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Paynesville Press - Oct. 31, 2012

Paynesville Mayor
Dennis Zimmerman

Dennis Zimmerman

Dennis Zimmerman, 60, a 1970 PHS grad, served on the city council from 1997 until 2006 and now again from 2008 to 2012. He works as a computer programmer for North American Software Associates in Sauk Centre. He and his wife Cindy have two adult daughters and four grandchildren.

Why are you interested in serving as mayor? The important factor in my choosing to run for mayor is that I love this community, I have served as a councilor, and I would like to offer people a choice for a change in the mayoral race. Sometimes, changing things up allows all involved new ways of looking at issues and problems. It changes the conversation, and I think that my election to mayor would provide that.

What new ideas do you feel you can bring to the position of mayor?
Staying too long in any one position can cause stagnation. Prior to my current term on the council, I took two years off from the city council and found that by doing so I gained a better perspective of the job. It was very beneficial. Our current mayor has been in that office or on the council for 23 years and though he stops into city hall most every day, communication to the rest of the council has not been effective, leading to confusion for both the council and staff members.

It's time for a change. It is important to lead in a decisive, fair, and informed way and in the utmost best interest for Paynesville residents and city staff. In our style of government the mayor should be the first among equals. The city will benefit from a fresh perspective, a new management style, more effective communication, and a clear vision for a better future.

What should the city do about the benzene pollution from the former gas station at the corner of Lake Avenue and Mill Street?
We need to continue to push the appropriate state agencies for a permanent solution. Over the last 15+ years, millions of dollars have been spent with no resolution. The ³wait and see² plan currently in place by PCA leaves the city water supply vulnerable, still costs taxpayers, and only seems to benefit the state's consultants. I favor any plan that will close the book on this, leaving our citizens free of any future threat of contamination and ending the ridiculous amount of dollars spent on testing and reporting.

Should additional budget cuts become necessary, what areas of spending would you target?
We have been successful in cutting close to 10 percent, or $200,000. The reality is that there are no easy cuts left in the city budget. During my tenure on the budget and finance committee, we have examined all facets of the budget for areas that can be trimmed. I have been instrumental in restructuring future labor liabilities to put the city in a better long-term situation, and each department has worked hard to come in with a budget that maintains our infrastructure and provides the services that are necessary for a city. We must look for efficiencies by partnering with other entities and constantly evaluating the changing financial landscape for future cuts.

As funds allow, where do you think the city could be spending more?
A top priority will be to market Paynesville's assets to potential businesses, travelers and families. For more detail please see the questions about Highway 23 (to run later).

What types of tax increases (if any) would you support as a council member?
Many of our residents are on fixed incomes, so my goal would be to keep any tax increases minimal. However, I also recognize taxes for essential services at the local level of government are necessary to make a community livable for all residents. I respect the taxpayers of Paynesville and expect they will let us know if they think more taxes would be beneficial in any area.

What should the community do to make Paynesville attractive from the new Highway 23 bypass?
As a result of the bypass, we have an opportunity to grow Paynesville by developing its adjacent properties. It is my belief that the positive energy from this new development and also the additional tax revenues derived from it will help alleviate some of the financial pressures we are currently experiencing. At the same time, our historic downtown needs to be encouraged to highlight its unique character. I believe this will make downtown Paynesville a desirable destination. Add to that the benefits of a great location, hospital, school, and recreational opportunities, and Paynesville's future is bright. This can be done by reallocating some existing funds and tapping into existing local knowledge, and with the proper person or persons in charge it will yield great results.

How can Paynesville businesses entice highway traffic to continue to stop in Paynesville?
First and foremost, have a great product and provide great service. Then it comes down to marketing and visibility via signage, internet, and print. As a city, we can assist, but it is important to let the businesses take the lead. We can all support our local businesses by being great ambassadors and spreading the word about the great treasures that Paynesville has and when options permit, shop Paynesville first.

What is the city's role in promoting Paynesville to Highway 23 traffic?
In my view, a government's role in business is to provide opportunities for business to thrive, but not to favor one business over another. The city can promote the area and its strengths, while businesses rise or fall on the strength of their product or service. Avenues that can be explored for additional promotion include, but not limited to; highway signage, aggressive internet promotion, and multi-faceted tourism advertising

How important is having a full-time police chief to the city?
A local police presence is extremely important to any city. As a councilor and as a part of the budget process, I looked at the possibility of an administrative partnership with the county, while keeping local officers on patrol. This idea was not to the liking of the majority of the council, so now we are fully committed to hiring a full-time chief and maintaining a local positive police presence in our community. That process is moving forward

What is your long-term view for police coverage in Paynesville?
I envision an active force of local officers helping maintain peace and safety for all residents of the community. I am glad we have been able to outsource some of the tedious reporting duties which will give our local officers more time for community contact.

What type of relationship should the city council have with its employees?
It seems obvious, but I believe that the city council and the employees should have a relationship of mutual respect. The council is not there to intimidate the employees, but to employ them, with fair compensation, to provide the services necessary for the efficient running of the city. At the same time, the council also must be sensitive to the taxpayers and the financial obligations involved in hiring all personnel. Paynesville is fortunate to have talented, hard-working employees, including all emergency responders working for all our citizens. They are a vital part of what makes living in Paynesville great.

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