Lynne Hermansen
Council members appointed a new member at the Monday, August 15 meeting to replace recently resigned member Erik Van Potter.
Van Potter left the council because his family decided to move out of state.
Council members interviewed six applicants in two rounds.
They changed the traditional interview format of having one person at a time into a round robin format to create a “more fair situation” for the candidate to answer questions.
Steve Shute, board vice president, said the original process provided an unfair and biased situation for the first and last person.
Mark Baldwin, board president, said they should work towards a more equitable interview process.
Shute said by rotating each candidate would have a chance to answer the question first.
Candidates David Arnold, Aleksandra Nokes, Adam Santoya, Jennifer Smith, Mark Wiehn and Luke Willis gave opening statements, answered questions about Gardner’s three biggest issues in the next three years, the city’s top priorities, their hopes for the city’s future, questions from council members Shute, Baldwin and Tory Roberts on mill levies, balancing city needs with citizen wants and why they would be good for the council member position.
Candidates stated common themes of infrastructure, housing, attracting businesses, population growth, affordability and maintaining the small town feel.
Mark Wiehn, a resident since 2015 and Garmin employee, said he looked forward to the opportunity to serve and was excited to see the city grow.
He said the city needed to focus on the strain the Intermodal puts on the roads and traffic flow, available and affordable housing for new families moving in to work in warehouses in neighboring cities and the uncontrolled growth.
“Growth for growth sake is not the best idea but the best fit,”he said.
Wiehn said the city needs more high speed Internet options, to fill the empty store fronts with local, family owned businesses, upgrade the roads, focus on the nice schools and parks and continue to bring in talent.
“I hope to be living in a city all can be proud of,”he said.
Wiehn said Gardner has award winning schools and he wants to help create a solid foundation for local owned businesses and a thriving downtown.
“A city not dotted with communities wrapped around warehouses and opportunities to work and live,”he said.
Wiehn said he would consider everything at the point of time it was presented before deciding if a mill levy increase was necessary and listen to what neighbors have to say and feel what they can do as a city by balancing the line.
“I would look at what is good for the city as a whole and ask citizens,”he said. “I would give things time and thought. We shouldn’t just jump in.”
Wiehn said he has pragmatic skills as an engineer and he doesn’t jump to conclusions which makes him the best fit for the council seat.
“I don’t have to have the best idea but know when I have heard it.”
Wiehn said he grew up in a town in Nebraska a similar size to Gardner but it didn’t have the same feel.
“I want to be part of making it the best it can be,”he said.
Todd Winters, mayor, thanked all the candidates and it was a difficult decision, but he encouraged the other candidates to join open commissions and other boards.
Wiehn will serve in Van Potter’s vacated seat until December 2023.