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City Council debates Mayoral candidates and discusses emergent ash borer threat

The Lennox City Council met Monday, April 22 in the Lennox City Boardroom to discuss agenda items including Ward III position, mayor position, architect selection, and more.

In old business, the City of Lennox will experience two vacancies in May upon the turnover of the City Council. At the April 8 meeting, two candidates were interviewed for the Ward III position, Nick Cable and Lauren VanDriel, and one for the Mayor position, Chad Reilly.   

“I did receive additional applications from Robert Pederson and Danny Fergen. I advised both to attend tonight’s meeting in the event that the council wishes to interview them for that vacancy. It’s entirely up to your discretion, the applications were received outside of that deadline that we put out there, that being said, there’s no requirement to consider only those applications that we received before that time,” said City Administrator, Nate Vander Plaats. 

Council members took the time to discuss each applicant running for the positions and know the struggles of interviewing for a public job and the stresses that come along with it. 

“I think when I look at the candidate position and Lauren has really stepped up in her service to the community in past years and I think that’s really shown her commitment to the community so far and being involved in the Lions Club, her work so far on Planning and Zoning, and there’s a lot of experience that comes out of those committees. I believe Nick brings a very unique perspective being a small business owner and having just a little bit different experience, I think, than some of the rest of us,” Alderman Britney Mower said. 

With two new applicants running for the mayor position, the council took time to discuss if the deadline should be moved. 

“The application had a deadline on it, and I am kind of a stickler,” Mayor Stacy Duchene said. 

“I think we need to express it publicly that we are accepting applications otherwise we are not being fair to everybody by saying we’re only going to accept them until the 5th, but we’ll accept a couple but you didn’t get the opportunity. If we have some great people in the community that maybe they’re not going to be mayor, but they’ll take the time to come stand up here and talk in front of us and now we have them on Planning and Zoning, great. I believe we have our mayor in this room tonight, but if we can get some more people interested and at least coming here and seeing where we have the meetings, that’s what we need,” Mower said. 

“Just to be clear, there was a process established, and now we’re changing the process with an application that had a deadline on it for the open position because you are unhappy with whoever the applicants are and you’re changing the process to extend the timeline, so are you going to reopen up the Ward III position,” Alderman Reilly questioned. 

After an executive session, the board agreed since it had already appointed Van Driel to the Alderman position, they would only extend the mayoral petitions until the May 13 City Council meeting. 

Daniel Fergen was the first to interview with the council. 

“I am newer to the community, my wife’s name is Kansas, we have a whole football team of kids, we have nine kids, we moved here about two years ago from Sioux Falls where we lived our entire married life because we wanted to be in a smaller community. We kept getting pulled to Lennox and when a house finally opened up we put an offer in and moved in two months later. Our kids are connecting with friendships and getting involved with school and sports and I’m finding myself even drawn more and more to this community and I thought I should put my name in for mayor,” he said. 

Fergen was asked how he handled conflict with someone who felt anger towards him. 

“I’ve had that a lot, I worked at the prison, I worked with inmates that some were great and some weren’t necessarily all there that they didn’t take their medicine or that type of thing. Also working in a church world where when I was at Central Church, our church grew by 84 percent and so we had thousands of people that would come on our weekend services and I got cornered a lot by different congregants and people because I sat on our leadership team there. Sometimes, I would entertain a conversation and listen and they would say thanks for letting me vent and I’d say you’re welcome or sometimes it wasn’t the time or place and I would just say well I will chat with you later,” he responded.

Robert Pederson was next to interview with the council. 

“I’ve lived all over South Dakota, we raised our kids in Watertown for 22 years, lived in Tea for a while, I grew up in Brandon, so I’ve experienced the bigger cities, experienced the small cities and I’m always drawn to the smaller towns as Brandon was very small when I grew up there. I don’t want to get into my age, but I am retired, but do still work a little bit as the assistant superintendent at the golf course in Hartford. I was a regional sales manager for Sherwin Williams for 33 years after I graduated from USD. The reason I’m interested in the position is it would be a great way to get to know people and how better to serve your community than getting to know everybody and get to know the city,” he said. 

Pederson was also asked how he handles conflict resolution. 

“By nature, I guess. I’m a very empathetic person and a patient person. I’ve had both sides come up extremely happy about things in the workplace and other times people being very disappointed and want to talk and want to vent and I just listen. I am an excellent listener, and usually through that process of listening and letting them tell their story, a lot of times there’s some underlying pieces and you can work towards an amicable solution,” he said. 

The City Council approved a request for proposal for architectural services earlier this year for the repair of the roof and windows at the Lennox Historical Museum and the structural assessment of the Lennox Bandshell. 

“We heard from five respondents to the request for proposals at the meeting on April 8. All appear qualified to complete the work and quotes were requested from each to assist in our selection,” said Vander Plaats. He recommended Koch Hazard perform the work as they were the lowest bidder. Motion approved.

The South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources has confirmed the presence of Emerald Ash Borer in Lennox. 

“It’s important to note that this will have budgetary implications. We did not budget for the purchase of additional tree care supplies, contracted tree removal, or ash tree treatment. Thankfully, our work through contractors this year will likely be limited to the removal of about a dozen trees, so it’s not going to be huge,” said Vander Plaats. 

Vander Plaats said about 50 trees would be taken down through the entire city throughout the spring and summer. The board agreed to look into a safety program before city employees begin to cut the trees down so they are prepared and do not get hurt. A motion was made to approve the management plan and to look into the cost of a service company cutting trees down.

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