Tracy feels qualified to be mayor after time on CouncilCity Council president vows to use 'common sense' in making decisions.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second story in a series of profiles of the six candidates for mayor of Mitchell. The order of publication was determined by a drawing.
Ken Tracy said he has learned on the job, and is now ready for a promotion. Tracy is in his fourth term on the Mitchell City Council and has served as council president three times. He was appointed to the City Council in 2000 and then ran without opposition in 2002 and 2005 before losing to Doug Backlund in 2008. Tracy regained his seat in 2011 when he once again ran without opposition.
“I think I stand out in comparison to the other candidates with my experience on the City Council and how I have conducted myself as a City Council person, demonstrating the use of common sense to reach decisions,” he said. “I would continue to do that as your mayor.”
Tracy said he would use that approach in leading the effort to revamp the Corn Palace.
“I think we have a good start now. I think the original proposal of the $35 million to $40 million was too high,” he said.
“I have been pretty outspoken on my opposition to additional seating,” Tracy said. “We seldom sell out with our current seating. It’s not cost-effective.
“I’m opposed to spending millions and millions of dollars on a 90-yearold building. Am I opposed to making other improvements? No. The Corn Palace is very unique, and we need to take care of it.”
Tracy is the chairman of the City Hall Relocation Committee.
It’s a “good idea” to shift city offices, since the current set-up is cramped and has “outlived its usefulness,” he said.
The space now containing City Hall, which is adjacent to the Corn Palace, could house the Corn Palace gift shop and video theater as well as hands-on exhibits, Tracy said.
And a scaled-down Corn Palace project would allow the city to do other things that are needed and wanted in Mitchell, he said, such as a second sheet of ice, a Rec Center upgrade, an indoor swimming pool and library renovations.
“All of those are important things we’re going to have to prioritize because we can’t do them all at once,” Tracy said. “I would hope we could accomplish many of the things that were discussed the other night for much less than $10 million or $12 million.”
He said downtown needs to be awakened through beautification efforts and boosts to businesses.
“It’s important for the city to take an interest and provide some leadership in that regard,” Tracy said.
He said Brookings, Watertown and Spearfish have done “remarkable jobs” invigorating their core areas. Tracy said he would meet with leaders of those communities and learn what went right and wrong and try to learn from them.
“I don’t think we can or should rely on tourism solely to revitalize our Main Street businesses,” he said.
Instead, according to Tracy, local citizens and people from surrounding communities must be made to feel more welcome.
“Specifically, I don’t know that I have that answer, but I would look into it,” he said.
Tracy said he would rely on what he has learned in his life to guide him as mayor.
“Using plain old common sense to make decisions, and listening to all sides of the story before you make that decision,” Tracy said. “I have tried to practice that as a City Council person. I would use that same approach if I was elected mayor.”
Tracy said he would dedicate as many hours to the job as needed.
“I will dedicate whatever amount of time it takes to get the job done,” he said. “If it’s 35 hours, so be it, or if it’s 30, 25. I will work as much as necessary to get the job done.”
Tracy now serves on the city Finance Committee, Public Works Committee, Public Health & Safety Committee, Traffic Commission, Public Properties Committee and Planning & Zoning Commission. He is also the city’s liaison to the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce and Dakota Counseling & Drug Center.
Tracy said after several years of involvement with the city, he has come to trust and respect the people who do the daily work in Mitchell city government.
“I have worked on different projects and have sat in on meetings as president of the council,” he said. “I have a good relationship with the department heads. I think we have excellent department heads.
“I would not be a micro-manager. I think as mayor you need to set the tone and the direction.”
Tracy said he feels he can do a good job promoting the city.
“I think it’s an important part of the mayor’s duties. Specifically, legislatively, the mayor doesn’t have a lot of duties that are spelled out by ordinance,” he said. “Part of the role of mayor would be to attend those functions, be a leader in recruitment, if necessary, welcoming hopefully these new businesses and people coming to town.”
Tracy said he would not propose adding a city manager or city administrator
“The people have spoken,” he said. “Whether one is for or against it, I am not as mayor so quickly going to throw the will of the people aside.”
Tracy said he might reassign some duties and alter how the city government operates.
He said he would focus some of his attention on Lake Mitchell. Tracy said the city has tried numerous approaches to clean up the lake and most, including applying alum to the lake, didn’t work.
“There is, I don’t think, a quick fix to improving the quality of Lake Mitchell,” he said.
Buffer zones to capture ag runoff is the ultimate answer, Tracy said.
“It’s going to take time. It’s going to take money and cooperation with a lot of people,” he said.
Tracy said adding new business to Mitchell is a goal as well, but he said the city should not play a leading role in that. The Mitchell Area Development Corp. should lead that effort, he said.
“The city I think can, in certain instances, help in that process to attract new businesses,” Tracy said.
In 2006, Tracy supported issuing $1.5 million in water revenue bonds for the pipeline to the ethanol plant in Loomis, which helped lure the Poet ethanol plant here.
More than 40 people landed jobs at the plant.
“That is going to produce financial benefits to the city now that the pipeline is paid off,” he said.
Jobs are one big issue, but housing is another, Tracy said.
“Affordable housing is almost to a crisis stage in Mitchell,” Tracy said. “We have a large number of job openings. Some are specific and we have a hard time recruiting. If you do find someone you can recruit, there’s no place for them to live. That’s a serious problem.”
He said he would form a task force of business leaders, developers and leaders of financial institutions to look into the problem and work with state housing authority to try to develop a plan to get more housing in the city.
It will also provide a boost to Mitchell Technical Institute and Dakota Wesleyan University, Tracy said.
“Again, it’s not something that’s going to be solved overnight,” he said.
Tracy, 65, and wife Lois have seven children and 13 grandchildren.
He was employed by the South Dakota Department of Labor for 10 years, then the state Department of Revenue for 20 years as a revenue agent. He retired from that position in 2002.