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. The nine Cou

Board: What have you been doing to prepare yourself for the role as mayor?

At this point, I've been talking to people at the city, departments heads. I have been learning the budget, learning the capital improvements plan. I attended recently, in December, the boards and commissions conference at the League of Arizona Cities and Towns in Phoenix, and I made a lot of really good contacts there, made some friends, attended some seminars.

I'm in the learning phase at this point. Next week in Sedona is the Arizona Cities and Counties Management Association conference that goes from Feb. 6 to the 8th. They have lightening seminars there, and the sole intention is to teach you how to be a better elected official.

And then it seems as though every week when you check on the Web site for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns there's some kind of a program going on to help you be a better elected official. Those are just the things that I'm doing. I'm trying to learn as much as I can about current issues.

Board: What was your motivation in running for mayor?

I'm glad you asked that. I'm in a position now to serve the citizens of this place that I love, Kingman. It's just my turn. I have no hidden agenda.

What you see is what you get with me, and I am the type of person that I just want to serve the community. I feel as though I have something to offer. I know that I'm a good leader.

I possess the skills necessarily to work really well with others, especially down at the city management level. I am going to be a good liaison between the City Council members and the department heads and the staff, and I can work with all of them. I'm a very diplomatic, level-headed type of person. I'm not a hot head and I know that I'll work really well with these people to get some things done.

We need to identify problems, list them, prioritize, and just start knockin' them out one at a time. Get things fixed.

Board: Was there any one event that made you decide to run?

I was, like a lot of people that I know, standing on the sidelines, reading the newspaper every day and becoming really unhappy with the way the city was going. And rather than sit there and continue to complain, I'm ready to not be a hypocrite and jump in there. I don't want to say hypocrite, but I don't know what other word to use. It seems as though it's time for me, instead of just getting mad and complaining about it, to get in and change things.

Board: What problems would you look at?

Right now, I think the biggest issue we have is the budget. My plan, when I get in there, is to sit down with each department head and get to know the facts, to know where everybody stands as far as the budget goes. We have the budget in front of us, but do I really know it without interviewing the people who work with it every day? So, I'm going to have to sit with each department head and find out where their deficits are, where their shortfalls are, where their surpluses are, and then figure out what we need to do to make those adjustments. So the budget's No. 1.

My first day there, I've been promising this since I opened my mouth and started campaigning, I'm going to address the impact fee issue immediately. This seems to be something that's on the top of everybody's priority list.

In my opinion, the impact fees and the way that they are set up right now are a deterrent to growth. Right now, we need something going as far as the economy goes. So if we can entice commercial entities to come here, set up shop here, I think the easier that we can make it for them to do that, the better off we'll be. ... In my opinion, they need to be reformed at the least, if not abolished.

Aside from impact fees and the budget, I'm going to look at transportation. I mean, everybody wants the roads fixed. We need to do something with trying to alleviate some of the transportation issues on Stockton Hill Road. I'm not a civil engineer, I don't know what the answers are, but that's why when I get in there I'm going to keep my mouth shut, my eyes and ears open, to gather as many facts as possible before I formulate some kind of option list or an opinion on what we need to do. But we need to address that. The roads need some help.

(Fourth): Cleanup. When people come here, the first thing that they look at is the way that Kingman is presented, and are we presentable to people who have never been here before? Are we proud of the way it looks? When we drive down the street, do we see piles of trash lying around? Do we see fences that are falling down or signage or garbage? Or is it presentable? I'm going to work real hard with the police department and the Clean City Commission. That's going to be a priority.

Board: Considering your lack of experience in local government, what made you decide to run for mayor as opposed to Council, and what would you bring to the role that Nugent and Gates would not?

I can't speak for Nugent and Gates; I can only speak for myself. You are going to get somebody that possesses really good leadership skills, and the fact that I'm a very level-headed person and once I gather facts and prioritize the problems that we're facing, I'll take a stance on it. I won't waiver in the wind and I'm not the type of person who will straddle the fence, so to speak.

I know that I can be a good mayor. I can do this. You're going to get somebody as a mayor without a personal, political agenda. Nothing hidden. I have the character traits and the skills necessary to be a mayor and to represent the citizens here, and I will do things and say things and represent myself in such a way as to benefit the citizens - the long-term benefits of the city. It is a burning desire. I really want to serve this place. I love this place.

Board: What do you love about it?

The people.

Board: Like what?

You and me. I like the climate. I like the way it looks. I like the way the city is kind of nestled in this little valley around these beautiful mountains. I like the fact that - I was born and raised in Phoenix - I'm two-and-a-half hours from Phoenix to see my folks now and yet I'm still detached from that big city atmosphere. We still have the small town feel here. I just love that. I like being able to walk into Smith's or to Wal-Mart or wherever I'm going, and I run into 10 people I know.

I went to fix some signs on the corner of Seneca and Hualapai Mountain Road. I just didn't like the way they looked. So I pulled them out of the ground and I started to reset them. I started at about 11:30. I didn't get finished with those three signs until 3:30, because 20 people stopped to talk to me. I just love that about the people that are here. I like to communicate and I like to associate with people. I like to work with people. The people here have just ... they welcomed me the first day I arrived back in 1992, and before that. My wife's family when we were dating and came up to visit, I just fell in love with this place.

Board: You've mentioned in previous forums the conflict of interest with your wife's family owning property at the proposed traffic interchange at Rattlesnake Wash. Would you mind discussing that?

As far as conflicts, I don't own any land at Rattlesnake Wash, but my in-laws do. If something were to arise having to do with the land and propositions of Rattlesnake Wash that are affected by that land, if there was a conflict I would recuse myself in just a heartbeat. If any other issue - the Glen Road capital improvement project; my shop's on Glen Road. I'll pay my fair share if it's part of the capital improvement plan. Am I going to balk at somebody deciding to throw some asphalt in front of my shop? Well, no. But, that's not why I'm running for mayor - to get my street paved.

It's really a neat deal. I don't know if you've seen the city plan, the way that Glen comes around ... and plugs right in the stoplight at Wal-Mart. So Wal-Mart people, as they're leaving, they don't have to get on Airway and go over Stockton Hill Road. They can just bust up Glen.

But if it happens to come by my place, I would pay my fair share. It makes really not a whole lot of difference to me. I've been living with the dirt road for 15 years.

Back to the Rattlesnake Wash thing. It looks really great. The plans are really nice. The county just got their $2 million set aside for that. I don't know if it's the Grace Neal Parkway or whatever they're going to call that. It goes from the interchange all the way out to the airport, and then I'm not quite sure what promises were made having to do with the developers, as far as what they were going to allot from I-40 and over to Hualapai Mountain Road and go through Louise, but it looks like a great project. But the thing is, I'm not sure how much I'm going to have to work on it because the term is two years and this is on the five year plan. So it's really not much of a controversy, but if the thought even occurs to me that some issue that is going to pass before me is going to be a conflict, then it's a conflict. I don't need to go and consult with people about it; it's a conflict.

The last thing that I would want to do is portray any kind of an image of dishonesty. And not just me, but the office. We need to have a little bit more respect for the office of mayor than that. The office is a whole lot bigger than the guy holding the office. It's a pride thing having to do with the city.

Board: How do you bring in more businesses, more shopping, and still keep that small town feel?

As far as bringing more people in here, as far as I have learned over the past several years, outside businesses looking to come to Kingman are looking for three things. First of all, is it profitable for them to come here? They're not going to set up shop if they're not going to make any money.

Secondly, in most cases they don't bring their labor force with them. They need a labor force. So does that labor force have the skills necessary to get the job done with their particular facet of whatever type of commercial entity they are? If not, we need to figure out a way for our labor force to rise to that skill level, and that's where I'm going to be working directly with Mike Ford out at the college to see if we can get some education incentives for people to start taking some classes and to really better themselves, and so we can fill some of those positions and attract some of these higher tech-type jobs. So they're looking for profit and labor force, but most of all, they're looking for political stability. In city government, there cannot be this infighting and problems with backbiting and ... not any cohesion. They have to be able to work together, and that's where I know I'll be able to make a difference.

Board: With owning a business, would you have the time to be mayor?

Yes. With the business that I have now, I am kind of an overseer. I have a staff in place that can take care of business without me being there every minute of every day. My plan is that I'll check in in the mornings, make a few phone calls, make sure that everything is going OK, put out any fires that I need to put out, and take care of any paperwork that I need to fill out, then turn around and go right down to City Hall.

In the questionnaire that the Northern Arizona Building Association sent me, they had asked me how many hours I expect to put in downtown. And I put down 40. I think that it's going to take every bit of a full-time job to get things rolling. As I'm there for a while, it may not require me being there for that amount of time. But initially, I'm willing to put forth the time to really get in there and see what's happening before I go to work.

Board: Do you have any ideas on improving communication between the city and the public so that people feel they can come forth and be heard?

There's three things that I can think of. I'm an open book. You can approach me almost any time, any day, unless I'm in a meeting or something. And I'd be happy to return e-mails. I'll answer phones myself in the mayor's office. I will always return all my phone calls. And I'd be happy to address any issue that a citizen may have.

The Call to the Public is a big one that seems to be kind of a hot issue right now. Bring it back to the front, to the middle; it really doesn't make any difference. But it seems to me that the Call to the Public rules need to be stated at the beginning as to how we want it handled.

From what I understand, the procedure involved is not supposed to be two-way communication between the City Council and the people. That's something that needs to be enforced. If you're addressing us in the Call to the Public, we keep our mouths shut and listen to you and be cordial and polite and professional and listen to what you have to say, and then we look into whatever issue that you're trying to convey to us and investigate it, figure out what the deal is, and then put it on the agenda in the next couple weeks.

That, as well as I think that city Web site needs to be used a little bit more. Maybe advertise more some way. It's really a nice Web site, and there's ways to communicate with any city official. At this point it is probably underutilized.

Board: What do you think of a town hall?

Oh. Town halls are great - as long as it doesn't turn out to be the mayor and the City Council sitting there defending their actions and taking up all of their time defending what they have done. A town hall meeting is to listen to the town, so let's listen.

The use of the executive session - they've kind of taken a beating with that. I would propose that we use that very sparingly, because the executive sessions, what's done in there, that kind of borders open meetings laws and I would only use them in times of absolute necessity. And they would never, ever be taken out of town. They're here in City Council meetings, in open view.

Board: How do you feel about gathering a "consensus" in executive session?

That is a violation of open meetings laws. I'm not a lawyer or anything, but from what I understand from what I've learned, you can discuss how you feel about certain things, but nowhere could you even come close to tallying a vote in executive session. You have to go back before the public to say how you're going to vote on a particular issue.

Why would we ever want to do anything to mislead the public, or for them to have even an inkling in their minds that there's something going on? We want to develop trust. We want them to look upon the city officials and have confidence in what they're doing. I don't want anything to do with backdoor deals or anything like that.

Everybody's using this new word, it seems like a new word, it's almost become cliche - this "transparency." But it really has a lot of merit. What you see is what you get. There shouldn't be anything in the shadows going on.

Board: What are your views on annexation?

Everybody wants it, including me. The benefits are so great to annexation. The problem that we have is that first-year hurdle. This could present some challenges. We have contracts with outside sanitation providers. Our problem is going to arise with the fire district. Are we going to keep them on? I assume you're talking about north Kingman.

Board: Right.

The best part about it is that it would give us a chance to go in there and clean up. We just have to figure out a way to get that first-year hurdle. A study was done in 2004, 2005, and back then it was going to be $4 to $5 million, and we would have to figure out how to fund that. Now it's probably closer to $7 million. We have problems with trying to figure out how we're going to institute city services out there. The water is already there. The sewer - we can address the lots that are on septics out there as they need repair, and then possibly require the homeowners to hook up at that time, rather than go in there and do some kind of blanket operation.

The biggest thing is to figure out what the public that lives up there wants. And, there's a really neat deal with the water bill. You can put a two-question poll with everybody's water bill. The water services go far beyond the borders of Kingman. It would make it so much more attractive to outside entities looking to set up shop here if the (population) numbers were up. It really would. And then we wouldn't have this whole divided Kingman thing. The hurdle is obviously going to be financial. So we need to figure out how to do this, and I don't know how long it's going to take to do it, but it has to be something that I'm definitely a proponent of.

Board: To name off a couple things regarding the budget that other candidates have named - police service is more than sufficient for our population; building and development services. Do you have any specific areas that you want to go in and cut the fat? You've said you want to sit down with the department heads. Do you have any specifics?

As far as definitives, right now, because of Home Rule - and it looks as though sanitation is going to go in there - that there is going to be probably a $3 million fluff rather than working up at that last half-million dollars (of the state-imposed spending capacity). I know that some areas in city government are overstaffed. Those adjustments definitely need to be made. I don't think that it would be a good idea to go in right at the beginning and start head-hunting. But, the departments that are kind of in surplus mode, or they are kind of fat, those departments need to be addressed, and they will be as soon as we figure out what we're going to do and what the plan is. It's not going to be a plan that I can institute by myself. It's going to be with the help of City Council as well as staff. I'm not going to hit the ground running, as I've heard others state that they're going to do. I think that's what got us in trouble the last time. Before I make any decisions or institute any kind of a new policy, I need to be able to gather up all the facts. The people down there that shine, we'll be able to tell right away. The non-performers, we'll be able to tell in a short period of time, and we'll be able to make those adjustments as necessary.

Board: What's your ideal candidate for a city manager?

It would be really nice for a city manager to have a lot of management qualities; somebody that has managed a large number of people in the past; somebody that doesn't have a political agenda with respect to furthering their status and their career by Kingman being a stepping stone to somewhere better in their eyes. I'm looking for a city manager that has a lot of the same qualities that I do, that really cares about Kingman like I do. You need a city manager that, if the city manager is doing their job correctly, the Council and mayor have an easy job, and there's no controversy because he's kind of headed it off at the pass before it's every come to us. It would be nice to have somebody with those types of qualities.

I would, before we hire a city manager, do extensive background checks, interviewing with places with people that they've worked with in the past. We need to be a little bit more careful this time.

A question was asked of me of contracts. I'm not a real big fan of contracts, long-term ones, anyway. I'm thinking year-to-year.

And then, as far as severance packages go, there has to be a committee set up to write somebody a severance package without the person that it pertains to being there.

Board: What are your thoughts on downtown, particularly the city's role?

The city needs to figure out a way to get traffic off the highway and downtown. That's going to be a challenge that we need to face, whether it be just putting up some really nice signs out on the highway; whether it be having a really nice rapport with ADOT where we can figure out some way of channeling the traffic of the highway, tourism anyway, and getting them downtown.

And once they're downtown, what do they do? We need to figure out some ways of enticing people that live here, as well as off of the highway, to the downtown area to get out and walk around. Get them out of their cars. There are some really nice things to see downtown, and we need more of the same.

I'm looking for grant money. That seems to be the catch-all fix for everything. When you talk to anybody who's running for political office they say, "I want more grant money." But I really do. We have $500,000 that went to Joe Ott for the beautification of downtown that he did for the Central Commercial building. I'm looking for more of the same. The health, safety and welfare of a community will build that community, and after we have that community, that downtown feel, that small town feel, money will come with it. It's just going to take a little bit of planning and some creative ideas.

You've heard this before: The downtown is the heart and soul of the community. We need to figure out how to get people there.

Grant money is a start. The problem is, we have 93 other cities and towns down there competing for the same money that we want.

Another thing is, you get 'em off the highway and what do they see? I want to look at some of the places along Andy Devine, Beale Street. The trash. Get it cleaned up. I want it pretty. What we need to do is take a step back. We're immune to it because we see it all the time. Take a step back.

... How about Kingman as a destination not just a stop for fuel and something to eat. If we had something in place that would draw people ... Somebody mentioned parking, and I said, "You know what, we need to find some vacant lot over there; put some asphalt on it so people can park their mobile homes and get out and walk."