Jim Talbot – In their own words
Years in Webster City: 32
Occupation: Retired human resources manager
Previous offices: Airport Commission
Why are you running for City Council?
My reasons are as follows: 1. Total frustration with the council. They do not represent the overall interest of the citizens of Webster City.
2. Several financial expenditures that have lost money for the city and apparently no recovery of lost dollars are insight.
3. I can help bring solutions to the city if there are three like-minded people who are elected. I have no relationship to the existing council, nor am I sponsored by any group. The like-minded people must all ask the hard questions and not accept a fluff answer as the answer. The three new council members must not be “those who will continue to do business as usual.”
What qualifications do you bring to the job?
I have common sense and that would be a great attribute to the city council. I also graduated from Iowa State University, sorry Hawkeyes.
I have held many different positions throughout my career, each building off of each other which gives me a unique stance as I have been a union member who has worked in construction, Human Resource Director, was responsible for governmental compliance, labor and negations, troubleshooting through root/cause analysis. I have the ability to understand issues that folks from all walks of life have and have the ability to collaborate with all interested parties to reach desired outcomes. All of these experiences have helped to shape my character. I have held leadership positions in continuous improvement groups, businesses and the Army Reserve. I will not “go along to get along”, but will be willing to ethically compromise to accomplish what is best for all people of Webster City.
My experience has been in many groups that were involved with improving processes. The great tool to analyze, processes and procedures is the Problem Solving tools. The first step is to define the problem.
What is Webster City’s greatest asset?
The greatest assets are the people that live, work and play in town. Webster City is fortunate to have an accessible transportation system, including a 4 lane highway, rail and air. Great churches, parks and schools which enhance the quality of life in Webster City. The quality of life is good, but we can always do a lot better. The future of our city is vested in the youth, but we must always take care of the senior citizens as well as all people.
What are the top three challenges facing the community in the next few years?
The first is getting our expenditures in line with our income from taxes, fees, interest from accounts.
Second is to determine why businesses and industries have not selected the city as a place to do business. I would like to see comments from groups that did a site assessment and decided to go elsewhere. This may involve some hard soul-searching.
Lastly, many people are having difficulties paying their electric bills and other utilities. The council must look at ways to reduce cost such as exploring how other cities have done so, and pass the savings on to the customers.
How would you address those challenges?
The income and expenditures must be open to all concerned citizens. I would advocate for a citizen run committees, such as the Tax Payer Association. I would request that these appointees represent the demographic of Webster City so that they can analyze, problem solve, and make recommendations to the Council and selected city employees could be used as resources only.
We need to take an honest look at any barriers that prevents prospective companies from establishing their businesses here and work to reduce those barriers without risking fiscal responsibility. We need to set up partnerships with cities that have succeeded in developing new businesses so we can learn from them and have a basis in which to start.
What should the city’s role be in economic development?
The city must use an economic development director to visit with all local businesses and understand their concerns and to work with each other. We must be seen and work as a team for our town in order to make progress. One of my motivating factors in deciding to run for City Council is that many business owners in town feel like a “red-headed step-child”, totally ignored.
The city should have literature, support data and all costs that new business may need to start businesses in town. This information should be readily accessible on line for prospective businesses. The city government should not be involved in loaning money, but would direct prospective businesses to different banks, credit unions and be able to provide information for small business owners to be able to apply for government grants. As a community, we should work side by side with prospective business owners to develop solidified relationships and not take on the role of financier/speculator. It is not the job of the City to control all aspects of economic development, such as purchasing real estate to sell. We should be a resource that can refer the interested people to the private sector
What would you do to keep utility rates in line?
This is an excellent question since the majority of the people of Webster City have expressed concern with high electrical bills and also water and sewerage charges. The first thing I would ask for is to compare rates of municipal run utilities in other towns of similar size. Secondly I would ask to see all the receipts for electrical bills received by the city and determine how the money is spent. The ever pressing question out there is the electric trust fund. How much is in that trust fund and how the money is spent. I would then in conjunction with other council members see how we could trim costs. My understanding is that customers outside of the Webster City limits that use electricity pay a different usage rate than the citizens in town. If this is in fact true necessary corrective action should be taken.
Webster City is extremely fortunate to have the Line Department, which is well managed and extremely professional in their duties. I would not make any recommendations to do anything, but keep this well run department in place.
Water and sewer: The city should have excess capacity in our ability to deliver water to our users as the demand is down since the city has lost several major industries. The cost should be maintained as low as possible based on economy of scale.
I do have one pressing question about surcharges on all utilities and how is that money used. I would like to know what we can do understand why we have so many different base charges for different types of customers.
If elected what is the first thing you would like to get done and how would you accomplish this?
Complete in-depth budget review with the City Council only. I would want a complete inventory of all city owned speculation property and land owned by the Electric Trust Fund. We would accomplish this by having meetings with the City Council with timelines established using department heads.
How important is collaboration and compromise for a City Council member? My opinion right now after watching the city council sessions on the local government channel for several years, is that it is just 5 ayes and move on. Council members need to remember that they do not represent their special interest groups, or employers, but must represent the citizens of Webster City.
The first thing the new council needs to understand is that we all have the right to our opinions and concerns, but we must be willing to listen to all different points of views from council members and the people of Webster City. Discussion should be held and decisions made based on the best available facts and information that represent the best interest of the citizens of Webster City.
Give us your visions for the future of Webster City
My vision for Webster City is to see some of the “old things” that Webster City had to offer when I moved my family here. I remember a City that had 2 shoe stores, a music store, many clothing stores, small restaurants, 4th of July celebrations and most of all community pride in their town and their leaders. I believe that with hard work, honest objectivity and with a financially transparent City, that we can achieve this.
I also see a time when industry, small businesses and stores return so that the city is the economic hub for north central Iowa.