The night was tagged as a forum with each of the
four candidates, Kevin Bateman, Seth Goodman, Marty Neitzel, and
Wanda Lee Rohlfs given equal opportunity to provide answers to
questions presented by moderators Cathy Wilhite, Director of the
Lincoln/Logan County Chamber of Commerce and Tom McLaughlin,
Director of the Lincoln Heritage Museum at Lincoln College.
The questions presented to the candidates had been compiled by a
committee consisting of members of the local media organizations,
after receiving submissions from the public. The public was asked to
email questions in advance of the forum to the Chamber. Those
questions were reviewed by the committee, then presented to the
moderators in advance. The candidates did not know in advance what
the questions were to be. Also, questions were accepted during the
forum and added to the evening agenda as time allowed.
At the beginning of the program, Lincoln College President David
Gerlach welcomed guests. He spent a few moments talking about
Lincoln College and its bond with the city. He noted the economic
impact of the college on the community and spoke about the college’s
ongoing work to return to a four-year University as it had been when
Gerlach shared that the college is expected to double its enrollment
over the next few years as the four-year programs grow. He also
announced the college had just been approved to implement four new
four-year baccalaureate degrees next year, which will be added the
eight baccalaureate degrees already established and available.
The forum, Gerlach explained, was also being aired live and recorded
for future use by the college's newly established LCTV with the work
being done by students working in one of the new baccalaureate
programs. The nearly two-hour event was aired via Comcast Cable
Channel 5, live-streamed on Facebook, and a YouTube video was also
posted on the internet.
When Gerlach finished, Wilhite thanked everyone for coming. The
candidates were then allowed an opportunity to speak about
themselves and their choice to run for mayor of the city of Lincoln
before formal questions began.
During the question and answer session, each candidate was allotted
up to two minutes to answer. Throughout the evening, the candidates
did well containing their answers within the time allotted.
The first question of the evening addressed what each candidate
considered to be his or her leadership style.
Each of the four related their leadership style to their
professional careers, speaking about what they have accomplished in
their careers and how they had been or are currently leaders in
During those comments:
- Neitzel said that she would lead by making sure she had the right
people in the right place to assist in running the city.
- Rohlfs noted her keyword would be “collaborative” and discussed
being open with the people, gaining their respect, and showing them
- Goodman said his style of leadership would include involving
others in the process.
- Bateman noted his history as a leader of large groups as well as
his successful involvement with the county board. He said his
primary goal would be to “make things work with less dollars.”
Asked what the most pressing needs of the city would be:
Wanda Lee Rohlfs
- Rohlfs said the city needed to achieve ‘fiscal sustainability.”
She noted the projects and mandates that are ongoing. She emphasized
that mandated projects coming up, are just that, work that must be
done according to other agencies and the state, and said the city
would have to pay those bills, there was no choice in the matter.
She concluded that she would look at making sure the city was
operating within its means.
- Goodman agreed the city needed to operate within its means, and
also commented on the need to bring property tax relief to Lincoln
- Bateman said the most pressing need was for strong leadership. He
noted that the City Administrator position is stronger than it needs
to be and that there needs to be a strong mayor as well as a strong
- Neitzel, somewhat in response to Bateman’s comments, said that the
public needs to remember that the mayoral position is a part-time
position. There is a need for good staff and department heads to
assist in running the city. She concluded that a strong leader would
know what to assign to whom.
The candidates were asked to share their thoughts on the mandated
upgrades to the city’s sewerage system.
All four agreed that paying for that mandate was
going to be a large burden on the city.
- Goodman said that it would be a priority for him as mayor.
- Bateman said he would look to apply for grants to assist in the
payment as also low-interest loans through the state.
- Neitzel took a few moments to explain the mandate. She noted that
there were no grants available that would pay the entire thing so
the city would also have to secure loans.
- Rohlfs said that it was a mandate, so there was no choice. She
said there would be more information coming in July that would give
the city a better idea of what they were going to have to do.
In answer to a question about the repair and
maintenance of streets, Bateman said he would work toward quality,
not quantity. He spoke about investing in equipment to make a better
road surface before treatment, saying the city could lease,
purchase, or contract equipment that would grind up the existing
surface and recycle it back onto the street making it smooth, flat,
and with proper drainage.
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Neitzel agreed that quality was better than quantity, and talked
about the equipment the city had leased this year that produced a
better, more durable repair to potholes and other damage to streets.
She also mentioned a new software the city is looking at that would
assist in making decisions about road resurfacing projects in the
Rohlfs said that the street issues are much
more complicated than one would imagine and that it will take
millions of dollars to get city streets in good repair. She said
what was needed now was a good channel of communication between the
city and the citizens to help Lincoln residents understand what is
being done. She also suggested a special fund for streets,
accompanied possibly by a tax referendum.
Goodman agreed it would take time to get the streets all repaired,
and said transparency would be key.
questions about the police and firefighter pensions:
- Bateman and Rohlfs both suggested that the current 30 percent
being taken from the city’s utility tax was not sufficient. The both
suggested that percentage be raised to 40 percent.
- Neitzel said that the budget for the city has for the last few
years included funding the pension fund as required by the state.
She talked about new accounting and actuarial requirements that were
probably going to force the city to increase the annual funding. She
ended saying in the budgeting process; the city would find the money
needed to meet the requirements.
In answering a question about the fiscal health of the city:
- Rohlfs noted a jump in the annual budget from $13 million to $26
million and said she wondered what the city had taken on. She said
the city needs to consider whether or not it needs to take on any
new projects in the immediate future. She also mentioned the TIF
funding and said that in the future the payment of the TIF bond
might become a city obligation.
- Goodman said the city should finish what it has started, keeping
its focus just on those projects for the time. He said again that
transparency is needed between the city and public and that he will
study carefully each line of the budget.
- Bateman agreed that transparency is key. He said that unexpected
things do happen and the city has to handle those as they come up.
He added that he too will study each line of the budget and will
- Neitzel responded somewhat to comments from Rohlfs explaining that
some of the items in the elevated budget were items such as the new
street department facility and the Lincoln Depot project, which both
projects will be reimbursed and that the portion of the budget that
the city is responsible for funding is much less than the $26
In answering a question about the challenges of economic
development within the city, all four candidates agreed that the
city needs to work to spur growth.
- Goodman said the city needs new businesses and new jobs so that it
will not be just a bedroom community.
- Bateman agreed, adding that Lincoln doesn’t want to be a bedroom
community. There is a need for new businesses and with the city’s
location and access to highway and rail transportation that can be
done. He said the city should work to bring in new small businesses
but also manufacturing.
- Neitzel talked about the work of Retail Strategies and the
business that has come to town because of that firm seeking those
businesses out on behalf of the city. She added that the key is to
“get the town in shape, so they will come to us.”
- Rohlfs said the people need to remember the condition of the
state, and that what is going on at a state level has a trickle down
impact on individual municipalities. She said Lincoln was a great
location for high-tech businesses. She also suggested a movement
away from higher education and toward more technical education. She
said that when young people go off to college, they don’t come back,
so part of the solution would be to prepare them for the workforce
at the high school level, so they have employment opportunities
after high school and don’t have to leave home for college.
The four candidates continued efficiently fielding questions
throughout the evening.
They spoke on how they would improve the quality of life in
Lincoln, manage their time between their careers or personal time
and their mayoral duties, and how they would avoid conflicts of
interest in the office of Mayor. They answered questions on how they
would improve communications between city government and the public.
Near the end of the night, the candidates were asked if they
would make any changes to the organizational structure of city
- Bateman said that at first, no, he would not change anything. But
he commented that he feels the position of City Administrator has
‘gone awry,” and he would review that job description. He did
not say he would do away with the position.
- Neitzel expounded on the need for strong, qualified employees in
the city and said again that the public needs to remember the mayor
is a part-time person. She said a mayor cannot be part-time and
handle everything that needs to be done, so people like the city
administrator are key to managing the city.
- Rohlfs said she would make changes and would undo some of the
changes that had been made by the first city administrator.
Specifically, she would bring back council committees, and she would
revamp the consent agenda. She would also require greater detail in
the meeting minutes, saying that as they are recorded now, they are
too vague and don’t fully define what is said in the weekly
- Goodman said he would make no changes at this time. He added that
he felt the city administrator position was of value to the city.
The night ended with each of the candidates being afforded a few
minutes to recap their political position and state why they feel
they are the best candidate for the mayoral position.
The complete forum may be viewed via YouTube by following this link:
The video is one-hour and 48 minutes.