NORTH MANKATO — North Mankato voters will have at least four options for their two votes for City Council members Nov. 6 after lifelong North Mankato resident and business owner Tom Rieff entered the race Wednesday.
Voters now have a first-time candidate (Rieff), an incumbent (16-year Councilman Billy Steiner), a former councilman (Kenny DeWitte) and a former candidate (Kim Spears, who lost a council race in 2010 and is making a second attempt).
Two council seats — Steiner’s and the one held by 20-year Councilman Bill Schindle, who’s not seeking re-election — are on the ballot and each carries a four-year term. Voters will be able to vote for up to two candidates with the top two vote-getters winning the seats.
The office of mayor is on the ballot every two years in North Mankato. Mayor Mark Dehen is seeking a second term, but no other candidates have stepped forward to challenge him.
Rieff, who filed Wednesday, is owner of GreenCare, a Mankato business that provides lawn care and irrigation systems and employs 28 people.
He’s making his first run for elected office at the age of 58.
“I just think the time is right,” Rieff said. “... I’ve always lived in North Mankato, it’s a beautiful city, and I guess I’ve taken an interest.”
With the city preparing to hire its first new city administrator in 16 years, at least one new council member guaranteed in January and new staff in several positions, it’s a time of change.
“We need to look at the future right now and plan for it,” he said.
Rieff said he offers a business-owner’s perspective to the council, saying he would take an approach to budgeting similar to businessman and Councilman Bob Freyberg who was elected in 2010.
“We have a poster in our office that says, ‘If we don’t take care of our customers, somebody else will,’” Rieff said. “It’s the same with the city (and it’s citizens). ... We have to take care of our customers.”
He said he’s willing to accept inflationary increases in city property taxes but not anything approaching a double-digit levy hike.
“Can some people afford that? Yes,” he said of lofty tax increases. “There’s many other people who can not.”
Rieff’s focus would be on core services, and he said he would evaluate other city spending by its value to the health and welfare of citizens.
The filing period closes at 5 p.m. Tuesday.