Race for mayor
Candidates share their vision for Clintonville’s future
By Bert Lehman
The city of Clintonville will have a new mayor after the April 5 spring election.
The Clintonville Tribune-Gazette recently sent a list of questions to the two candidates – Steve Kettenhoven and Brad Rokus – running to replace Mayor Rich Beggs, who is not seeking another term.
Both candidates currently serve on the Clintonville Common Council.
The questions and their responses are listed below.
Why did you decide to run for mayor?
Kettenhoven: I’ve seen a lot of positive things happening in Clintonville, especially the last few months. We have opened our city to atv/utv usage. We have new businesses moving into vacant buildings. And we have a new swimming pond that will provide year around recreation and draw people from the surrounding area to our community. I see a lot of potential for growth here in Clintonville and I want to help lead the way.
Rokus: Clintonville is pointed in a good direction. We have a bright future and great opportunities on the horizon. I feel, that with the strong leadership experience that I have, we can make these opportunities a reality. I really love this city, and I want to help make it the best it can be. I think as mayor, I would be able to best help lead this community to future successes.
What are your qualifications?
Kettenhoven: I’ve lived in the area since 1975, and in the city since 2000. I’ve been on City Council for 15-plus years and I’ve served on every committee, working through budgetary issues, department staffing and equipment, updating ordinances, and helped create a better park system with more accessibility.
Rokus: I have dedicated my adult life to serving the public. Personally, I have been on City Council for seven years. Professionally, I have been in public utility management for 20 years. In that time, I have helped provide safe and affordable water and wastewater services to countless people in various communities. In that process: I prepare and oversee multi-million-dollar utility budgets, I prepare and manage long range capital improvement plans, I oversee infrastructure improvement projects, and I lead a group of talented individuals in a collaborative team environment. I feel that all of these things have led me to this point to help lead Clintonville into the future.
Why do you feel you can better serve the city as mayor than as a council member?
Kettenhoven: While the City Council makes the final decisions for our community, I believe one of the mayor’s responsibilities is to serve as a guide to the council. I believe one of the other responsibilities is to be a good ambassador and promoter for the city. Our family loves living in Clintonville. I believe we have a lot to offer and even more potential, and I would be proud to be considered a leader in the community.
Rokus: The Council has experienced a period of stability with smart, seasoned individuals serving the community. However, we are beginning a period of change with new people stepping up into leadership roles. I understand what it’s like to be the new kid on the block. Having a strong and experienced leader at the helm really helps the whole organization to be successful. I feel that my time on council, and my professional leadership experience will allow the city to continue to move forward.
What do you feel are the biggest issues facing Clintonville, and how would you try to fix those problems?
Kettenhoven: The obvious choices are budgetary issues, city street repairs, developing our industrial park, a new and bigger fire barn, as well as a new public works building. While there are no quick and easy solutions to the problems, we have a great staff at City Hall. We also have very competent and creative department heads and employees that deal with these issues daily. I believe it is important to communicate with our staff and employees to work together as a team to solve these issues. We must continue to move forward and do our best to solve one issue at a time.
Rokus: The biggest issue I see is affordability. How do we continue to provide and even expand the services we offer our community members without making living here unaffordable? Many of the important issues facing our community come back to this single area of concern. We have done a good job in the past at cutting operating costs as well as securing grants for improvement projects. We need to continue to pursue and secure more of these grants whenever possible. We also need to expand our search for alternative funding sources. We need to continue to make improvements to our community and provide our residents with quality services. What we cannot do is to make the costs of these services over burdensome. Times are tough, and many of our residents are struggling. We as a City need to do our part and not make things worse by spending our resources in an inefficient manner. We need to do all we can to ease the burden felt by our businesses and our tax payers.
What are your ideas for the city to reduce its debt?
Kettenhoven: It is always difficult to balance providing services to the community without raising taxes. Grants are a huge benefit for any community, and we will have to keep applying for as many as we can. We also need to bring more businesses into Clintonville, which will create a better tax base and help reduce debt.
Rokus: We have been making positive steps towards reducing our debt by utilizing our spending restraints and using cash on hand. Moving forward, we need to continue with those efforts, and as I stated earlier, we need to be exploring new funding sources without making it less affordable to live here for our residents. We looked into the Transportation Utility and realized that it was not a good fit for our community, we could not afford it. But, just because that option wasn’t right for us, doesn’t mean we should quit looking for new and innovative funding sources. We just can’t make things more difficult on our residents and business owners.
What are your ideas to help revitalize downtown Clintonville?
Kettenhoven: There are a few ways to revitalize our downtown such as offering certain tax and other financial incentives to businesses that are looking to expand or start a new venture. However, I think one of the best ways to improve our downtown is to create a more positive atmosphere both internally and externally. We must create a more appealing downtown, and the new River Walk will help with that. We also need to let outside businesses know that Clintonville is “open for business.” We need to work closely with our Chamber of Commerce, produce an appealing and positive social media presence, and host more community events that will encourage businesses and families to want to be a part of Clintonville.
Rokus: I’m really impressed with some of our current efforts for revitalizing our downtown. The demolition of the Merc building, the business beautification loans, and the citizen stakeholder group are fantastic efforts that need to be continued. We also need to do what we can to recruit new businesses to occupy some of the vacant retail spaces, but at the same time we need to take care of the businesses that we already have in our downtown. If we foster and grow what is here first, new businesses will realize that we are a community that invests in itself, and we are worth their investment in us.
Why should Clintonville residents vote for you?
Kettenhoven: My years of serving on City Council have provided me with the experience and leadership qualities needed to keep our community moving in the right direction. Clintonville is a great community with so much to offer. I’ve raised my family here, and I am committed to making this a great place to live, work, and play for many years to come.
Rokus: I am committed to serving the public and the community. I have spent the last twenty years in the service of others. In that time, I have gained vast experience in financial planning, capital planning, managing infrastructure improvement projects, and growing and maintaining collaborative working relationships. No one individual has all of the answers, but if an individual is willing to ask questions and listen to the answers, we can all benefit from that. I feel that my leadership experience will allow me to help guide this great City in a positive direction for the future.