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Wyanet mayoral candidates face off at forum

Published: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 4:45 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 5:08 p.m. CDT
Caption
(BCR photo/Becky Kramer )
Incumbent Village President Bruce Hand (left) and Tom Odell, who currently serves on the Wyanet Village Board, face off Tuesday night during a candidates forum in Wyanet, sponsored by the Wyanet Community Club. Both men are running for the Wyanet village president’s seat. The event consisted of a series of questions posed to the candidates, and then those in attendance were also allowed to ask questions as well.

WYANET — Approximately 55 residents gathered at the Wyanet VFW Hall Tuesday night to hear from the two candidates running for the Wyanet mayoral seat. Incumbent Mayor Bruce Hand and Tom Odell, who is currently a trustee on the village board, fielded questions from moderator the Rev. Katie Voigt of the United Methodist Church of Wyanet. The event was sponsored by the Wyanet Community Club.

Wyanet’s finances, community involvement, conflict resolution, the assets of living in the village, and future improvements in the village were some of the main topics covered in the forum.

When asked to describe the financial position of the village, Hand assured the audience Wyanet is ahead of the game compared to other small towns. He commended prior boards in making wise decisions that helped the village, but to keep moving forward, he said the board is going to have to invest in some equipment to keep the water/sewer systems working. Hand stressed the importance of getting grants to help fund future projects.

Odell agreed that Wyanet is better off than many small towns.

“We have $600,000 in debt, but compared to other villages, it is not bad,” he said.

Odell said it is important to continually evaluate what the board does and what goes on. Board members need to look for ways to save money, adding there may be tough days ahead, so the board must be proactive.

When asked what the residents can do as a community to help improve Wyanet, both candidates agreed volunteerism is a huge part of living in a smaller community and that Wyanet residents are a tremendous help.

Hand wants residents to understand the board wants to know what the residents think.  “I welcome any ideas or correction.” Hand also explained everything that goes on in a community takes a large amount of help.

Odell explained the importance of the mayor being visible in the community, and he would like to see more community attendance at the board meetings. He said Wyanet does not have a huge tax base, so the village needs to rely on help from residents.  “Your opinions matter to us,” he said.

Regarding conflict resolution, Odell said you have to go straight to the person you have a conflict with and never discuss the problem behind their back. He believes in talking it through to try and resolve the conflict, adding the board should work as a team.

Hand said you have to respect people, even is there is conflict. He said he always tries to calm an upset person down, and then it is easier to move forward.

Hand said Wyanet’s strongest assets are the community itself, and the volunteer fire and rescue services. He also gave credit to Bureau Valley Schools and the VFW for being positive influences.

Odell said Wyanet is lucky to have vibrant, active businesses in the community because they keep the village viable. He also said the Wyanet people are an asset, as well as the comfortable environment and the safety.

When asked about future improvements that will be made within the village and about flooding on Maple and Main streets, Hand said the village just completed lining sewers that are 80-plus years old. “Hopefully we can continue moving forward with improvements,” he said, adding flooding problems will need to be discussed with the engineer.

Odell also said there needed to be an evaluation by a professional in the field to figure what improvements needed to be done to help with the problems. “Sadly to say, what breaks first, is fixed first,” he said.

The last question of the evening, before it was opened up for questions from the public, asked both candidates what makes them the best candidate for mayor of the village of Wyanet.

Odell said after being on the board for two years, he understands it is a challenge. “I am absolutely committed to taking care of you. I want to make it a place you want to live.”

Hand said he has learned a lot from his past experiences on the board and as mayor. “You have to listen to what the village wants. I have the time and dedication to be mayor.”

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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