MEET THE CANDIDATES: City Council #4

By VERNON ROBISON

The Progress

The upcoming Primary ballot will include four candidates: incumbent Karen Dutkowski (top left), Cathy Schiring (top right), Paul Wanlass (bottom left) and Kim Walters (bottom right)

There is only one Mesquite City Council seat with enough candidates filing to appear on the Primary Election ballot next month. That is City Council Seat #4, currently occupied by Karen Dutkowski. Three other opponents have filed to run for the seat including Cathy Schiring, Paul Wanlass and Kim Walters. This field of candidates will be narrowed down to two for the final run-off in November.

The Progress recently interviewed all four of these candidates to discuss issues most important to each of them. This is what we learned.

Karen Dutkowski
Karen Dutkowski began her service on the City Council shortly after the general election in 2020. She was appointed, at that time, to fill a vacancy left on the Council when Annie Black was elected to the State Assembly.

Dutkowski talked about how, over the past two years since, she has leveraged a 32+ year career in public health and safety to help improve things in Mesquite.

“My whole career was spent analyzing data and making plans for improvements,” Dutkowski said. “So my decisions on the Council have been based on facts, data and how these affect the people of Mesquite.”
Shortly after being appointed, Dutkowski said she sat down with Police Chief MaQuade Chesley about the MPD software systems. “I am kind of familiar with their software, so we met to discuss what other modules might be available to make it easier for them to deploy.”

For a modest cost. they were able to add a software module that improved staffing, deployment and dispatch, Dutkowski said.

Dutkowski also represents the City as a voting member of the Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) Board. In that position she keeps an eye on issues that affect Mesquite. She has had conversations with SNHD officials on how to expand health services in the City.

Dutkowski has been a strong proponent of having economic development for the City done in-house by city staffers. Currently the economic development role is fulfilled by Assistant City Manager Martine Greene.
“She is really good at it,” Dutkowski said. “And she is basically saving the city about $20,000 per month compared to our previous contractual agreements.”

Dutkowski said that the Council is taking a methodical approach to economic growth – including adding workforce housing and adequate job training.
“We are addressing these things all at once,” Dutkowski said. “But the gains don’t appear all at once. We want new business for more good-paying jobs. But to do that we need more people to fill the jobs. And to do that we need workforce housing. It is all a balancing act and we are making steps forward. It just may not always appear that way.”

Dutkowski admits that she is not one for making big speeches or making public appearances. Instead she classifies herself as a worker.
“There is a bit of a misconception about what a city council person should be doing,” she said. “All of that can spread you a bit thin on doing what the role really is, which is dealing with what items coming before city council. I am always very focused on those and on the issues involved. I research them as deeply as I can so I can make good decisions.”

Cathy Schiring
Cathy Schiring has been a full-time resident of Mesquite since 2013. She spent her career as a financial analyst with a period of time in the real estate industry. Schiring believes that her analytical skillset from her experience in finance and contract negotiation would be useful on the City Council.

“I am the first to admit that I am not a politician and I never wanted to be one,” Schiring said. “What I bring to the job is analytical experience and an in-depth knowledge of good fiscal policy.”
Schiring admits to finding herself frustrated by the way the current Council makes decisions sometimes.

“I’ve noticed that they don’t really do much discussion about topics,” she said. “The next thing you know they are voting on it and approving it. If I was up there, I’d want more conversation than that.”

Schiring is particularly frustrated when members of the public make comments in the meetings that bring up important points. Yet the item still passes with little consideration. “I would at least postpone the vote to investigate the claims and see what the issue was before just voting on it,” she said.

One instance that Schiring feels needed more careful analysis was the new Crown Holdings factory under construction in Mesquite.
“They say that they are going to need 120 hourly employees,” Schiring said. “But, who exactly are they are going to get to work at this plant? If you look around town today, there are help wanted signs everywhere. We don’t have enough hourly personnel to fill the positions we have. And even if you brought people in to fill them, where are they going to live? So I don’t understand how they went about getting Crown in here.”

Schiring talked about other actions recently taken by the Council, including several large housing projects, where she felt more research could have been done.
“I hate operating from a point where a decision has been made without doing the proper analysis first,” she said. “Unfortunately, that is where we are on some of these things. But going forward I would put a lot more analysis and investigation into these projects to determine whether or not they are sustainable.”

Paul Wanlass
Paul Wanlass is no stranger to the concept of civic service in a small community. In fact, he grew up on that kind of service.
Paul’s father, Lee Wanlass, served as the first mayor of the then-newly incorporated city of Bluffdale, Utah. He filled the office for the first 20 years of the city’s history.

At that time, Bluffdale was a farming community that had a very limited budget. Sometimes the role of “public works crews” had to be filled by volunteers in town. Paul and his brother were an big part of the volunteer pool.

“The people in the community laid water lines and the fire department was always volunteer,” Wanlass said. “Whatever needed to be done, you either had to get volunteers or it was my dad’s two sons who were ‘volun-told’ to go do it.”

Wanlass is retired from a 30-year career at the Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District, the wholesale water authority for the communities of Salt Lake County.
“I have worked in management over procurement and spending, budgeting and those things,” Wanlass said. “I look at the Council that is currently seated and I am not sure any of them are familiar with that stuff: like what is really required to spend federal and state funds.”
Since moving to Mesquite about four years ago, Wanlass has become heavily involved in serving in the community.

He is on the board of the Mesquite Community Education Foundation, a local non-profit that raises funds for scholarships to local graduates.

During the pandemic, the MCEF also helped coordinate a tutoring program where volunteers worked with local students struggling with online instruction. Wanlass help kids with math.
“That was quite an experience!” he said. “Working with these kids who were smart kids but they just needed somebody to explain it to them. It was pretty cool.”

As City Councilman, Wanlass said that he would like to bridge the divide in Mesquite between the north and the south of I-15.
“I would work to bring those two together,” he said. “I think it would be beneficial for this community. Because eventually all of us old people on the north side are going to need the younger people on the south to take care of us.”

Wanlass expressed concern about growing trend of residents in the north opposing any more dense workforce housing projects because they don’t want apartment buildings or townhomes in the neighborhoods.
“It is a lot of workforce housing that has gotten shot down recently just because a few people complained,” Wanlass said. “And I don’t care if it was a couple of hundred people. What about the 20,000 that need that housing?”

“If we can get services that are needed in Mesquite to any portion of Mesquite that is zoned appropriately, why would we not do it,” Wanlass added.

Kim Walters
Kim Walters’ first career was as the owner of a commercial janitorial business with big contracts on large federal government buildings and facilities. She had about 40 employees. This experience gave her a set of valuable skills that could be helpful to the City Council, she said.
“I have learned how to navigate complex budgets, work with people, negotiate contracts, and more,” Walters said. “So I offer a usefull skillset for that role.”

About 20 years ago Walters moved to Mesquite where she started what she calls her “second life.”
“I went back to school and became a massage therapist,” Walters said. “I went to work for Oasis Chiropractic Center as a chiropractic assistant.”
Walters “semi-retired” about a year ago. But she felt she had more to do. “I really want to be more involved and help make change for the better,” she said. “Mesquite has been good to me over the past 20 years and I feel like it is time to give back.”

Her number one priority is providing workforce housing. This will bring people to fill key positions, she said.
“Everyone says that they want Home Depot to come in; or Olive Garden, better shopping, more restaurants, etc.,” Walters said. “But all of that requires a populace and it takes employees to run them. Those people need a place to live.”

In addition to housing, she would focus on economic growth and bringing good-paying jobs to the city.
Walters acknowledged that a lot of positive things are already in motion on these fronts. She said that bringing the Crown Holdings plant to Mesquite was one of these triumphs.

“That is a great one for the City,” Walters said of Crown. “That is exactly the kind of situation that we need to keep bringing here to Mesquite.”
Walters also wants to focus on improving education. This is critical to economic growth, she said.
“We are trying to entice major businesses to come here,” she said. “But they need to have something to offer to their employees to bring their families here. The state’s education is ranked near the bottom.”
Walters said that the STEAM center being developed at Mesquite Plaza has potential to provide some of that improvement on a local level.

Walter’s fourth focus would be on Mesquite’s first responders.
“My husband is retired law enforcement, so first responders are always near and dear to me,” she said.
She noted that the current ratio of police officers to every 1000 citizens in Mesquite is about 1.2, while the national average is 1.9.
“I think our police department does a great job with what they have to work with,” Walters said. “But we could do better for them.”

The same thing could be said for the City’s fire department, Walters said.
Walters closed the interview asking to clear up a misconception that arose earlier this spring on the campaign trail. In a local candidate forum event, she had been asked her position on growth in the community. In her response she related seeing a recent television show that included an interview with Mesquite Mayor Al Litman.

“They were asking where he saw us growing in 10 years,” Walters recalled. “He said that he would see us at about 50,000 people, or about 10 percent a year. So I mentioned that in my response.”
This was misunderstood by some in the audience to mean that Walters wanted to see the city grow at that rate, which was not her intention.

“Our city is growing right now at about 3-5% per year,” Walters said. “I think that is a healthy growth rate.”

Primary election day is Tuesday, June 14. Early election days in Mesquite will take place between Sunday, May 29 and Tuesday, May 31 at the Jimmy Hughes Campus in Mesquite. Also on Saturday, May 28 at Sun City Mesquite.

Early voting for Moapa Valley will take place at the Overton Community Center on Wednesday, June 1.
Hours for all of these locations will be 9 am until 6 pm.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Source

Similar Posts