With the election only days away, the Clinton Herald Editorial Board sat down with each candidate running for a seat on the Clinton City Council.
The sessions were similar to a job interview, with board members learning new items about each candidate unknown before this process began. Based on the questions asked and the time we sat down with each candidate, we formulated a joint opinion on how well each person would do as a member of the Clinton City Council.
The questions consisted of learning about how each person would contribute to the growth of the city, how the city can become better in attracting new residents and businesses, significant issues, elements that make Clinton a great place to live and elements that can be changed to make Clinton a better place to live, and a background of experience.
Second ward — Lynn McGraw
McGraw doesn’t have anything to worry about since she is running unopposed. We’re not worried about the lack of challengers, though.
Lynn proved herself throughout the interview, providing us with one of the best sessions. She’s focused on the budget and showcased her ability to listen and make informed decisions. She’s been involved with several groups and knows finance, giving her credibility on the first day she is sworn in.
She can handle herself with any group and showed in the time we spent with her that she was willing to take time, listen and develop a thoughtful response to each question.
Her main emphasis focused on escalating taxes and fees, something that she wants to decrease when joining the council.
As with any new member of the council, she will have a learning curve, especially when trying to make decisions on reducing fees and taxes, and still maintaining the city’s responsibilities. We believe she is up to the task and will be a quality addition to the council.
Third Ward — Bev Hermann vs. Ed O’Neill
During our meetings with Hermann and O’Neill, it became apparent of the significant issues important to each of them.
Hermann focused on the city becoming more positive.
O’Neill’s main concern is openness. He’s disgruntled with the city’s usage of closed meetings during the years on making decisions, and his concern is evident through his involvement in the Citizens for Open Government’s attempt at opening closed session minutes from previous Clinton City Council meetings.
It is an interesting race between the two. Throughout the interview process, though, we didn’t hear many specifics from Hermann about moving the city forward.
She was concerned with the attitude of residents, which was a common theme. However, her statements lacked depth on the major issues facing the city, and there were no ideas on changes the city could do to make improvements.
Ed’s passion is undeniable. He came equipped with ideas on capitalizing his hope for openness by saying he would hold meetings with citizens and listen to residents.
However, it is one thing to talk about being open when it’s other people being scrutinized.
Will he be candid with the media about the city’s issues, as he has been in the past, when disagreeing with city officials’ decisions?
We hope he is truly passionate about openness if he’s elected to the Clinton City Council.
We appreciated Hermann’s attention in making the city more positive and we believe the city is trending toward the direction. We also appreciate O’Neill’s ability to ask tough questions and be a person devoted to finding out the truth.
With those issues at hand, we leaned toward O’Neill being the best representative for ward three.
First Ward — Julie Allesee vs. Maggie Klaes
We commend both women for serving the Clinton City Council during these last few years.
Because of redistricting, Allesee was moved to the first ward, setting up a showdown with current ward-one councilwoman Klaes.
Allesee’s involvement in the community is almost unmatched. She has been a regular around the city of Clinton and has fought for businesses throughout her career, whether in a professional sense or as a councilwoman.
Klaes is willing to listen to her constituents, something we believe is lacking at times in the city of Clinton. She will try to do what’s best for the residents of Clinton.
During this process, it became apparent that Allesee is focused on repairing the budget. She realizes the challenges the city faces and knows the city may have to say “no” every once in awhile to shore up its budget.
Although Klaes will listen to residents, she did not offer new ideas on how to improve the city’s standing.
The editorial board believes Allesee would be the best representative for Ward 1 based on her experience with the city of Clinton and her attitude on getting the city on the right path.
At Large — Tom Determann, Jennifer Graf, Andrew Luett, Andy Sokolovich, Grant Wilke
For this election, voters will have the opportunity to vote for two people. There is a chance for a run-off election. In the past two elections where a run-off was a possibility, it has happened. In 2011, for the mayoral race, Ed O’Neill and Mark Vulich squared off in the run-off election after garnering 1,126 and 1,692 votes, respectively. They were forced into a run-off because they did not meet the threshold of 2,096 votes.
In 2009, in the last at-large election, Charlie Mulholland and Ron Mallicoat faced each other in a run-off election, while Graf nabbed the seat out-right.
To determine if a run-off is necessary, the total votes are tallied, then divided by 2, then divided by 2 again, then plus 1. So, if there are 5,000 votes cast in the at-large race, it would mean the candidate must receive 1,251 votes to earn a city council victory. If only one person exceeds the threshold, then the next two top vote-getters will square off in a run-off election.
If no one exceeds the threshold, then the top four vote-getters will participate in a run-off election.
As far as the candidates, where do we start?
This will be a close race, filled with quality candidates.
Andy Sokolovich and Andrew Luett will bring youth to the ticket, while Tom Determann, Jennifer Graf and Grant Wilke bring experience.
Each candidate showed us why they could add something to the council. But, we still have some concerns relating to the candidates.
Our concern with Luett and Sokolovich is experience. It’s refreshing to see two candidates who have not been involved with city issues try to lend a hand with moving the city forward. However, we believe they need a little more time to get acquainted with the issues facing the city. Neither have served on committees, something the city should use more to make decisions.
We would like them to get involved in the next two years on committees to hone their skills and develop a working knowledge of the historical difficulties the city faces, and then work to move forward. One issue we did appreciate through Sokolovich’s interview was his passion for more communication. That is an obvious issue at City Hall, and we hope Sokolovich is passionate enough about improving the city’s communication by offering to assist the city on those issues, regardless if he is elected to the Clinton City Council.
The experience touted by Determann, Graf and Wilke is too long to print in this space. They have been involved with this city for many years and all three would be an asset to the progress of the city of Clinton. Determann impressed us with his knowledge of issues and offering ideas that didn’t just toe the line of generalities, but addressing specific approaches to improving the city.
Graf is the incumbent, and while on the council, she has been a questioning voice that has looked to save the city money. We’ve written on this page about the need for more questions, and Graf has been the constant councilperson voicing those concerns.
Wilke served on the Clinton Fire Department and the Board of Supervisors, and knows the challenges facing the city. He is a proven leader and talked about working with the citizens, not just dismissing their complaints as idle chatter. He wants to improve communication and we believe he’s sincere about that statement.
We believe Graf has done a good job voicing concerns for the city of Clinton. In the end, through our interview process, we believe new voices are needed for the city; therefore, we’re leaning toward Determann and Wilke. They bring experience and will offer new ideas to help grow the city.
But in the end, these are our feelings on the election; it will be you, the voters, who will make the final decision. We hope everyone votes as we all seek to improve our city government.