Candidates speak to Miner Ed Board

EDITOR’S NOTE: All nine Council candidates and three mayoral candidates sat down with the Kingman Daily Miner’s Editorial Board which included two members of the public on Jan. 29 and 30. All nine Cou

Todd Tarson

Board: What experiences and qualifications do you have to be a Council member,

and what sets you apart from the other candidates?

I'm drawing most of my experience from being a leader in a local trade association, the Kingman/Golden Valley Association of Realtors.

I started out in 2003 as the director, and it was really my first taste of being responsible for a larger body of people. It's not the kind of position that people generally line up for.

And at the time, we had only about 112 members, but from there we started implementing some changes that we thought were beneficial to the entire membership. And of course, at the time, real estate was booming and we were getting more and more members all the time.

We were charged with managing the growth aspect of that - what are we going to do and how can we offer more value to our members? We were faced with a lot of changes; a lot of technology changes were impacting our business and our association, and I managed to work through the ranks and became president of the association in 2006.

By then we had gone from not really having any money in the account to having all sorts of money in the account, and to the point where we paid off all of our liabilities as far as those things go.

As president I had the ultimate responsibility of how things went. I worried about the accounts, and this was the first time I've worried about other people's money, in the sense that we all contributed to this and we all expect some benefits out of our association - the reasons why we joined this.

And I see the parallel to the city. We're all members of the city, and the city, in effect, is almost like an association. We chose to live here, we pay taxes here in one form or another, so we all have stake in what goes on here, and I think if it wasn't for those experiences of being a leader in the association, I wouldn't have ever made up my mind to run for office. I wouldn't have had that kind of experience where others were relying on me to not only identify issues or problems but to come up with solutions and make good on those as we went along.

I don't know every other candidate's experience, but I do believe my experience in this, and especially the issues we faced as an association, were similar. I see similarities between what's going on in Kingman to what we faced there. I also know that I must have done some good things because now I was approached to run for region of our state association, which has over 50,000 members, and I won that election. I'm serving that for the next two years. I'm on the executive committee. I just went to my first meeting last week, and I see the bigger picture.

This is a much larger organization similar to how Kingman is a much larger organization than our local association, and I saw what goes into that, how they manage that organization and my role in that, and I'm defining that as we go along. But I know also what's expected of me. I'm willing to make sacrifices in my own life - my own business - to step up and be a fair representative to the people in the association, and that's one of the things I'm trying to communicate to the voters in Kingman - I'm willing to make these sacrifices.

I know that these issues starting to crop up and face us are important to a large cross-section of residents in Kingman, and I think they're going to be important to the new residents that are going to be here, too. I think I'm in a position. I've managed growth. I've managed change, some hard changes with my membership, and I've also been rewarded by going to the next level in leadership with my group. I think if I can communicate well with voters, I think they will be pleased with me as their representative.

Board: Upon being elected, what would be your top three priorities and how would you accomplish them?

First thing, I don't really see the City Council position as being one of an activist position. I think City Council, the way I view the current Council and Councils that came before them, the city is doing what they are charged with doing as far as providing services for the community. And then on the other side of that you have the community and the voters and the voices of the community that the City Council is the kind of person that's in between there. They must make sure that the will of the people is matched up with what the city is doing, and those decisions need to be accounted for in that way - by somebody that can communicate with the people effectively. Listen to them even if they're against an issue or for an issue.

You need to get the rationale down to the bottom of it, so communication to me would be the first real issue that I would like to address, and I think I have the ability to do that, bar none. I've had to be in situations where I've had to make decisions in the past, and I went to people that were against the decisions that we may have made, and I wanted to get reasoning, because a lot of times when you are listening to the opposition, you are getting the full story. And there have been times where I've had to be in a position to say, "I still think I want to go in this direction. I still think this is more beneficial to the whole."

When I'm in those positions, I've gone back to those people and said this is how I made my decision, X, Y and Z. And I took into consideration what you had to say. And I do that here, and I believe that communication is obviously what we all listened to in the last year.

We've heard members of RAID say, "We come up here and you guys are rolling your eyes at us." You know, that's not fair. I don't necessarily agree with all the issues that RAID has, but that's not the way an elected city official should treat the citizens of Kingman. So a communication improvement would be one of the first things.

As far as agenda items, obviously, I'm a pro-growth guy. And I'm not pro-growth just to grow; I'm in a business where growth is good for our business. The proper way to manager growth is to listen to all sides as we go along. I believe that obviously we have a deficit of infrastructure for a town that has been growing like this. We also have a deficit in sales tax dollars, which is our main source of revenue to fund the city services.

I would definitely like to be a part of the conversation of any new developments that come to this town or propose to come to town to see what it is the city may be able to do for them. And I don't mean tax incentives. I don't mean giving out the farm.

How can we help them communicate their development to the community in a way that they would say, "That's a real benefit?" I will not be the Councilman who says, "Not until I'm happy." I'm going to say, "What is it that you want to do?" And let's communicate that to the community.

Let's see how the community feels about it. And if there is a winning position for the community, most importantly, and a winning position for the developer, I think we move forward. Obviously, we're talking infrastructure, we're talking interchanges along the interstate.

In the Kingman Crossing area, back when that land was given to the city free of cost, there was no development up to that point, but now we see houses further along, east. And we see other proposed developments out that way. It's a good place to explore opportunities to see how we might be able to put some infrastructure in there.

Obviously, it's going to benefit anybody who needs access on that side, but it would benefit our own property that each of us are part owner of, the 168 acres. That would condition the property toward the highest and best value. I think we need to look at what do we need to do to see what can happen that doesn't put too much burden on the community and maybe puts the risk on the developers.

I think we should probably treat all developers in the same way. What can they do for us when they're the ones who seemingly have the money? The city doesn't have the money; we're hearing the state doesn't have the money. Let's go to the people who have the money and see what kind of best deal we can go forward with.

The last thing for me, I've been talking annexation for a long time. I want to think outside the box. I think we should look at the Rattlesnake Wash interchange. Phase One has a road going to the airport. A lot of that road is in the county. I think we should be asking those land owners for a way to get them into the city, because anything that's going to be developed out there, the city needs to have a say in it, No.1.

No. 2, if there's an opportunity for revenue generation to come away from those things, we need to have that. Same thing going south on Rattlesnake Wash, the Phase Two project, going toward section 27. Chances are the taxpayers of Kingman are probably going to have to somehow come through to fund Phase One and Phase Two, and they are going to improve that person's property, and that property probably needs to be in the city. We can go there first. We can look at little places first and look in that direction as we expand out to the east and expand out to the west along Interstate 40. I think we should consider, it would be a long-term plan, but we should consider expanding our city limits all the way down through Griffith interchange to where the industrial corridor along I-40 is.

Obviously, Butler needs to come along, we need that for population counts, but there's a big cost burden there. And before we get a handle on our own finances at the city, we may not be able to include them at this time. But we need to be chipping away at places that we can incorporate into the city that wouldn't be a lot of cost to incorporate those areas.

Board: What role do you think a Council member plays in the city?

I alluded to it earlier, but I do think that a City Council person needs to have one ear to the ground, listening to the community, and it needs to keep a keen eye on the city government itself. Are they doing what the will of the people has asked them to do? Nobody wants to pay more taxes and nobody wants to see people gotten rid of in a government job. The Council needs to look at these things. If costs are going to go up, it's incumbent upon the City Council and the mayor to say why and have a clear indication of why.

And I believe those city leaders then need to be able to say, "I'm convinced and this is why I'm convinced. This is what's going on. This is the benefits of the program. This is what we should see." It's the City Council, I believe, their duty to go back to the community and make sure that the community is educated, not from the media, and I have nothing against the media. We shouldn't be reading these articles about maybe what editorial things say. We should be hearing from the city people. The city should have a spokesperson. But we don't. And I can't see saying, "first thing I'm going to do is hire more people." I can't see that. I think me, personally, I would be willing to take on that responsibility to communicate what is happening in the city government to the community at large.

Board: What role do you think the public plays in the city?

They're the bosses. When I decided to do this, I know going in ... I talked to a lot of people, former mayors and things like that ... I guarantee you that no matter what decision I make or any councilman makes, somebody in the public is going to be upset, and that is something that city leaders are going to have to learn to live with, especially the new ones; and we're all going to be new, whoever gets elected.

But the public definitely has a stake in this. They are the bosses of the City Council, and if the community, and not just one or two voices or one or two people with the most to gain that are speaking up at City Council meetings, it's not just that; if people like that are speaking out, I think we gotta find out, is the rest of the public feeling the same way?

And if not, we need to encourage the other side of the issue from the public to speak up, too.

Because if we're only hearing one side, then it's going to sound like if we decide against their issue then it sounds like we're deciding against the public, and I don't think that's necessarily true in all cases. I believe the public needs to know they have an audience in their leaders.

Board: How do you get to those people, the quiet majority that doesn't show up to the meetings?

It's a new day. This is the information age. I've experienced a lot of success through my business with my real estate blog. And that's just one thing. I'm not necessarily stating that each City Council person needs to have a blog, but there are tools out there. The strength of the blog is that anybody can get to know me 24 hours a day, whenever they're at a computer, at their leisure. They're in their pajamas, they're reading what I have to say ... and can submit comments. And I know that would be tough to moderate at a city level, but still, there should be a place where the public should know that this is a place that we can discuss issues and get feedback to city leaders.

Obviously, my office door will be open, my phone will be working, my e-mail, I'm pretty good with e-mail. If you're ever got an e-mail from me you know they're quite long and fun to read. Excuse me when I say this, but I dig all that. I really do.

I believe if Mr. Kerry Deering had one of those, I'd read it everyday. He has a lot to say. And maybe it could start something of a two-way conversation from a concerned citizen.

Worse-case scenario, they're going to call me on the phone and say, "Hey, let's discuss this matter further." There's a number of tools on the Internet that the city could utilize, but beyond that I think the citizens just need to feel comfortable that they have leaders that will listen to them. I hear that all the time. Nobody wants to listen to any of them. OK. Well, I'll have no choice if you elect me but to listen to you.

Board: Would you be in favor of having a "Meet your Council members" event?

Yes, I know we'd have to avoid open meetings laws and things like that, but I have no problem with that. I'm not the smartest guy in the room, but I always want to be part of the smartest 100 people in the room, or the smartest 10 people in the room. I am not coming into this office thinking that I have all the answers. We all have all the answers. And we need to explore them all and make the right choices. I can do that. I'd be willing to support that idea.

In looking at other city governments, there's always a workshop, like in Havasu. Why not have that? We've clearly seen a more back and forth between the community and the city in the last year, unfortunately, because of some of the issues, but this should be the name of the game.

That should be the rule of the day - that we're out there meeting people. Especially, the new leaders will be welcoming new people in the next term. We need to show them our faces as well.