That’s how Mayor Bob Everson described his feelings Tuesday night after securing another term as Mitchell’s top-elected official.
“I’m grateful and honored to see the great people of Mitchell support me again,” Everson said while he sat with his friends and family members tucked in the corner of a local restaurant. “I’m looking forward to another three years of serving the community and working with the council and city.”
As the incumbent competing in a field of three mayoral candidates, Everson convincingly defeated challengers Jason Bates and Giovanni Lanier. Everson topped Bates and Lanier, who both entered the race with no prior experience in city government, with Everson receiving 1,883 votes, while Bates and Lanier followed with 422 and 150 votes, respectively. Turnout in the election was 22.6 percent, with 2,699 total votes cast.
After a stressful, and at times tumultuous first term, Everson said he hopes another global pandemic and historic natural disaster aren’t on the agenda this time around. From having to guide Mitchell through the pandemic to dealing with a historic flood in 2019 that wreaked havoc on the city, Everson came up against some big challenges in his first three-year term. However, he said they helped him grow as a leader.
“We were all tested in the past three years. The pandemic and 2019 flood were unprecedented challenges, but they helped us work together and as a community,” Everson said.
While Everson took some time out to celebrate his re-election Tuesday night, the Mitchell native said he’s eager to continue tackling some major challenges the city’s facing. Atop the list of issues he said he’ll be focused on in his second mayoral term is the restoration of Lake Mitchell, which has been a major concern for the city over the past several years.
“We have been making tremendous progress on cleaning up Lake Mitchell. It’s not a quick fix, but the wetland is going to be a critical project that addresses the source of the algal problems we’ve been experiencing,” Everson said. “We continue to have great discussions with farmers along the Firesteel watershed to help us with the lake clean up efforts as well.”
Heading into the election, experience was on Everson’s side. The professional mechanical engineer and South Dakota State University graduate previously served on the Mitchell Board of Education for six years and spent over two decades on the city Planning and Zoning Commission and Parks and Recreation Board prior to being elected for his first mayoral term in 2018. He tallied 46 percent of the votes in a four-person race in 2018.
Revitalizing an aging downtown Mitchell and improving critical infrastructure are also key goals Everson has his sights set on. He pointed to the recent progress that’s been made on ridding downtown of the eyesores that were affecting property values and nearby businesses, such as the former corroding building on the corner of Third Avenue and Main Street and the uninhabitable 124 E. First Ave. building, both of which were demolished by the city during Everson’s first term.
As the lots now sit vacant and await redevelopment, Everson said the city and Mitchell Area Development Corporation are in the process of seeking requests for proposals to get the areas redeveloped. Although he knows reviving Main Street won’t be a quick process, Everson said he’s committed to investing in the area, calling it a “vital part of the community.”
“There are some good things you will see here soon on development activity on Main Street. We are committed to reviving downtown, and we’ve been addressing the blighted areas that have been causing a lot of problems to the area,” Everson said.
Exploring a seating expansion project in the Corn Palace is another area of focus for Everson. The city recently received a handful of statement of interest plans to expand the Corn Palace’s seating from 3,500 to 5,000, which would open the door for the event center to host larger-scale events such as state athletic tournaments.
Everson will begin his second term with several key city positions unfilled, including the Public Works director role and city planner, with Kyle Croce and Neil Putnam departing and retiring, respectively. However, Everson said has some good plans ahead for the departments.
For the most part, the candidates had starkly contrasting goals and ideas that they believed would move the city in the right direction. Lanier’s goals centered around bringing more youth-centered activity, businesses and entertainment to the city, while Bates’ main mission was to revitalize downtown into the bustling business district he remembers as over a decade ago.
Following his election loss, Bates said his political future remains uncertain. He said the “vicious attacks,” he received during the campaign from current and former city officials has him uncertain on whether to run for public office in the future.
“I was viscously attacked by a former mayor, a city councilwoman and others who had no grounds to say the type of vicious things they did,” Bates said. “I really don’t know if I’ll run in the future. We’ll see.”