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ELECTION Q&A: FOR FREEMAN MAYOR

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This is the first of three election profiles. Tomorrow: Menno School Board; Friday: Freeman School Board

  • Article Image Alt Text
    Left: Michael Walter; Right: Terry Waterman

 

CANDIDATE PROFILES

Michael Walter

Age: 64

Occupation: Funeral Director

Wife: Betty

Family:

Sons - Adam (Julie) children: Aiden, Asher, Aston and Aidelyn; Nathan (Janett); children: David and Benjamin; Seth (Mara); children: Desmond, Burke and Alena

Daughter - Michal (Mark) Putzke; children: Ava and Noah

Step-daughters - Brianna (Tyler) Veurink; children: Marlee and Emma; Shelby Bauer

Terry Waterman

Age: 52

Occupation: Agronomy Sales for CHS Freeman

Family:

Wife - Sheryl                                                                                                  

Daughters - Whitney Waterman, Aspin Waterman, Whitney Hunter

Sons - Tyson Waterman and Hunter Waterman

WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR MAYOR?

MICHAEL WALTER: I was born and raised in Freeman. I’ve been in business in Freeman for well over 40 years. Freeman has been very good to my family. I would like to help to ensure that my children and grandchildren will have the same opportunities and enjoy the same benefits Freeman has afforded me. I believe my skillset and past experience in city government fits well with the role of Mayor. I’m running because I see immediate and foreseeable problems that I would like to help with. Probably most important is that I love Freeman. It is my past and my future.

TERRY WATERMAN: I have always been a political person and have been involved with things that happen in the community. I plan on living here the rest of my life and believe that I can help do things in this community that will better my family and the families of this town. I have lived in a couple other communities in the past 30 years and seen mistakes they have made and seen successes they have had, hopefully I can bring some knowledge.

WHAT QUALITIES DO YOU/WOULD YOU BRING TO THE LEADERSHIP POSITION FOR THE CITY OF FREEMAN?

MICHAEL WALTER: I was born and raised in Freeman. I’ve been in business in Freeman for well over 40 years. Freeman has been very good to my family. I would like to help to ensure that my children and grandchildren will have the same opportunities and enjoy the same benefits Freeman has afforded me. I believe my skillset and past experience in city government fits well with the role of Mayor. I’m running because I see immediate and foreseeable problems that I would like to help with. Probably most important is that I love Freeman. It is my past and my future.

TERRY WATERMAN: I have always been a political person and have been involved with things that happen in the community. I plan on living here the rest of my life and believe that I can help do things in this community that will better my family and the families of this town. I have lived in a couple other communities in the past 30 years and have seen mistakes they have made and seen successes they have had; hopefully I can bring some knowledge to this community that will be for the betterment of the people of Freeman.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE STATE OF THE CITY OF FREEMAN? WHY?

MICHAEL WALTER: I realize that my views are from the outside looking in and from going over the city minutes. This might not provide me with a total picture of the state of Freeman but with some experience in city government and some business sense, I believe Freeman needs to reevaluate its priorities. Business 101 tells you that essential items such as streets, water and sewer, things Freeman must provide have to be given the highest priority. Then you look at services the city is providing but could either provide or contract out, ie: garbage service, recycling and police protection and you find out what the cost to benefit is to the city. If you have money left over, you decide how to spend it on non-essential items, ie: parks, pools, libraries and golf course. I am oversimplifying this format but this I believe should be the mindset of Freeman city government. City government cannot sit and try to put every fire out as it comes along. It must set priorities and goals or Freeman will find itself in an unsustainable position. One of the things I learned in city government is that government does not run the same as business. But if common sense and simple business practices are not applied to city government, the city will struggle. What shape is Freeman in? If Freeman starts applying common sense and simple business practices to its government, I’m optimistic of Freeman’s future. If it doesn’t start prioritizing and setting goals, communicating and organizing, I fear it won’t take much of a bump to send us into the ditch.

TERRY WATERMAN: I think the town of Freeman is very similar to every other small farming community in the Midwest. They struggle for growth, and to keep our children here. Small towns across the country rely on the economy that supports them.  Here in Freeman, that is our farmers and local businesses. Over the years we have all seen other communities shrink down to the point where there is basically nothing left but a post office. Great small communities come up with ways to continue to grow and excel.  Freeman needs to keep up with new development (housing and business) and things that will keep some of our children in the area. We as a town need to keep things like our park, sport complexes, swimming pools and adapt to any growth that would come up in the future.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST INFRASTRUCTRE CHALLENGE CURRETLY FACING THE CITY?

MICHAEL WALTER: Streets are always the most challenging. Sewer and water are also very important and expensive infrastructure services but for the most part they are self-funded. Streets are not. If you talk about streets you have to include drainage. They go hand in hand. The two most difficult things about streets and drainage are funding and continuity. The first is funding, money for new curb and gutter and money to keep up the maintenance on what you have. There is a plan for curb and guttering all of Freeman. Phase 1 was the 5th and 6th Street project. Why further funding mechanisms have not been pursued to continue with this plan, I do not know. There are grants that have not been pursued to try to help Freeman go forward with this. Streets also need to be managed and organized so repairs are done in a timely manner to reduce cost. I don’t believe we are getting enough out of our over $300,000 street budget. What are Freeman’s plans for its streets? Reading the last several years of city council minutes I cannot find one. Whether you are looking to build new or maintain what you have, you need to have a plan and you need to manage that plan. You need to set goals with how to reach those goals and follow through with them. This is where continuity comes in. Plans need to be made for today, this month, this year and for the years ahead. Many things come up in the course of the year in city government. It is easy to get sidetracked by other projects. To provide continuity, the city is going to have to prioritize streets and drainage as number one.

TERRY WATERMAN: This in my mind are streets and flooding issues. The past few years Mother Nature has exposed some severe flooding issues in the community that need our attention.  There were a lot of houses (basements) that were damaged due to flooding.  Something needs to get done so that this does not happen again. We also have some streets that are in very bad shape that need repairs and many streets are dark with no street lights. These are large and expensive projects that need to be moved to the top of our list. Other concerns since I have been in the community would consist of cleaning some of the areas of our community up. We are also in need of a housing development one way or another so that those wanting to move or upgrade into the community have more options to choose from.  We need to start focusing on our local businesses when things are going on in the community to include them to reap the benefits so we don’t lose our small businesses.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST NON-INFRASTRUCTURE CHALLENGE CURRENTLY FACING THE CITY?

MICHAEL WALTER: The most immediate is the lack of communication and organization that exists in our present city government. It is hard for me to believe in this day of email, texts and cell phones that there can be such a lack of communication and organization in our city government. This needs to change and change very rapidly. If city government and its employees are not on the same page and not pulling in the same direction, nothing will be achieved. Another serious problem facing the city is our ordinance book. Reading the minutes of the city’s meetings I see that there is a lot of talk about city ordinances, but I don’t see the enforcement of these city ordinances. The city needs to either start enforcing Freeman’s ordinances or we need to remove them from the book. Last but not least, we need to prioritize our expenditures. Spending $650,000 for a golf course and not sure if we can spend $70,000 in our industrial park? Is this really the route we want to go?

TERRY WATERMAN: There are many non-infrastructure challenges in every community, things from simple city safety topics, law enforcement, illegal drug problems, audits, nursing home care, hospitals, libraries and so on. The one that always rises to the top, is schools. Freeman has a great school system that has great leadership and employees. We need to continue to keep our school system strong and support it in every way. Having a great school is part of a great town. Municipalities fade fast without their school.

WHAT IS FREEMAN'S BIGGEST UNTAPPED RESOURCE AND HOW CAN THAT BE BETTER UTILIZED?

MICHAEL WALTER: Freeman’s people. Freeman has been blessed to have had people from all walks of life with a passion for this community. From the hospital, nursing home, churches, Salem Home and our two schools, to the many businesses and manufacturing companies. Many people have worked very hard, spent many hours volunteering their time and monies to make these dreams a reality. All the people that helped make these hopes and dreams come true were looking to the future. I somehow think our city government has lost some of that desire. Maybe we are just content. I don’t believe that what we have today has to be here tomorrow. I don’t believe the world we live in today has a neutral. It’s either forward or reverse. City government needs to lead the way forward. It needs to wisely use our resources to keep our infrastructure in great working order. It needs to look for resources so we can realize the hopes and dreams of people with a passion for Freeman tomorrow. In talking with people over the last two years about Freeman, I have been encouraged to listen to people who still have that passion. City government needs to provide them with the tools to build that future.

TERRY WATERMAN: The people of Freeman. This is a great community with large numbers of great people that do all kinds of things in community every day. I think there is more that we as the people can do to make this a better community. If you are not involved you need to try harder. First of all ,we need to do whatever it takes to support our children of freeman, attend sporting event, academic events, community events. Provide them updated facilities for these events to show our support to them. We need to support and volunteer to our organizations in the community such as, volunteer fire and rescue squad, Lions clubs, and any other clubs in the community. Support our churches and activities that they hold. Support our local business. The more that we can get our own people involved the more outsider and new people will want to be involved and that will bring growth and economics. It’s our community and will only be as great as the people in it.

FREEMAN HAS THRIVED THROUGHOUT ITS HISTORY. WHAT WILL BE THE KEY TO SUSTAINING THAT THE NEXT 50 YEARS?

MICHAEL WALTER: Freeman has thrived throughout the years because the people have looked to the future without forgetting their past. I think as a community we must follow their footsteps as we go forward, never forgetting our heritage and why our forefathers left and what they were looking for. I am old enough to remember 1st generation Freemanites talking about the struggle of trying to find a better life. Trying to build a better tomorrow for their children. If we work half as hard today as those who have gone before us, remembering our past with an eye on the future, Freeman’s future will be very bright.

TERRY WATERMAN: Development and business growth, along with a strong school system, activities for our young people. And the people of our community supporting our businesses and our farmers. We also need strong leadership from people in the community. We need activities and events for our citizens to take part in. Most of all the people need to know, that they have a voice.

FINALLY, WHAT ELSE WOULD LIKE THE VOTERS OF FREEMAN TO KNOW?

MICHAEL WALTER: I would like the citizens of Freeman to know that I take the office of Mayor very seriously. I am sensitive to the fact that every penny the city spends is not theirs but the citizens. I believe the office of Mayor works for the citizens and must have the mindset of servantude. I do believe that with my past city government experience and my experience of being a business owner will serve me well in the role of being your mayor.

TERRY WATERMAN: I would like the community of Freeman to know that if I am elected Mayor of this town that I will work hard doing the things that are best for the people. I will work hard to bring both sides of the story to the council. I will listen to what the people of this community have to say. The people of this town are the important piece of a community and their thoughts need to be shared. I would be very open to suggestions and ideals. It is a great community to be a part of. Without the people there is no community!!!!!