Candidates seek to represent Ward 5 on Minot council

The two candidates for Minot City Council from Ward 5 want to see flood recovery in their ward and well managed growth in the city.

Incumbent Scott Knudsvig, seeking his third four-year term, is an attorney and a shareholder at the Pringle & Herigstad law firm. He is being challenged by Miranda Schuler, who has been a licensed insurance agent since 2007. Voters will elect one of the two candidates in the June 10 city election.

They provided answers to the following questions related to Minot city government.

Are you satisfied with the operations of the city? If there should be changes, what would you suggest?

Knudsvig: As chairman of the Public Works and Safety Committee for the past six years, I have become very aware of the operations of the city. The operations of the City of Minot are for the most part working well. Of course, there is always room for improvement. The council continues to receive complaints from the citizens regarding the conditions of the streets and snow removal. The council has been working with the Public Works Department to improve snow removal by adding additional staff and equipment. The council continues to add funding for street improvement and repair projects.

Schuler: The operations of the City of Minot need to see some changes. I feel as though we are operating on a survival mentality. Each area of this town is seeing unique challenges with regard to growth, traffic, flood recovery and infrastructure. All of these things need to be addressed in a way that looks at how they will impact us as citizens many years down the road. I would like to see Minot look to other cities that have experienced dramatic growth in a short amount of time to see what they would recommend. This is something relatively new to us, and who better to look to for advice than people from places that have already gone through what we are seeing. I miss the “old Minot” as much as the rest of us, but we need to be acting on the growth we are seeing. It feels as though many of the issues we as citizens find troubling, such as traffic in particular, take so long to see any progress.

Has enough been done to assist with flood recovery? Are there additional steps the city could be taking to clean up abandoned properties or address other areas of flood recovery?

Schuler: Those of us who are still living it every day probably have more to say than the people of Minot who were fortunate to not have gone through it. Every person who was flooded in 2011 has a story to tell. We all have been doing the best we can for our families. We have invested blood, sweat, tears and MANY dollars into the valley. I personally am just as frustrated by the abandoned homes that I live by, and all I want is a safe place for my friends, neighbors and family. It’s a tough issue because we are all in different stages of dealing with the flood even today. The homes and properties that have been left by banks as a result of foreclosure personally bother me the most. I would like to see them held to a different level of accountability. There are many things that need to be addressed in the valley. We have very unique issues. Many of them are safety related.

Knudsvig: The council has listened to the citizens and is moving forward with cleaning up the valley. At the May city council meeting I presented an action plan directing city staff to identify, categorize and move forward with addressing the issue of the flooded homes that pose health and safety threats to our citizens. This plan will help us move forward and clean up the valley. We will continue to work with our federal, state and local partners to move forward with flood recovery and work toward a comprehensive flood protection system through Minot.

Is Minot doing a good job of managing its growth? What improvements might the city be able to make in this area and how could the city best go about making those improvements?

Knudsvig: As chairman of the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, I worked with citizens and our consultants to identify how and where growth should occur in and around the city. The Comprehensive Plan that was adopted by the council is a roadmap to help identify how we will grow in the future. It addresses all issues of growth including infrastructure improvements, transportation improvements as well as residential, commercial and industrial growth.

Schuler: As previously stated, I would like to see Minot look to other cities that have experienced dramatic growth in a short amount of time to see what they would recommend.

What are the main issues in your ward that you would seek to address?

Schuler: Ward 5 is a large area. Some of it is on South Hill, and a majority of it is in the valley. While I am very familiar with the valley issues, I am less in tune with the southern part of the ward. I would like to have an open line of communication because I think it’s important. If elected, I’d like to hold very informal community forums for residents of Ward 5 to sit down and discuss things that need to be discussed.

I know that property tax is always an issue, and traffic is an issue no matter where you live anymore. I would be open to visiting with people in all areas of Ward 5 to make sure they are being heard. My primary focus would be flood recovery, managing growth and traffic and maintaining property tax to fund the needs of our city. I don’t like to pay more, but the reality is nothing is getting cheaper. We need taxes that are fair and reflect the correct values for all homes in Minot, and we also need to be mindful of the spending of these tax dollars.

Knudsvig: A large area of my ward was affected by the flood. The priorities for my ward include addressing the “zombie homes” issues and future flood control. The biggest obstacle to these projects is funding. We need to work to seek funding for these issues so that recovery can continue and the flood control project can become a reality sooner than later.

The need for a new search for city manager and the firing of a new city attorney have some residents concerned about the city’s hiring processes. What are your thoughts on the situation?

Knudsvig: As a member of the City Manager Search Committee, we have worked diligently to find a city manager. While not successful in hiring a candidate at this time, we are committed to finding the right person to fill that role. It is very important to the future of Minot that we have the right person in that position as we address the needs of our growing community and recover from the flood of 2011.

As the city grows, we need to expand our search efforts for key staff positions, like the city manager position. A professional search firm can provide us with candidates that might not apply through our standard search efforts. I expect us to use professional search firms in the future to fill key positions in the city when there are openings.

Schuler: The City of Minot faces many of the same challenges that employers in North Dakota are facing. Finding people to fill all the jobs that are currently open in all facets of our town is not an easy task. I personally think the timing of this situation is bad. I can’t comment on this specific situation as I am not involved. What I will say though is that sometimes a new person will bring different views and opinions into a work place. I don’t see that as a negative. Things sometimes need to change to establish progress. I am concerned that currently major positions within the City of Minot staff are open.

I absolutely think hiring should be done by an outside professional service for key positions within the city. The caliber of candidates a professional agency is able to recruit in itself is a valuable asset.

What are your priorities for the city in terms of things you would like to see happen?

Schuler: As previously stated, my primary focus would be flood recovery, managing growth and traffic and maintaining property tax to fund the needs of our city.

Knudsvig: I see controlling property taxes, managing growth, flood recovery and flood control as the top priorities at this time. We need to continue to grow smart and at the same time address the issues that were brought about as a result of the flood of 2011. The budget process is probably the most important element of city government. It allocates our resources and determines the priorities for the next year. It is important that the council is mindful of the needs of a growing community while at the same time keeping property taxes in check.

What knowledge and background would you bring to the position that would be beneficial?

Knudsvig: I have served on the City Council for the past eight years. I have served as chairman of the Public Works and Safety Committee for the last six years. I was chairman of the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee and chairman of the Pension Ad Hoc Review Committee. I have also practiced law in Minot for the last 11 years. My experience, background and leadership on many issues give me the perspective and background on city issues that make me the best choice for Fifth Ward alderman.

Schuler: My background doesn’t involve any political positions. I am just your average, everyday citizen. As an insurance professional, I am a risk manager on a daily basis. I care about people. While one person can’t change the world, I would hope that my willingness to work for people could have a positive impact on the city we all call home. I would say that my resourcefulness is probably my strongest asset. Many of my friends and neighbors encouraged me and continue to support me in this campaign. The reason I am running is a direct result of their belief in me.