Marion City Council At-Large candidates Randy Strnad and Dale Monroe met Wednesday evening in the Hickory Room at Lowe Park giving their views on a variety of city topics in the Marion Economic Development Corporation's candidate forum.
Strnad, the race incumbent, was selected to fill an at-large open seat in 2016 and voters elected him to a four year term in 2017. He is a former member of the Marion Volunteer Fire Department and was active with the Chamber of Commerce welcoming businesses to Marion. After ten years in retail, Strnad transitioned into a successful instance sales business that he runs today.
Monroe is no stranger to government siting on Marion’s Planning and Zoning Commission is a former Marion Economic Development chairman and served on the Marion Library Foundation Board.
Managing Marion’s explosive growth dominated much of the hour long event. According to the 2020 census the city is now the thirteenth largest in the state with over forty-one thousand residents and brings new challenges.
One of those challenges is keeping the “small town” atmosphere while dealing with “big city” size. For Monroe working to, “keep that welcoming feeling,” amongst residents is important. Additionally, supporting growth requires Marion, “grow businesses,” to provide adequate financial resources going forward. Srrnad sees completing the Uptown renovation of the Uptown while at the same time building out the Tower Terrace corridor. He also supports TIF or tax incentive financing but says the City needs to be “careful” with the awards to make sure future revenues are realized.
Strnad pointed noted a change in new business recruiting during is Council term. Businesses transitions, “from shovel to building ready,” sites reflecting a desire to open quickly. Adding retail sites can become its own problem with Dale Monroe warning, “we are gonna run out of land.”
When both men were asked to describe Marion twenty years from now, Monroe sees a city of sixty thousand, more adult oriented sports opportunities, a new aquatics option, a botanical center and a landfill replacement. Stnad echoed the expectation the landfill will be closed, but also sees Marion expanding up to County Home Road and further east of Highway 13. Growth to the north will require additional amenities to support that population and he expects Tower Terrace Road to be completed. Guiding this development is Marion’s comprehensive plan that both men lauded as an outstanding blueprint for the future.
Expanding the airport is seen by both candidates as important to Marion’s economic development. Dale Monroe wants to see updated runways and facilities with Randy Strnad hoping for more, “engagement with the business community.”
When considering taxes, both oppose any property tax increases but support renewing the Local Option Sales Tax for another ten years. Strnad said LOST provides six million dollars a year and, “if we don’t pass LOST, we could see increases to property taxes.” Over the next ten years thirty percent of proposed revenue will be used for capital improvements with seventy percent allocated to rebuilding infrastructure in Marion. Dale Monroe also encouraged a vote in favor of the one cent sales tax addition pointing thirty-five percent of that revenue comes from people outside Marion coming into town and shopping in local establishments.
The candidates were both asked who they seek out for advice when deciding on policy. Strnad talks frequently with constituents and works with a variety of organizations, collecting their input on proposals. Monroe highlighted listening which is, “what God prepared us all for,” and, “is one of the kindest things you can do.”
In their closing remarks, Monroe emphasized living in Marion more than forty years and being, “passionate about service.” Strnad noted his government experience having been on the council for one term and pointed out a new city manager takes over at the end of November. Having a solid, experienced city council flattens the new manager’s learning curve.
On November 2nd, four seats on the council are up for election. However, Grant Harper, appointed to fill the late Paul Draper’s spot, Steve Jensen and Sara Mentzer are all unopposed for their seats.