Forums continue for local candidates

Published 10:08 am Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Six days and counting.

With the Nov. 4 general election next week, the League of Women Voters — Austin Area hosted one of two of its candidate forums Tuesday night at the Austin City Council chambers. Mayoral and city council candidates answered questions on everything from the jail and justice center to what they feel uniquely qualifies them for the position they are running for.

Tonight at 7 at the chambers, the league will host a forum for the county commissioner candidates.

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In the race for mayor, Mark Nagle, a business consultant and owner of Grinders Deli and South Central Athlete, is running against incumbent and retired police detective Tom Stiehm for the two-year term. For 2nd Ward City Council, Mower County Correctional Services director Steve King is running for the four-year term against incumbent Scott Pacholl, who works for Akkermann Inc. For 3rd Ward City Council, Tony Bennett, co-owner of Robert’s Specialty Co., is running for the four-year term against Marian Clennon, a clerk at Hormel Foods Corp., and in the at-large position, 1st Ward council member Jeff Austin, an insurance agent, is running for the two-year term against Janet Anderson, producer at KAAL-TV.

For Tuesday’s event, candidates were offered two minutes each for opening and closing statements and then given two minutes to answer each question.


Nagle brought a Halloween slant to his opening statement, saying his costume this year is himself, and adding that that’s what Austin will get if he’s elected mayor.

“I will always be myself,” he said. “I will speak out on issues, speak for the tax payers, speak for the constituents.”

Stiehm gave his background.

“I’ve lived in Austin 32 years, and I raised my family here,” he said. As mayor, he doesn’t consider himself the boss.

“I think I have 23,000 bosses,” he said.

On leadership, Nagle said he has been self employed for 32 years and said that to start a business, run a business and to hire the right people, you have to be a leader.

“Every day, it’s a skill you work at and get better at.”

Stiehm mentioned his military experience.

“The Marine Corps doesn’t teach followers,” he said.

On the jail and justice center, Nagle said that while the project is part of the equation for downtown Austin, it is people running good businesses who will make downtown Austin what it is.

Stiehm said that a justice center downtown keeps the downtown the core of the community.

On what uniquely qualifies him for the mayor position, Nagle said he brings to the table a proactive solution on government, while Stiehm said he has the people experience to do the job.

On whether he would be in favor of mandatory drug tests for police and city employees, Nagle said he agreed with Stiehm, who said it would have to be negotiated with the unions and that he wouldn’t mind seeing it, but the policies in place right now would have to be followed.

The questions continued.

On whether he felt three blocks and a dozen businesses forced to relocate is a fair price for the jail and justice center, Nagle said, “absolutely not. It’s not right to do that to our neighbors.”

Stiehm said he felt two blocks was fair.

When asked what the main issue was in Austin, Nagle said that there is not just one, but multiple issues, including needing more jobs, bringing commerce in and the need to clean up some of our neighborhoods.

Stiehm said the number one issue was the justice center and added that hopefully that will be settled within a couple of months after the election.

When asked if he had attended jail and justice center meetings, Nagle said that he had not, but has been kept in the loop and knows the numbers.

Stiehm said that he had been to all of them, that he can recall.

For a vision for Austin, Nagle said his goal is to move it forward, while Stiehm said his vision is the Main Street Project and added that one of the first things he would do is ask Nagle if he would get back on the committee. Earlier in the forum, Nagle said he resigned from the project on principal because he felt there was a lack of transparency from the city.

City Council

King opened by saying he was born and raised in Austin, left for a time to complete his schooling and then later returned. He said his wife and their two small children couldn’t ask for any better city to live in.

Pacholl said he was a working man in Brownsdale, who also raises a family in Austin. Austin said he thinks Austin is a great town, and that he looks forward to serving the residents in the at-large position.

Anderson said her planning commission experience gives her credibility and added that she’s been active in Austin ever since she moved here in 1974.

Clennon said she’s looking to be a voice for the citizens of the 3rd Ward and added that she had been to every meeting since December 2007.

Bennett said he’s lived in Austin most of his life and is a current member of the planning commission. He said if elected, he would want the residents in his ward to contact him with their questions and concerns.

On the most important issue in Austin, Pacholl said it is the need to grow our economy.

“I feel we can do that by working with our economic bodies in the city to improve the businesses that are already here,” he said.

Austin echoed that he didn’t know if there was just one.

“There’s always several large issues, the jail and justice center and flood mitigation, the budget,” he said.

Anderson said flood mitigation must continue to be addressed and also mentioned the need to be environmentally friendly.

“We need to be very mindful of what we are doing as we get involved with new projects,” she said.

Clennon said that next year the most important issue will be working with what the state gives the city.

Bennett said we are creating a government that doesn’t work for the people and voiced his opposition to the current jail and justice center project.

“They want what’s most important for them,” he said. “You have to have another side to the argument in order to have a compromise.”

King said that he feels the economy will get worse before it gets better and that maintaining what we have is important.

After answering other questions similar to those given in the mayor portion, the city council hopefuls then offered their closing statements.

Bennett said that his main goal was to do no harm.

“I’m a smaller government type of person,” he said.

King said he brings the ability to establish relationships.

“I’m a family man,” he said. “I have hobbies. I have interests, and one of my interests is the city of Austin.”

Pacholl expressed his appreciation in the opportunity to be at the forum.

“It’s not very often we get to sit and discuss the issues like this,” he said.

Austin said the at-large position should be held by someone who has the experience already, so that you can “hit the ground running.”

Anderson stated her planning commission experience.

“I pledge to study the issues and carefully make informed decisions,” she said.

Clennon said she knows her district well.

“I come from a family that has been known in Ward 3 for 90 years,” she said.