Council, school board need to be flexible to meet community, student needs
With petitions circulating for the Mobridge City and Mobridge-Pollock School Board elections, newly elected officials will face challenges in the future of both entities.
There are three positions on the council up for election including one two-year term in each of the three wards in the city.
Also, Mobridge residents will be electing a new mayor, as Kyle Jensen is not running again.
In the Mobridge-Pollock School district, one position, the three-year member-at-large position, currently held by Jason Deinert will be up for election.
Circulation of nominating petitions began on Friday, Jan. 27.
Officials in both the city and school view this election as an important one as there are serious issues that will be addressed on both levels of government.
Mayor Kyle Jensen
According to outgoing mayor Kyle Jensen, the incoming council will need to set goals, construct a road map and keep the community moving forward.
“We have accomplished a lot in the past 10 years, but there are still a lot of projects out there that will need to be completed,” he said. “The council will need to secure funding and keep moving these things forward.”
Jensen said the new group should hold a “focus session” to find out where their priorities lie and what the goals of the council will be for the near future. Jensen said being proactive instead of reactive is important and setting aside capital outlay and planning to replace equipment is important to any council.
“The mayor will need to provide information to the council members in order for them to understand what is going on,” he said. “Communication is very important. They need to have the information in their hands to make the correct decisions about what is best for their community. Steve (City Administrator Steve Gasser) is very good at that.”
Many of the ongoing projects, such as the addition to the A.H. Brown Library, the railroad crossing at the south end of Main Street, financing and building a new swimming pool and continuing to upgrade Scherr-Howe Event Center are challenging issues, according to Jensen.
“For example, we started with the Scherr-Howe project about two years ago and now we have it ready to hold events like the Chamber banquet on Friday,” he said. “Not just for the people of Mobridge but for others in the area.”
He said a current project that creates a calendar of combined events from the city, school and organizations would allow planners an opportunity to have the necessary information available when choosing a date for events.
“We need to work together to have an all-encompassing city calendar so we are not sending our people out of town during big events,” he said. “We need to provide that information to the public.”
Having someone to drive that information and be a coordinator for those events is one issue for the new council.
Volunteer organizations, such as the Mobridge Youth Organization, are an important part of Mobridge and other communities. Jensen said he wonders what will happen to those organizations when the current group of volunteers grows tired and no longer takes the lead.
“MYO brings people to town nearly every weekend,” he said. “We need to keep programs like that going.”
He said getting involved in volunteering and serving the community is not for retired residents alone.
“We need young energetic people who have vision and understand the needs of our community overall,” he said. “We need a diverse council to be a success. We have that now. There are people on our council that are a perfect fit for their roles within the city’s departments.”
He said council members can choose do one of two things; be a leader and use their strengths to move the city forward, or just be on the council and do nothing.
“It takes an open mind and to be able to see another member’s point of view. That is the way to get things done,” Jensen said. “And it is important to have the community support the council. If they have any issues, bring it to the council. If they have any questions, ask. Get the right information and become involved. Many of the ideas we have are brought to us by members of this community.”
Jensen said he is anxious that projects that were started when he was on the council or mayor be finished.
“I would tell the new council to be patient,” he said. “Through determination and patience, we accomplished what we set out to do.
Mobridge City Administrator Steve Gasser sees the challenges in the upcoming plans and projects that are needed to keep the city on the right track.
Those include the new water tower project, the addition to the A.H. Brown Library, funding and building a new swimming pool, replacing a clarifier at the waste water plant and moving forward with the repairs and renovation at Scherr-Howe.
“The street department has equipment that needs to e replaced, Ecklo Road (near the walking trail) needs to be repaired. We need to purchase tanks and a fuel truck for the airport. All of this takes money. We spend a lot of our time looking for grants and low interest loans to keep moving forward on these projects.”
Gasser said the next two years in the city are going to be busy with construction projects such as the Grand Crossing renovation and building the railroad crossing along with the new library addition.
“This council is going to need to keep informed on what is going on,” he said. “We need to be able to deal with any problems that may arise and address the issues.”
He said working with Friends of Scherr-Howe and the Library Foundation is also very important, as there are many goals that need to be reached on both of those projects.
“We need to work hard to make the Scherr-Howe Event Center becomes the showcase of our community,” he said. “The council will need to understand the importance of that building.”
He said working closely with the Library Foundation is also imperative.
“Cooperation with the foundation to help coordinate the building project and any fundraising events if needed is important to that project” he said. “That library is an essential part of our community.”
Gasser said it is necessary to have a council that understands planning and being proactive.
The Mobridge-Pollock School District is facing an ever-changing educational environment in which funding will be the major issue.
“Funding will be the number one issue,” said District Superintendent Tim Frederick, “and understanding curriculum is the second issue.”
He said the loss of federal dollars and the impact of state cuts will hit the district hard next year.
“As a collective board, they need to understand the decision the make and the goals we set for our school,” he said. “We are going to need to set two or three priorities. We won’t be able to accomplish five or six because funding.”
Setting a priority of keeping class sizes manageable should be the number one goal.
“That is the first question I would ask a school board candidate,” he said. “Then I would ask what career and technical education is right for our district.”
Board members need to understand the changing needs of education and be flexible with curriculums he said. The one factor that drives education is tests scores and changes are coming as the state adapts the common core academic standards.
“It is going to be imperative for board members to understand that this is going to be a five year window as the plan implementation takes place,” he said. “We are going to need to be flexible as a district during that time.”
With the changing education environment, so the manner in which a board functions changes also.
“Having a board worry about the day-to-day management issues just doesn’t work anymore,” he said. “We need to have a board that sees education of our kids from kindergarten to graduation,” he said. “We need to have a curriculum that is going to meet the diverse needs of these kids.”
That means surveying needs and studying data that can lead to meeting the students’ needs and state’s standards.
“We need to be diverse enough for our kids to have a choice when they are juniors and seniors to dive into the career choices they have made,” he said. “What that takes is funding.”
Petitions for the City Of Mobridge may be filed in the office of the Finance Officer located at the City Hall at 114 First Avenue East, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST until Friday, Feb. 24.
Nominating petitions for the Mobridge-Pollock School District 62-6 may be filed in the business office located at 1107 First Avenue East, between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., until Friday, Feb. 27.
– Katie Zerr –