Article published Oct 1, 2007
City election candidates Q&A
By RICHARD ECKE
Tribune Staff Writer
Voters will select a mayor and two city commissioners in a city general election set for Nov. 6.
Following is the first question in the series. Next week's question will center on the coal-fired power plant proposed for Great Falls.
Why should voters pick you rather than another candidate?
SUSAN KAHN: Government leadership must be fully accountable to the people. We have lost this in Great Falls. Lack of oversight leaves citizens' questions and concerns not adequately addressed. I'm a strong leader and not afraid to ask tough questions or seek out the answers. As mayor, I will see to it that our city officials respond in a respectful and timely manner. It is your city and we are there to serve you.
With a bachelor's degree in business and over 20 years' professional experience from procurement to sales, I have worked with people and financial details most of my adult life. The position requires sound business judgment of complex details, often at a fast pace. Of all the candidates, my background has best prepared me for this key oversight role. I will work hard to earn your trust and promise to look out for our best interests. Together with strong public involvement, we can make Great Falls even better.
ED McKNIGHT: Imagine a mayor with the desire to achieve the ideals of openness in government, the ability to understand very complex situations and skills using a balanced approach to problem solving, then couple that with my ability to think independently, and I am your candidate.
My leadership experiences are geared toward investing in the can-do spirit of people. I know how to listen and believe in citizen-centered government as essential to the process needed to improve city life. I believe in open government through accountability and since fiscal responsibility is a key to my success, that core philosophy should bring peace of mind to taxpayers.
My technology, business and military experience clearly shows my record in accomplishing challenging tasks with great success. Considering my talents, abilities and efforts to lead in a civil and dignified manor, I have the ability and desire to facilitate, (and) to include all people doing their best to improve our community.
DONA STEBBINS: Since my term began, I have received hundreds of phone calls and e-mails from citizens. In many cases, I was able to assist them with resolving issues with the city that had been unresolved for a long time; in one case, years. I have been a "hands-on" mayor, and will continue to be responsive to citizen concerns.
I have been working closely with the Great Falls Development Authority on economic development issues and continue to see that as a top priority. Another focus has been public safety and as a result, a city-county task force is working to make faster, smoother delivery of emergency services a present reality. Affordable housing continues as a priority, as well as maintaining and developing our infrastructure. I am well versed in these areas and would ask that voters grant me an additional two years to complete my work for them.
LARRY H. STEELE: I would respect the voters of the city and listen to what they have to say. I would improve the quality of life in Great Falls, and I would find ways to increase revenue for the city without raising taxes.
COMMISSIONER (two seats)
BILL BRONSON: Every successful candidate for the City Commission faces a learning curve once elected. Ideally, voters want to elect someone who can negotiate that curve as fast and as smoothly as possible. With six years experience on local planning boards and zoning commissions (four of those as a chairman and presiding officer, with expertise in handling controversial growth issues), two years on a local government study commission making recommendations to voters about city government (including the recommendation that we have neighborhood councils) and over 15 years of experience on various nonprofit boards and commissions, including ones with large budgets to oversee, I am probably in the best position to negotiate that curve if elected. We need someone who can hit the ground running after Jan. 1 — my background and experience ensures that result.
ELNA HENSLEY: The citizens of Great Falls can have confidence in my ability to represent them as a member of the City Commission. Serving on the Great Falls School Board from 1996 to 2005, I understand the obligations, responsibilities, and processes of serving on an elected board. I am very familiar with Montana statutes related to open meeting laws and other issues relative to public entities. While on the school board, I was able to meet and work with a wide variety of people in our community and served for one year on the Great Falls Development Authority Board. I was employed by the city of Great Falls in the Fiscal Services Department for two years. I understand the city's operations, the accounting system, fund structure and budget processes. I will be able to get up to speed quickly as a commissioner. Most important, I am running for a seat on the commission because I believe in Great Falls — its people and its future. I'm open-minded and fair.
MARY JOLLEY: We need a commissioner, at least one, just like me. I've seen the misadventures our city is in because the present commissioners asked no questions. It is imperative that a commissioner delves into details before voting on ordinances and resolutions. I think city leaders have lost track of what its residents expect from their local government. If residents pay for studies on issues, at least one commissioner should read them. Why is the city getting into things they need studies on in the first place? Keep it simple. Fewer incursions into what is best left to the private sector would be something I would advocate. I will be more than willing to state my reasons for my votes. Public input will be welcome. We need a commissioner who wholeheartedly believes in open government. Any employee who has access to documents, e-mails or any other paperwork at the Civic Center should provide copies to any resident or reporter who asks for them.
DIANE JOVICK-KUNTZ: Experience! I have been fortunate to have served this community for eight years. In that time, the commission has built strong working relationships with Great Falls Development Authority, Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Great Falls International Airport, as well as many other organizations. This needs to continue. I have been a strong advocate of our neighborhood councils; they have been invaluable to us. I support creating private-public partnerships. This has worked for our soccer complex, River's Edge Trail and our new ice rink. A new city manager, our aging infrastructure, energy issues and public safety funding are just a few of the challenges we face. I have been open and accessible to the public and I would like to continue to serve the community.
STUART LEWIN: I am open, honest and ethical in my dealings. I have lived and worked here over 35 years. I know many but am beholden to no one save family, God and others who serve our community. As an attorney, I have put together and taken apart many business deals. I am trained, experienced and geared to analyze problems and find solutions. Few can best me in negotiations. As an active member of the Great Falls Conservation Council and other public service groups, I have considered our problems. I express my views at many City and County Commission and board meetings. I helped craft the Missouri River Corridor Plan. Many have asked, 'Why run?' I reply: I would like to see whether my ideas and efforts could improve our lives. Other candidates must speak for themselves, but I am confident I can make a difference if voters give me the opportunity.
MICHAEL WINTERS: All the candidates for City Commission are well-qualified individuals. What sets me aside is my experience as an effective organizer, sound management background, firm negotiating skills, a leader by example and decision-making based on hard facts, rather than emotion or pressure from special interests. I am approachable and willing to listen to anyone's point of view.