City of Manawa residents have a decision to make on Tuesday, Feb. 19 when they head to the polls. They must cut the mayoral race from three candidates to two candidates. The two candidates who receive the most votes will move on to the general election on Tuesday, April 2.
The three candidates running for mayor of Manawa are David Augustine, Michael Frazier and John Smith.
Augustine is a retired educator who has lived in Manawa since 1986. He has taught in several school districts, including 14 years in the School District of Manawa.
Augustine has held several civic and public positions, including being appointed to the Manawa School Board and the Manawa City Council in the past. He has also been the Manawa Summer Recreation Director and CWYB Baseball Commissioner, as well as a member of the Manawa Housing and Assessment Board, Fire and Ambulance Board, and Department of Commerce-Census Bureau 2010 Field Supervisor East Central Wisconsin.
Frazier, who is employed at Manawa Telephone Company, has lived in Manawa since he was three years old. He is currently a member of the Manawa City Council representing Ward 3. He has been on the city council for a little more than four years.
Frazier is involved with the local Jaycees, including several stints as an officer, including president. He has also held four different positions including vice president for the state Jaycees. He is a three time chairman at St. Paul’s Church, which has 1,100 members.
Smith, who owns Smith’s Manawa Steakhouse, has lived in the Manawa area since he was 11 years old. In the past he worked for the Waupaca Foundry before opening his own business in Manawa, where he resides.
Smith has been a member of the Manawa Chamber of Commerce for a little more than nine years. He was also one of the original members of the Business Revitalization Group that recently formed in Manawa. The goal of the group is to increase business in Manawa’s downtown district.
Why did you decide to run for mayor?
“I could say there were a number of reasons,” Augustine said. “My platform is really to focus on the future. If you look at the way the governing body of our community is right now, it’s gone through a number of mayors in the last 12 years and there is no consistency. Without that consistency, things have happened.”
Augustine said he feels things need to change on the government body in Manawa.
“People want change, but we’re not going to change things if we keep re-electing [the same] people,” Augustine said. “I think there is somebody who needs to come in and focus on that.”
Augustine said the city needs to start looking toward the future because the top city leaders are all at retirement age. He said a plan needs to be in place for when they retire because of the experience the city will be losing.
“After very careful consideration, talking it over with my family as well as my employer here, I decided because of my experience on city council that it will be beneficial for this city for me to run for mayor,” Frazier said. “In the back of my mind when I started on city council that was a goal also, to be the mayor of this fine city. Even though some people like to downgrade small towns I think it is one of the best things that we have to offer.”
Frazier said he learned at a young age, while cutting grass for former mayor George Jensen, how to take a common sense approach to solving problems.
“You don’t get mad at people or upset. You just listen to both sides, reach a decision and move forward,” Frazier said.
“Running for mayor has been in the back of my mind for several years,” Smith said. “I think a lot of people who are discontent with what is going on around them in their communities sit back and complain, sit back and talk about how things could be.”
From his time working for Waupaca Foundry, Smith said he learned that if you are not going to be part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.
“What better position to sit in than the mayor’s position to try to help guide and organize the city government and the common council,” Smith said.
Smith said residents need to get more involved, and they need to know who their public officials are. He also said residents have the right to state their opinions.
“I think the people in our community need to be heard,” Smith said. “They obviously have an opinion. They have a right to that opinion.”
What are the major issues Manawa is facing?
“It’s the downtown area,” Augustine said. “We don’t have the businesses.”
“Like all small towns, keeping local business,” Frazier said. “But we are also very fortunate here that we do have the largest employer in Waupaca County here in Sturm Foods.”
“The biggest issue right now is we have a dying downtown area,” Smith said. “… When businesses are struggling I think our city should step in and say, ‘What can we do to help you?'”
Smith said if a business updates or beautifies their property, then they are hit with an increase in property taxes. He cited when he added 1,100 square feet to his business, his taxes almost doubled.
“We need to look at our downtown and say, ‘You know what, these buildings need a facelift.’ We need to update and not punish the business owners or the taxpayers,” Smith said.
As businesses in Manawa close less services are being offered to the residents of Manawa, and that’s a problem, Smith said.
Along with the downtown area, Augustine said people need to support the businesses that are in Manawa.
“I think the businesses that we have here right now do a great job and they support a lot of organizations, but they can’t do it themselves,” Augustine said.
Augustine said residents need to build an attitude of being proud to be from Manawa.
Augustine also feels that the mayor and city council should not make decisions as to how many hours an employee works.
He said that decision should be up to an administrator.
The deteriorating city streets are another concern Frazier has.
“They have to be replaced,” Frazier said. “Of course this spring Union Street gets redone, and Oak Street, but we have other ones warming up in the bullpen that are going to have to be done as well as sewer and water laterals because of the safety and wellbeing of the community.”
Another issue Smith brought up concerned how the community is separated.
“The business district, the school district and our city government have all gone in separate directions,” Smith said. “When I was going to school here, it was a tight knit community. In the last 20 years we’ve seen that all separate. Now there are some groups coming back together and trying to refocus and trying to bring that bond back.”
(In next week’s County Post East, the mayoral candidates will discuss their vision for Manawa’s future and what they would do as mayor to achieve that vision.)