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The candidates for the Jan. 24 recall election recently sat down with the T-R to share some of their views. Mayor candidate Dean Ross's interview appears below.
Occupation: Officer with Valley City Police Department, 1973-2000, Chief of Police 2000-2011
Education: B.S. in Agricultural Economics from NDSU
Family: Wife Deb, daughter Jennifer (Bryan) Kriewald, son Michael (Erica) Ross, and four grandchildren.
Organizatons: Member of Our Savior's Church, ND Peace Officers Association, Fraternal Order of Police, and Valley City Eagles.
Why are you running? "The truth is that I chose to run for mayor because I have 38 years of commitment to this city that I love. During the summer months, individuals (from inside and outside Valley City) continually asked me 'What is wrong with your city?' I fund myself defending our city, but I could not defend the politics that (were) occurring. It was at this time that I decided that I could just sit back and do nothing or I could enter the mayor's race and try to change the things that people don't like."
If elected, what would you do differently from your predecessor? "Our contention is that part of our commission isn't listening to people - they aren't listening to the voters. We want to make sure that the ears of the City Commission are totally open to hearing what their concerns are."
What previous experience do you have with city government? "In terms of city government, being on the police force for 38 years, a lot of people say well, you don't have the flood experience. I can contradict that by saying I've been to every flood meeting and probably have more flood experience than most commissioners that have served, because we've experienced every flood and we've worked through every flood.
"But it's not just that, and it's not an 'I' situation, that is a total team effort that it takes to succeed. In addition to that, I've been involved in all aspects of city government, including budget meetings. I've seen how all that works, and been very active in that, especially in my 11 years as chief. I think my experience is rather well rounded in that effect. I've been there."
What are the three biggest issues facing Valley City? "Well, I don't think there are only three. The things that are concerning people I've talked to are, number one, Devil's Lake water, the prevalent flooding, and the current buyouts that are on people's minds. People are tired of fighting floods, and we need to do something. Not to say that the other issues people are bringing up: streets, rough roads, parking, and snow removal are all very important."
How can you make Valley City a better place to live? "We have a great quality of life here. We need more population, obviously, and that's not easy to do. I think the economic development corporation is doing a great job of trying to get some industry in here. We need to ask people 'What do you want?'. Maybe we need to focus on changing our commission meetings, so we get more citizen involvement, maybe pushing the times back to 7 (p.m.) like they used to be years ago. That may entertain some new ideas. The people think of some great ideas too, and it's our job to follow through on that."
How do you intend to move on from the contentious political climate of 2011? "Well, everybody is tired of that. My theme during this whole thing goes back to listening to the people. One of the contentious issues was our City Administrator spot, and nfortunately it was an issue that pitted neighbor against neighbor. We need to look at how to mend these fences that were broken down in our community with positive thinking and positive changes, going forward and moving on. I'd also like to take this opportunity to welcome David Schelkopf to the role (of new City Administrator). Everybody's tired of the negative that's gone on in Valley City, and that's my motto: Vote for Positive Change."
Post-election, what kind of tone would you set with your colleagues at City Hall and your fellow citizens? Ross shared an acronym of the word "leader" for his governing philosophy. "L - listen to the people that elected us to our position. E- educate ourselves on every project that is placed before us. A - ask questions and don't be afraid of people asking questions of us. D - dedicate ourselves to our constituents. E - Encourage community involvement. R - respond to the people that elected us to our position. That's a leader, and every one of those is an important facet of being mayor of this city."
Regardless of the election outcome, do you think it will be a clean slate for Valley City? "I really believe that's what whoever is elected should give them. It can't go on as is, something has to change. If those who are currently in office are re-elected, they have to listen to the voices of the people. There was a petition to recall, and I believe they have to take that into consideration and move forward. And if the two new people are elected, I think that they're looking for positive change because they're tired of the rhetoric and the negativity and this debate that's been going on forever."