ESCANABA - Candidates for the four open Gladstone City Commission seats were in Escanaba Wednesday night to express their visions for the city and weigh in on the issues important to residents.
Of the 10 candidates running for the open seats, eight were present at Wednesday night's forum hosted by the Delta County League of Women Voters, the American Association of University Women, and the Chamber of Commerce. Absent were incumbent Hugo Mattonen, who is running for re-election to a four-year term, and Jeff Diebolt, who is running for the two-year term created by the resignation of former commissioner David Olsen.
Candidates Jay Bostwick, Jessica Ebner, Richard "Rick" Micheau, Steven Viau, and incumbent Joseph Maki voiced their opinions and concerns for the city while vying for the three open four-year terms. Presenting their opinions while seeking the single two-year term were Dave Nemacheck, Stephen O'Driscoll, and Vicki Viau.
All candidates expressed creating an environment to grow businesses was one of the greatest issue facing the city commission.
"We really need to get the businesses together and try and have more meetings to bring ideas together to get more businesses to come to Gladstone," said Vicki Viau. "It really is a beautiful little town and we really need to focus on getting people to come to our area and to be a part of it, but the taxing and all that is chasing people away."
Ebner sees changing the relationship between the city of Gladstone and the residents of Escanaba as a way to increase the pool of customers that Gladstone businesses have and making Gladstone a more business friendly city.
"For some reason Gladstone people have no problem coming to Escanaba but there seems to be an issue with getting Escanaba residents to come to Gladstone, (whether) visiting our businesses or events that we have," she said. "I think if we can get, again, these businesses built up in downtown that's going to attract people from Escanaba and it's going to make businesses flourish."
The majority of candidates expressed support for working with other units of government, such as the city of Escanaba and county, through the monthly joint governmental meetings.
"I think there's strength in numbers. I've always been impressed with groups of people getting together and sharing ideas," said Nemacheck.
Only O'Driscoll, a current Gladstone School Board member, voiced disapproval for the meetings.
"I've heard how these meetings go and it's a lot of lip service. I'm more for joint governmental action," he said citing the shared district superintendent, business manager, and payroll position between Gladstone Schools and Rapid River Schools.
"This is joint governmental action, of actually getting something done, sharing a service, and getting something done instead of just talking about it at a meeting. That's what I've done as part of the Gladstone School Board is be part of these solutions rather just paying lip service to shared services as a meeting," he added.
Taking a different view of the role of the school board, Bostwick not only supported the joint governmental meetings in his statements, but promoted the idea of the commission and school board working closer together.
"I'm also for joint city council and school board meetings. I guess they did at one time, and that was it. It would be better if (the commission) had a good relationship with the schools," said Bostwick.
When it came to operating the city's funds candidates had a wide variety of experience. Incumbent Commissioner Maki shared the perspective that he acquired both as a city commissioner and an employee of the city prior to running for a commission seat.
"Cities and governments operate, first of all, on a not-for-profit basis, which is a hard concept for the private sector to understand when there's profit involved. That doesn't mean service isn't being provided but you have to take a unique look at the services that are being provided," he said.
Micheau cited his experience and personal budget as evidence of why he was not "frightened" of budgeting.
"I've worked with a couple of different organization as a treasurer, I've got experience with money management; I have an accounting degree, but more importantly I go to Bay College full-time, now, seeking a bachelors degree - I'm transferring to LSSU next semester - I work three part time jobs, own and operate two businesses, and raise two kids. There is no tougher budget than what I live with everyday," he said.
Steve Viau also cited his experience balancing the budgets of businesses within the city as evidence of both his knowledge of budgeting and his willingness to make sacrifices when needed.
"I don't know how government budgets work but I know how my budget works. Any time something goes up I've either got to get up earlier in the morning or work later at night and put more of an effort in," said Steve Viau, adding that as a businessman he is responsible for bookkeeping.
"I have the knowledge, because I operate three different books, and I know what you have to do. If you owe three cents and you only have two cents you have to do something different. You have to balance and go without something. What that is I don't know," he said.
Gladstone residents will be able to vote on which candidates will hold the four open seats on Nov. 5.