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.