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Why are you running for office?

City commissioner candidates Jason Fridrich, Kyle Jost, Nicole Walla and Klayton Oltmanns participated Monday in a forum for candidates on the June 12 ballot, answering questions on city issues and what it means to be a good leader. (Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press)

Why are you running for office?

The question was asked Monday at a public forum for four candidates seeking two seats on the Dickinson City Commission.

Candidates Kyle Jost and Nicole Wolla are challenging incumbents Jason Fridrich and Klayton Oltmanns on the June 12 ballot.

The forum at Dickinson City Hall, hosted by the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce, attracted more than 30 guests.

Each candidate introduced themselves by answering that question.

Fridrich, a Dickinson native and owner of Legend Homes, has been on the commission for more than a year and the city's planning and zoning commission for three years.

"I've enjoyed my time here," he said. "There's stuff we've begun to do as a commission that I want to see carried through."

He added, "I don't think I've had enough time on there yet. I feel I've got a lot more to give."

Jost, also a Dickinson native, has a pharmacy doctorate. He lived in Colorado for a while and along with his wife and child, realized what was most important to them as a family was being part of a "tight-knit community." He moved back to Dickinson in 2012.

"I think this is a terrific community," he said. "It means a great deal to me that we see this community move forward in a progressive and positive fashion."

He described himself as pragmatic and analytical, characteristics he enjoys in other leaders.

Wolla, a Taylor native, has lived in Dickinson since 1986. She has a business degree, and has been involved with Dickinson schools, Chamber of Commerce, and animal rescue for several years.

"I try to get involved in stuff I'm passionate about," she said.

Running for a seat on the city commission is not something she thought she would ever do, she said.

"I didn't have a reason to say no," she said. "If you want to be part of the change you need to be involved, and I want to be a good role model for my daughter."

Wolla said she wants to "learn and grow from others around me."

"We have different cultures that have come into town and we can learn a lot from those people," she said.

Oltmanns, city commission vice president, and Edward Jones financial adviser, was first elected in 2010, "when Dickinson was still a sleeping little town."

He first ran because, "I didn't see my demographic represented on the current commission." The city has since seen "some of the biggest expansion our community has ever known."

"A lot of the work we started in 2012... needs to carry on and I think it's important to have someone on the city commission who knows the background.. and what still needs to be accomplished moving forward," he said.

As important as quality of life, Oltmanns said, is sustainability.

"This community offers for the first time in a generation the opportunity for our children and grandchildren to come back and have successful and thriving lives," he said.

Asked what good governance looks like, Fridrich said it is inspiring trust.

"Being very good stewards of the people's money, being very transparent," he said. "We want the people to feel very comfortable with what decisions we're making."

Jost said it is community involvement and communication.

"A lot of folks don't know what's happening around them until it's already begun," he said. "I would look at the agenda listed a week before and wouldn't understand what I was reading. I didn't know if it applied to me or if I should attend."

Wolla concurred, saying it is providing due diligence for the community, involving others and "making sure we're listening to what they're saying and we're not biased."

By simplifying the agendas, she said, more people might become involved in city meetings.

For Oltmanns, foremost is transparency. City meetings are broadcast live and posted online via YouTube on the city website.

Also important, he said, is listening to the people who are affected by their decisions. He noted the last item on any city commissioner agenda is inviting the community to speak to the board.

"We will sit here and listen to people's complaints or ideas at any meeting, and I think that's a very valuable thing for citizens to have," he said. "You don't have to be on the agenda to have your voice heard."

Asked what is the biggest challenge facing Dickinson, Wolla said it is the oil boom and the subsequent pullback.

"From what I see, it's keeping those families that came here during the boom, making sure housing is affordable and there's places for them to work," she said.

Oltmanns' biggest concern is the debt resulting from the city's post-boom growth.

"It's like when you sit at the kitchen table and look at your budget and look at your needs," he said. "We need to retire the debt so we can free up money for future projects and sustainability."

Fridrich agreed that relieving the city's near $100 million debt is its greatest challenge.

"If the oil boom would have lasted... we probably wouldn't have that concern, but we do," he said.

Cuts to the budget could come, he said, "without some different income sources or increase in our revenues"

Jost agreed, saying taking on the debt was "necessary to grow." Maintaining that quality-of-life, though, is important to retain families.

The candidates were last asked about their vision for the future of Dickinson.

Jost said he sees a "very family-oriented" community.

"That is what your future is going to be," he said. "What we need to continue doing is these quality-of-life measures."

He added, "It's things like that that attract our youth to stay here."

Wolla said she, too, wants the city to offer more for her children to do, a feeling she said is shared by other Dickinson families.

Oltmanns said the arrival of multinational companies with the boom has provided a greater sense of "livability" in the city.

"There are so many opportunities for our children to not only grow up and thrive in this community, but get their education and remain in this community," he said, "and what it's going to take is sustainability."

Fridrich sees a continued "viable community" with reasonable cost of living.

Important for the city is quality-of-life projects to retain and engage youths.

"With that future," he said, "the city will continue to grow at a nice steady pace."

The candidate forum also invited Park Board candidates Cara Utt and incumbent Brad Fond, pursuing one seat on the board, and Carla Arthaud and incumbent Russ Hoff seeking one seat on the Stark County Commission.

Those questions and answers will appear in the Wednesday edition of The Dickinson Press.

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