The three candidates running for mayor of Manawa each have a vision for Manawa’s future. And if elected, they each have a plan on how to achieve that vision.
David Augustine said he envisions Manawa becoming more of a tourist destination, which includes improving the downtown area.
“That might be a major, major endeavor,” Augustine said. “I think the services we have here are good, but they can always be better. I think the constant vision that I have is simply never forget to improve. You can’t get to a point where you say, ‘Well, this is it. We’re great already.’ It’s always that constant building of continuity, building that pride in the community.”
He said residents need to get to a point where they are proud of where they are from. This includes improving the parks.
“We have a fantastic parks system but we don’t pay a lot of attention to it,” Augustine said. “We went through, ‘Should we open the gate? Should we close the gate?'”
Augustine said he would also like to see an annual festival held in Manawa.
“It’s that sense of community. It can get there because I think we have that cycle of youth coming through, which to me is great,” Augustine said.
Augustine said he envisions younger residents taking an interest in improving the city. He pointed to the fact the city council currently has two members on it that Augustine coached.
“I’m glad that at the council meetings I’ve attended or I’ve seen them, they have voice,” Augustine said.
Hiring a city administrator would help encourage younger residents to become involved, Augustine said.
“I think with an [city] administrator you have the continuity,” Augustine said. “The people who come in who may not have the experience but still have a voice and want things to happen. They can get the right information. They can get accurate information. They can create a strategic plan.”
The help achieve his vision Augustine said he believes the community needs to communicate with officials in the county, state and Washington, D.C. He said the city administrator could do this.
“I think you have to envision benefits of the decisions you are going to make,” Augustine said. “How is that going to benefit this community five years or 10 years down the road. If you create a good attitude and good philosophy, that goes a long way. People feel good about things and they want to get more involved.”
In addition to adding a city administrator, Augustine said he would like to see the formation of two advisory committees. He said these committees would be comprised of residents who may not have the experience in running a whole city, but they have expertise in specific areas that impact the city.
“The only way you are going to get the answer is to create your own knowledge, and you have to get knowledge from other people.”
Michael Frazier said he can remember a strong community in Manawa when he was a kid, where there was a thriving downtown area.
“But now the big box stores have moved in and have really hurt the small businesses, but at the same time you have to have a niche that they (businesses) can draw you into,” Frazier said. “Whether it’s an antique store or somebody who has a really nice fix-it shop, something that will draw people in.
Frazier said Manawa will never compete with Door County for tourism, but that doesn’t mean Manawa can’t attract tourists.
“There are 52 weekends plus vacations when people can come,” he said.
There are several current examples that Frazier pointed out as examples of how the city is improving.
“The lodge up here to the north, that was a field, now you have a beautiful lodge,” Frazier said. “The nursing home has done a fantastic renovation job. Some of the businesses here have fixed things up so nice. You start putting that all together and you go, ‘Wow, it is really a nice little place to live.'”
To achieve his vision, Frazier said, “Number one, you have to work with your council. They have to share that vision with you, otherwise you’ll have a fight on your hands. I think that’s detrimental to a small community, to be fighting all the time. You have to realize that you have to work together to accomplish things for the benefit of everybody who lives here, as well as for those who want to visit.”
Frazier said the input from younger residents is also important because they bring ideas from a different generation.
In addition, Frazier said that since he is a current city council member, he is familiar with the process of how city government works, which would help him achieve his vision.
Communication is key, Frazier said.
John Smith summed up his vision in one word – growth.
“Growth being one that we are going to have to keep up with the times,” Smith said. “I don’t necessarily believe it’s the mayor’s position for that. I believe that at some point in time Manawa needs to have a city administrator. Somebody who is educated in grant writing. Somebody who knows where to look for grants and how to get them submitted on time. In a town our size, they could run everything.”
Smith said he believes that proper planning “can hopefully reduce taxes, our tax base on people.”
Promoting Manawa is also part of Smith’s vision. He said the mayor should be the person who meets with prospective new businesses.
To achieve his vision, Smith said he would guide the city council.
“You have to be able to speak with them and sell it (adding a city administrator) to the community that in the long run this is what we need to do,” Smith said. “I am definitely not looking to eliminate current positions, however, as people would retire or move on, we have people who are in positions that have been there for a long time, and as I stated, do a good job. You don’t want to lose those people. But before those people are gone you need to have somebody in place so it’s a seamless transition when it does happen.”
Smith acknowledged that adding a city administrator would add to the city’s payroll for a year or two before the transition.
“Then you would save in the end because you’d have one person doing the job rather than two or three people,” Smith said.
Smith said he would also like to see no closed hours at city hall.
“We should be open during lunch hours. We have several people who are working in that office and in my mind there is no reason for it to be closed,” Smith said. “The hours could be extended to provide a service after people are done with work as well.”
Open forum meetings run by the mayor at least every other month would be used by Smith.
“Now basically you have to get on the agenda, you are limited to five minutes at city council meetings,” Smith said. “Not everything can be debated. Not everything can be covered. Some people feel that is too much constraint. That’s not fair. That’s not right. We pay taxes to be heard. I think that should be an open forum. It should be run by the mayor and open to any taxpayer.”
Smith said he believes those on city council should host a quarterly open forum for their constituents.
“That way you get to know who is running your city,” Smith said. “You get to know who you voted for.”
The mayoral primary is Tuesday, Feb. 19.