Mayoral candidate Haley touts communication, people skillsRetired financial services manager says he's a leader who has something to offer.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final story in a series of profiles of the six candidates for mayor of Mitchell. The order of publication was determined by a drawing.
In a way, Roger Haley feels he has been training his entire life to serve as mayor of Mitchell.
“I’m a leader. I have great communication skills,” Haley said. “I’m a persuasive type of guy who doesn’t just want to get things done, but get things done right.” He calls himself the right choice in Tuesday’s election to lead Mitchell and help propel the city to a vibrant, successful future. Haley, 67, was born in Valentine, Neb., and grew up south of Winner.
He graduated from Winner High School in 1963 and attended Black Hills State College, earning a degree in education in 1967. He coached and taught in Farmer and Delmont for one year each. Algebra and government were among the classes he taught.
Haley was drafted into the Army and served two years. He attended medical training programs and, as an older soldier with teaching experience, worked with amputees and wounded soldiers. Two of them were students he had taught.
“That’s pretty close to home,” he said.
Haley moved home to South Dakota and then took a job in financial services, a field he remained in for more than 37 years. The vast majority of that time he worked as a manager and trainer.
He founded the Modern Woodmen of America District in Mitchell and was promoted to management of the entire state of Nebraska. His wife Marilyn had served on the Mitchell City Council before the couple moved to Nebraska, where they remained for a dozen years.
After he retired, they returned to Mitchell.
“This is where our kids grew up and we know a lot of people and we have a lot of family,” he said. “We have roots here.”
Haley said although he never sought political office before, he decided to take the plunge this time.
He said friends “egged me on” to run and said he was persuaded he could offer the “leadership, people skills and management experience” to be a successful candidate.
Haley said the city is now on the right track with the Corn Palace renovation ideas.
“I have to agree they’re going to move City Hall out and expand that,” he said. “I think it has the potential to keep tourists here longer and to entertain our children by having interactive things in the current City Hall for children and kids.”
The downtown area must be improved and businesses aided, Haley said.
“We’ve got to do something to increase business and enthusiasm, both from tourists and our local people,” he said. “Bite by bite, we can improve things as we can afford it, and we’ve got to evaluate it and kind of prioritize where we spend our money and how we spend it.”
Haley is willing to introduce some new ideas into the discussion on downtown.
“Some of these areas, they can be improved and remodeled,” he said. “If that can’t happen, maybe we should look at improving our parking space downtown and add more green spaces.”
Haley is a supporter of Mitchell Main Street & Beyond and would support its efforts to revitalize the core area.
As mayor, Haley said, he would “bring everybody to the table” to discuss issues and find solutions.
“I am a person not afraid of that,” he said. “I’m an outgoing person. I talk to everybody.
“I’m a coach, you see. I want to encourage people and coach them on and motivate them to get things done,” Haley said.
His management style is to be involved but not too dominant.
“I would like to know everything that’s going on,” Haley said. “I would not want to interfere. I think we have good department heads.”
He supports efforts to improve the housing situation in Mitchell,
“I think they did great here, at one of the last council meetings, when they passed that last TIF,” Haley said. “We’ve got to look down the tube a ways and make sure we have adequate housing for our people and affordable housing.
“If we want to maintain the workforce we need, we have to have housing for them,” he said. “We have jobs but we don’t have housing, as I understand it.”
Haley said he would push to improve the water quality in Lake Mitchell.
“The best way is to go upstream,” he said. “There are some ways and we need to do more of them.”
The city needs to work with people in state agencies and persuade farmers to reduce runoff, Haley said.
He lives along the lake and said it is a gem and treasure.
“It’s wonderful. It’s a wonderful asset,” Haley said. “We have to use it more.”
The new walking trails are a great addition and everything that is being done to improve the lake and the surrounding area are things he would support as mayor, he said.
Haley feels senior citizens are a prime asset to the city and have served it well. He would listen to what they have to say and seek their counsel, he said.
The students at Mitchell Technical Institute and Dakota Wesleyan University are at the other end of the spectrum, and Haley said they bring a lot to the city as well.
He said increasing their enrollment and involving them in the city would be a goal.
“Basically, I want to ensure we increase the quality of life for all of us here in Mitchell, so my kids and grandkids would want to live here,” he said.
“I would listen to everybody and hopefully I would find the right people to come together and make the right decisions for the city of Mitchell.”
Haley and his wife Marilyn have been married for 40 years. They have two children, Chauncey and Allison.