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Fort Dodge City Council primary is Tuesday

Fort Dodge voters are about to begin the process of deciding who will be a member of the City Council next year.

There will be a primary election on Tuesday to whittle down the field of candidates seeking two at-large seats on the council.

The candidates are Brooke Bickford, Richard Higgins, Quennel McCaleb, Eugene Newsome and Councilwoman Lydia Schuur.

Only the top four vote getters in Tuesday’s primary election will advance to the Nov. 2 general election.

There are no primary races for mayor or other council seats.

Mayor Matt Bemrich is unopposed for his fourth term.

Councilman Terry Moehnke is unopposed in Ward 1, Cameron Nelson is unopposed in Ward 2 and Councilman Dave Flattery is unopposed in Ward 3. Councilman Kim Alstott will face challenger Gregory Gubbels in Ward 4 in November.

Here is a brief introduction to the candidates for the at-large seats, along with their answers to questions posed by The Messenger.

Brooke Bickford

Address: 2542 22nd Ave. N.

Occupation: Manages Bickford Realty

Education: Bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa, Iowa City; graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High School

Why should the voters choose you?

“I ran for City Council because I can bring a fresh perspective with experience in money management and business to the table. I am a Fort Dodge native who left and came back. I returned to raise my children around family, but I found and have accomplished so much more in Fort Dodge. My goal as a representative of Fort Dodge is to listen and speak up for people who don’t feel as though their voice is being heard. I would like to bridge the gap between the city and the public and build a better understanding and cooperation.”

What is the No. 1 issue facing the city and what would you seek to do about it if elected?

“I have talked to many people and the concerns that people have raised are over high taxes and their water bills. There are many people on fixed incomes that I see being forced to make choices over whether to stay in their homes and pay hundreds per month in taxes or displace themselves and sell. I would like to see outreach to people and an adjusted fair tax rate.”

What do you think should be done with the Warden Plaza?

“The Warden Plaza was a grand idea, but I feel it is too lofty for the city to continue. I have been involved in the renovation of historic buildings and the one constant is they are never finished. In the case of this building, it should either be sold to a legitimate tax paying buyer with a plan, or it needs to be brought down. I understand the history of the building, but it has sat during my lifetime as an eye sore and liability to the downtown area. The future of Fort Dodge as I see it is bigger and better than one building.”

What is your position on defunding the police?

“I can speak from experience that the police officers in Fort Dodge go above and beyond in keeping all of us safe. I feel that they should receive more funding and respect for the job they do. I would also encourage adding more members to the department.”

Richard Higgins

Address: 1661 Ninth Ave. N.

Occupation: Retired from a career in retailing

Education: Graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High School

Why should the voters choose you?

“I grew up in Fort Dodge and have been interested in city government in most of the towns I lived in. I have attended most of the City Council meetings since 2007, when I returned to Fort Dodge to live, and have learned a lot about city government.

What’s the No. 1 issue facing the city and what would you seek to do about it if elected?

“After listening to some citizens express their concerns over how much the water rates have increased over the last five years, I feel this is an important issue to others and myself. I would work with the city manager, the department head of the water department,and the city clerk/financial director to see what can be done to keep costs down in relation to the water rates.”

What do you think should be done with the Warden Plaza?

“It is hard to comment on this issue. I have not seen the inside of the building, but know that it is a big problem for the city. Also I don’t know what litigation is going on with it at this time. I feel that it should be restored and if that is not possible it should be demolished. If demolished it should be opened up for future development.”

What is your position on defunding the police?

“I am against it. The reason is that the police and fire departments are very important to the citizens of Fort Dodge. They provide the services to keep each and every citizen safe.

“In fact, I would like to see more funds allocated to the Police Department to address problems that are existing today like mental health issues.”

Quennel McCaleb

Address: 1629 Floral Ave.

Occupation: Coach and student support services/transition specialist for Fort Dodge Community School District

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Buena Vista University, Storm Lake; Graduate of Fort Dodge Senior High School

Why should the voters choose you?

“Voters should choose me because my heart is Fort Dodge. I’ve been here my entire life and every thing I have done is to improve the city and everyone around me.”

What is the No. 1 issue facing the city and what would you seek to do about it if elected?

“The No. 1 issue in Fort Dodge the lack of support for our youth. What is there to do for our youth on a Friday or Saturday night? Nothing. … I would address this issue with local businesses and schools and try and find things for youth to do to fill some free time.”

What do you think should be done with the Warden Plaza project?

“I think we need to remove it. Put up a state-of-the-art Rec Center. Something big enough to host all our sporting events and then some. Tournaments that would bring people in from out of town, a place to send kids that was safe and fun, all this generates revenue for Fort Dodge and we continue to grow.”

What is your position on defunding the police?

“How about we add some training, and some type support groups? Add extra officers on the ground would also help. Work with the ones that protect us, not against them. They are the reason we sleep peacefully at night.”

Eugene Newsome

Address: 322 Ave. F

Occupation: Retired

Education: Associate degree from Iowa Central Community College

Why should the voters choose you?

“Because I am the most sincere in my desire to serve the people and not only speak up on the behalf of the minorities, but for any and all of the citizens of our community.”

What is the No. 1 issue facing the city and what would you seek to do about it if elected?

“I feel the No. 1 issue facing the city is marijuana. If I am elected, I will work towards the decriminalization of the use of marijuana.”

What do you think should be done with the Warden Plaza project?

“I don’t have any desire to see the Warden Plaza building torn down. The mayor and council members had a good plan. I think we should keep seeking investors.”

What is your position on defunding the police?

“No one seeks to defund the Police Department. The outcry was to remove bad cops from the force. I believe the Fort Dodge Police Department is doing a great job.”

Lydia Schuur

Address: 1040 N. 19th St.

Occupation: Communications specialist, Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance

Education: Bachelor’s degree from Buena Vista University, Storm Lake; associate degree from Iowa Cental Community College; graduate of St. Edmond High School

Why should the voters choose you?

“I would like to serve the citizens of Fort Dodge. Over the course of my first term, we have seen a lot of projects start and I would like to be able to continue working on them, such as the development at the former mall site and broadband. I will continue to work towards making Fort Dodge not only a regional hub, but a community in which people choose to live and those who have moved away will want to return.”

What is the No. 1 issue facing the city and what would you seek to do about it if elected?

“One of the lessons I’ve learned is that it’s very hard to pinpoint one issue, especially as an at-large council member, because when I look at the city as a whole I see various things that I would like to either continue with or have an opportunity to be a part of the change. I think it’s important to offer citizens broadband. Everyone should have reliable access to the internet in today’s world.

“Fort Dodge has really great amenities for those who enjoy outdoor activities, but I would like to see us improve when it comes to retail and restaurants. We should be drawing people from smaller surrounding communities as their retail hub.

” Child care is a huge need and I would support efforts from the city to help create more spots for families.

“While we’ve made progress in our downtown, there is still room for more. The facade updates are wonderful, the MainStreet program has been a really great addition to our city, and the efforts to bring our downtown back to life and programs like the downtown cameras will also help with added security for those who work in and visit downtown.”

What do you think should be done with the Warden Plaza project?

“The council has voted to have TIF, historical tax credits, and workforce tax credits in place so a motivated, qualified developer can get the project done. KDG as the current owner hasn’t been successful with their efforts, but if another developer is interested I would support their efforts to bring the building back to life. Our downtown has a lot of beautiful buildings, and I would love to see them being utilized.”

What is your position on defunding the police?

“I have always supported our Police Department with my votes in the past, and if the money is available, I would support adding to the force.”

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