Five Marion City Council candidates running for two seats in an April 5 election bring a diverse range of experience and priorities to the contest.
Marion County Record interviewed candidates about why they chose to run, their backgrounds in working with government, and what would be their top three concerns to address as council members.
Elected to the council in 2012, Jerry Dieter said he was concerned with a lack of candidates who had filed in early January. At the urging of others and with an interest in continuing council initiatives, he filed for re-election.
Dieter was born and raised in Marion County, graduating from Marion High School. He earned degrees in chemistry from Phillips University and the University of Kansas.
After a career in the chemical industry which included extensive consulting, Dieter and his wife, Lenore, moved back to Marion in 2004. Dieter also served on Hospital District No. 1 board of directors for seven years.
Water and streets topped Dieter’s list of concerns.
“The infrastructure in the city is rather old, and we need to get more of that taken care of,” he said. “First would be water. We’ve got mains that are 100 years old. They need to be replaced.”
He said that pursuing grants, such as a recent one from the state that paid about $800,000 toward a $1.2 million street project, will be necessary to move ahead in these areas, because the city’s bond load is “pretty heavy right now.”
Dieter wants to promote economic development, but wants the city’s role to be supportive through building infrastructure for new businesses and waiving fees where possible.
“I’m a firm believer that the city should not be in the build and rent and sell business,” he said. “It would be nice to get a homegrown business that makes something or provides service.”
Dieter’s third concern is having sufficient quality housing available to meet the demands of young professionals with families.
“A lot of retirees and young couples can use one- or two-bedroom houses, but if you want to bring in professional people, they almost demand a four-bedroom home,” he said. “The fourth bedroom is an office, or there has to be space for an office. It’s a tough sell in Marion because you don’t have too many homes that size.”
Dieter wants to continue recent efforts to address dilapidated housing.
Dieter said that in addition to his experience on the council and with the hospital district board, the manner in which he approaches council work is a benefit.
“Part of being on the council is that you need to take it seriously and be prepared on what the issues are in order to make a sound decision,” he said.