than $100,000 cut from our local government aid (aid received from the state). We have to impress upon our legislators the need for that LGA money. We have to show to them that rural Minnesota is as important to the state as urban Minnesota.

What specifically can the city do to cut cost and operate effectively, while still offering services to taxpayers?

This is something we have been doing for the last four years. We have trimmed more than $100,000 off our budget.

We have done this by reviewing our city contracts with vendors and finding the best prices possible for outside services to the city. We have cut overtime for our city employees. We have held off buying any large equipment that would affect our debt, while at the same time maintaining core essential city services.

Jeffrey Putnam

Why are you running for mayor of Dassel?

I am running for the position of mayor of the city of Dassel because I believe I can bring strong leadership to our community.

Having lived in Dassel with my wife and daughter for nearly 17 years, I have continuously been very involved in the community in a variety of ways.

Serving on the Dassel City Council for four years gave me the insight to city operations that I believe would serve very valuable in my role as mayor. As an employee of Wright County Public Works for the past 15 years, I am familiar with taxpayer expectations of its service providers, and would hold myself to those same expectations as the mayor of Dassel.

Studying psychology at Bemidji State University, and 16 years of part-time employment experience at the Village Ranch Inc. in Cokato, provided me the skill of dealing with a variety of personalities under stressful circumstances.

Being a 16-year member of the Dassel Volunteer Fire Department – where I currently serve as the department’s training officer – has given me the opportunity to assist people in their time of need, and allowed me to get to know many people of the community.

Through my community involvement, I have proven myself as an individual that is very approachable and willing to look at each situation from every angle. It is my belief that the mayor and council members should serve as a bridge between the citizens and the city administration, by listening to both and finding a workable solution to provide the best possible outcome.

Everyone has a voice and wants to be heard. By truly listening to the citizens and administration and keeping clear, open lines of communication, we can find the answers that are best for everyone, even when the decision may be difficult.

What do you believe are the top two issues facing the city, and what are your proposed solutions?

Looking from the outside in, my first concern would be how the city is spending its money.

Something that comes to mind is why have we been paying two people to act as administrator during the past year? And now the city has acted on relieving one of the positions, but has approved to add an Economic Development Authority (EDA) position Feb. 1, 2013.

It is my understanding that Dassel is already paying for EDA services through the county. I would like to explore what services are offered through Meeker County, so that the city is not paying for the same service twice.

I feel economic development is very important to Dassel, but are we ready to expand? At this time, Dassel does not have the existing infrastructure nor reserve money to support additional growth. While city growth is very important, I believe that the most immediate need is to support and strengthen our existing infrastructure. The city needs to pay off the wastewater treatment facility, as well as the water tower well.

Another issue I feel needs to be addressed is the relationship between the city and the Dassel Volunteer Fire Department.

As a member of the fire department, I have seen the adverse effect of the council’s micro-managing. In recent months, the council has given the Dassel Volunteer Fire Department direction on things that they would like to see revised or changed.

Time and again, when the fire department has followed those directives and presented the revisions and changes as appropriate for the department, the council has chosen to take control and make the revisions and changes their own way.

While I realize that the Dassel Volunteer Fire Department falls under the city umbrella, what concerns me most is the apparent breakdown of trust, respect, and partnership between the city council and the fire department.

When the Dassel Volunteer Fire Department’s directives for operation are not accepted or respected by the city, it is simply destructive to the morale of the volunteer firefighters.

The city council has not demonstrated that they wish to work “with” the fire department on the requests that the city is making, rather they are overriding fire department recommendations from the bench without any personal knowledge of fire department operations.

We train hard to respond, and go the extra mile for the citizens of Dassel because that’s who we are, and what we believe to be our responsibility. We are one of the few departments in the area that is strictly a volunteer department; meaning no member gets paid for responding to calls, to attend mandatory meetings and trainings, or to set up and run fundraisers – not to mention all of the time away from their jobs and families in order to volunteer for our community.

When the morale of a fire department starts to crumble, it only makes the term “volunteer” less desirable.

My goal as mayor would be to form a fire department committee, with representatives from the city council, fire department, townships, and citizens-at-large. I feel that with this representation, we could efficiently and effectively support the Dassel Volunteer Fire Department in its ongoing success.

What specifically can the city do to cut costs and operate efficiently, while still maintaining service to taxpayers?

I will provide leadership; working with the city staff to review all the city operations, budgets, audits, and all available resources, to find out the best, most economical ways to provide our citizens the services they deserve.

I would work with city staff to obtain good information to make good decisions, and plan to review all the city policies that affect the citizens of Dassel, to see if the city is following through with its responsibility.

Again, with my experience, I feel I have the knowledge to be a leader and I’m committed to work toward the restoration of a congruous relationship between the citizens, city departments, and the leaders of the city of Dassel.

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