The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Election News

October 29, 2010

Leadership values at heart of Mankato mayoral contest

MANKATO — On this, the candidates running for mayor of Mankato can agree: The election should not be about Mayor John Brady’s recent drunken-driving conviction.

On the values of effective mayoral leadership, though, there couldn’t be a wider gulf.

Eric Anderson sees the role as an opportunity to steer the city through turbulent budgetary seas. Brady sees it as a way to promote healthy dialogue in civic institutions.

Granted, these candidates are not quite that simple. Both candidates support more voter participation and recognize the virtues of each other’s strengths.

The very limited virtue, in their opinions.

What’s a good mayor?

Brady first ran for the City Council in 1996 after he learned City Hall had been sold to be turned into a parking lot.

“Shortly after that, I realized being on the City Council is not about a single issue,” he said.

Brady said he soon learned the City Hall decision was more complex than he knew before running, and the role of mayor became less about what he thought and more about the tone he set.

“Some people have the misconception that the mayor has a lot more influence than he or she does,” Brady said.

He believes his conception of what a mayor should be is more in line with the ceremonial nature of the position.

“Issues are only resolved to their potential if the discussion is conducted properly,” Brady said.

Anderson says civility is all well and good, but hardly the end of the discussion on what makes a good mayor.

If he had a TV ad, Anderson said it would call him an “independent thinker” who would “take City Hall to the public” with a series of constituent meetings.

He said the city has lost touch with the public and councilors have a lack of dissenting viewpoints as a result.

“There’s too much of a perception that many of these decisions have been made,” he said.

One such time was a city plan that emerged last December to build 15 new homes along the Sibley Parkway. The council ended up scrapping the plan because of the glut of unsold homes on the private sector.

As mayor, Anderson said there would be more of these “wait-a-minute moments,” in which the council pauses to consider the implications of its decisions.

Chris Frederick, who narrowly came in third place in the August primary, is waging a write-in campaign for mayor.

The last four years

Brady is campaigning on his leadership on community dialogue and has few concrete accomplishments to tout.

“It’s all rather tenuous,” he acknowledged.

He said the Envision 2020 process is “a tremendous thing for our community” because of the 300 volunteers who donated their time and ideas.

“Good mayors lead the city in the direction of cohesive community,” he said.

Brady also said he has been very approachable and council discussions have been more civil since he became mayor.

Anderson says 18 years on the council — 14 plus the four-year term at issue — is too many.

“You have to have a rotation,” he said.

Invariably, a longtime incumbent will get too comfortable in their position and not ask hard questions, Anderson said. A mayor can ask questions, “without maligning anyone,” he said, and not offend anyone.

Drinking charges

Even if neither candidate is much interested in talking about the incidents of Aug. 21, Brady said the voters should judge how he handled the fallout and his leadership going forward. He’s enrolled in a treatment program and said he’ll make a better mayor as a result.

Anderson stands by his decision early on to not criticize the mayor. He said a “wide margin” of people respected his approach.

As to whether Brady’s charges will be a deciding factor for the electorate it’s difficult to say. But it’s worth remembering the 2006 campaign for the City Council’s 1st Ward.

Joe Frederick filed for re-election in August without a challenger but resigned from the council shortly afterward. It was too late to remove his name from the ballot, so four people waged a write-in campaign.

The voters of Ward 1 were either unaware of Frederick’s withdrawal or liked him so much that they voted for him even after he resigned. Frederick won with 1,178 votes, about 500 votes ahead of the second-place finisher. (Vance Stuehrenberg won the seat in a special election about six weeks later.)

Of course, Brady’s charges have been much more public than Frederick’s withdrawal was at that time, but it does point to the boost incumbents receive.

The election is Tuesday.

 

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