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Mayoral candidates discuss future of Watertown

Published: Jun. 11, 2021 at 5:33 PM CDT
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WATERTOWN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - The issues of housing, recovering economically from the pandemic, and transitioning to a new city manager-led government are all headlining the upcoming Watertown Mayoral election.

As the city recovers and expands from the pandemic, housing and development will be key to laying a foundation for the future. That means improving or restructuring the city’s permit system.

“And with developers, when you’re talking about housing, time is money. And the longer you wait, especially with the crazy rising cost of material going on right now, you need to lock in a development as fast as you can.” said Mayoral candidate and City Council Vice President Ried Holien.

“We do have a whole series of checklists. We revised all of our forms to make them more user friendly. And we’ve got new software that we’re purchasing to facilitate the process.” said incumbent Mayor Sarah Caron, running for re-election.

But both Holien and Caron said that the focus on development shouldn’t take away focus from businesses still looking to get back on their feet from last year.

“We have a few funds that are set up to help with that, for revolving no-interest loans, that sort of thing. And we certainly want to provide every little bit of help that we can to get people back on their feet.” said Caron.

“Economic development and quality of life are the two things I think are the most important issues facing Watertown. And they go hand in hand, because in order to do the economic development, you need to have the quality of life to attract people.” said Holien.

But what separates this race the most from those in the past is what role the Mayor will have moving forward. Watertown moves to a city manager-led form of government July 1st, and both candidates said that transition will need to be done right for the city to hit the ground running.

“This is going to be a pretty big transition for the community. And we need a mayor who’s not only going to accept that, but facilitate it and really make sure that it’s done right. We only have have one chance to do this right the first time, and you need to do it right the first time.” said Holien.

“It’s a brand new position for us, and I’m just completely committed to helping that transition be smooth and effective so we have a great experience with our first city manager.” said Caron.

Early voting has already started in Watertown, with election day coming on June 15th.

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