Candidate forum: Three mayoral candidates offer views at League event
WILLMAR -- More than 30 people listened to mayoral candidates in the Nov. 4 general election -- Willmar natives Marv Calvin, Zack Liebl and Bob Skor -- expressed their views Tuesday night during an hour-long forum sponsored by the Willmar Chapter...
WILLMAR - More than 30 people listened to mayoral candidates in the Nov. 4 general election - Willmar natives Marv Calvin, Zack Liebl and Bob Skor - expressed their views Tuesday night during an hour-long forum sponsored by the Willmar Chapter of the League of Women Voters.
Among the nearly dozen questions asked by Chapter President Jessica Rohloff at the Municipal Utilities auditorium was a query on the candidates’ leadership style if elected and would it be similar or different than the past two mayors.
Calvin, 58, the city’s first full-time fire chief and fire marshal, said he will have an inclusive leadership style. Calvin said he will be open-minded and will listen to all sides.
“We will pull those ideas together and make sure we move forward,’’ he said, adding his style will be more like former Mayor Les Heitke than current Mayor Frank Yanish.
Liebl, 25, a Minnesota Army National Guard officer and outreach coordinator for the Willmar Community-Owned Grocery, said he received six months of military leadership training, but he won’t use the “my way or the highway’’ style of leadership. Instead, Liebl said he will ask for everyone’s opinion and will keep his opinion to himself at first.
“Without getting everybody’s ideas, you’re never going to have the best answer. You have to be inclusive. If you are not, it’s just going to go nowhere. Without inclusion, people aren’t going to feel valid,’’ he said. “To be successful to get any mission accomplished, you need everybody on board to push forward.’’
Skor, 62, and a retired from various fields of work, said City Offices “kind of pulled away from the City Council and the mayor’’ about 20 years ago and do not seem to work real tight together anymore.
“I’d like to them back on track, get the mayor more involved, get the City Council all on-line,’’ he said. “It seems like it’s a 5-3 issue. Something that was kind of hurt a long time ago takes a long time to change.’’
Agreeing with Liebl, Skor said he would get everybody involved. “Don’t push your opinion and get everybody working together. That is just what we need to do.’’
When Rohloff asked how the candidates would approach preparing and presenting the city budget, Liebl said the mayor and council need to first establish a strategic plan that sets the route for the budget. Then the mayor can get input from city staff and department heads and present the budget to the council. Also, he would like to have more participation from citizens.
Skor said he would like to see the mayor do the budget and not have the budget tweaked after it is set.
“I’d like to see the mayor have a lot of say in this one,’’ he said.
Calvin said the budget is presented to the council after the mayor, city administrator and staff have pulled it together. After the initial presentation, the council is responsible for working, supporting and endorsing the budget.
“With the weak-mayor form of government, you have to have your council members and citizenry behind the processes so that the budget can be accepted and work closely with the council to make that happen,’’ said Calvin.
Rohloff said an audience member wanted to know if Seventh Street and 10th Street Southwest could be made one-way streets and establish railroad crossing quiet zones at no cost to improve the quality of life.
Calvin said yes and said it was a good option. But he was not sure if it’s been explored or not.
“If it is feasible and can actually work, I support that option,’’ he said.
Liebl said a quiet zone reduces some train horn sound. But he said federal legislation gives the conductor discretion to sound the horn.
“A true quiet zone will never be 100 percent quiet,’’ he said.
Also, Liebl said Willmar is not very used to one-way streets, and he urged streets be kept two-way for the best traffic control possible.
Skor would leave all options open. He said the Trott Avenue Southwest quiet zone was not very quiet and was the most inefficient. He agreed with Liebl that they can blow the horn at their discretion.
Rohloff asked the candidates for their thoughts on leading a town as diverse in age, ethnicity and economic status as Willmar is today and their plans for senior citizens.
Liebl said Willmar should embrace its diversity, which he said is wonderful. He said age diversity is also a challenge. But he said diversity is needed for a healthy city.
Skor said he would like to see seniors citizens have access to some of the programs they are paying into for a little extra support. He didn’t want seniors to be the forgotten few.
Regarding diversity, Skor said Willmar has been “pretty diversified’’ for the last 20 years. He said the Latino population had a few issues. “But that got taken care of and they kind of adjusted,’’ he said.
With the Somali population, he said “I think we need to educate them a little more on how to be proper Willmarites and how to respect us so we can respect them a little bit more.’’
Calvin agree with Skor “that we need to educate.’’ However, Calvin said education is a very powerful tool.
“And it isn’t educate them to our ways. It’s educate us to their ways so that we can find what we have in common,’’ Calvin said. “Let’s look at the stuff we have in common and work on the little things we don’t have in common.’’
The forum was recorded for later presentation on WRAC.