There are four candidates vying for three seats on the Waukee City Council in this November’s city elections. Three of the four candidates, local business owner Ann Bergman, lawyer Charlie Bottenberg and Brian Harrison are incumbents, while Courtney Clarke, a director at Miles Capital Inc., is a new challenger.
On Thursday, Oct. 5, the Waukee Chamber of Commerce hosted the four candidates for a forum at City Hall. Among the topics discussed were what the role of a council member is and why they want the job, what their 5-year vision for Waukee is, how to provide services in the city while keeping taxes low, what the main economic challenges are and what the council’s role is in providing overall health and activities in the community.
Waukee, five years down the road
The candidates were asked “what is your vision for Waukee five years down the road… and what impact will you make toward accomplishing those goals?”
Clarke expressed that her vision is for Waukee to be a “strong, vibrant community” but to still have its own unique identity.
“To me, a strong community, the characteristics of that are fiscally responsible growth, attractive opportunities for both business and residents,” Clarke said.
“Vibrant, healthy, educated, connected, mobile workforce is really important to me in terms of bringing vibrancy with opportunities in the community for living, working and playing.”
Harrison said that the vision for the next five years has already been set by listening to people and by working with local leaders and businesses. He said that sometimes the plan has to be slightly changed, but they always have a plan in place.
“That’s the beaty of the whole vision for Waukee is that we know exactly where we’re going, we know exactly what it’s going to look like,” Harrison said. “We are growing faster, I think, than anyone has ever anticipated.”
Bottenberg said that while they already plan for 20 years down the road as a council, the council plays a role in which projects get done first.
“My vision is… that growth is continued,” Bottenberg said. “Hopefully, Grand Prairie Parkway has filled up quite a bit, helped with our tax base. As everyone knows, as your tax base increases, all that does is give you more money to turn around and spend it on these growth opportunities that we’re trying to do.”
Main economic challenges
When asked about the main economic challenges that face Waukee today and what they will do to take these challenges on, Bergman stated that there aren’t a lot of economic challenges facing the city at the moment, and toted the city’s success in bringing Apple into the city.
“That was a monumental move that we made in the last month and it was on the national radar, it’s going to bring us a lot of secondary commercial development as well,” Bergman said. “It’s going to be a big partnership for our local contractors that are here in town.”
One of the challenges that she thinks the city is facing, and could be helped by Apple’s arrival in Waukee is finding ways to promote small, local business, through small business education and programs through the Waukee Chamber.
“We have a lot of resources right here in Waukee that all we need to do is mobilize,” Bergman said. “We need to mobilize and put a plan together, and that’s already in the works.”
She mentioned the Waukee APEX program as a resource towards accomplishing these goals.
“We have a group of students that have the tools at their disposal, more than I probably had in undergrad,” Bergman said. “They’re brilliant kids, they’re hard workers and they’ve already been mobilized to help with non-profits and certain businesses in our town already.”
Bottenberg said that one of the main challenges is the lack of affordable commercial and office space available in the city. He stated that there were challenges in finding space for his law firm and the Waukee Chamber’s new offices, even though both worked out.
“The challenge is getting developers to come and build more facilities like Holmes Murphy that’s going up on Grand Prairie Parkway, but have it be empty and let people come in and get some space,” Bottenberg said.
He said that he plans on being an ambassador for the Waukee business community and to try to convince businesses to locate in Waukee.
Clarke said that while there is no main challenge, one of the challenges the city does face is balancing growth with development and finding ways to improve and maintain existing services, like public safety, while adding new ones as more people come into the City of Waukee.
“In terms of development, it’s kind of a chicken-and-egg situation that we’re facing, and encouraging developers to come without having infrastructure’s to support them, but yet, building infrastructure hoping they’ll come, and so we’ve clearly got work to do in terms of prioritization and continuing to prioritize… and planning for the future.”
Harrison stated that the biggest challenge for economic development is trying to keep up with the fast pace of growth.
“We’ve got a nation looking at us right now and we have to make sure that we are strategically bringing in these businesses, making sure that we’re making the Kettlestone area and the Hickman corridor in a responsible way, while at the same time, not neglecting our legacy neighborhood, which would be the historic downtown area.”
Role in overall health and quality of life
The candidates were asked what the city council’s role is in the overall health and quality of life in Waukee.
Bottenberg said that the role is to make sure there is adequate access to city amenities such as city-run features like a splash pad, aquatic center or other parks, or businesses like a movie theater.
“The city council’s role is making sure that we aren’t falling too far behind in that, and when we are, pulling it back up at the top and making sure we’re taking care of business and making sure that those amenities are there.”
Clarke said that the role of the council in this is to make sure that there is a long-term plan in place, saying that she understands that it could take several years for some of their plans to be accomplished and made into reality.
Harrison said that the council should be seen and be a voice for the citizens, making sure that they know they are heard by the council and that they understand their processes for change.
“I think communication is key… but I think we’ve got to look at some alternative ways of getting that communication out, which Summer’s (Evans) been doing through social media,” Harrison said.
Bergman said that the quality of life in Waukee is the reason her parents moved here and the reason she stayed after she graduated high school and college.