Candidate Profiles: McGregor Council

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Charles Carroll

Janet Hallberg

Rogeta Halvorson

Sally K. Schneider

Four candidates are vying for three seats on the McGregor Council in this year’s city election, held Tuesday, Nov. 7. Those on the ballot include incumbents Charles Carroll, Janet Hallberg and Rogeta Halvorson, as well as newcomer Sally K. Schneider. The three candidates with the most votes will serve four-year terms. They recently shared their thoughts on McGregor with the North Iowa Times.

 

Charles Carroll

Charles Carroll grew up on a family farm outside McGregor and graduated from Mar-Mac. He worked for IBM, as a software engineer, for 26 years, before moving back to McGregor in 2004.

Why did you choose to run for council? 

I’ve been on the council for six years and enjoy working with the people. There’s a good group of people on there, with the council, mayor and city administrator. I would like to continue my service to the city.

Some community members and business owners are frustrated not only by the empty storefronts downtown, but the slow pace at which owners are readying the spaces for use. What efforts, if any, do you think the city could take to help this situation?  

Well, the city did hire an economic development person in December. I know things take time, but hopefully that position will eventually bear some fruit.

Are there other ways you think the city can or should support economic development and business growth?  

[See previous answer.]

Looking at the city budget, is there a specific area where you’d like to see spending increased or decreased? Why? 

I don’t have any specific area I would target for increasing or decreasing. I am a fiscal conservative, so I try to ensure we’re spending the money we do have wisely, because we’ve got a small budget.

Although devastating, the July 19 tornado opened up some potential development opportunities in the community. One example is the former INKspiration Tattoo property, next to the library, which was recently donated to the city. How do you think the city should proceed regarding development of the site? 

I think it was great the owners donated that to the city. It was a very nice gesture. I think there are still ideas as to what to do with the site. Ultimately, I would probably like to see it go back to private hands so it would generate revenue for property taxes for the city. Potentially, if the library really needs it, or something like that, then I understand that. But otherwise, I’d prefer private ownership of it.

Community members were saddened to see the pedestrian bridge over B Street torn down in September, after it was deemed unsafe. Many have requested that it be replaced. Would you support replacing the bridge? Why? 

I understand the nostalgia for a lot of people, but unless you get a Jim Cowell or Gene Nemaker (who originally welded the bridge), unless you get a couple people like that to come back and build that bridge, or have a large, private donation or grant, honestly I don’t see where the city would have the money to replace that bridge. 

Although separate cities, Marquette and McGregor share functions like the police department and chamber of commerce and are often viewed as a big community. Do you think the cities should work more together? What are some ways they could do so? 

I think McGregor and Marquette should continue to try to share as much as possible where it makes sense. We are small communities, so we need to pool our resources as much as possible. I know one thing we just did was buy a street sweeper with them. We need to continue to look at it as things come up, for any way we can possibly share functions.

Looking into the future, how do you envision McGregor? 

I think McGregor’s always been known for its tourism. When I worked up in Rochester, Minn., when I would tell people I’m from McGregor, people would say, “Oh, it’s such a lovely area there,” and tell how their parents always brought them down in the fall. I think, with the river and the beauty of the area, we need to try to promote that and enhance that.

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Janet Hallberg

Janet Hallberg has two daughters, Bailee (15) and Mattie (9), and has worked at Kwik Star for 12 years and the Marquette Café for 10 years. She has served one term on the McGregor council, where she has been involved in the parks and rec, personnel and economic development committees. Hallberg has also served on the Turner Park Committee for four years and on the Dr. Smith/Little Bulldog Daycare board for three years. She has helped with Small Business Saturday events for the past two years and volunteers with her church and the local Girl Scouts whenever she can.

Why did you choose to run for council? 

I was born and raised here, and McGregor is my home. It’s where I have always wanted to raise my kids and live. The last four years have been a great learning experience and I hope to keep on learning and helping out the community over the next four. Being on the council has made me realize the benefits of being involved with city business. Before I was on council, I had no idea of everything that was involved and the length of time that things take to accomplish. 

Some community members and business owners are frustrated not only by the empty storefronts downtown, but the slow pace at which owners are readying the spaces for use. What efforts, if any, do you think the city could take to help this situation?  

We have been trying to keep in contact with them on where they are at in their project. We let them know that, we as a town, would like to see something opening as soon as they can. The city also funds the chamber to assist with business development as well as promoting tourism and recreation. 

Are there other ways you think the city can or should support economic development and business growth?  

We have our new economic development person that has hit the ground running. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes legwork that goes along with development and growth. Things might not seem like they are happening, but there is a lot going on, some of which requires confidentiality until things fall into place. We have been in contact with hotel and housing developers. 

Looking at the city budget, is there a specific area where you’d like to see spending increased or decreased? Why?  

Overall, our budget has remained consistent. We have to make sure that we are able to fund all areas in the town as well as capitol projects. Of course, I would love to increase all the budgets so more things could get done quicker, but we have to work with the income that we have without raising rates and driving people out of town. This is where all the fundraising that the non-profits do comes into play, so we as a community need to make sure that we are supporting our local fundraisers as much as we can. 

Although devastating, the July 19 tornado opened up some potential development opportunities in the community. One example is the former INKspiration Tattoo property, next to the library, which was recently donated to the city. How do you think the city should proceed regarding development of the site?  

I would like to see a community center in town. We need another place or two for people to host meetings; possibly do classes like yoga, dance, martial art, etc.; colleges could maybe do extension classes; and host workshops. The possibilities are endless. With it being so close to the library, they could possibly use their meeting room for an expansion of the library then. It could also be a future safe place for storms. I would like to see a survey go to townspeople to get their input. 

Community members were saddened to see the pedestrian bridge over B Street torn down in September, after it was deemed unsafe. Many have requested that it be replaced. Would you support replacing the bridge? Why?  

I am in favor of supporting the replacement and we are working with FEMA to make that happen. It won’t happen overnight, with all of the devastation all over the country, but it is in process. 

Although separate cities, Marquette and McGregor share functions like the police department and chamber of commerce and are often viewed as a big community. Do you think the cities should work more together? What are some ways they could do so?  

I think, the last couple years, the cities have been working great together. Although we do have our own identities that we both want to maintain, we also can’t survive without each other. I hope that we can continue to keep the MarMac thinking going for years to come. We can help by supporting one another’s businesses and events and working together whenever we can. 

Looking into the future, how do you envision McGregor?

Although the tornado was devastating, I think it made the town realize how much we can come together. We need to take that spirit and coming together to make things happen and multiply it, and I see great things happening for McGregor. We will continue to work on the development of a hotel on the riverfront and working on a developer for the hardware store. We just need to stay positive and try to keep the negative out. I envision McGregor to be a place where my children will hopefully one day want to raise their children.

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Rogeta Halvorson

After 25 years away, Rogeta Halvorson moved back home in 2006, bought/renovated a 19th century home on McGregor’s Main Street, was elected to the city council and joined several committees and boards. Today, she’s active in her church and serves on McGregor’s city’s economic development committee, historic preservation commission, Clan McGregor Community Enrichment, Festival of Trees and Emma Big Bear Foundation. Halvorson also organizes the community’s Victorian carolers to sing in costume to tri-town elderly residents and at holiday events. 

Why did you choose to run for council?  

I love my town and enjoy serving and interacting with its residents, commercial businesses and tourists, plus I find the work interesting. I offer my 10-year city council experience and 20-year economic development record, so there’s no year-long learning curve needed when re-electing an incumbent. I will then continue to work on city projects. A top one is McGregor attaining a new waterfront resort hotel at the old Holiday Shores site that will help increase small business revenues and generate higher taxes, including hotel/motel taxes for us to reinvest in our town.

Some community members and business owners are frustrated not only by the empty storefronts downtown, but the slow pace at which owners are readying the spaces for use. What efforts, if any, do you think the city could take to help this situation?  

In 2017, we created a new staff position to focus on McGregor’s economic development and historic preservation. At the top of any commercial building owner’s list are having money and time to finish renovations and find replacement tenants. In today’s society, storefronts are harder to fill as greater numbers of people do online shopping. It’s up to us all to grow McGregor. Please remember this when shopping out of town or online to buy items carried by local business owners.

Are there other ways you think the city can or should support economic development and business growth?

Many years ago, both towns and the chamber met and agreed that economic development activities are best handled by each town. McGregor currently devotes three days a week to foster relationships with developers/building owners to renovate buildings, recruit new retail store operators to fit into vacant spaces and fill residential lots with homes. At the same meeting, both towns agreed with the chamber it’d continue nurturing business development and promoting tourism to better both towns. 

Looking at the city budget, is there a specific area where you’d like to see spending increased or decreased? Why?  

Each year, our staff, council and mayor develop a revenue/expense budget and, on a regular basis, collaborate with our streets super to review budget versus multi-year city project plan. There is no way to predict all unforeseen or emergency repairs or equipment needs, but we take precautions to set aside reserves, stay on top of construction and equipment costs, competitively bid projects, recommend updates to reassess priorities, stay up on public aid grants and banking opportunities.

Although devastating, the July 19 tornado opened up some potential development opportunities in the community. One example is the former INKspiration Tattoo property, next to the library, which was recently donated to the city. How do you think the city should proceed regarding development of the site? 

The tattoo shop’s new central location may attract more walk-in business and deliver extra pedestrian traffic to downtown merchants’ stores. The first vacant lot may serve as future library expansion space and/or shared community gathering space(s). The second vacant lot, owned by a very pro-McGregor couple, also may have an in-fill purpose. The city and commercial property reps are exchanging ideas and connecting parties to vacant buildings and lots.

Community members were saddened to see the pedestrian bridge over B Street torn down in September, after it was deemed unsafe. Many have requested that it be replaced. Would you support replacing the bridge? Why?  

The city and council are doing whatever is possible to bring back McGregor’s pedestrian bridge, likely being in place since the 1800s. Children were crawling on its tornado-twisted state, so it was closed to the public. The city wants to start over, likely with a pre-fab option. There may be FEMA help available, a grant match will be needed and the city may provide in-kind services. In years’ past, locals could fabricate it, but not now, thanks to today’s liability insurance and engineering and construction costs.

Although separate cities, Marquette and McGregor share functions like the police department and chamber of commerce and are often viewed as a big community. Do you think the cities should work more together? What are some ways they could do so?  

After the last city election, Mar-Mac’s mayors, councils and administrators renewed their friendly, committed working relationships and Marquette re-joined the Mar-Mac Chamber to promote area tourism as a whole. Since then, we’ve had many positive, productive meetings with successful outcomes. The towns recently bought a shared street sweeper under equitable terms, created joint-budget efficiencies using city support and discussed ideas for a bluff “trail of two cities.”

Looking into the future, how do you envision McGregor?

Thanks to tourism, McGregor’s economic outlook generally has been promising. But in 2015, its 34-room waterfront motel was torn down. This caused our small businesses up to a 25 percent revenue reduction, and decreased by about 50 percent the city’s hotel/motel tax intake, which then cut back the city’s chamber funding. I envision McGregor in future years with a quality waterfront resort hotel with grand Mississippi River views from every room. This doesn’t happen overnight and requires millions of investment dollars, but we’ll continue to meet with a hotel development consultant to work out this plan.

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Sally K. Schneider

Sally K. Schneider has five children and six grandchildren. She works at Great River Care Center, in McGregor, in laundry and activities. Some of the volunteer efforts Schneider has been involved in include helping in New Orleans for three weeks following Hurricane Katrina. Locally, she helps with Mar-Mac Friends Helping Friends and organizes the giving tree program for the nursing home.

Why did you choose to run for council? 

I think it’s just because I love McGregor. I really do. I think it needs a vision for where we’re headed. I don’t know if I can do it, but I’ll certainly try.

Some community members and business owners are frustrated not only by the empty storefronts downtown, but the slow pace at which owners are readying the spaces for use. What efforts, if any, do you think the city could take to help this situation?  

I don’t know, maybe give them a few tax breaks or something like that. Give them some kind of opportunity to get in there and start something. I think it would have to be something the council or maybe the people of McGregor would have to decide. Maybe we as a council can steer them in the right direction in what to do. But that really needs to be addressed.

Are there other ways you think the city can or should support economic development and business growth?  

It seems like people from McGregor don’t want to get in there and start businesses, so maybe that’s what’s slowing it down. We could advertise around more and have the chamber of commerce spread the word around to other neighboring communities. If the people of McGregor don’t want to, then maybe we need to get people from somewhere else to do it.

Looking at the city budget, is there a specific area where you’d like to see spending increased or decreased? Why? 

I think our parks are fabulous, and I think the streets are really well maintained. The city hall looks great after the tornado. We’re doing a good job with that. I think economic development is the most important thing for McGregor.

Although devastating, the July 19 tornado opened up some potential development opportunities in the community. One example is the former INKspiration Tattoo property, next to the library, which was recently donated to the city. How do you think the city should proceed regarding development of the site? 

I think something storefront-wise that would blend in well, a brick kind of thing. Tourists love the antique stores; I don’t think they could get enough of those. I think it would be good to have something like that or maybe a theater or something to do with entertainment that doesn’t involve alcohol.

Community members were saddened to see the pedestrian bridge over B Street torn down in September, after it was deemed unsafe. Many have requested that it be replaced. Would you support replacing the bridge? Why? 

I would. It’s been there forever. It’s historical. Everybody loves it, so why not put it back if we can find the money to do it.

Although separate cities, Marquette and McGregor share functions like the police department and chamber of commerce and are often viewed as a big community. Do you think the cities should work more together? What are some ways they could do so? 

I think they work pretty well together. I really don’t see a lot of separation between the towns. They kind of tie their events together when they do the arts and crafts festivals and flea markets. We could send people to their businesses and some of their people to our businesses over here.

Looking into the future, how do you envision McGregor? 

I would hope, for the future, that we’d have all the stores occupied. That, in turn, would generate more jobs for the area. In turn, more tourists would come, which is good for the area. Then you’ve got more money for projects. 

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