Mark Gillette – In their own words …
Years in Webster City: 40
Occupation: Real estate
Previous offices: Traffic Committee, City Council
Why are you running for City Council?
Two major reasons; Within the past three years, I believe there has been a loss of transparency and a total disconnect between city hall and the citizens. In the past, all council meetings were televised on channel 12. Now, only the two regular meetings are televised and the work sessions and special meeting are not. Citizens may attend but many cannot and if the resources are available, there should be no excuse for not televising all meetings.
I also have concerns with the city involving itself in highly speculative business ventures. Those ventures need to be left to professionals with the knowledge and expertize in any given endeavor.
What qualifications do you bring to the job?
I spent a few years on the traffic committee and 6 years on the city council. I have a fundamental understanding of the budget and inner workings of city government. I’m an independent thinker but am open to listening to the opinions of other council members and, particularly, the community.
I do maintain the right to say “No.”
of the budget and inner workings of city government. I’m an independent thinker but am open to listening to the opinions of other council members and, particularly, the community. I do maintain the right to say “No.”
What is Webster City’s greatest asset?
The standard answer is the work force and our citizens. But as a tangible asset I would have to say a Municipal Electric. Webster City is fortunate to own this enterprise and it gives us an advantage over like sized cities as far as service when electricity is out, and the ability to have cash reserves and use that cash on worthy city projects.
What are the top 3 challenges facing Webster City?
Electrical rate setting, property taxes and business retention/recruitment
How would you address those changes?
Electric rates: Public and private electric providers use companies that employ economists and electrical engineers to create a fair rate structure amongst the various types of users, and make adjustments of those rates every few years. Webster City had decided to implement and experiment with its own theory to set rates. It became quite clear the theory failed when two rate increases were made in consecutive months recently. One of our grocery stores power cost in their Webster City store is the second highest of the chain. That extra cost is passed on to the consumer.
It’s important to know the federal government has a war on one of our cheapest fuel for the production of electricity, coal. Many power plants are being shut down and when you have a supply and demand market, you can expect those prices to rise. `
Property Taxes: I hear many complaints about property taxes. The city’s portion of property tax is about 40%, schools about 40%, and the county about 20%. The state maintains much of the control of budgets with levy requirements, making it difficult for much cutting. But that’s what budget setting workshops are for.
Business retention/recruitment: Our downtown area unfortunately has many empty store fronts. A big drawback of opening a store is the base cost of utilities. Even established stores are having a difficult time. The Chamber is developing a Business Incubator to assist and encourage small start-up companies. Many of Webster City’s larger industries all had small beginnings. One in an old sawmill, one in a small cinder block building, and one in a corn crib. These are all now major employers in the area.
What should the city’s role be in economic development?
The city needs to spent its time on first insuring that utility rates are attractive to prospective businesses but the city definitely needs to be involved in economic development. The city should setup limited parameters, or framework, for the entrepreneurs to follow and turn them loose. The council should know by memo, or sub-committee, who the prospects are if possible. So many times the council is told “We were so close but they went to another town.” The council needs to know who they are and why Webster City was rejected. Trust but verify.
If elected, what is the first thing you would like to get done? And how you would you accomplish this?
After we have an open and transparent council, I would like a consultant to look at our electric rates to see how competitive we are with comparable cities. Not only are our businesses dealing with high electrical bills, the average citizen are also feeling the pressure. The only way to accomplish anything on the city council is to convince two other council members to agree.
How important is collaboration and compromise for a City Council member?
Collaboration and compromise is what the council is all about. A council can collaborate on everything and compromise on most. If a council person is absolutely against a ordinance, policy or direction, to vote “No” is OK.
One other important dynamic needed in a council is to support each other if additional information is required by a fellow member. We all have different skill sets and I would prefer a councilmember cast an informed decision.
Give us your visions for the future of Webster City.
That depends on this election. To be positive at all cost without realistically and rationally dealing with the tough issues will only continue to hurt Webster City’s prospects for growth. Our next council needs to ask questions, do research on issues, and listen to the citizens.
Webster City is down but far from out. We can attract new business and help the start-ups. I think visions of the future need to extent 20 to 30 years. My philosophy is to make decisions based on the question, “How can we leave our city better for the next generation than we found it?