Commissioners reflect, look to future
GLADSTONE — Newly reelected Gladstone City Commissioners Brad Mantela and Dave Phalen spoke recently about their previous accomplishments with the commission and what they hope to accomplish in their four-year terms.
On Nov. 5, incumbents Mantela and Phalen beat out challengers Mike O’Connor and Steven Viau for the open seats on the commission.
“I’d like to thank the voters for having the confidence to vote for me again,” Mantela said. “I’m humbled, you know? You go out there and you ask for people to put their trust in your judgement. So it is humbling and I look forward to working with a great commission that we have right now to keep things moving forward.”
Mantela, who grew up in Wells, has lived in Gladstone for 20 years.
He explained he has been working with the city since 2013 when he was on the Gladstone Planning Commission. Mantela was appointed a position on the city commission in September 2016 after O’Connor resigned. Since his appointment, Mantela has been reelected to continue his work on the commission.
Phalen, who was born and raised in Gladstone, has lived in Gladstone for the majority of his life.
He said he has been on the city commission since he was first elected in 2015.
“I’m extremely pleased with the turnout and the number of votes I received,” Phalen said. “It’s kind of nice to know that there’s a good majority of people out there that approve of the work I’m doing — not only me, but of the whole commission. I think that (the election results) shows that they (Gladstone voters) want to keep this commission together.”
During a Gladstone City Commission meeting on Oct. 28, Phalen announced he may be moving out of the city of Gladstone. The move isn’t a sure thing yet, but Phalen felt he had to be transparent with the residents of Gladstone and commission before the elections, as moving would make him ineligible to serve on the commission.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to make. Like I said, Gladstone has always been my home. I’ve got a lot of love for Gladstone — I grew up here. My wife and I have always wanted to get out into the country and it just so happened we came across a deal — a really good deal on some property, and if everything works out then we probably will be leaving. It’s not a guaranteed thing yet,” Phalen said.
As both men have previous experience working on the city commission, both provided some insight on what they felt were major accomplishments for the commission during their previous terms.
Phalen explained he felt the biggest accomplishments in his previous terms included the city commission and Downtown Development Authority (DDA) working cohesively, the commission getting a better grasp on Municipal Employees’ Retirement System (MERS) and other post-employment health benefits, and keeping utility rates relatively low.
Mantela said he felt the biggest accomplishments in his previous terms on the planning commission and city commission included working on creating the master plan update for the city in 2015, keeping budgets in line with city needs, working with the DDA to make the 9th Street Project a reality, and working with the DDA to finally see the North Shore Development plan move from the planning stages to promoting it to developers.
When it comes to what they hoped for the city’s future, both commissioners had some shared priorities, including the 9th Street Project, utility rates and Interim City Manager Eric Buckman.
Both Phalen and Mantela agreed that they’d like to see the continued momentum behind the 9th Street Project.
“I want to continue to see the 9th Street Project move forward, which it is,” Mantela said. “I want to see that break ground and get completed.”
The $4.8 million 9th Street Project includes a total reconstruction of 9th Street — including work on storm drains, water lines and sewer lines from Minneapolis Avenue to 4th Avenue — as well as work on other streets, avenues and alleys. The work on 9th Street will also include work on some of the sidewalks and the addition of a bike lane.
Phalen and Mantela both mentioned they will continue to make sure utility rates are relatively low but allow utility departments to be financially stable and able to address asset management.
“I don’t want to raise the rates unless it’s necessary to provide that service,” Phalen said.
A recent utility rate study done by Utility Financial Solutions, LLC. of Holland Mich., took a look at the electric, water, wastewater and solid waste departments in Gladstone and showed the city was in need of rate adjustments.
According to both Phalen and Mantela, they both were looking forward to working with Buckman as the new city manager for Gladstone.
At the Oct. 28 commission meeting, the commission unanimously approved Mayor Joe Thompson and Commissioner Greg Styczynski to meet with Buckman on a new contract for the city manager position.
“One thing I’d like to touch on is the fact in the first four years we’ve gone through two city managers since I’ve been there,” Phalen said. “I’m really excited for the fact that Eric Buckman has decided to stay on. He’s got a good relationship with the employees there and has a really good feel with what the city needs and how every thing operates there. I think he’s going to be a very big asset to the city of Gladstone.”
Although not something Phalen listed as a top priority, Mantela added he would also like to see the continued effort to get the North Shore Area developed.
Mantela explained he doesn’t want the plan created for the area to just sit on a shelf in a nice binder, but wants to see something actually developed on the North Shore that will help increase the tax-base in Gladstone.
Both Mantela and Phalen expressed they felt Gladstone was going in the right direction and that all members of the city commission have the best interests in mind for the city and its residents.
“I think we have a good commission right now,” Phalen said. “I’m pleased with the guys that are sitting there and I think we’re all working towards the same thing. We all have the best interest of the city and the taxpayers in mind. A lot of the decisions we have to make aren’t easy, but they’re necessary to keep the city operating as efficiently as possible.”