Backer wants voters to have choice
NEW ULM — Kathleen Backer is running for the office of New Ulm Mayor.
Backer is a native of New Ulm. She raised her children in New Ulm and has lived in the city for most of her life. She is currently the Executive Director of the Brown County Historical Society.
“It would be an honor and a privilege to be mayor of New Ulm,” Backer said. “I believe I have the skills the experience.”
Backer also feels it is important to give the voters of New Ulm a choice in the election.
Asked about the mayor’s position in New Ulm, Backer said the sum of the New Ulm mayor’s duties is to be an advocate for the city.
She said that means advocate to complete Highway 14, advocate to hold the line on taxes, advocate and support efforts for economic development and advocate for housing and availability.
Backer said in the process of being an advocate, she would listen to the concerns of constituents and work to find a solution to their problems.
She acknowledges the mayor does not vote on the council, but said the mayor has an opportunity to advocate for particular issues. In part this means making sure the city maximizes the use of tax payer dollars.
Backer also feels the mayor needs to be an ambassador of good will to visitors and put the best foot forward for the city of New Ulm.
Asked about the top issues facing New Ulm, Backer cited economic development as a top priority. She believes in augmenting and supporting the existing businesses and then recruiting additional businesses.
“We sometimes bemoan the loss of business, and we should, but I feel it’s very important to understand and appreciate those currently investing in our community,” Backer said.
Backer said empty store fronts were not unique to New Ulm. It is happening across the country.
“We are unique in that we have a wonderful backdrop and a wonderful support system to attract retail and industry,” she said.
As mayor, Backer would support the efforts of those currently working to fill business and retail positions.
Housing is another important piece. A housing study identified 150 units of housing were needed to meet New Ulm’s demand. Backer said this need was being addressed by recent construction, but the city needed to continue furthering these efforts. On a case by case basis, Backer supported the idea to modify city code to meet housing goals.
Backer wants to continue lobbying to make Highway 14 a four-lane road to include New Ulm with all related improvement.
“My concern is that improvements have been made related to many of the coalition members and one of the challenge going forward will be to continue a strong lobby with support from all members,” she said.
Backer takes a hard stance on the Hermann hillside restoration.
“I would advocate for holding the line on funds,” Backer said. She believed the difference between $200,000 and $500,000 was a hard sell, just to match Martin Luther College.
“I believe MLC is a separate entity from Hermann Monument and it does not have to be the same as far as taking care of landscaping.”
On the holiday garlands, Backer supported continuing the tradition.
“As a historian of course I believe in having the tradition garlands as long as it is safe,” she said. “It adds tremendous reinforcement of the strong heritage in this community and the tradition we perpetuate.”
Backer’s only concern with the garlands was safety. She said a different plan would be needed if the garlands jeopardize people or property.
Continuing the garland tradition could cost a considerable amount of money. Backer favors spreading the costs throughout the system rather than leaving it to an individual. Rather than have a single business incur the costs of making the garlands safe the city and Chamber of Commerce needed to look into all resources including grants and fundraising.
Asked about the future of the New Ulm park system, Backer said New Ulm has an excellent system and it should be continued when the budget allows.
“I believe in accessibility,” she said. “Neighborhood parks need to be throughout the city.”
She wanted to make sure the city was keeping up with park establishment, ahead of improvements to existing parks.
Asked why she was the best candidate for mayor, Backer said, “I am the best candidate for the position of mayor because I am dedicated to, and enthusiastic about, New Ulm.”
If elected she promised to engage, energize and activate the city’s residents. Backer described herself as an experienced leader and decision maker in New Ulm who has demonstrated support of youth, education, heritage, senior services, health care, recreation and the community in general with volunteer service.
Backer has worked as a church youth leader, 4-H leader, was elected school board member twice, served on the Oak Hills Living Center Board of Directors, the Junior Pioneers Board of Directors and the Brown County Fair Board of Directors, and is a member of New Ulm Medical Center Foundation Board.
Backer takes pride in her communication skills and believes it is important as mayor to be accessible by keeping regular office hours and by being at meeting places in the community to better move concerns forward.
“I believe in New Ulm, I support New Ulm” she said. “I am a leader and a decision maker.”