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Incumbent Zeman faces two challengers in Detroit Lakes Ward 1 race

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

There are several election contests in the city of Detroit Lakes this year.

With longtime mayor Larry Buboltz choosing not to run another term, there are several who hope to win the job, including Vice Mayor Matt Brenk, Bob Renney, and Jim Vareberg. (Profiles on the mayor candidates will run in a later issue.)

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On the alderman front, there are also challengers in most wards.

In Ward 1, incumbent Ron Zeman is being challenged by Madalyn Sukke and John S. Watland. (See below for candidate profiles.)

In Ward 2, Jamie Marks Erickson and Doug Friendshuh will vie for the seat. (See page 3A for profiles of the two candidates.)

For alderman-at-large, incumbent Bruce Imholte will find opposition with Beatrice Tessman and Dan Holzgrove. (See page 2A for profiles of these candidates.)

Jim Anderson, Ward 3, is running unopposed.

Ward 1 candidates

Madalyn Sukke

Age: 60

Family: husband passed in January. Grown son and grown daughter

Occupation: insurance agent with Markuson Baer Insurance

Q: Why did you decide to run for city council?

A: My main reason for running is that my area where I¹ve lived for the last 20 years has not been in the city, yet, my husband and I owned a business and worked in the city.

We've supported the Chamber of Commerce and those kinds of things for many years. Our children went to school here ... when we were annexed into the city, I thought 'this is an opportunity for me to be able to give back to Detroit Lakes for everything that we've gotten from the city.'

Q: Right now, the Highway 10 and the Gateway District are high priority. What are your feelings on the project, the funding, the proposed conference center, any development on the north end of Washington Avenue, etc.?

A: I think, frankly, what they're talking about could be 15 to 20 years down the road for some of those things.

I can tell you what I did like about it. No. 1, the Highway 10 redevelopment project was just exactly the way I thought it would be -- a mess while it was going on, and one that many of us probably said, 'oh, why are we spending that kind of money to straighten out a curve, and it's going to just cause all kinds of consternation and distress?'

But I also knew that when it was finished, we would all look at it and go, 'oh my. How did we ever live without it?' And that's exactly what it's turned out to be. It was two years of mess and now, what a wonderful thing.

When you get on Frazee (Street) and you drive you don't have to be out on Highway 10, for us locals, marvelous, absolutely wonderful. And the companies that worked on it, and the Mn/DOT people did a fabulous job of designing it and making it as appealing as possible for people driving by. Gateway district, I think that has to be our No. 1 concern.

We've got people driving by on Highway 10 right now and what's going to draw them in to our city, and that's what we need to work on. How do we make that attractive, how do we develop business that will draw people off Highway 10 into Washington Avenue and into our downtown. As far as the redevelopment on Washington Avenue, with the trees, making it very user friendly and making it appealing to both people who come into our city and also people who live here.

I think that's another issue that will probably not take a lot of money, but will yield great results.

The event center -- that's going to be a difficult issue simply because we have a community center right now that is a wonderful asset to our community. However, we know that in some areas it struggles.

But any of us that have been there for events where we are talking about large dinners, it's a very difficult venue for that. We've all been there, we know we can't hear.

So we need to look at something to offer us the opportunity to have conventions, meetings, that kind of things here. I don't think we can say no. We need to look at it. We don't want something that costs the taxpayers money, that's a given. We need to make sure we're looking at it from the most feasible aspect.

Q: Annexation. The city spent a lot of money annexing the Long Lake Area. Has the city been too aggressive in annexation, or should it continue to move forward, with areas such as Willow Springs and Floyd Lake?

A: Obviously I'm pro annexation because Long Lake was annexed in and the reason my husband and I were so pro on annexation for Long Lake was it seemed to be the only way we could provide sewer and water for our area.

I think we need to keep in mind we're a lakes area and we want to keep our lakes pristine. The way to do that is provide sewer districts and some type of sewer around our lakes.

From our perspective, it gains us nothing but good things to have sewer rather than to be dependent on our septic system or well. When we annexed around Detroit Lake, look at the wonderful development hat went around following that sewer district. I think part of it is we need to keep an eye on our water quality and what we can do to save that.

Q: Are there any topics you'd like to see the city council address in the near future?

A: I think there are things that we certainly will have to be looking at -- do we want to develop some type of ordinance relative to partially completed development projects? Since we rely heavily on tourism, is there a way to improve our beachfront relative to weed control as we look to next summer? Are we ready to pursue an early warning system of some type?

John S. Watland

Age: 51

Family: wife, four children

Occupation: semi-retired

Q: Why did you decide to run for city council?

A: No. 1, our ward is poorly represented. I've had some issues with the council in the past year, and I don't feel I was fairly represented. In fact I had to consult an attorney and a state representative. That's how disenfranchised it was. There needs to be some more foresight and fairness in what goes on instead of all doing what they want to do. That's kind of what I'm about.

Right now, the Highway 10 and the Gateway District are high priority. What are your feelings on the project, the funding, the proposed conference center, any development on the north end of Washington Avenue, etc.?

A: The conference center, that shouldn't happen. Private sector should look at it. We can look out the window here and see how the north end is slipping away. IF the economy was so robust, people would be grabbing ... I mean they bought Wisted's for 50 cents on the dollar. It's sad. It's heartbreaking. And you get an obtuse city council that sits by ... and define the Gateway. Are we part of the Gateway, or are we left off the planet or what are we now?

I really don't get it anymore what they're talking about. I don't think a lot of the citizens do. We ended up with a billboard right in my backyard. Instead of being proactive, the council is reactive about it. It's like 'well, we made a mistake, but we won't correct it.'

I've talked to my neighbors and they live in fear more or less that if they say something ... it's time to be heard. We have people feeling that if they do say something, they're a target.

I'd be the first to say I'm vocal with my opinions. It's made me a target because of it. I wish I didn't have to feel that way. The Highway 10 project, that was talked about back in the '40s, about doing an underpass right on the street I live on -- on Andrews.

At that time, the city didn't decide to do it. Well it was sorely needed, that was. As for the rest of it, I think all we ended up doing was taking a bunch of green space ... I'm not against growth of a city by any means, you can't just sit in one spot. I'm seeing so many current businesses that are just giving up.

There needs to be some accountable change and everyone needs to have some input on, not just the chosen few. I realize the council has that right, but I don't feel right now that they are representing the average citizen in town.

Q: Annexation. The city spent a lot of money annexing the Long Lake Area. Has the city been too aggressive in annexation, or should it continue to move forward, with areas such as Willow Springs and Floyd Lake?

A: Annexation is kind of a double-edged sword. You're dealing with people that have their own issues and concerns, especially with septic systems and wells. And there are some areas that if the city buys into it, to put in the infrastructure, costs upside down.

I've heard a lot of talk of clusters, the lakes getting involved, and they have to pay for their own infrastructure for water and sewer ... I don't remember them giving Long Lake that option for a cluster.

Growth is a wonderful thing, to a degree, then the next thing you know, you'll need a new street department satellite station. Where does that money come from?

That's what I'm kind of seeing for the old part of town. Instead of renovation, our ward, we've been kind of passed by. What's fair and equitable for one may not be for another. Also, the more you annex onto a city, the more police protection you need.

Q: Are there any improvements you'd like to see the city council address in the near future?

A: There's always room for improvement. We need a little more attention paid from the street department for weed control. You can look out the window and how much work would it be for the city to have a weed whacker and take care of weed problems.

I live in a neighborhood where they built that big drainage pond right next to the freezer plant. I've got neighbors concerned about skunks. I went out at 2 or 3 in the morning and tracked them, and they're going in and out of the storm drain.

It's like we've got all this stuff put upon us. Now we've got that big bowl over there. If some kids go play over there, it's a liability issue for the city. I've just got the burning opinion that everyone on the north side of town just got bypassed. Everyone on the south end got everything they wanted and needed. Businesses included.

The rest of us are just here to bite our lip, smile and pay for it. I don't see any fairness in that. We can put up a nice sailboat down by the Pavilion, but we don't have many attractions up here anymore. The Washington School that is decaying. I hate to sound negative, I'd like to be more positive, but as of late, it just ... when you see all the stuff going on, it is very tough.

Ron Zeman

Age: 62

Family: married, three grown daughters, "lots" of grandchildren

Occupation: merchandise manager and buyer for Norby's

Q: Why did you decide to run for city council another term?

A: Basically I decided to run for re-election because I felt there is a need out there for doing a number of things.

One thing is to help keep taxes down. Last year the city of Detroit Lakes had a 15.5 percent tax increase. I was one of three people on the council that did not vote for that.

This year we're going to have about a 5 percent increase. One of the concerns for people is taxes and keeping them under control. We've had a pretty big appetite to spend, and I think we really need to watch what we're doing here in the future.

Also, I'm concerned about zoning issues in Detroit Lakes. I think we are improving on zoning, but I am concerned about keeping neighborhoods clean and safe and away from industrial parks, and that's been an issue. I also feel we need to create more jobs with a livable salary and one with benefits with health plans.

Q: Right now, the Highway 10 and the Gateway District are high priority. What are your feelings on the project, the funding, the proposed conference center, any development on the north end of Washington Avenue, etc.?

A: No. 1, I'm excited about the Gateway District, but I also feel we need to have a developer that wants to come in and develop that area and also comes with his checkbook.

The taxpayers shouldn't be expected to be burdened by this Gateway District. It has to be businesses who want to come for retail spots here, but I think we do need someone who wants to come in with ideas of who some of those people can be.

In regards to the proposed convention center, I do not support that project at all. I feel that no taxpayers dollars should be used in that. The study has come back pretty much saying that the proposed convention center in Detroit Lakes is not needed. If it is built, it would reply on being subsidized by the city and taxpayers. I do not support that issue.

Q: Annexation. The city spent a lot of money annexing the Long Lake Area. Has the city been too aggressive in annexation, or should it continue to move forward, with areas such as Willow Springs and Floyd Lake?

A: I think right now our city has been way too aggressive with annexation. Taxpayers are being asked to pay 50 percent or more of these projects.

Also, we're helping pay to put in proposed lots that are sitting empty and that taxpayers are having to pay for until those lots are sold.

I think we need to put a hold on this spending for annexation. Basically, our growth has gone to 8,000 population, but the majority of our growth has come from annexation.

I want to see growth come from new jobs, where people actually move in from outside the area. I think we've done enough annexation for a bit. We need to get ourselves caught up. We're asking the taxpayers for too much. In reality, with the annexation we've had, the taxpayers should be getting more relief than they have on this.

Q: Are there any improvements you'd like to see the city council address in the near future?

A: I think right now there is definitely a need for improvement in our parks, as far as walking trails and biking trails, whatever to help the community.

I would like to see something done with the beachfront area, but it all comes down to dollars and cents, trying to see what is best for the beach area.

One of the other areas I've worked hard on is trying to find a way to rehab neighborhoods. I know there is some funding out there, federal funding.

I think we need to look at improving some neighborhoods and infrastructure. We've done a lot of annexation, now it's time to look into existing neighborhoods. There's a big need out there. I think we need to find some programs to help.

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