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Yanish wants to provide new leadership, new vision

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WILLMAR -- Willmar businessman and mayoral candidate Frank Yanish wants to provide new leadership and new vision to the city.

"We've had somewhat of a contentious ride in the City Council, city staff, and sometimes it gets a little heated,'' said Yanish during an interview at Central Tire and Auto Inc., which he and his wife, Lorna, own.

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"What I'm going to try and do with a new leadership is to bring forth a teamwork attitude. I've built a rapport and I've met with and talked with most of the City Council people and also most of the city staff to get filled in as to what's going on and happening in the city. I think that a real possibility is that we can work together and have a teamwork-type attitude.''

Yanish will face incumbent Mayor Les Heitke in the Nov. 2 general election. The mayor serves a four-year term.

Yanish sees a positive future for Willmar but says the city is going in the wrong direction. Yanish wants to steer the city in the right direction. He said railroad quiet zones, storm water, streets and the downtown area are all items that should have been resolved long ago. Yanish said he will make these issues high-priority items.

"Sometimes in the past, personalities have entered into it and things didn't get done,'' he said. "As far as I am concerned, Willmar is ready to explode as far as what it can be. We're close to that.''

Yanish said the City Council and staff need to take a hard look at all spending. Yanish said 80 percent to 85 percent of the city operating budget is spent on labor. Yanish said he's not opposed to contracting for some services.

"Obviously, there's an issue that we need to take a look at and see if the taxpayers are getting what they're paying for. We do need to take a look at the labor part of it. There's also a number of issues on a smaller basis. But you have to take a look at if 80 to 85 percent is labor, there's no sense taking first the item that is one-tenth of 1 percent of that budget,'' he said.

"Maybe we can save $200 on paper, something like that. But the fact of the matter in a $12½ million budget, that ain't going to cut it. So we have to look at the items that are the highest percentage of what the operating budget is and that is one of them,'' he said.

"We have to provide the services and keep the services. But we need to take a look and see where there is waste. I'm not opposed at looking at contracting some of this stuff out.''

Yanish feels local government is not open to the public right now. He'd like to have committee meetings -- where many of the decisions are made -- presented over WRAC-8, just as are council meetings to let the public see who is saying what, when and why.

"I think it would set a different tone at some of these meetings. It would probably help in getting better decisions.''

Yanish supports the suggestion that one or two Willmar police officers receive training in the 287G program from the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The program trains local law enforcement officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions.

Yanish said he understands local police don't have the ability to arrest someone strictly for being undocumented. But with ICE training, officers would have that ability.

"I look at it as more of a deterrent,'' he said. "The answer that I get from the people that are opposed to it tell me that it may offend somebody or it's profiling. It really isn't.''

Yanish said he drives at least once a week through the controversial Westwind low-income housing project being constructed in southwest Willmar. Yanish said he's appalled the project didn't have a buffer between the more expensive existing single-family houses and the twin houses under construction.

"The only hope now is to keep an eye on it and see how this develops and hopefully it doesn't turn out to be what people are thinking that it's going to turn out,'' he said.

Yanish, who served six years on the Planning Commission and three years as chairman, acknowledges the Westwind area is zoned for twin houses and no laws were broken by putting the project there. If a mistake was made, it's that the area was not rezoned long ago, he said.

Yanish thinks city zoning should be reviewed along with city ordinances.

"The city has changed as far as where people are building and what they want to build,'' he said. "We need to look at all those things and make sure that this type of issue doesn't develop again.''

On two other topics, Yanish envisions using Garfield School as a city hall (the council and city staff are studying the possibility of obtaining the building from the Willmar School District and turning Garfield into a new city hall) and he supports continued city involvement in the Grass Lake water quality project.

Yanish said his reception campaigning door-to-door has been phenomenal. "We're confident without being overconfident.'' He said property owners requested all of his 200 yard signs and he has a waiting list for 80 more.

Yanish says his 20 years in business and six years of Planning Commission service have been good experience. He's prepared to take time off from business to attend meetings and acknowledges he has much to learn.

"But I believe that I have built a rapport with city staff and with the City Council. I can't think of one City Council member that is contentious with me,'' he said.

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David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150
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