Mayoral candidates answer questions: Kurt Larsen

February 13, 2019

Mayoral candidate Kurt Larsen responded to questions posed by the Daily Times to help inform voters about his candidacy. The responses follow:

1. If elected mayor, what would be your priorities for leading city government?

I would work to increase staff training, including standardization of the decision-making process. There are multiple models for effective decision-making in large organizations, like city government, that lay out step-by-step processes for identifying problems and working through solutions. Standardizing across departments will help our city run more efficiently. Offering training for elected officials will lead to more informed decision-making. Additional job-related training at all levels should also be encouraged and rewarded. Watertown has some of the hardest working employees in the city and raising them up is an important part of boosting moral, being more self-sufficient and making us stronger. And, because our residents are an integral part of our city government, I will expand communication with the public. With a new media coordinator already in place, I know that we are in a good position to expand those capabilities. Keeping citizens informed and hearing their input about what is happening at city hall is a duty that should be a high priority of the office. Communication and transparency are key to effective participative government.

2. What can and should city government do to continue the revitalization process in downtown Watertown?

We need to finish the Town Square project as soon as possible. The sooner we are able to gather downtown as a community, enjoying music by the river or attending art fairs in our beautiful Town Square, the sooner we can see how vital and vigorous our downtown can be. The grant and loan programs that are currently being offered to downtown businesses should continue along with the selfless efforts of the Watertown Chamber of Commerce and the Main Street Committee to improve the look and feel of the downtown. The next step should be evaluation of the areas that surround the downtown for potential improvements. Unfortunately, early signs of deterioration can be found in these traditional neighborhoods that are home to our schools and churches and are where many of our parents and grandparents as well as young families live. If this is left unchecked, it has the potential to lower home values and, in the long run, can lead to higher maintenance and policing costs. This would be a reasonable task for the Watertown Redevelopment Authority to take on, perhaps with support from state and federal funding sources and other outside groups like Habitat for Humanity and similar nonprofits. It will provide work for local contractors while adding curb appeal to the city. I see it as a matter of civic pride.

3. There has been talk of implementing a city administrator style of government for Watertown. What is your position on that topic?

I am not sure where this talk is happening because it has never been mentioned in city council or by the mayor in the last five years that I have served. However, it is a valid alternative to the council/mayor system we use today and I am not opposed to discussing it as a solution to certain problems. I know that we had a city manager from 1949 until 1960. That being said, it would be costly to restructure the city government and I think it’s unwise to do it while we have so many other “skillets in the fire.” It would be a major change and would affect every department in the city. I think all change needs to begin with a clearly identified problem and then care needs to be taken to look at all possible solutions and include everyone affected in the process. Advocating change without a sound basis is the worst kind of governing akin to putting the cart before the horse. With no problem clearly identified and studied, I think it is premature to talk about expanding city government in this way.