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The June 12 city election will see five candidates vying for two City Commissioner seats vacated by George Dutton and Jon Wagar. This week, the T-R will interview all five candidates to provide a better look at those seeking office and their take on the issues facing Valley City. Going alphabetically, the final interviewee is candidate Mary Lee Nielson.
Mary Lee Nielson
Occupation: Marketing Coordinator, Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway for 10 years, Facilitator at Prairie Waters Education and Research Center, 2 years
Education: Biology and physical education double-major at Valley City State University
Family: Husband Steve and three sons
Organizations: Member of Epworth United Methodist Church, United Methodist Women, chairperson of church administrative council, business manager for Midwest Regional School of Christian Mission, North Country Trail Association Sheyenne River Valley Chapter, Eagles and American Legion Auxiliary.
Why do you want to be a City Commissioner?
â€śIâ€™ve lived in Valley City for most of my life. I think right now weâ€™re on a good direction for many different things, and Matt Pedersenâ€™s been working very hard on flood protection. Iâ€™ve tried to help out there as much as I can, and I think I could probably be more help as a city commissioner. The reason Iâ€™m running is because so many people asked me if I would run, I have to say a lot of people have gotten my ear lately, and Iâ€™ve listened to them.â€ť
What are the three biggest issues facing Valley City?
Or course, city infrastructure is always a huge issue, and flood protection, which Iâ€™ve been working on from the beginning with Matt and the group, and also housing. When weâ€™re doing this flood protection, weâ€™re taking many houses out, and even some apartment buildings. We have a real housing situation in Valley City that needs to be addressed. We need someplace for those people to live.â€ť
What issues do you hope to address on the commission?
I think that as we look at Measure 2, if something happens there, that needs to be addressed. I can appreciate the people that have worked hard to bring the property tax situation to light, because something does need to be done, but I would have to vote against the measure, just because there is not an organized method to deal with it. I do hope our legislature will take the lead and do something about property taxes.
If it does pass, I donâ€™t think any city knows how theyâ€™re going to deal with it.â€ť
Post-election, what kind of tone would you set with your colleagues at City Hall and your fellow citizens?
â€śIâ€™ve never really left City Hall because Iâ€™ve been involved in the flood protection and other things, and Iâ€™ve got a good working relationship with the commission and the people at City Hall. I donâ€™t foresee anything changing there.â€ť
How would you best handle the streets or police/fire portfolios (vacated by Commissioners Dutton and Wagar)?
â€śOne of the obvious ones would be public works if Iâ€™m working on flood protection with Matt, but really, commissioners are expected to know things on all portfolios and do their homework. Whatever they need me to work on, I will do to help out.
How would you handle the time commitment of being on the commission?
â€śOne of the advantages of the job that I do is itâ€™s very flexible and itâ€™s a part-time job. When I have flood protection meetings, I can make my job work around it. Itâ€™s just a matter of prioritizing in my life, and Iâ€™ve never had a problem doing that.â€ť
Past experience with city government:
â€śI was a city commissioner for two years and then I was mayor for four years, so thereâ€™s a little experience there. When we lived through the 2009 flood, afterwards getting the new sanitary sewer put in and networking to find all the different financial funding that we could so we didnâ€™t have to go after property taxes to pay for it. I think one of my strengths is all the networking that I have done across the state, with federal agencies, and through the Byway. I have experience with all those people.â€ť