League of Women Voters Candidate Questionnaire 2017

LWVThe League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government. The League influences public policy through education and advocacy. Each election they put together one of the most comprehensive guides to candidates in local elections.

This year’s topics include the candidate’s opinion on areas including Fenton’s biggest issues, efforts to ensure transparency, and how they make decisions on behalf of the residents of Fenton. All pretty important to our community.

The answers are kept short, making them easy to understand and right to the point. Unfortunately, not all of the candidates took the time to answer, but I would think that might help you decide who is worth your vote.

See all the results here: Vote411

Candidate Name: David McDermott
Education: B.A. Business with a minor in Innovation & Problem Solving
Community Involvement (current): Fenton Education Foundation (Board Member), Fenton Tigers Travel Baseball (Board Member, 11U Coach, 14U Coach), St. John Applefest (Festival Chair), Southern Lakes Parks & Recreation (Board of Commissioners), Fenton Parks & Recreation (Board Member), Fenton Industrial Facility Tax Credit Committee (Member)
Community Involvement (past): Board member for Fenton Planning Commission, Fenton Zoning Board of Appeals, Fenton Little League, United Way of Greater Cleveland, the Cleveland International Program, and Junior Achievement of Western New York. Former youth basketball, youth baseball, and youth softball coach.

Campaign Message: Fenton’s Future Starts Today

Question #1: What are the top THREE issues currently facing your community? If elected, how will you address them?

The biggest issue we face is roads that are in steady decline. The cost of fixing our roads is bigger than we can cut from other areas in the budget. We need to put a fiscally reasonable plan in place that allows us to fix the current problems and prevents us from being right back where we are today a decade from now.

A second issue is infrastructure (water & sewer systems). Older neighborhoods are in bad shape. We can address this at the same time as roads, making updates while roads are being redone, and save residents a massive amount of money.

The big issue we face as a community is increased youth drug use. This is a problem we have to address as a community. I’d like to work with the schools and city to put a parent education program in place that can slow down this epidemic.If elected, If elected, what best practices would you employ in making decisions for the city?

Question #2: If elected, If elected, what best practices would you employ in making decisions for the city?

For every decision, we must consider: (1) impact on residents, (2) cost to the city, and (3) timeline to complete the project

If a decision will impact our residents, we have a duty to get public input before voting. We represent our community, not our own personal interest, and this helps ensure we make well-informed decisions.

Cost and project timeline are very closely aligned. The easiest ways to drive up costs on a project is delays. We need more diligence to ensure all city projects come in on-time and under budget. We can’t allow contractors to come back for more money, driving up the cost. Additionally, we need to stay vigilant that we only spend what’s in our budget.

Question #3: What efforts would you take as an elected leader to ensure transparency in governance?

Monthly work sessions to review pending big issues help give residents an opportunity to have their opinion heard, in a public forum. These sessions also give us the opportunity to discuss future issues that could impact our community (roads, legalized marijuana, state law changes, etc.) but aren’t being voted on at this time. Every meeting is open to the public, and we work to ensure any resident that will be impacted by the outcome of these discussions is present to provide input.

These meetings (and all Council Meetings) are public, but very few attend. We need new (and better) ways to communicate upcoming issues and get resident feedback. Better communication with our community through different channels can help improve community engagement.

Question #4: What qualifications do you possess that will make you an asset on the council?

An effective City Council represents a cross-section of the community it serves. Elected officials should bring varied backgrounds – public service, private industry, and community organizations. I have all three.

I’m a City Councilman serving on multiple boards and commissions (see above). I have 20+ years business experience including building multi-million dollar businesses, rebuilding programs, managing global teams, and leading launch of global projects. I’m also involved with non-profits and charitable foundations in leadership and board roles. I serve on the Fenton Education Foundation and Fenton Tigers Travel Baseball boards.  I also run the largest festival in Genesee County, St. John Applefest in Fenton (4 days, 500 volunteers, 30,000 visitors).

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TC Times Candidate Questions 2017

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Each election the Tri-County Times (www.tctimes.com) asks candidates a few questions to help their readers get a better idea of who to vote for.  Below are this year’s questions.

Name: David McDermott
Age: 44
Current Occupation: Global Sales Operations Director and City Councilman
Residency in the City of Fenton: 11 years

 

Question: What do you believe is a council member’s most important responsibilities?

A Councilperson’s most important responsibility is to remember that they represent the residents of Fenton, not just themselves.  Every decision, every dollar spent, every vote – the City Council needs to support what Fenton’s residents value the most – a safe, close-knit, family-friendly community and a fiscally responsible city government.

Question:  Going forward, what is the city’s most critical issue and what will you do, if elected, to help resolve that issue?

Our roads and infrastructure (water, sewer) are in terrible shape and getting worse. The cost is bigger than we can cut from other areas in our city’s budget. I will focus on ensuring we have a realistic and financially responsible plan in place so that we can get our roads and infrastructure fixed.

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Fenton Regional Chamber of Commerce Candidate Questionnaire (2017)

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I’m excited to share that the Fenton Regional Chamber of Commerce has endorsed me again this election as a candidate for the Fenton City Council position.

In preparation for this year’s “Meet the Candidates” event held October 10th, the Chamber sent out a list of questions to all the candidates.  Below you’ll find my responses.  I’m the only candidate that has publicly shared their responses.

 

2017 Questionnaire for Mayoral & Council Candidates

1) What qualifications do you bring to the city council?

For a City Council to be effective, it should represent a cross-section of the community it serves. Elected officials should bring varied backgrounds – public service, private industry, and community organizations. My background includes all three.

Currently, I serve as a Fenton City Councilman, elected to my first term in 2013.  As part of this role, I also serve on the Parks & Recreation Board, the Industrial Facility Tax Credit Committee, and Southern Lakes Parks & Recreation Board of Commissioners. I have previously served on the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals.

I also bring over 20 years of experience in private industry, including the growth of multi-million dollar businesses, successfully rebuilding programs, managed highly productive teams, and leading the launch of global projects.

My experience with community organizations includes a variety of non-profit organizations and charitable foundations. This experience has given me hands-on development and leadership roles, as well as experience in executive/board positions. I currently serve on the Fenton Education Foundation and Fenton Tigers Travel Baseball boards.  For the last 6 years I have also run one of largest festivals in Genesee County, St. John’s Applefest, which brings close to 30,000 people to Fenton each September. I’ve previously volunteered with Cub Scouts, Fenton Little League, and Upward Basketball, and served on boards for the United Way of Greater Cleveland, the Cleveland International Program, Junior Achievement of Western New York, and Niagara County Community College.

2) Given the recent successes associated with the streetscape and beautification, what are your ideas to add to that?

As a Council Member, I’ve supported ideas that add to our community through the growth of local businesses, ongoing downtown improvements, and projects positively impacting our residential neighborhoods.

I like initiatives that bring new people to Fenton. As a member of the Industrial Facility Tax Credit Committee, I worked to provide a tax credit enabling a local business to expand downtown, keeping them in Fenton and adding 30+ new jobs.  As a Commissioner on Southern Lakes, I’ve supported their growth to manage events including Back to the Bricks, Farmers Market, and Thursdays in the Park.  As a Board Member for the Fenton Education Foundation, I’ve supported programs in our schools for music, athletics, robotics, and teacher grants. All of those things make Fenton a better place to live (and raise a family).

I believe that Fenton’s biggest success is that people want to visit and live here. The more people that spend time in Fenton, the more they support our local businesses.  When local businesses succeed, they are more generous in their support of our schools and community. Stronger schools and community organizations create a better quality of life.  A better quality of life makes more people want to be part of Fenton. It is all connected.
3) In what areas of the Fenton City Budget can savings be found? What areas are in need of additional funding?

Our current administration (City Manager and staff) work to ensure we are as prudent as possible with taxpayer money. As part of our annual budget process, we look at each department to review requested increases and potential decreases.

An area that needs significant, immediate investment is residential roads. Our neighborhood roads are experiencing a steep decline, and updating them will require a long-term financial commitment from our residents such as a multi-year road millage.

4) What business knowledge and experience do you bring to the council? How can these skills help our local business community?

I have over 20 years of business experience – managing operations (sales, recruitment, customer service), sustained long-term growth of several multi-million dollar businesses within a Fortune 500 company, strategic planning/organizational goal setting, and successfully rebuilding failing operations.  I have led highly successful teams, the launch of multi-million dollar global projects, and developed programs that help us focus on the interpersonal relationships that drive success. Currently, I manage a team that includes sales, training, and technology management within the global sales and account management organization of a Fortune 500 company.

5) Parking is an issue. What can be done to better direct the public to parking which is currently available?

Parking is a frequently discussed issue for City Council.  Over the last 18 months, we’ve seen it come up different ways – the impact of new buildings, residential downtown properties needing reserved spots, expansion of existing businesses with the hiring of more employees, opening new roadways, and the impact of large downtown events.

Parking is also an indicator of a successful downtown.  More people means less available parking.  If we continue to successfully grow, the availability of parking will eventually become a concern, but right now, the biggest issue is the location of parking.  A straightforward way to fix today’s problem is better signage indicating where the less obvious parking and municipal lots can be found.

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Tri-County Times Candidate Questionnaire (2013)

Tim Jagielo from the Tri-County Times is working on a story about the upcoming Fenton City Council election for the Sunday Oct 24th issue of the paper.  Below are the answers I submitted, including some additional details on how I think we can engage the Fenton community.

Candidate Questions for Tri-County Times article on FCC candidates

Name: David McDermott
Age: 41
Residency, for how long: 7 years
Education: State Univ. of New York, College at Buffalo – B.A. Business with minor in Innovation & Problem Solving
Employment: Director of Global Sales Enablement for Kelly Services
Family: Sara (wife); 3 Children (David – 9, Megan – 8 and Connor – 6)

1. Why are you running?
I’m running for Fenton City Council because I think we can do better.  The biggest opportunity we have to improve the quality of life in Fenton is to build a more engaged community.  Strong neighborhoods, a healthy business climate, and a safe city all start with community engagement.

2. What experience do you bring to the table?
A balanced City Council should represent a cross section of the community they serve.  To be effective, members of City Council need varied backgrounds – public service, private industry, and community organizations.

My experience includes both the business and community sectors, with over 20 years of experience building strong relationships, financially successful organizations, non-profit executive board membership, and a track record of building high performing teams, both paid and volunteer.

I’m active with Fenton community organizations including Fenton Little League (Board, Vice President), Cub Scouts (Committee Chair), Upward Basketball (Coach), St. John’s Applefest (Festival General Chair), and I’m currently appointed to Fenton’s Planning Commission.  I also have extensive non-profit board and leadership experience, including past roles with the United Way of Greater Cleveland, Junior Achievement of Western New York, the Cleveland International Program, and Niagara County Community College.

With each new role, I’ve strived to make an impact.  I plan to drive positive change in our community, empowering residents and businesses to be part of a successful Fenton.

3. What is the biggest challenge the city is facing?
Like many of my neighbors, I’m excited about Fenton’s progress downtown.  A vibrant downtown attracts visitors and strengthens our local economy, but Fenton is at a critical point.  We need to look beyond downtown.  Our roads need attention.  Our water and sewer systems are aging.  Our public safety teams need new equipment.  We need to use the resources we have to promote better neighborhoods and a healthy business community.

As a father to three young children, I’m keenly aware of issues facing the youth of our community – drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and neighborhood safety.  As a City Council, we should lead the community in promoting awareness and giving kids the tools they need to make better decisions.

4. How should those challenges be dealt with?
Economic development and community participation need to be a focus for City Council.  They should be aggressively engaging with regional development organizations, identifying prospects that would compliment our existing business community, and proactively working with our state government to design incentive programs that reward long-term investment in Fenton.  The more successful our community becomes, the more community participation increases, and more community participation results in a safer, better Fenton.

Basically, City Council needs to be better at embracing the role of advocate for our residents and our business community.

5. What changes would you like to see on council?
Our City Council wants you to have a voice, to participate and understand city priorities.  They want the best community possible, just like all of us.  The challenge is that they put the burden on the residents.  The residents have to ask the questions, and sometimes they don’t know where to begin.

I want to change that.  I want City Council to create an ongoing conversation focused on services provided in the city.  Talk to businesses about what it takes to help them grow, talk to residents about what improves their neighborhoods, talk to public safety about what they need to be effective.

City Council should work to ensure that Fenton is a “community”.

Flint Journal Candidate Questionnaire (2013)

The Flint Journal is the largest newspaper in this area with a Sunday circulation of 60k.  I’m not sure how many they reach online, but they’re part of mlive.com so it’s pretty big.  These were pretty straightforward questions, which works out since we had about 3 days to complete them.  Will be interesting to see how the other candidates answered the questions.

Questionnaire for City Council Candidate
 

1. What is the most important issue facing residents in your ward?
Like many of my neighbors, I’m excited about Fenton’s progress downtown. A vibrant downtown attracts visitors and strengthens our local economy,but Fenton is at a critical point.  We need to look beyond downtown.  Our roads need attention.  Our water and sewer systems are aging.  Our public works teams can barely keep up with the urgent calls.  We need to use the resources we have to promote better neighborhoods and a healthy business community.

As a father to three young children, I’m keenly aware of the issues our youth face – drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and neighborhood safety.  As a City Council,we should lead the community in promoting awareness and giving kids the tools they need to make better decisions.   To me, the public safety formula is simple – more community participation results in a safer, better Fenton.

2. What do you plan to do that would improve the quality of life of residents in your ward?
The biggest opportunity we have to improve the quality of life in Fenton is to build a more engaged community.   A strong downtown, residential growth, a healthy business climate, and a well developed master plan all start with community engagement.

Our City Council want’s you to have a voice, to participate and understand city priorities. They want the best community possible, just like all of us.  The challenge is that the burden starts with the residents.

The residents have to ask questions, and sometimes they don’t know where to begin.  I would like to change that, to create an ongoing conversation focused on services provided in the city.  Talk to businesses about what it takes to help them grow, and to residents about what improves their neighborhoods.  Help them know about the issues before they’ve even asked the questions.

3. What do you feel qualifies you as a candidate for city council?
An effective City Council should have members with diverse backgrounds – public service, private industry, and community organizations.   My background includes 20 years of business and community organization experience,building strong relationships, financially successful organizations, and a track record of leading high performing teams, both paid and volunteer.

I’m active with Fenton community organizations including Fenton Little League (Board, Vice President), CubScouts (Committee Chair), Upward Basketball (Coach), St. John’s Applefest(Festival Chair).  I’m currently appointed to Fenton’s Planning Commission, and have extensive non-profit board experience, including leadership roles.

I’m focused on driving positive change for the residents of Fenton. I think we can make an already great Fenton community better.

4. What are some ideas you have for the revitalization of Fenton’s industrial park? Incentives? Aggressive recruitment?
Economic development should be a primary focus of City Council.  They should aggressively engage with regional development organizations to identify prospects that compliment our existing business community, then develop a “pitch” that can be shared with target companies globally.

Our industrial parks offer easily accessible highways, availability of a skilled labor pool, and ample space to build.  We should leverage the benefits of our community as well – affordable housing, good cost of living, excellent schools, and many community activities.

Any program will likely require incentives at the local and state level.  We should be prepared, proactively working with our state government to design incentive programs that reward long-term investment in our community by prospective companies.   I believe this is also an opportunity to engage the community in identifying targeted industries, and recruiting companies.

City Council should embrace the role of advocate to both our residents and our business community.

Fenton Chamber of Commerce Candidate Questionnaire (2013)

On October 8th at 7:00 pm you will have to opportunity to meet and ask questions of all the candidates for the upcoming City of Fenton Mayoral and City Council elections.  In preparation for the event, candidates have been asked to submit answers to a series of questions that help define their position on issues impacting the City of Fenton.  I’ve posted the questions below, and will add my answers the day of the event.  Hope to see you there!

2013 Questionnaire for Mayoral and Council Candidates

1. What qualifications do you bring to the city council?
A balanced City Council represents a cross section of the community they serve.  For the Council to be effective, elected officials should bring varied backgrounds – public service, private industry, and community organizations.

My experience includes both the business and community sectors.  I have more than 20 years experience in business, with strong relationship building skills, non-profit executive board experience, and a track record of building high performing teams, both paid and volunteer.  I was also recently appointed to Fenton’s Planning Commission.

With a business mindset, focused on driving positive change for Fenton residents, I seek to continually improve an already great Fenton community.

2.  What would you like to be remembered for after your time on the city council?
My personal goal is to be remembered as a person that advocated for the residents and business community in a way that fostered growth for our local economy.  That said, the goal of any City Council member should be to put policies in place that remain viable for the Fenton community long after that member is gone.

3. In what areas of the Fenton City budget can savings be found?  What areas are in need of additional funding?
One of the many areas of focus for City Council is to ensure that Fenton is delivering necessary governmental services while supporting investment in the community’s future.   We should continually prioritize investments that create a safe residential environment and a business-friendly community.  Both types of investment drive the growth engine of our community, and give us the ability to adjust priorities as the needs of the Fenton community change.

In spite of diminishing tax revenues, Fenton’s City Manager has done a great job of delivering value to our community while maintaining a balanced budget. The challenge the he and City Council face is that this may not be sustainable.  A shrinking tax base requires continued budget cuts.  At some point, this will require cuts to essential services.  Once we are forced to cut essential services, people and businesses will leave the Fenton community.  If people and businesses leave, then the tax base will shrink even further.

We are at a critical point where we need to focus on bringing new ideas, people and businesses into our community.  City Council needs to focus on how we can use the resources we have to drive growth in the Fenton community.  My solution is to increase Fenton’s tax base, not the taxes.

4. What business knowledge and experience do you bring to the council?  How can these skills help our local business community?
My business experience includes extensive operations management (budgeting, business development, recruitment, and customer service), sustained long-term growth of several multi-million dollar businesses for a Fortune 500 company, and multiple examples of successful rebuilding of failing operations.  I have also led highly successful teams for the launch of multi-million dollar projects supporting the global implementation of technology and collaboration platforms, including organization change management.

5. If Fenton were to choose one city to model itself after, what city should that be?
I wouldn’t pick a single city on which to model Fenton, but rather, would borrow ideas from many different cities to model the “Fenton of the Future”.  A strong downtown, residential growth, a healthy business climate, strong community engagement, and well-developed master plan – all ideas I’d like to see in our version of Fenton.  To quote a favorite author: “If you understand the principles, you can choose your own method”.

6. What is your political opinion of House Bill 4147?  Should Fenton’s residential parcels be taxed on a percentage of value, or a flat fee?
I am in favor of allowing local communities as much latitude as possible when managing their budgets.  In general, parcels should be taxed as a percentage of taxable value.  In some instances, however, a flat-fee model may be more prudent based on consumption of services.  For example, if police calls originate more frequently from residential areas (vs. industrial areas), a higher per parcel fee may be the most relevant way to assess funding.  The goal of the exercise should be to pass along costs in the most equitable way possible.

7. What has the DDA done for existing business in Fenton?  What can be done to help partner with the existing business community in the future?
Like many residents, I’m excited by the progress of Fenton’s downtown area.  As we create a more vibrant downtown, we increase the value of our city, ultimately attracting more businesses to Fenton.  I think it’s the responsibility of City Council to work with the DDA as ambassadors for Fenton, helping to identify businesses that would be a fit for both our residents, and the existing businesses in our community.

8. What are our most threatening crime and safety concerns in Fenton?  What can be done to reduce these threats?
Fenton is lucky enough to have very good police and fire departments that work to keep our city safe.  They have been successful, shielding us from many of the issues that impact other mid-Michigan communities.

As a father to three young children, I’m keenly interested in the issues that face Fenton’s youth – drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and neighborhood safety.  We have the opportunity, as a community, to promote awareness of these challenges, and give kids the tools they need to make good decisions.

It’s our responsibility to be an active part of the Fenton community.  I would like to see the businesses, non-profit organizations, and residents of Fenton invest time in programs that support better outcomes for the children of our city.  To me, the public safety formula is simple – more community participation results in a safer, and better Fenton.

League of Women Voters Flint Candidate Survey (2013)

The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization encouraging informed and active participation in government.   It influences public policy through education and advocacy.  The Flint Area representatives invited candidates on the November 5th ballot to participate in their Genesee County Electronic Voter Guide.  This publication provides voters with unbiased, nonpartisan information on the candidates.  They do not endorse, support or oppose any party or candidate, but rather provide information about the candidates and issues in an election to give voters a foundation for reaching their own decisions.

Candidate Name: David McDermott
Website: http://www.electmcdermott.com
Campaign Message: Fenton’s Future Starts Today.

Occupation: Director of Sales Enablement for a global, Michigan-based company
City/Town: City of Fenton (Michigan)
Education: B.A. Business with a minor in Innovation & Problem Solving

Experience: My experience includes both the business and community sectors. I have more than 20 years experience in business, with strong relationship building skills, non-profit executive board experience, and a track record of building high performing teams, both paid and volunteer. I was also recently appointed to Fenton’s Planning Commission.

Community Involvement: City of Fenton Planning Commission; St. John Applefest (Fenton, MI) – Festival General Chairman; Fenton Little League – Vice President & Board Member; Cub Scout Pack 270 (Fenton, MI) – Committee Chairman; Upward Basketball – Coach.  Past experience includes March of Dimes, United Way of Cleveland, Junior Achievement, Cleveland Community Shares, Cleveland International Program, and many others.

What are your qualifications for this position?
A balanced City Council represents a cross section of the community they serve.  For the Council to be effective, elected officials should bring varied backgrounds – public service, private industry, and community organizations.

My experience includes extensive operations (budgeting, development, service), long-term growth of multi-million dollar businesses, and multiple examples of successfully rebuilding failing programs/operations.  I’ve been part of highly successful teams, and led the launch of multi-million dollar projects.  My non-profit experience includes successful, hands-on development and leadership roles, as well as executive-level board positions.  I currently sit on the City of Fenton’s Planning Commission.

I believe in the Fenton community, and think we all have the opportunity to play an active part in what makes our Fenton community extraordinary.

What are the top issues currently facing your city/village and, if elected, how would you address them?
Questions we should all ask: Is Fenton a safe place to live? Are our roads are drivable?  Do I know how are my taxes spent?

In general, Fenton City Council and the City Manager encourages us to ask questions.  They want to help us understand city priorities, and will listen to our opinion if we disagree.  They want the best community possible, just like all of us.

The challenge is that the burden of interaction starts with the residents.  The residents have to ask questions, and sometimes they don’t know where to begin.

I would like City Council to create an ongoing conversation focused on services provided in the city.  Talk about the great work our city manager and his teams do to save taxpayer money.  Talk to businesses about what it takes to help them grow, and to residents about what improves their neighborhoods.

Help the residents and businesses know the issues before they’ve even asked the questions.

How will you improve the quality of life in your city with limited resources?
The biggest opportunity we have to improve the quality of life in Fenton is to build a more engaged community.   A strong downtown, residential growth, a healthy business climate, and a well developed master plan all start with community engagement.

City Council should serve as the ultimate champions of Fenton, tirelessly advocating for the city, it’s residents, and it’s businesses. Once they do this, they create relationships that help drive the change the whole community wants to see.