New Ulm City Council – Ward 4 – Larry Mack
Why are you running for election to this position?
I am running for re-election because there’s work to complete that I’ve already helped start — New Ulm’s comprehensive plan. I would like the opportunity to serve another term and work with the rest of the council to get the job done. That means making sure the plan is moving the city in the right direction, meeting citizens’ future needs, and respecting their values. It’s been an honor to represent Ward 4 these past eight years. I’m running for re-election so Ward 4 and all New Ulm residents continue to have a responsive, go-to resource that can ask the tough questions they want asked, do the homework, and work toward responsible solutions for them.
What are the top issues facing New Ulm?
I think most residents will agree that the top issues today in New Ulm are the shortage of housing, the shortage of workers to fill open positions at our businesses, and the shortage of day care. Another important issue is supporting businesses and finding ways to help them grow within our community, whether that’s through tax abatements, loans, or other means. Working on a long-term plan to restore Hermann monument, one of our city’s biggest attractions, is also an issue. And all of these issues need to be addressed while simultaneously dealing with ever-growing inflation. We need to be thoughtful and flexible with our budgeting decisions moving forward, question whether something is a need or a want.
What is your goal for the council if elected?
If re-elected, my primary goal for the council would be for us to continue gathering the community’s feedback on New Ulm’s new comp plan, discuss and incorporate that feedback, and see the plan through to completion in the best way possible. Since I’ve already had a hand in starting the comp plan as a current council member, I’d like to ensure that it allows the city to keep doing what it’s doing right and corrects those things it could improve upon. Other goals for the council would be to continue building relationships with community members of all kinds. We need to know who our constituents are and what they value. I would also like us to explore creative ways to increase housing and day care options.
How would you address the shortages in housing, workforce, and day care in the city?
For the housing shortage, I would like us to explore opportunities in our downtown area, in places such as the George’s Ballroom site or city-owned property that is currently being used for parking. Possibilities I see include 1) the north side of Nuvera on the 200 block of N. German Street facing German Park or 2) to the north of the Broadway House apartment building. I would like a developer to look at these sites and the former mall and provide options for redevelopment. People living downtown would help support restaurants, retail, and services in that area, strengthening the economic situation and thereby attracting additional businesses, tourists, and residents. We have been re-zoning and platting a few new housing developments that will help fill short- and long-term goals for housing, especially for employees new to New Ulm who are looking for transition-type housing while starting a new job or for retired folks looking to downsize. We need to have homeowners reinvest in their current houses, too, to maintain the inner core of our community. As far as the day care shortage goes, the Economic Development Authority (EDA) is looking to purchase a building to support day care, which is a positive step, but I feel we should also be looking at other options that don’t require the removal of yet another building from the tax base. Let’s look, for example, at using part of our senior center for day care opportunities, a spot that’s centrally located and easily accessible. We need to ask current day care providers in town what they need, and if they’re interested in expanding, let’s work with them and find a good solution.
Should the city move forward with development of a park in the Upper Cottonwood area?
There are several long-term infrastructure items to consider before moving forward with additional development in the Upper Cottonwood area. These items include a future water tower, a lift station, and stormwater retention. Also, the main road to the area is at times closed due to flooding, which may necessitate raising the road or looking at the other current roadway to handle any housing expansion. A park in the area would be a benefit to area residents, but there are a lot of details to work through first. The new city comprehensive plan, when completed, will help guide us in how to proceed. That said, I feel we can start to budget and set funds aside now for future expansion.
Are there any areas of the city’s budget you would increase or decrease?
A lot of city budget decisions come down to want vs. need. I feel we need to set aside more money for building maintenance on our current properties. I’m in favor of that. Fact is, as structures age, they inevitably need things replaced, such as roofs, HVAC systems, windows, etc. I am not in favor at this time of budgeting for the purchase of additional equipment that may be used only one or two months of the year, such as leaf-vacuum machines for cleaning streets. In that case, we already provide a free site for residents to dispose of their leaves, trees, etc. To help support the overall budget, I firmly believe the EDA should take a hard look at getting out of the housing business. A place to start would be to sell off Garden Terrace Apartments on North Garden, get them back on the tax base, and put those tax dollars to good use.
What else would you like to address regarding this election and the position?
To me, being a city council member means working as part of a team. It means agreeing and disagreeing, debating and compromising. You are the voice of the people you represent, bringing their concerns, problems, and suggestions to the city council to be heard, discussed, and, if approved, acted on. You need to be accessible and approachable. Constituents need to know that they can trust you to listen to their messages, read their emails and texts, and respond in a timely manner. A community isn’t “one size fits all.” As a city councilor, it’s your job to actively listen to all sides, do your research, and put the good of the greater city before your own wants and ambitions. I’ve dedicated myself to serving Ward 4 these past 8 years, been a part of the New Ulm community for nearly 50, and I’m proud to be here. Part of my job as councilor is to make sure you are, too.