Mayoral hopefuls focus on economy in forum
Published 12:00 am Friday, August 23, 2002
The future of Albert Lea’s economy was the hot topic as five candidates for mayor of Albert Lea answered questions during their first live forum.
All five candidates debated on the radio Thursday morning: Mark Anderson, Jean Eaton, George Marin, Don Mathison and Tony Troy all participated, though Marin, who spoke by telephone from San Diego, had to leave for his flight back to Minnesota a few minutes into the debate.
The radio station, Power 96, gave each candidate 60 seconds to answer call-in questions and a few prepared questions from the station. Candidates were also given a chance to give a summary of their platform at the end of the debate.
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Marin, though unable to answer every question, talked about job creation and economic development as one of his main issues. He said that even before starting his mayoral campaign that he has been in contact with many major corporations to discuss possibilities for their settling in Albert Lea. He said that the city must keep one eye on local businesses and one eye on attracting outside businesses.
Though questions dealing with getting Farmland Foods back in Albert Lea, the construction of the courthouse downtown, the lakes and their environmental clean-up and downtown revitalization were asked, most of the discussion found its way back to economic development.
Mark Anderson emphasized the importance of building infrastructure and affordable housing. One of the key elements of building a strong economy, he said, is a focus on retraining. &uot;The technical college is a gem for us,&uot; he said. He stressed the importance of educating laborers so that &uot;$8-an-hour skills&uot; turn into &uot;$20-an-hour skills.&uot;
Anderson also emphasized a need to bring Farmland back to Albert Lea. &uot;When you have this kind of opportunity you go for broke and try to land them,&uot; he said. &uot;We can’t afford to pass an opportunity like this.&uot;
Don Mathison put working together as a community on the forefront of his platform, saying more needs to be done among the city, Greater Jobs, Inc. and the Port Authority. He called for more cooperation and more reaching out. &uot;We need a great attitude to promote our city and we need to look for other incentives that our city can provide,&uot; he said.
Mathison stressed the importance of community discussion. &uot;Sometimes my opinion isn’t the right one,&uot; he said. &uot;I would appreciate people to call me to discuss matters.&uot; Mathison said that discussion would lead to &uot;what is best for the city.&uot;
Tony Trow spoke of his experience with the Minnesota Department of Economic Development as one of his strengths for leadership. Trow said he would like the community to come up with a five-year plan so citizens can find their part to work on.&uot;Community development is everybody’s job,&uot; he said.
Trow emphasized quality of life improvements as a precursor to economic development, saying that every other city in the area has
incentives, streets and sewer systems. He said, &uot;What tips the difference? A town that is nice, friendly, pleasant to live in, with shopping and entertainment experiences. I think those are the next steps that we need to capitalize on.&uot;
Jean Eaton stressed three main points : &uot;Partnership, vision and community.&uot; She said, &uot;We need to get the city council, the city manager’s office, and the county and the mayor all on the same page. We don’t need two more years of people not getting along. It’s very important that they do.&uot;
She also stressed the importance of retraining and recruiting for industry through the college and Greater Jobs, Inc. She said, &uot;I think the quality of life issue is key, but I believe it also is economic growth opportunities, I think they go hand in hand. We need to invest back in our community with people, resources and a positive attitude.&uot;
The Albert Lea Chamber of Commerce plans to hold another debate before the Sept. 10 primary. The primary will cut the pool from five candidates to two, who will be on the ballot in the Nov. 5 general election.