Sioux Falls City Council election: Meet the candidates

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A pair of Sioux Falls City Council spots are up for grabs when voters head to the polls Tuesday, June 2.

All voters will get a chance to take their pick in one of the races while the second is limited to those registered in the Northwest District of the city.

Below you’ll learn a bit of about the backgrounds of each candidate, their prior public service and their answers to three questions posed to each of them by the Argus Leader. Candidates are in the order they will appear on the ballot, and responses have been edited for clarity, grammar and length.

At-large council candidates

Theresa Stehly – Incumbent 

Age: 62

Profession: University of Sioux Falls voice instructor, piano teacher,  St. Therese Church choir director.

Family: Single

Prior public/community service: Sioux Falls City Council (4yrs), led petition drive to force use of snow-gates in Sioux Falls, neighborhood watch group organizer, chairperson for Sioux Falls Area Piano Guild, past president of Sioux Falls Music Teachers Association, past board member of Live On Stage Community Concerts, Master Garden Tour host

What’s Sioux Falls’ most pressing need, and what can city government do about it?

The COVID crisis has been devastating to our citizens in so many ways. We have been working diligently on the council to find the right balance of involvement to protect physical and financial health while preserving and respecting individual rights.

I have a history of applying fiscal responsibility and common sense to all city expenditures. I will continue to protect the taxpayers as we work to explore ways to get our businesses and citizens back to work.

Name one council vote, policy or project that you disagreed with over the last four years and why?  

The vote to move forward with the downtown parking ramp: I voiced concerns right out of the gate about the secrecy of the investors, the second penny (sales tax) being tied in as collateral and the overpriced price tag. 

We heard massive amounts of public testimony from citizens begging the council to step on the brakes. Councilor Pat Starr and I joined with the public’s effort to stop the project, but the Council passed it through anyway. The taxpayers got a raw deal on this project. We must work to ensure it does not happen again. For the sake of the taxpayers, we must learn from this mistake.

Why are you a better choice for voters than your opponent?

My opponent is a First Premier Business Banker who has raised over $85,000 for this City council race, a position that pays approximately $19,000 a year. Big business already has a strong presence on the council. I bring a common sense voice for the average citizen.

I have a proven track record of standing firm on these citizen concerns: More funding for roads, including pothole relief; transparency in government; accountability in spending; reinforcing of public safety, including police; adequate funding for snow-gates and snow removal; affordable living by keeping fees and taxes low; Advocating for citizen’s rights and needs.

Alex Jensen 

Age: 33

Profession: Business banker

Family: Wife Nikki and 7-month-old son Jack

Prior public/Community service: District 12 state legislator, board member Southeastern, Home Builders Education Committee vice chair, Junior Achievement ambassador, YMCA Strong Kids Campaign team leader, First Lutheran Church Adult Discipleship chair.

What’s Sioux Falls’ most Pressing need, and what can city government do about it?

The most pressing need post COVID-19 is a City Council and leaders who have the experience of, specifically, coming out of a downturn in the economy. Sales tax revenue will be extremely low, and I will prioritize public safety, city streets and economic development. That is what we will need to focus on to continue our success here in Sioux Falls. It is about getting back to the basics to improve our city.

Name one council vote, policy or project that you disagreed with over the last four years and why?

Over the past 4 years, I think that one of the areas the City Council could have done a better job at is by opening up the budget process. In the state legislature, while I served on the appropriations committee, we opened up the state budget process so that there was more transparency in where our dollars were being spent. I think as we move forward in a post COVID-19 world, the council needs to lead by making sure that the taxpayers know where their money is being spent.

Why are you a better choice for voters than your opponent?

I am a best person to help navigate Sioux Falls through the budget shortfalls that are happening due to COVID-19. Every day I focus on helping small businesses in Sioux Falls navigate these difficult decisions, and it is through transparency and good communication that we are able to make a change for the better. This is not a time for distractions, but a time for action, working as a team and prioritizing how the Council can best utilize the taxpayers’ dollars.

Northwest District council candidates

Greg Neitzert – Incumbent 

Age: 41

Profession: Software Engineer

Family: Wife Jennifer; 11-year old daughter Olivia

Prior public/community service: Sioux Falls Zoning Board of Adjustment, Billboard task force , Annexation task force, City Councilor, City Council Audit Chair (2018-2020), City Council Vice Chair (2019-2020)

What’s Sioux Falls’ most pressing need, and what can city government do about it?

Addressing the impacts of rapid growth is our most pressing need, now and into the future.  Managing growth is vital to minimize the growth of the city budget, in keeping the cost of living low, to provide the services citizens need and expect, to preserve and enhance quality of life, and to maintain public safety. We can stay ahead of growth by monitoring crime rates closely and by hiring more police officers as necessary, supporting policies that minimize unnecessary urban sprawl, planning for new parks, libraries and services proactively as the city grows, maintaining critical infrastructure, and exercising fiscal discipline.

Name one council vote, policy or project that you disagreed with over the last four years and why?

I opposed the funding and construction of the City Administration Building (City Center).  I was not convinced that the need was urgent or that we truly were out of space in existing buildings.  I also did not believe the city had looked enough at other options, such as purchasing or leasing an existing building, or re-configuring the space we already had. I did not believe it was prudent to bond for a project whose need had not been demonstrated, particularly when the payment would reduce the amount we could dedicate to our roads.

Why are you a better choice for voters than your opponent?

Over the last four years, I have demonstrated that I am a problem solver. I work hard to serve my constituents. I make informed decisions, taking input from all sides, and based on the long term best interest of citizens. I explain my rationale, and I am not afraid to stand on principle. I have been steady and effective; have taken leadership roles; and have done my best to elevate the discourse. If reelected, I will continue to tirelessly serve my constituents, striving to maintain fiscal discipline while working to provide a quality of life that is second to none.

Julian Beaudion

Age: 33

Profession: State Law Enforcement Officer, business owner

Family: Wife Del’Inkka; 8-year-old daughter Jamiah; 4-year-old daughter, Jalayah; one daughter expected in June.

Prior public/community service: Law Enforcement Officer since 2010, vice president of Establishing Sustainable Connections, assistant director of the South Dakota African American History Museum, member of the Multi Cultural Center Board of Directors, owner of Swamp Daddy’s Cajun Kitchen

What’s Sioux Falls’ most pressing need, and what can city government do about it

Public safety, public health and representation for all citizens are a few things that come to mind. The most important thing that can be done to improve any situation is to involve those who are impacted. Some of the best resolutions come from within the problem. Whether it is improving communication within our police department and allowing the officers to have greater input in policy decisions or ensuring that we have more input from our healthcare professionals when making physical health or mental health decisions. 

Name one council vote, policy or project that you disagreed with over the last four years and why?

The Village on the River project in its entirety: Millions of dollars were spent on this parking ramp, and our citizens still can’t access it. The Audit Committee and city Audit Department received requests from the public and current council members to slow down a properly vet the project. When all said and done, not only did the Audit Committee chairperson not heed the advise of fellow council members, but the Internal Audit Manager position was awarded to someone with several conflicts of interests pertaining to the project. This led to a list of trust and the appearance of impropriety. 

Why are you a better choice for voters than your opponent?

I believe that facts are essential to making decisions that are timely and ethical. As a law enforcement officer for almost 10 years, my decision making ability has never come into question. I have the knowledge and the expertise to form relationships with our police department, Fraternal Order if Police and our community members. I have worked tirelessly to sustain relationships that benefit the people we serve first. It is proven that I am an individual with a high level of integrity and of great ethics. As local business owners, my wife and I are dedicated to the people of Sioux Falls.

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