Editorial: Heitke is the best candidate for Willmar mayor
Willmar voters face a decision Nov. 2 of re-electing incumbent Mayor Les Heitke or electing challenger Frank Yanish.
It is a choice between Heitke, who is an experienced and well-respected civic leader as well as strong Willmar advocate, or Yanish, a candidate who has a smaller vision of Willmar and has less civic experience and leadership.
Heitke is the stronger and better civic leader in this race.
Yanish had a food-industry sales career and then became co-owner and operator of a Willmar tire business for the past 19 years. He and his wife, Lorna, also run a music promotion business producing gospel music shows.
He also has six years on the Willmar Planning Commission, serving as chair for three years. However, he had a hard time handing controversy during his tenure on that board. He also tends to avoid conflict. In fact, he told the Tribune, if he had been mayor, he would not have voted yes or no on the Westwind decision. Where is the leadership in that?
He also told the Tribune that Willmar should take better care of the people who built this city; instead of all the newcomers. He also criticized Heitke for campaigning in Willmar's immigrant population. Such comments are not appropriate for any Willmar city leader.
Heitke is seeking his fifth term as Willmar mayor. His leadership tenure has been one of fiscal discipline, building on diversity and business expansion in the city.
The city has been prudent with its budget during Heitke's tenure. The city has a balanced budget now, but is preparing for possible state funding changes in 2011. The historically prudent city budget helps provide a good business climate for expansion and growth here.
Heitke is Willmar's top promoter and he is a good one. He was part of the team that brought home the "All-America City" designation in 2005. You often see Heitke attending events, from ribbon cuttings to Willmar Fests activities to athletic events. He is always making what is best for Willmar a priority.
Heitke is not perfect. He has been frustrated at times by the anti-government, just-say-no element on the City Council. He had the courage and wisdom to make tough and unpopular decisions that protected the city from potential multi-million legal damages, which saved taxpayers significant budget dollars.
Willmar is recognized around the state and nationally as a city that has embraced and accepted a growing minority population. Downtown Willmar has numerous businesses with diversity owners. The city's minority population is growing and helping Willmar School District maintain its student enrollment. Heitke has played a positive role in the city's acceptance of minorities.
Heitke has also worked in state and national civic organizations, gaining leadership experience and telling Willmar's story across the country.
He has also shown the ability to work with other leaders in the community -- the county, local school systems, Ridgewater College, business and private groups. He is now looking to other Kandiyohi County communities to see there are opportunities to share services and save budget dollars.
Heitke has a positive vision of growth and creativity for Willmar. He has a greater knowledge and experience and is the leader this city needs in the coming years.
The West Central Tribune endorses Heitke for re-election Nov. 2 as Willmar's mayor.
Readers have until 2 p.m. Thursday to respond to this editorial endorsement.
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