Larson hopes to spark youth involvement as mayor

EDITOR'S NOTE: Four candidates are competing to become Mitchell's next mayor, replacing Mayor Jerry Toomey, who is retiring. The winner of the June 5 vote will serve a three-year term. The four candidates, in alphabetical order, are Bob Everson, ...


EDITOR'S NOTE: Four candidates are competing to become Mitchell's next mayor, replacing Mayor Jerry Toomey, who is retiring. The winner of the June 5 vote will serve a three-year term. The four candidates, in alphabetical order, are Bob Everson, Steven Larson, Mel Olson and Tara Volesky. Candidate profiles will appear over four consecutive days.


Bio: Steve Larson, 28, moved to Mitchell in 1998. His father was a Marine and the family moved frequently. Larson earned a Bachelor of Arts at Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, located about 40 minutes south of Okoboji.

He works as a systems technician at Larson Data Communications, a total solutions provider of wireless data communications. This campaign for mayor is his first foray into politics.



Lake: The phosphorus problem at Lake Mitchell is only getting worse. The large watershed which supplies Firesteel Creek makes the lake, in essence, a collection pond for trapping phosphorus, he said.

Phosphorus is a finite, limited, resource, Larson said, and its reclamation presents an opportunity. It's a budding science, he said, performed currently only in water treatment holding ponds rather than lakes, but it could pay for part of the lake cleanup.

"It won't pay for itself yet," Larson said.

The plan would require additional investment up front, "But we have an opportunity to lead the world in being green while making our lake not green," Larson said.

He supports dredging. "It will reset the lake," he said. The city would still need to address the phosphorus coming in with watershed runoff going forward.


Main Street: Mitchell has a workforce mismatch, Larson said. It needs more highly skilled workers and a number of people are underemployed.

In the past, he said, the city initiated a program to create additional housing in Mitchell, and now the city needs to step up and help find workers.


People need jobs that make the homes in Mitchell affordable, he said.

The city needs to find a program, create an incentive and do what is necessary to find more people to fill the need for skilled workers.


Politics: Larson hopes to spark more involvement in the younger generation that will inherit Mitchell.

"I'd like to get my generation involved," he said. He feels it currently isn't involved enough.

When it comes to the lake, "We're the generation of residents that have to tackle this and find a sustainable solution," he said.

The youth vote could make a difference in the race for mayor, Larson said.

"In towns like Mitchell, an individual vote matters," he said.


He noted that by using absentee ballots, it's fast and easy for anyone to vote.


Why is he running for mayor?

Mitchell appears to keep getting caught off guard by issues that should have been foreseeable, in his opinion. The city was completely unprepared on the issue of the indoor pool, he said, and it ended up diverting funds from the planned construction of a new city hall.

"The lake has been going downhill for 90 years," he said.

In parts of Mitchell, he said, rust from aging pipes is turning laundry red.

"We should not be blindsided," Larson said.


Full-time mayor: Larson believes Mitchell needs a full-time mayor. The job pays a little more than $30,000 and lacks benefits, he said, so it's mostly open to people who are retired.

City Administrator Stephanie Ellwein "is an absolute asset to the town," he said, but Mitchell needs a full-time mayor.

"We need to make the commitment to making Mitchell better," Larson said.


Leadership: Larson promises to lead by example.

He will start by learning and doing.

"I need to know what I don't know before I can learn it."

He wants to get busy making Mitchell better.

"Don't complain if you don't want to do something about it," he said.

His background of working with and in a number of different cities has exposed him to broader views, he said.

"I bring a fresher perspective," Larson said.

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