Volesky promises to bring energy, ideas to City HallTara Volesky said competition is ingrained in her. That’s evident during her campaign for mayor, as she races around Mitchell, knocking on doors, talking to people in shops and on the sidewalks and telling them why she’s running and what she feels she could do for Mitchell.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fourth story in a series of profiles of the six candidates for mayor of Mitchell. The order of publication was determined by a drawing.
Tara Volesky said competition is ingrained in her. That’s evident during her campaign for mayor, as she races around Mitchell, knocking on doors, talking to people in shops and on the sidewalks and telling them why she’s running and what she feels she could do for Mitchell.
It’s Volesky’s first bid for elected office, but she knows what it’s like to try hard to win. Volesky was a star high school athlete, played golf and basketball in college and spent a few seasons playing professional golf.
“I was very competitive, really, really competitive,” she said.
She still is. Volesky , 52, has made her inaugural run for office a full-fledged effort. She said she is working nonstop in the campaign, although it’s something she hadn’t planned to do.
“I never even thought of running. I tried to get friends to run,” Volesky said. “I started going to these Corn Palace meetings, Next Generation Corn Palace. I started to educate myself, the cost, the 20-year vision. I’ve really studied Mitchell a lot.”
She came to feel a large investment in the Corn Palace would be a mistake.
Volesky said a smaller plan for the Palace, with some improvements and a courtyard with a public square outside it, is a much better way to promote the facility and do it in a more affordable way.
“And we can do it at a very reasonable cost,” she said. “Keep it up, preserve it, make minor changes, changing out those soft seats. People are bigger now, they want more room to get in and out. We need bigger seats and more room between the rows and better sightlines. It can be done.
“We don’t have to spend $35 million to $42 million to expand the Corn Palace with mostly glass and a glass elevator with a $5 million to $8 million Corn Tower. For that amount of money, you can do all of Main Street and do the plaza,” she said, referencing a downtown plaza idea she has proposed.
Volesky said she can play a major role in marketing the city and the Corn Palace.
“Wall Drug gets 2 million people a year with free ice water, nickel coffee and billboards, billboards, billboards,” she said.
She thinks the city also needs to get the Corn Palace highlighted by state Department of Tourism advertising. She pledged to look at what other cities, such as Huron, Rapid City and Brookings, have done.
“I have very some good ideas, good things that Huron has done but also some things we don’t want to do that they have done,” she said.
Volesky said “beautiful murals” could be placed downtown. On the north side of City Hall, a “beautiful scene of a corn harvest” would be an attractive addition.
“I think that would really beautify downtown,” she said.
Volesky feels she would work well with city employees and department heads.
“I’m not a micro-manager,” she said. “As long as they’re doing their job, I would not get involved in every department.
Volesky said she opposes adding a city manager: “I think it’s a waste of money.”
“I’m very conservative. I’m against raising taxes,” she said. “I know what this town wants. It’s a conservative town. We need to do what is the best interest of citizens without raising taxes and improve the quality of life. I’d be a time-and-a-half mayor at a part-time salary.”
Volesky said the Corn Palace Polka Festival can be saved and grown. She said with successful marketing, including having an RFD-TV show tape here, the event would thrive.
Tara Batcheller — Volesky’s maiden name — grew up in Mobridge, where she was an all-state basketball player three years running and a 1978 Gatorade All-America player. She was named the South Dakota female high school athlete of the year in 1978.
“I was pretty much all-around,” said Volesky, who is 5 feet 10 inches tall. She handled the ball and played all positions, while specializing in posting up her defender. Mobridge had a strong team, Volesky said, but never made it to the state tournament.
“I still have not gotten over when we got beat at the buzzer by Aberdeen Central, so I never go to a state tournament,” she said.
Volesky enrolled at Brigham Young University, where she planned to play basketball. But Volesky said a few scrimmages against 6-foot-5-inch, highly skilled players sent her to the golf course, and she played on the university’s team for three years. She earned a degree in health with an emphasis on gerontology.
She still had eligibility for a year, however, so she enrolled at Northern State University, in Aberdeen, where she earned a teaching certificate while playing basketball for longtime coach Curt Fredrickson.
Volesky then played some professional golf on the West Coast and in Japan but soon tired of it, and moved home to South Dakota.
“I didn’t want to live out of a suitcase, and I didn’t make enough money,” she said.
Volesky came home and was hired by Huron College as the assistant director of admissions, where she recruited students. It was a job she enjoyed and was good at, she said.
“That’s why I’m very passionate about our wonderful schools here, Dakota Wesleyan, MTI. I think these schools are great for the town,” she said. “I want to grow the colleges to help expand the workforce.”
Volesky said that’s one reason she fully supports working with DWU and Mitchell Technical Institute to build a shared, “state-of-the-art” wellness center.
The center would be a benefit to “the next generation, the now generation and the active generation,” she said.
After moving home, she married Huron lawyer Ron Volesky and they had four kids. Ron Volesky also played college basketball, at Harvard, so their children have inherited a hoops gene, she said.
Her twin sons Tyler and Turner played for the Mitchell Kernels boys’ basketball team. Tyler is now attending DWU while Turner is enrolled at the University of South Dakota. Her third son, Tucker, graduated from Mitchell High School this year and also played for the Kernels. He is headed for USD.
Her daughter, Taylor, a freshman, plans to play for the Kernels as well, her mother said with pride.
Volesky broke her right leg last winter but still shoots around once in a while, she said.
“I would like to get back into it.”
She has been married for almost 22 years. Ron Volesky has been a longtime politician in South Dakota, serving in the Legislature as both a Republican and a Democrat and also running for Congress, governor and attorney general.
“I was his campaign manager when he ran for governor and I really, really enjoyed it,” Tara Volesky said. “It was very energizing to meet all the people, hundreds of people in South Dakota.”
They would take their kids along in a van packed with yard signs while campaigning, she said.
Volesky said she is certified in mediation from the University of North Dakota and feels she has the ability to bring sides together and compromise in what’s in the best interest of Mitchell.
“As long as we work in the best interest of our community, we’ll succeed,” she said. “Because united we stand, divided we fall. And our community needs to unite, and I will be a results mayor and promote transparency and being a team player.”