In Rockford, former Mayor Michael Beyer is challenging current Mayor Renee Hafften. The winner will serve a four-year term.

In the City Council election, three candidates are competing to fill two seats that carry four-year terms. The candidates are incumbents Rick Martinson and Scott Seymour and challenger Denise Willenbring.

The candidates were asked to include their thoughts in statements. Each were asked to include a short biography of themselves and their backgrounds as well as their personal and professional experiences. They were also asked to comment on two questions that were asked. (See questions belows in each statement).

The responses received include:

MAYOR

MICHAEL BEYER

Biography –

35-year resident of Rockford.

Education - Graduated from Mankato vocational.

Occupation - Manager at Menards in Buffalo for last 14 years. Active member of Rockford Fire Department for 27 years.

Community involvement - One term on Rockford City Council. Three terms as Mayor.

Contact - mbeyer07@aol.com.

Answers to questions --

What adjustments, if any, should be made to the city’s budget?

When I was Mayor for 12 years, the budget was always scrutinized to use the tax money for the most benefit to residents.

What are your plans for city taxes for residents?

Before running for Mayor the first time I talked to a previous Mayor and asked what the secret was. He said to treat the city like your home. Pay your bills, fix it if it needs fixing and if you can’t afford it, wait until you can. That is how I ran the city business before. My past record of being very conservative with my fellow residents’ taxes speaks for itself. All taxes collected should always be planned to improve life for Rockford residents.

RENEE HAFFTEN

Biography -

Occupation – Has managed and led people for 34 years in financial services and banking industry.

Community involvement - Volunteer for 14 years on River Days committee. Coordinated parade for last eight years, and now is acting Chairperson. Elected to City Council in 2008. Served as Mayor for past eight years.  

In 2016, in partnership with Rockford Fire Relief, Chamber of Commerce and the Rockford Area Historical Society, we created the annual Rocktoberfest event where proceeds go to support nonprofits in our community.

Answers to questions -

I am running for re-election to keep positive growth, direction and momentum going in our community. As Mayor, I have worked hard to consistently maintain a balanced budget, fund projects to maintain our infrastructure, pay off outstanding bond debt early, bring in new businesses and support developers who built 32 new homes this year in Rockford.

After balancing the Water and Wastewater Utility budgets, we have streamlined operations to keep utility rates steady without increases for the past several years.  Through diligent review and direction of staff, the City was able to enjoy these successes with annual tax levy increases less than 1.9% for the past several years, while surrounding cities have had increases of 5% - 12% or more.  If re-elected, I would continue to focus on strong financial management that supports smart growth in our community.

As a city, we are fortunate to have a cohesive and diverse council and staff who are always trying to find new improvements to benefit our community. Some of these city-led initiatives include the Main Street development project, bringing in Dollar General, selling the Westend Mall, and working with Kwik Trip for two years to support its development. We must continue to identify opportunities that align with our demographics and support the growing fabric of our business community.

We have been forward thinking in growing our community in responsible ways. If re-elected as Mayor, I will continue to work hard moving our city forward over the next four years.

 

CITY COUNCIL

RICK MARTINSON

Biography -

I have been on the City Council for 12 years and am hoping to remain in that position one more term to keep the goals of the current council and staff on target. Our council has maintained a well-balanced budget and a low tax increment standard while maintaining current needs of the city and its residents. Working with a great administrative staff along with a top-notch maintenance group makes our position as council a pleasure to be a part of.

Answers to questions-

What adjustments, if any, should be made to the city’s budget?

We are in the middle of setting our budget for next year. This is a rather involved and calculated process. City staff has met the challenge of keeping our spending down by doing ongoing maintenance on the wastewater plant, streets, and parks. Our oversight also takes into account contingencies that might occur. Compared to surrounding communities, Rockford is able to keep its costs down for the residents while maintaining a high level of service. With that said, I think we are on track for budget purposes.

What are your plans for city taxes?

That is a simple answer. Our council and mayor, along with administration, have done a great job of keeping our taxes lower than any surrounding community. We have paid off a lot of long-term debt in that process and by great planning are able to handle projects now and in the future.

SCOTT SEYMOUR

  Address - 8000 Meadowood Drive

Education - Bachelor of Science, Chemical Engineering

Occupation - Insurance broker

Community involvement - Rockford Park Commission, 2003-2004; Rockford City Council 2004 - 2007, 2017-2020; Our Father’s Lutheran Church Council, 2008-2010; Rockford area youth sports coach (basketball, baseball, football) from 2007 – 2014.

Answers to questions –

Rockford is a great place to live, combining a small-town experience with access to all the amenities of the Metro Area. I’ve lived in the city for 17 years, and I want to continue to serve to make it even better.

Having served as a City Councilor for seven years, I’ve found the issues most residents are interested in are taxes, new businesses and residential growth.

On taxes, the role of city government is to provide services people expect and need from their community, but balance with costs. I strongly believe in holding the line on taxes and history demonstrates this. In a recent survey, the tax increases of our five closest neighboring cities averaged 6.4%. In the last two years, we’ve held Rockford increases to 1.3% and 1.8%.

Regarding businesses, I have supported efforts to try to bring new ventures to Rockford. While we would all love amenities such as a grocery store in Rockford, the reality is that with seven grocery stores within 15 miles, conversations with developers indicate their models simply don’t support building in Rockford. We have been able to bring in alternatives such as Dollar General and Kwik Trip. Though COVID-19 has hurt businesses, we did have three new restaurants open in the past few years. I will continue to support business growth in Rockford.

For residential growth, indications are that new housing will accelerate. I previously served on the Rockford City Council during the major growth period of 2004 - 2007. We want to be welcoming to new families in our community but need manage it sensibly.

DENISE WILLENBRING

Biography-

  Mother with 25 years of executive experience in banking and business development. With a high school diploma, she is a certified boot-strapper from a large Christian, blue-collar family. She serves on the board of Harvest Pack, a hunger-relief nonprofit for people struggling with food insecurity.

Answers to questions -

  What adjustments, if any, should be made to city’s budget:

Our Rockford community lives in a food desert, which is a lack of access to affordable and nutritious fresh food.

One thing we learned in grade school is that we must eat good, nutritious food to thrive. Often, the only way to get proper nutrition is through fresh fruits and vegetables, and the only place to get fresh fruit and vegetables is a grocery store. Unfortunately, the nearest grocery store is six miles away, and too far for many of our community members who lack consistent access to a car.

To alleviate our food desert and give access to fresh fruits and vegetables. we need a grocery store in Rockford.

To attract a grocery store, we should adjust the infrastructure budget. By bolstering the infrastructure budget, Rockford can attract more single-family homeowners and small businesses.

What are your plans for city taxes for residents.

My plan is to keep our tax rate the same. Aninfrastructure budget adjustment would increase our tax base withoutincreasing our local taxes.

By developing our community infrastructure, we will attract new small businesses and families. These new community members will alleviate our food desert andincrease our city tax revenue while keeping the local tax rate the same.

I believe the talent of our Chamber of Commerce, City Council and community is underutilized. I will focus on tapping into the talent, skills, and connections of Rockford to retain, grow, and attract more tax paying businesses and households.

Through smart growth, starting with infrastructure and a grocery store, we can keep Rockford’s budget balanced andgrow our city’s coffers.

When I am elected, I will partner with our mayor, city council, and city administration, keeping our tax rate the same and guiding Rockford into the 2020’s.

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