Mayoral primary winners gear up for long haul

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 20, 2002

Albert Lea has narrowed its candidates for mayor down to two: Attorney Mark Anderson and and Freeborn County United Way Director Jean Eaton. As each takes steps toward the general election, they are staking out their stances on the issues, gearing up for more door-to-door campaigning, and trying to figure out exactly how they will approach the mayor position in terms of time, commitment and their careers.

&uot;We are two different people with two different visions,&uot; said Eaton. &uot;It’s up to the community to pick out the vision they would like for themselves.&uot;

Anderson said that while there is a different set of techniques between the two candidates there is agreement overall. &uot;I don’t really think there is disagreement between Jeannie and I about the need for economic development here,&uot; he said.

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The key issues of disagreement seem to be on options for the lake, the downtown and how the economy can be strengthened.

Anderson has been outspoken on his criticism of the local-option sales tax that has been proposed for Albert Lea lakes and downtown. &uot;I don’t think it would be in our best interest when we are competing with Iowa, who already has lower taxes,&uot; he said. &uot;We need to do everything so that customers and businesses are not at a disadvantage.&uot;

Eaton said she is not ready to rule out the local-option sales tax. &uot;Whatever we do we need to consider all of the options that we have for moving forward,&uot; she said. &uot;I think we need to look at not only the sales tax but also federal and state grants.&uot;

Eaton said she is hopeful that the city can help lake cleanup with money from a grant for ecosystem restoration from the regional Army Corps of Engineers.

Anderson said he is skeptical of putting too much money into the lake clean up.

&uot;I have yet to be convinced that dredging Albert Lea Lake is going to make Albert Lea a tourist destination,&uot; he said. Anderson says he thinks the costs of such a project would not be worth it and it would put a heavy burden on tax payers who may end up paying a lot.

&uot;In my experience with working with ditch-construction projects, the cost ends up being two or three times higher than the proposal,&uot; he said.

Another issue on which the candidates spoke was downtown redevelopment. Anderson again stressed being careful with taxpayers’ money as well as with hasty decisions.

&uot;I think we need to determine a core that we’d like to preserve. We have to accept the reality that all buildings can’t be preserved,&uot; said Anderson. He added that preservation of all buildings will drive rent prices up and renters would not see downtown as a place to move their business.

Anderson said he would like to focus on the buildings that the city has moved ahead with, such as the Lea Center. &uot;By focusing on a core, others will be motivated to take advantage of that growth,&uot; he said.

Eaton agreed that the city moving ahead with the Lea Center and other buildings has been a step in the right direction. &uot;I think that our downtown is a great historic area. By investing in it we will put a great deal back into the community,&uot; she said.

Eaton said she thinks that downtown preservation should be on a much broader basis than Anderson’s plan.

While these candidates disagreed on some issues, they both say they’re sure their jobs would not interfere with their work as mayor.

&uot;I don’t think that my job will affect my ability to do the job of mayor,&uot; said Anderson, a lawyer at Christian and Peterson law firm. &uot;I don’t intend being mayor to be a full-time position. The message is out that people don’t want full-time political people.&uot;

Anderson said he plans on focusing on the mayor position, not on the county board or other local groups. &uot;I think it’s not necessary for me to watch other people do their jobs. If something happens that will affect both of us, we will communicate that.&uot;

Eaton, who plans to keep her job as director of the United Way of Freeborn County, said that the United Way board has discussed the possible conflicts that may arise if she is both mayor and director. &uot;We’re optimistic that that won’t happen,&uot; she said. &uot;And if there is a conflict of interest, I will abstain from taking part in a vote.&uot;

&uot;I think if anything that will help me,&uot; Eaton said. &uot;My job already requires me to be plugged in with so many parts of our community.&uot;

Both said that they were unsure how the votes for the other primary candidates &045; Tony Trow, George Marin, and Don Mathison &045; would split up. They said that they weren’t counting on anything at this point.

&uot;I think we saw in the primary that Jeannie is the favorite so that makes me the underdog,&uot; Anderson said.

&uot;I don’t think I will be confident of anything until the last vote has been counted,&uot; Eaton said.