Council hopefuls put to the test

By Per Peterson

Candidates vying for five open Tracy City Council seats offered varying opinions Sunday on increasing the size of Tracy’s city council.

One of the topics at the city council candidate debate centered around the expansion of the council, and candidates gave pointed opinions about the council going up from five to seven.

“I disagree with the seven-man council; I think five is plenty,” said candidate Ron Koopman. “I look at the other cities around us — Marshall five, Pipestone five, Worthington five — I’m wondering why we’re setting it at seven. A five-man council can make just as many good decisions as a seven-man council. I just don’t see the purpose of having two extra people involved on the council.”

Tracy residents in 2018 voted 440-274 to expand by two the number of council members — a vote that reversed one eight years earlier that decreased the size of the council by two members.

Three candidates from this year’s pool will be elected to a four-year term, and two will be chosen to fill two-year terms.

To determine what vote-getters will be awarded which terms, the Tracy City Council on July 13 passed a resolution to award the top three vote-getters the four-year terms, and the fourth and fifth vote-getters the two-year terms.

Six of the nine candidates took part in the debate: Koopman, Rhonda Fredericks, Rosemary Martin, George Landuyt, Reuben Sundheim and Ken Witt. Candidates Seth Schmidt, Dave Tiegs and Kou Thao were unable to attend. The event at City Hall was sponsored by Above The Fold Publishing, and Tom Morin served as the moderator.

The question about the size of the city council made reference to the possibility of more polarization among a larger council, and Morin asked the candidates how they would handle a possible increase in divisiveness that could result in personal issues.

“I think (adding council members) will be good in some ways, because there can be more discussions — there can be more ideas,” Fredericks said.

Koopman said a larger council means more expenditures for the City. Adding two council members in Tracy represents an added annual expenditure of about $5,400 for city government. City council members are paid $551 a quarter, and $20 for each council meeting attended (there are 24 per year), adding up to compensation of just under $2,700 for a council person who attended two meetings per month.

“It doesn’t sound like much, but add that times 20 years and see what you come up with,” Koopman said.

See this week’s Headlight Herald for more on this article.