Mayoral candidate Haslam wants to hear voters’ thoughtsBecky Haslam plans to go door-to-door a lot in the closing days of her mayoral campaign. Haslam said she wants to introduce herself to voters, explain why she feels she is the best choice for the job, and hear what they have to say.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth story in a series of profiles of the six candidates for mayor of Mitchell. The order of publication was determined by a drawing.
Becky Haslam plans to go door-to-door a lot in the closing days of her mayoral campaign. Haslam said she wants to introduce herself to voters, explain why she feels she is the best choice for the job, and hear what they have to say.
It won’t be the first time she has done that. A Mitchell native, Haslam recalled going through neighborhoods delivering The Daily Republic when she was a girl. Mitchell is home to her, she said, and she wants to serve it as mayor.
When she talks to prospective voters, most want to discuss the Corn Palace, Haslam said.
“They don’t want to spend that $35 million if it isn’t going to bring the high school tournaments back or the big crowds,” she said. “And they want it on the north side of the town.”
Haslam said the city missed an opportunity when Randall’s and Shopko departed from the Palace City Mall. Placing an arena there would have worked well, she said.
“That would have been an ideal place for it,” Haslam said. “The south side of town, I feel, is self-sustaining.”
She said none of the suggested plans for an expanded and modified Corn Palace make sense to her.
Instead, the arena inside the building should have more seating added to it, she said. “I’d like state tournaments back. I really would,” Haslam said. “I’d like to see more seating. I didn’t see any increase in seating. I saw a decrease.”
The Palace should add interactive items and teaching elements for tourists, she said. The gift shop should be open at the site seven days a week, 365 days a year.
If the Corn Palace can’t be expanded, leave it basically untouched and build an arena, she said. Place it in the north end of Mitchell to benefit the downtown and business community as people drive to and from the facility.
A proposed joint wellness center in combination with Dakota Wesleyan University and Avera Queen of Peace may be worth pursuing, Haslam said.
“The city could have a role,” she said. “I want to have a huge arena that’s capable of having the high school tournaments.”
That will bring traffic by downtown shops and will increase their sales, she said.
She said the town has grown “stagnant” and needs to grow, with the population increasing and downtown filled with stores.
She lives on a one-way street but said she doesn’t have a position on the public vote on changing three one-way streets to two-way traffic. “The people are going to speak and that’s the most important thing,” Haslam said. She said she feels the people will make the call on that issue and she accepts that. Haslam said other issues are worth addressing.
“I don’t think Mitchell keeps its comprehensive plan up-to-date,” she said. “They get so far, and they decide, we need a new plan. They let their comprehensive plan lapse.”
Haslam said she would be a fairly hands-off mayor.
“The city of Mitchell has done really good,” she said. “I can’t say I would go in and change the way department heads would do stuff.”
The first-quarter sales-tax report released in May shows there are several successful businesses in the city, Haslam said. She would like to see more events brought to Mitchell, including state dart and pool tournaments. That would bring in people and money, Haslam said. She said that’s an area where she would be a champion for marketing Mitchell. Haslam said she slowly came around to the idea of running for office.
“I never thought I was smart enough in high school for it,” she said. “In 2004, I helped with (Tom) Daschle’s campaign.”
Haslam said she walked through town campaigning and working with Daschle’s staffers, and realized she enjoyed the process.
“I thought, that’s what I want to do,” she said. “I actually thought I would just help people with campaigns. I thought, I can do it just as good as anybody else.”
She was studying history at Dakota Wesleyan University but switched to the University of South Dakota, where she majored in political science with a minor in history. Haslam earned her degree in 2009. She moved home to Mitchell and soon got involved in politics. A Democrat, she entered her first race two years ago when no one else filed from her party for a local race.
Haslam ran for the District 20 state House seat in the 2010 election. She intended to run as a Democrat but a filing error led to her running as an independent, which cost her the party affiliation as well as cash from the Democrats.
It taught her a lesson, she said.
“Always double-check,” Haslam said. “Because we’re only human and we always make mistakes.”
She finished third behind Republicans Lance Carson and Tona Rozum, who won the two House seats.
Haslam works as a youth supervisor at Our Home Inc., a facility for at-risk youth in Parkston. She and her husband, Martin, met when they were in the Army and have been married 18 years. They have one son, Cameron, who is 13.
Haslam admits she has gotten off to a slow start.
“I haven’t had the time like I’ve wanted to get out. I’ve been out very little, unfortunately,” she said. “My campaign hasn’t run the way I would I like to.”
But she said her family is supporting her and boosting her with co-workers, neighbors and friends.
“My campaign this time is a lot of word of mouth from family and friends,” Haslam said. “I am seeking support from past supporters.”