Editorial: Strong mayor deserves another term
Published in the Argus Leader on Sunday, April 6, 2014.
Much has happened in Sioux Falls since the spring of 2010.
The local economy has churned back to full speed; the Sanford Premier Center has moved quickly from concept toward grand opening, and upgrades to the downtown area have greatly transformed the city’s core.
It took hard work by many people, some timely investments from developers and perhaps a bit of luck to achieve those successes.
The one constant through that time period has been the mayor. Mike Huether has presided over one of the more productive, transformative times in Sioux Falls history.
In some ways, he is fortunate to be able to ride the wave of prosperity. But we think he also deserves credit for his role in this city’s successes.
We believe Huether should be re-elected as Sioux Falls’ mayor.
He came into office as an unknown. His race for mayor was his first attempt at an elected position. Many were surprised to see him emerge victorious from a field of better-known names and more-experienced elected officials.
But he worked hard in that campaign, and he won.
Huether’s first term in office has not been without strife. His forceful approach to governing has rankled some. He has clashed with the council on some topics, including their desire to approve larger city contracts.
His stubborn refusal to see the potential problems created by his investment in a local development project has been frustrating, and we will continue to push for greater transparency by elected officials in such involvements.
We have come to realize that this mayor is a little different than many. He is emotional, given to bravado and occasional overstatement.
But Huether is a hard worker, a dedicated public servant and a driving, focused leader. And he is resilient, as a good mayor surely must be.
He is the mayor who finally got an event center approved by the public and built.
He pushed for a major change in the city’s pension program that ultimately will save taxpayers millions of dollars and give city workers benefits under the state’s retirement system. That’s good financial stewardship, an important priority for an effective mayor.
He and his staff have added millions to the budget for street repairs, and he proposes adding and continuing to upgrade parks. Those are good moves for a mayor.
He was the public face of last year’s devastating ice storm. He worked hard to reassure rattled residents, oversaw a well-planned response effort from city crews and kept people informed on cleanup and restoration efforts. Again, that’s what a good mayor does.
Early in his term, he started holding regular listening meetings at area restaurants. His availability to the public and willingness to take questions from anyone who happens to stop by is admirable.
He’s approachable and friendly. Sioux Falls residents generally like Huether. Two polls taken in the early years of his term showed job approval ratings above 60 percent.
Huether’s opponent, Greg Jamison, is a trusted member of the Sioux Falls City Council. He is an earnest public servant, well-intentioned and dedicated. On the council, he is a steady voice for conservative fiscal management.
We don’t believe Jamison is the best fit for the mayor’s position, however.
Huether certainly will continue to face tough challenges if re-elected. The effort to move railroad tracks from downtown Sioux Falls has been saddled by missteps and restarts. Voters might derail city hopes for moving ahead with a new indoor pool and turn back zoning that affects plans for a Walmart store in the southeastern part of the city.
But Huether has matured in his four years in office. He speaks with knowledge on issues and plans and seems to be getting more comfortable with dissenting views.
No matter who wins the election, we will continue to push for greater transparency from the mayor and others. We will support any council effort to require more detailed financial disclosure statements and greater transparency on personal and family investments in city developments by elected officials. We will continue to ask questions and probe for answers from city leaders.
We believe Mike Huether should continue to lead Sioux Falls. He deserves your vote for a second term as mayor.
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