Erik Burgess, Published October 08 2013
4 Moorhead mayoral candidates tout their strengths at public forumMOORHEAD – Perennials issues for the city of Moorhead were the topics of discussion at a mayoral candidate forum on Tuesday.
Up for conversation at the event were: How the city can better develop its downtown, attract more businesses citywide, and satisfy its many college students.
The forum was hosted by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber and the Moorhead Business Association at D-S Beverages in north Moorhead.
The city election is Nov. 5. Mayor Mark Voxland announced early this year that he would not seek a fourth four-year term.
Councilman Mark Hintermeyer said he wants to be “more aggressive” with legislators, develop a list of important border city issues and help state officials “buy into the notion” of the issues that cities face on the border with North Dakota.
“I hope to be that squeaky wheel mayor, if I’m successful,” Hintermeyer said.
Councilman Mike Hulett pointed to his downtown plan, “Return to Center,” which focuses on redeveloping the Center Avenue corridor. He also said he will use his recent appointment to the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission to help connect Moorhead to the Heartland State Trail.
“That’s going to help business development,” Hulett said. “Can you imagine all the people that would be out on such a trail on a weekend?”
Del Rae Williams, a retired certified public accountant who is also vice president of the League of Women Voters of the Red River Valley, agreed the city needs to be more aggressive, especially with marketing the land it already owns downtown.
She also said she would communicate more regularly with residents and host monthly “coffee with the mayor” get-togethers.
“Because I really value citizen input,” she said.
The fourth mayoral hopeful, Kevin Shores, was invited to the forum but did not attend, said Craig Whitney, president and CEO of the chamber.
When asked what three things could be changed in City Hall to help encourage business growth, Hulett had just one thing in mind: “Customer service, customer service and then some more customer service,” he said.
Williams said the city needs to be more flexible when it works with businesses. Hintermeyer said the city has already accomplished one of his goals in hiring Matt Maslowski, business retention and development manager.
Hintermeyer also floated the idea of recording phone calls when residents call the city with problems, saying it would help city officials hear when lower-level city staff is not providing good customer service.
The proposed Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project was also discussed, with the two councilmen saying they supports the project, but Williams saying she’s doesn’t yet.
Williams said it will be difficult to convince the state of Minnesota to fund its roughly $100 million share of the $2 billion project because Moorhead is nearly protected.
Hulett said when voters go to the polls they might have trouble discerning how the candidates differ in their vision for the city. But the candidates do differ in experience, Hulett said, pointing to his 35 years negotiating labor agreements.
“I’m not going to be ‘aggressive,’ ” Hulett said, referring to Hintermeyer’s continued use of the word. “I’m going to be very intentional, and I’m going to be very collaborative.”
Hintermeyer, who has served on the council for eight years, spent the evening touting his experience as a longtime councilman and retired Air Force lieutenant colonel.
Del Rae Williams said she is third-generation business owner and twice said she would bring a “fresh perspective” to the job.
The mayoral and City Council candidates will meet for another forum from 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Hjemkomst Center, 202 First Ave. N.
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518