SE Young Professionals present Election Forum

Deb Moldaschel
(Top) Election Forum Moderator Chad Mathiowetz (left) gave the first question to the Mayor and Ward 1 Councilor candidates: Andrew Kelton, Wayne Pelzel, Scott Krzmarzick, and Joann Schmidt. (Below) The Election Forum was divided into two groups. Pictured listening to Moderator Chad Mathiowetz are the candidates for Ward 2 Councilor, from left: Christina Andres, Chuck Forster, Rajeana Wick, and Crystal Uys (remotely).

The Sleepy Eye Young Professionals group provided the residents of Sleepy Eye with an opportunity to learn more about the candidates for Mayor and City Council seats with their Sleepy Eye Election Forum 2020, held Monday evening, Oct. 19. Due to COVID-19 guidelines which prevented a large crowd from attending, the event was available to view on cable Ch. 8 and Facebook Live.

Chad Mathiowetz served as moderator, asking each candidate the same four questions. The forum started with self introductions, which will not be detailed here as they were very much in line with what the candidates offered in the Oct. 1 newspaper article. Following are the questions and a brief recap of each candidate’s answer.

1. What are the three most important things you would like to see the city either start, stop, or continue?

Andrew Kelton, candidate for Mayor: be more open and transparent, listening equally to all; hire qualified individuals; quit spending on lavish projects like the Event Center, and for the Lake Study.

Wayne Pelzel, incumbent candidate for Mayor: promote the city as a place to have businesses and raise a family; the lake is an important asset and has problems, which the lake study will help identify; continue to promote and support our good employees.

Scott Krzmarzick, candidate for Ward 1 Councilor: better enforcement of ordinances (blight and rental inspections); continue good support of emergency services—fire, ambulance and police.

Joann Schmidt, incumbent candidate for Ward 1 Councilor: involve the HRA (Housing and Redevelopment Authority) in housing issues; further develop the OJT (On the Job Training) program to include education paths; get more people involved in city boards and committees to learn about the city.

Christina Andres, candidate for Ward 2 Councilor: add lake amenities and activities (perhaps kayak rentals and boat slips for city residents); add to park system (all-inclusive play ground, splash pad); look into an amphitheater or bandstand.

Chuck Forster, candidate for Ward 2 Councilor: get out of the real estate business (12th Ave. development); Wayne Pelzel should give up that property [by his home] so 6th Avenue can go through; I don’t like what happened with that lady city manager.

Rajeana Wick, candidate for Ward 2 Councilor: we need a functional city council and city manager, transparency, and need to engage with all citizens.

Crystal Uys, candidate for Ward 2 Councilor: I agree with Christina on lake and park projects; improve upkeep of public spaces; city council should function as a team and make people comfortable to approach them.

2. How would you continue to address downtown revitalization?

Kelton: downtown has great potential, but most buildings are beyond repair (maybe raze some for open spaces); maybe offer a utility break for first year for new building owners; I’m not a proponent of giving out money.

Pelzel: Our Downtown Revitalization Committee has created a brochure with information for those interested in purchasing and/or improving buildings, added lighting to trees downtown, and will install window clings of historic pictures for vacant building to make downtown more attractive; city funds are needed for this effort.

Krzmarzick: the city has done a fine job; work with building owners to make improvements; a do more to bring people to town in other areas (such as new softball fields.)

Schmidt: EDA has funding for revitalization and information on other sources; maybe investment groups would be a source of funds.

Andres: young people coming back to town is a positive, they bring new ideas—Armbrusters took a leap of faith with the Pix and now 10 buildings have used EDA funds for projects; also looking at DEED grants to help with blight and clean up.

Forster: Sleepy Eye is turning into a bedroom community; the buildings are old; the city needs to hold on to money—too much was spent on streets.

Wick: downtown is not doing well, unchanged and unproductive; work with owners and find path forward.

Uys: exciting to see changes over last few years; continue supporting and patronizing businesses; make building look nicer including second floors; maybe some need to come down for parking.

3. Do you feel tax dollars have been well utilized by the city?

Kelton: yes and no—we have great parks and campground; too much spent on lawyers; the city owns property that should be on the tax rolls.

Pelzel: the budget is a group decision, we spend two months on the process; our boards will begin making five-year plans to help with budget planning.

Krzmarzick: yes and no—emergency services are well-funded; there is waste uptown, the 4 and 14 park maybe was not necessary, I heard someone wanted to buy the property.

Schmidt: We are 10% under budget and all departments are diligent in watching spending. On the 4 and 14 park—the potential purchaser decided not to buy it.

Andres: tax dollars are needed to make improvements; we need to put community’s priorities first.

Forster: they spent way too much on lawyers; city council meetings are rehearsed—they approve purchases without asking any questions (new police squad).

Wick: Engineering is good; what’s lacking is listening to people, they don’t hear the needs of the citizens.

Uys: It goes both ways, there is always room for improvement; fix public spaces.

4. How should housing challenges be addressed?

All, except Forster, agreed there is a shortage of affordable housing and funding sources are needed. Mayor Pelzel announced there is a potential buyer for Del Monte and asked, “Where would the employees live?”