A LOOK AT THE CANDIDATES: FOURTH IN A SERIES
By Bruce Karnick
There are two open seats for the Hastings City Council, with seven candidates running. The primary election to narrow the candidate pool will take place on Aug. 9, and the final two individuals will be chosen based on the number of votes on Nov. 8.
This is the fourth of weekly profiles of the candidates, who are: Joe Balsanek, 340 Crestview Dr.
Angie Haus, 1421 Tyler St.
Dean Markuson, 436 Tiffany Dr.
Ian T. Martin, 1770 Greystone Rd.
Dennis Gerald Peine,
120 Ninth St. W
Dave Pemble, 731 W. Fifth St.
Tom Wright, 770 Seventh St. W.
Hastings native Ian Mar$ See MARTIN, Page 5
tin is an active member of the community who is running for one of the two seats on Hastings City Council.
At 35, Martin has many of the important life experiences to understand the importance of running for a local office. He and his wife Kelsy own a home in Hastings and reside there with their two dogs Barry and Agnes. He went back to college in the middle of the pandemic to earn his master’s degree in public administration while working a fulltime job that included coordinating the distribution of 6,000 vaccines at the Minneapolis / St. Paul airport.
Martin has spent seven years as a commissioner on the Heritage Preservation Commission and was a vice chair on the Planning Commission. During his time on the Planning Commission, Martin played a role in many projects around Hastings.
“The Hudson Manufacturing building, the riverfront renaissance, projects along Vermillion Street, and development on the west side of town I feel I really honed my skills by partnering with contractors, developers, and residents, hearing their concerns and being able to reach an agreement that made sense for the city and made sense for the project. I really was able to see the process that made me really want to get involved at a higher level, and that's where I'm at here running for city council,” explained Martin.
He believes his time on the commissions adds to his qualifications to be part of city council. “Plus, my experience professionally, has taught me communication skills, negotiation, and fiscal responsibility. I have overseen large scale projects, most notably our COVID response at the airport, I was part of the project management team that vaccinated approximately 6,000 airport employees during a pandemic. In a short amount of time I was able to work with many internal and external stakeholders to ensure that project was successful, and we were able to get as many employees as we could that wanted to be vaccinated against COVID 19. I have lots of experience with project management and fiscal responsibility. My master's degree in public administration gave me a thorough understanding of public budgets, public policy, collaborative governance. And I think that's what sets me apart from other candidates.”
If elected to council, what would Martin hope to accomplish? “I think our police department would really benefit from Community Service Officers. CSOs are, in my opinion, integral to a law enforcement agency. They free up our sworn personnel to maintain a proactive presence in town. They allow them to respond to more criminalinnature type calls for service, and the CSOs can respond to the ordinance violations, found property, found animals, things like that. It's also a great pipeline for our future officers. We can hire CSOs and see how they interact with the community, how they interact with officers, and really get a look at them as potentially future fulltime employees of the city working as a police officer.
“Shifting focus to our fire department. I know we've struggled for quite some time now with staffing, and many of you may not know but Hastings is one of the largest fire service areas in the state of Minnesota. So, I really think we need to have a sitdown conversation with the chief and his staff and ask those questions. What's working? What isn't? Would a fulltime model potentially be an option for our fire department, and what that might look like?”
A second topic from Martin is that of fiscal responsibility.
“I think there's been some questionable decisions as of late. The economy right now is what it is, we're all seeing it. As the elected officials who are responsible for public dollars, we need to ensure that the decisions being made are as fiscally responsible as possible. The point that I'm trying to make is that the decisions we make need to fit and have a valid business case justification for why that particular budget item is necessary. And if there's any alternatives, what those alternatives might be, what the pros and cons of them might be, things like that,” said Martin. “We also are in the midst of a compensation study, to the tune of about $25,000. We've seen some excellent city staff members leave and cite compensation as being a big reason why they left, and I really think that the city needs to do a better job of retaining those employees and ensuring that our pay scales are in line with, and hopefully at points exceeding, neighboring communities. That way we're not losing that talent to those other communities.”
The third topic Martin spoke of was the city’s parks. “Our parks need attention, and we can make that easier to fund if we make some changes to our park dedication fund. We also need to shift our focus away from just the downtown area. There are other parts of our city that, in my opinion, are in disrepair. Many of our park structures are behind in replacement schedules for equipment. There's vandalism that our parks department can't keep up with. We need to really be leveraging our resources equally and equitably around the community to ensure that what we're doing benefits the greater good. Removing the ward restrictions on the park dedication funds would make that much easier to accomplish with funds we already have. I love our downtown. I spend a lot of time down there. But we need to be mindful that there's other aspects of our city that in my opinion have fallen behind. It’s starting to show and I'm hearing that from residents as I'm interacting with them in the community.”
A final topic that Martin brought up was the Hwy. 316 project, and the fear that County Road 47 will end up operating in a similar fashion.
“Residents voiced their concerns during the initial meeting opportunities,” said Martin. “I’m not sure if MNDoT simply ignored the concerns or thought they knew better, but the 316 project was a complete failure. Emergency vehicles can’t pass, garbage trucks stop traffic, and we are having vehicles drive straight through roundabouts. Residents are not getting their mail. We have these extremely wide trails with wide sections of grass between the trails and the skinny traffic lanes that are very difficult for commercial traffic to navigate and it’s right where the largest commercial vehicles drive, the entrance to the industrial park. I want to make sure those things are looked at more carefully with the County Road 47 project. It needs to be done right.”
Martin had this to add, “A lot of people don't know this about me, but I'm, I'm very artistic. I know, there's recently been some talk about the formulation of an Arts Commission. That is something that I would fully support as a council member. I think that arts bring people together and it beautifies the city and provides a tourism draw to our city. We have the mural downtown, several other projects around town with sculptures and different things. Art is really a unique way for artists and residents to express themselves and pay homage to the history of Hastings. I think about the spiral bridge sculpture near City Hall and how unique that is and the backstory behind it that that a traveler through our town may not know but can learn from that sculpture.”
His closing message? “I would just say to residents, get educated about us candidates. This is a very important election. Hastings is at a pivotal point in leadership right now and, I think it's very important that our council takes a more citywide approach to its decision making. We need to take a harder look at finances and our people. Are our departments the right size? I believe they are not. I think I'm the candidate that has those platform items in my vision for what I would do on council. I also have the courage to say what needs to be said. And I've got a proven history of leadership, negotiating deals between parties that may not always agree, and I think that it is important as council members that we come to the table without a preconceived view or idea of something. We really need to take the time to listen to the individual, the group, the project, understand it's justification and how it may fit into the city. And if it makes sense for all the residents.”