Candidates were asked:
Question 1: Why are you running for this office, and what are your top priorities if elected?
Question 2: What are your qualifications for holding public office?
Question 3: Given that new land for development is limited within the city, what are your thoughts regarding economic development?
Question 4: In the age of internet shopping, are you concerned/do you have a plan for recouping the loss of sales tax revenue?
Question 5: Over the next two years, what are the deliverables you would like to bring to the residents of your city?
In Manchester, current Ward 2 Alderman Michael Clement faces off against incumbent Mayor Dave Willson.
Michael Clement: I really think it is time for change, and while there are a lot of things done right in our community, I think I can bring better leadership to the city to address the issues that need change.
I want to be far more diligent in looking at revenues and expenditures on a quarterly basis and at year-end. Currently, there is limited data available for us to work from when we are looking at short- and long-term budget needs. By reviewing [data] quarterly, it allows us to spot potential pitfalls and make corrections immediately or changes we need to make for the future.
There is a need to engage the stakeholders of the community: residents, business owners and the board of aldermen. What I would do as mayor is to invite residents, in an informal setting, [to have a dialog] about the community to see what’s working and what are the concerns. What we need are face-to-face conversations. I would hold separate subdivision trustee meetings to address those specific issues.
Finally, improve communication between the board of aldermen and mayor; in part, making sure we are all on the same page.
Dave Willson: I am the incumbent and have been mayor since 2008. I find being mayor very rewarding, especially interacting with the citizens, business owners and community partners. Out of 86 Missouri municipalities, Manchester was ranked the 15th best city to raise a family, with Manchester ranked as the safest city overall. We have a great community and I want to keep that momentum.
My top priority is ensuring that city employees are at a comparable level in salary and benefits to nearby cities. If we don’t value our experienced employees, we won’t be able to provide excellent services.
Michael Clement: I moved to the area back in 1976. I was part of the annexation effort in 1999 and have served as subdivision trustee. In 2001, I was elected as Ward 2 Alderman so I am very familiar with municipal government. I’m very active in my church and the community.
Dave Willson: I have been in the same house since 1974. Since Chadwick operates without trustees, I have not been a subdivision trustee, but I was involved with the annexation effort in 1999. I am active in my church and I engage with area schools, both public and private, like Christ Prince of Peace. With six Parkway schools within city limits, I value my partnership with them. I enjoy being involved with Boy Scouts and other local and state programs to be informed and involved on a personal and municipal government level.
Michael Clement: It is time for the city to look again at the historic district, which is from Route 141 to Henry Road. Since Manchester is landlocked with little opportunity for growth, the city needs to see if something can be done. As part of the effort to increase business activity, I will be meeting with and listening to small business owners, asking them, “How can the city make it easier to work and grow your business?”
With all efforts, I want to make sure the city staff is on the same page, working together to support our businesses.
Dave Willson: Our planning and zoning director does a fantastic job bringing businesses to Manchester. Our challenge is that the historic areas with vacancies are older commercial properties that are not ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] compliant and need a lot of updates to meet code. Just in the last few years, we’ve brought in Joey B’s, Culvers, Bob’s Furniture and Academy Sports, which have been great additions to our city.
While we are landlocked, on the residential side, we have three new subdivisions currently under construction for family growth. There are eight new homes in a small subdivision on Big Bend; 33 new homes in a property on Sulphur Spring Road, and 13 new homes on Hanna Road.
Michael Clement: The Highlands [currently under tax increment financing] is continuing to generate strong sales tax revenue, and my visual observation is that Costco is bigger today than two years ago. Walmart also is going well. At this point, I’m not sure the data is there to say that there is a significant loss of sales tax revenue to online sales, but it’s something to watch over the next several years, consulting with the finance director.
Dave Willson: We had a meeting in February to address this issue. I have spoken to neighboring city administration and the board of aldermen has looked at different ways to bring in more revenue. At this time, the board decided against addressing the issue but the budget is always reviewed quarterly to review this matter should it become a bigger issue.
Michael Clement: It really comes back to communication. The ability to communicate and know the government is the biggest goal. Volunteerism, helping others, is also so important. Our residents have a lot of skills to tap into. I envision partnering our residents to help other residents, who may need help with their yard or home [and] who may not have the means to do it themselves. I want to do more for the underserved community and value the diverse melting pot community we have in Manchester.
Dave Willson: With the new parks, recreation and arts building, we will be adding a lot of programming opportunities, especially with Manchester Arts. It is such an asset to our residents and unincorporated community members who use our facilities.
We want to continue working on the emerald ash borer issue and continue investigating the deer population challenges. We also will continue to work on stormwater and sewer repairs and work on a bond issue for street and sidewalk repairs.
In Ellisville, residents Mike Roemerman, Mick Cahill and Councilmember Cindy Pool are seeking the mayor’s office.Question 1
Mike Roemerman: I am running to give back to the community. I really want to help, and I’ve been paying close attention to the happenings of the city for a while. When I ran for mayor three years ago, I was really running for the same reason then. Up until that point, I really had my head down raising my kids and earning a living, but the kids are older and now more than ever, I have the time. I have a lot of experience in business and communities, and I’m at a point where I’ve realized how important the community connection is from more than a neighborhood standpoint. Community helps people realize their life goals in areas other than real estate in the neighborhood. Anything from health to finance; you have a sense of connection, and that’s something I want to help build. We have a great community spirit and a good foundation. We’ve always had some challenges in the past, and I want to continue to move in a positive direction. One of my top priorities, in addition to that, is helping grow our tax revenue organically. With Amazon, it’s put a dent in sales tax. It’s also impacted retail development. So, how do we get beyond that? We’re tempted to say yes for that revenue. When [Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers] wanted to come to the city, and we reluctantly had to tell them no. That was painful in a certain regard, because we know our budget needed that revenue. We just actually came up with an idea a few years ago with the Economic Development Commission, and we just got it approved and functional. It’s our Shop Ellisville campaign. We want to remind people to shop local, and to shop Ellisville. It’s www.shopellisville.biz. That points directly to our business directory. So, that’s the first step in promotion our city, by promoting the city from within and reminding our citizens, when they have a choice, to spend their money is Ellisville. Just that one little thing can make a big difference, so we can then do other things with retail development more responsibly. Beyond that, being proactive in promoting our city to the types of developments that we desire and that people would be more accepting of, so that if we have a public hearing, we don’t have citizens showing up who aren’t happy with what’s being proposed. We don’t ask businesses to propose these things. They come to us, and we have to accommodate those requests through the legislative process in looking at what they’re applying for. We didn’t ask them to do what they’re trying to do, they try to fit it into our set of zoning and conditional use with the legislation already in place. Sometimes it fits and sometimes it doesn’t. The other thing that goes along with that is trying to educate our citizens a little bit more on what’s involved in the process and why it’s important for us, as a city, to consider any commercial development offer that comes before us, because that’s what helps provide the services citizens want. We have a high level of services, and right now with our revenues down. I’m not sure of all that goes into that, but it’s pretty easy to point the finger at Amazon, and I think it’s pretty well known and we’re not the only community that sees it. The goal with that is to help them be involved so, once again, they’re promoting our city as well, and so then you get the whole community with that vibration travelling outward, hopefully toward the developers. They understand that we’re open for business and we want proposals, but I want to do some things to seek some of that out. I’m not sure what the limitations are of our city charter, but I want to explore that. That’s going to be one of my big priorities as well.
Mick Cahill: I’m running for office, first of all, because I love my town. I have been a councilmember for four years prior to this year and now, the position of mayor is open and I think we need somebody with a clear head to get in there and work for the community. As for my agenda, I want to keep the system going the way it is, but what I’m really looking for is to help the citizens in the town build a stronger retail space and fill some of the voids we have along Manchester and Clarkson roads. I just want to keep the status quo going. We have a great parks system, and I want to keep that going strong. We have an issue right now in our city where we’re actually losing money, and I want to try and turn that around. I think what’s happened in the past is that we haven’t worked toward our long-term goals, just short-term goals. I don’t want to go that route. I want to pursue long-goals and stop bringing in services that bring no money to the community. We know that we’re going to have an issue with online sales, but I believe the state and federal government is working sternly on that to allow that to trickle down to the communities. Until that happens, we have to keep our retail base pretty strong.
Cindy Pool: I’m running for office because we’re kind of at a crossroads now, especially with economic development. You hear it in our meetings, ‘What are we going to put where?’ and ‘What can we put where?’ Our job as councilmembers, and the same is true of the Planning & Zoning Commission, is that we’re supposed to find the best possible use for any available property, and we haven’t been doing that for the last five years. We’ve basically been letting anything go anywhere, and I’d like us to get back to following our comprehensive plan, which is there for a purpose. That’s supposed to be our blueprint, and if people don’t want to follow the comprehensive plan, then we need to review that plan and change it, basically, but now we’re basically bending our own rules. I want to get back on that path of what we’re supposed to be doing and what is best for the city.Question 2
Mike Roemerman: I’ve been the chairman of our Economic Development Commission for quite some time. I’m on the Planning & Zoning Commission. I’ve been a business owner, a real estate investor for 25 years and I’ve been in several corporate positions with national companies. I was also a partner in a large insurance company for quite some time. I understand the way liability works and I understand the way real estate works. I understand how a business runs, and at the end of the day, our city is a business. It’s got all the same functions that most businesses have, and so understanding how business runs and what drives these things really helps look at the city from a unique perspective and be able to consider all things. I’m a citizen, I love our neighborhoods and I’m always going to listen and try and make the best decisions and come up with solutions for compromise when the situation calls for it. I’ve always been a creative problem-solver, and I do it with a high level of integrity. We’re never going to make 100 percent of people happy 100 percent of the time. That’s just something no city can ever do. So, trying to educate as we go and soliciting compromise and understanding is the best that we can do when the situation isn’t perfect, and life isn’t perfect. It’s what you do that makes a difference when life isn’t perfect.
Mick Cahill: My real qualification is that I have been elected to office in Ellisville. I served in a four-year term on the council as of last year, so I understand how the system works. I’ve been involved in the city of Ellisville for all 28 years I’ve lived in this town, very rarely missing any meetings. I’ve been part of everything for a really long time. I don’t know if those are qualifications, but I think understanding how the system works is a great quality to have, and that’s something I understand from not only being on council, but also attending those meetings and seeing how the system works for years upon years. Over 20 years ago, we had old streets in the community, and that’s when I first started getting into the government here. It took five years to get something passed where we could bring the roads in Ellisville up to county standards. I was proud of myself. I went to every meeting for five years to get that done. I’ve been in the neighborhoods, I’ve been in the community for 28 years, I understand it 100 percent, and I want to go forward and take care of my neighbors.
Cindy Pool: I was elected first in 2013, and then re-elected last year. I have five years’ experience on the council, and this past year, I was appointed by my peers to the Municipal League of Metro St. Louis Board of Directors and also to the board of Missouri Municipal League by my peers. Not only do I have this experience with the city, which has been awesome because I never imagined I would learn so much about myself and how things run on the local level, but I’ve also been able to network with all these other municipal leaders in the county and across the state. I had breakfast with the guys from Edmundson, by Lambert Airport, the other morning. Normally we’d never talk to each other, but being a part of both those leagues really opened up a lot of opportunities not just for learning experiences, but also to share ideas and see what other cities are doing and say, ‘Hey, maybe that would work for Ellisville.’ They introduce us to those legislators, which is also great. It’s just a big, networking family with the municipal leagues where, right now, I’m kind of in the middle of it all. It’s exciting. What I hope to bring is to just make the other councilmembers aware that our job is bigger than just our 4.4 square miles. Everything that happens at the county level and at the state level affects us, and we have to stay on top of that, and that’s something I think is super important for our next leader to definitely be in tune to and pay attention to, so we can cut things off ahead of time, whether it’s about TIFs or the city-county merger.Question 3
Mike Roemerman: The Shop Ellisville campaign [www.shopellisville.biz] is the beginning of that. The follow-up is, and I’d really have to get in the position as mayor before I can do anything with it, is to promote the city outwardly to businesses and developers to attract the source of businesses that won’t be impacted by internet shopping, and that will still help bring some revenue to our city. There are all types of businesses that are still out there that we’d love to see come to Ellisville. We’d love to have a department store where people could go and pick up their stuff. With Kohl’s and companies like that, I might still buy something online if I could pick it up in Ellisville, and I’m still paying taxes and Ellisville still gets that revenue. I’d like to educate people on how that works to make sure they understand how and when that sales revenue comes back to Ellisville because it makes a difference. I want to let them know that they do have a choice. Until I got involved in the city, I didn’t think that much about it, but I think it is important to think about, and if people don’t know how to do that, I think it’s our job to inform and make sure that we’re promoting that. If we promote that community spirit, I think we’re more likely to get a little more involvement on that. When communities come together, it does attract prosperity. It’s all the small things that matter. If that’s the difference in some XYZ company coming to Ballwin, Chesterfield or Ellisville, they see us and think, “Wow, I’ve heard great things about the community.” That’s what I want people to know us for.
Mick Cahill: It’s sad that we’re not able to get the taxes from internet sales, but again, I’m assured by listening to our representatives that is all going to change and it’s going to change sooner than later. Not just Ellisville, but every community across this nation is losing revenue because of internet sales. Our local government can’t override the state and federal government, but what we can do is try and keep the businesses in our town that already exist and bring in businesses that provide services you can’t get online. I’ve found that I cannot get my hair cut through the internet. You just can’t do it. Scissors can’t fly through the computer screen to cut my hair. We need to put in places like that. We need coffee shops and things that will attract people. One thing this town needs is a couple more real, sit-down restaurants, and that would be a priority for me to bring some of those in here. We have enough fast food. We need no more fast food. We need to bring things in here that will provide us with income to our city but will also provide our residents with things they’ll enjoy going to.
Cindy Pool: I think it’s promoting our local businesses, obviously. We have a business page on our website, but people just don’t go there very often. Maybe teaming up with the police department sometimes and saying, ‘we’re going to go to so-and-so for lunch’ or maybe go with staff just once a month and put a video up on Facebook or Twitter to highlight the uniqueness of our area so maybe we’ll have more people who want to start these smaller businesses and stick it out because it’s hard. It’s really hard right now. Everybody is concerned about the sales tax issue, but I think if the state legislators can fix the Amazon tax and get those taxes to the local municipalities when we have all these deliveries, that would obviously help us a lot. I think people generally like to shop local. It’s convenient to shop online, but I can buy just about everything except shoes and clothes online. I just can’t do it, and I think that some of it will phase out. It’s very popular and kind of a trend, but I think people will go back to local shopping eventually, but we have to be a part of that too with promotion.
Mike Roemerman: A more dynamic Shop Ellisville campaign. Our business directory site has been blank for the last six years, and now it’s not. We have an active directory. It’s definitely functional, but this is just coming live now. I have more of that to come, and I think more on the development side and being proactive with not just local developers, but really any developer that comes in front us to try and put together things that make sense for everyone. Those are some of our biggest priorities, but the big deliverable goal is to avoid cutting any services, because if we can’t get the revenues up, that’s what the next step would be, unfortunately. There are cities all over that have cut trash service. We still pay for trash service, and that’s a big goal of mine is to keep paying for that service. I want the city to be able to cover that and afford to do that, and in order to do that, we have to work around what internet shopping is doing to us on the backside. However, I don’t want to do that if it means bringing in developments that don’t make sense either. There’s a tough balance with that, but it’s a challenge I’m up for. In addition to that, I think the continuity of our council meeting has improved since I’ve been paying attention, but I want to continue to keep operating with a high level of efficiency.
Mick Cahill: I’d like to fill in some of the dead space in our town. I’d like to build on our park system. We have a great parks system, and I’d like to continue to build on it. I do not want to have any services lost to the community, like right now, we have great services for our residents and I want to keep them strong. I’m strongly opposed to losing any of those. Even though we have an internet sales problem, we can get past that with just being a little bit smarter with the money that’s coming in and being spent in our city. I’m going to work really hard with our city manager to find out the best ways to keep our city going at the same pace as it is now or how to grow as the term goes on. I believe the economy is turning. I can see that, just west of us, they’re building more homes. We are landlocked, but they aren’t. They don’t have a lot of development in that town, so we’re the next closest area for retail. We need to look at that and try to grow the retail so we can utilize those news homes so they can spend money in our town. I want to build business while at the same time keeping residents safe and secure.
Cindy Pool: My main objective is to have consistent and responsible governance. Whether you’re a resident, a business owner or maybe a new business wanting to come into the city, you know what is going to be expected. You know what our requirements are, and it’s not this guessing game because right now, it kind of is. When Jimmy John’s was built, they did everything specifically to meet the Great Streets Initiative, but when something else comes in, we’re like, ‘well, you don’t have to do the walkway’ or ‘you don’t have to do the streetlights.’ If we’re making one business spend an extra $60,000 of their budget, we can’t just pick and choose who is going to follow the rules and who isn’t. Obviously, there are extreme circumstances, but the point is that it should be basically consistent. I think it will be easier for people and it will be more attractive to say, ‘Ellisville requires A, B and C’ and we either do that, or we can’t do that. Then it’s up to them to decide. With residents I’ve spoken to, that’s the biggest thing I’ve heard “ is no more fast food.” It’s hard to balance that free market idea with over-saturation. The only thing I can say about oversaturating the fast food market is that some of these establishments can’t staff. Steak & Shake closes early every night because they don’t have anybody to work, and I’ve talked to the staff and to people at Lion’s Choice and other places. We have so much fast food right now that maybe it is time to spread some things out. It would help the current businesses, too because we don’t want to lose them. Losing Hardee’s was not great because they were a long-time business. They’ve been here ever since I can remember. We don’t want to lose those places. We want to help them and promote those businesses too, even if we have the new businesses coming in, which is really a hard balance, especially with retention. Some of it is the image of the city. Obviously, we want to be friendly and inviting, especially with the economic development atmosphere, for people to want to come in and have their businesses here in Ellisville because I think we’re a neat place to be. We’re kind of in the middle of everything and we’re very affordable, especially for housing. There’s nowhere else in West County where you can get a three-bedroom home on a half-acre lot for $125,000, except for in Ellisville.
Mike Roemerman: I’d like our occupancy level to be higher, especially regarding some of the vacancies we have in quality, available commercial spaces. … I want us to move down a positive road. I want there to be a very continued increase of positive citizen satisfaction levels. You know, on a scale of 1 to 10, are you satisfied with your city? I want that to be a big priority. Not that it isn’t always a priority in the background, but I think we’ve had some challenges along the way. We’ve got a diverse community, which is awesome. I really like that, and I like that we’ve got a good variety of individuals that make up our city because that makes it interesting. That’s where I see us going: in a positive direction.
Mick Cahill: We can only grow if we can start filling some of these locations, and that’s not so much what’s happened in our town. We have been filling in spaces with daycare centers, nursing homes and banks, and places like that. Those places bring absolutely no income into our city. We need to move away from that and start bringing in services that the people will want to use, other than the banking and the daycare. We need to bring in some other facilities, like sit-down restaurants. Retail shops where there are boutiques. We have great locations here in town. There are many people coming to the city right now coming to build in our town, and we’ve just got to allow it to happen. We’ve got great locations here in West County.
Cindy Pool: I really see great things for the future of Ellisville. We have residents who have been here for 50 plus years, and they’re dedicated, and they’ve invested in our community, and I want to keep that sense of community. The other night on the “You Grew Up in Ballwin/Ellisville, MO, if you…” Facebook page, people were talking about Ellisville Days, and they were talking about frog races. I remember doing egg tosses. Sometimes it’s just those simple things with getting back to the basics and involving the community with goofy stuff like that. Just going back to what we remember in our childhood. I really see some great opportunities here in Ellisville, and I believe that not only not only the elected officials but also the city staff and residents understand what a special place this is to live. We really are unique, and I want to preserve that sense of community while keeping our commercial corridor relevant, but also listening to the experts. The pressure is great and developers really want to develop, and that’s their job. It’s also our responsibility to find the best places for those future developments. I think we’ll get there. I do. Like I said, let’s go back to basics and run the city how it was supposed to be run.