Election 2019: Four running to replace retiring Riverside mayor

With Riverside Mayor Bill Flaute retiring, four people will vie for the position.

Mike Denning, Sara Lommatzsch, Shirley Reynolds and Pete Williams are all running for mayor of Riverside.

Election Day is Nov. 5 and early voting has already started.

All but one of the candidates, Williams, has served or is serving on Riverside City Council. Denning currently sits on council and has been on council for 10 years. Lommatzsch is also on city council. Shirley Reynolds does not currently serve on council, but previously served for 12 years. Williams works for Carroll High School as director of advancement.


We asked all four candidates about their plans, if elected:

Q: If the roads levy fails, would you push for putting more funds toward repairing roads? If yes, how would you do so?

Denning: No. At this time there is no way to fund the residential roads without taking away from our basic services such as fire, police and services departments. We can apply for grants for main roads such as Airway, Woodman, Springfield Streets, but not residential roadways.

Lommatzsch: There is no additional money available in other parts of the budget to add to the money currently being spent on street paving and maintenance. The additional money from the state gas tax has already been added to the mix and there is still not enough for the level of street work needed. The city has long been operating on a bare-bones budget and operates with minimum staffing. As inflation has driven up costs over the years, the growth in revenue has not kept pace. Two basic examples are healthcare premium costs for employees and gasoline prices for police, fire and street maintenance vehicles as increased costs. Money has been limited for street paving and maintenance.

Reynolds: As important as our roadway projects may be, I must consider what happens should the levy fail. I need to assess why the levy was rejected. Did the voters believe that the 8 mills proposed was too great an amount or was it a personal financial decision? As mayor I would look at all options. I believe it would be wise to consider a lower millage and a sunset clause. Allowing the voters to decide periodically to renew a road levy may instill both higher levels of service and raise resident confidence in their city government. In the meantime it would be my goal to divert every available dollar toward current road projects and continue improving our community street by street.

Williams: I would certainly push for more funding to repair our roads because proper infrastructure is essential to a vibrant community. I find it disappointing that city council keeps asking the same people to foot the bill. Our property tax payers are increasingly looked to more and more when this funding is needed. Before taxing our citizens more, I would fully engage agencies at the regional and state level to layer funding for these projects and ensure Riverside is receiving its fair share of these resources.

MORE: Riverside road levy focus of Thursday informational meeting 

Q: What are the biggest challenges facing the city?

Denning: Economic development. With Kmart leaving, we have another large vacant property. We must work with developers to bring businesses that complement our community and bring jobs. We need to be proactive vs. reactive with developers and market our city for all of the great assets we have. We need to be a city that welcomes and works with new developers so they want to be part of our community.

Lommatzsch: Economic development and enhancing service delivery to the community. To improve services to a higher level would require almost doubling the number of businesses and jobs that generate additional income tax revenues and a significant increase in population at a higher average household income level than currently exists in the community. Neither of those situations will happen in a short time horizon. There are no simple cure-all solutions. If there were, the city would have done those things already. The city will need to continue its business retention activities and its business recruitment efforts in order to generate new revenue, and must continue to work efficiently in stretching the financial resources it has available.

Reynolds: Services to residents, financial stability and balanced budget, improve day-to-day operations and economic stability and growth.

Williams: The biggest challenges facing Riverside stem from our diminished economic position under the status quo. A well-thought-out and fully executed economic development plan to increase the number of businesses we attract, retain and expand in our city is vital. The level of income tax revenue collected from people working in Riverside has a direct effect on our ability to maintain roads and keep a suitable maintenance schedule before the roads are beyond repair. The same old approach won't work.

Q: Some parts of Riverside were impacted by the Memorial Day tornadoes. How do you think the city responded? What needs to be done in the future?

Denning: I am not sure we did a very good job. We were not prepared, we were not organized. We need to put an emergency plan for situations such as natural disasters together. We did not use our community resources to the best of our ability. We need to work with the organizations within our community during these times and really all of the time. With a plan we will know where our resources are, be proactive and be able to assist our residents in a more efficient way.

Lommatzsch: The city had limited storm damage compared to other communities and responded well. The city provided emergency services where needed and provided debris removal to help citizens and businesses in need. The city continues to serve as an information clearinghouse to let citizens and businesses know of help agencies available to them for assistance. For the future, the city should review its preparedness and learn from other communities as to what programs worked well elsewhere, and work those best practices into the city's plans and practices.

Reynolds: I hope the city staff and legislative body assessed their performance as quickly as possible after the tornado. And, if deficiencies were found, everyone immediately implemented procedures to address our weak areas of service. Performance assessments are the best path to building a better plan of action, realize our limitations and build on our strengths. Performance assessments will be an important metric to measure success.

Williams: I think city staff went above and beyond the call of duty during the event and in the weeks to follow. As mayor I would ensure that Riverside is as well positioned as possible to deal with adversity through strong partnerships to serve our citizens. City government should be a service provider and resource connector in times of need more than ever. Specifically, city government should be a one-stop shop for state agencies, local charities and FEMA to all serve the citizens affected by the tornadoes.

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