Our endorsements for Marion City Council

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Handling the challenges of Marion’s growth and charting its economic development future are among the main issues in two contested City Council races.

In Ward 2, which covers a large segment of north Marion straddling 29th Avenue east of Indian Creek Road and west of 44th Street, retired financial executive Steve Jensen faces Pete Johnson, who founded a Marion-based plastics fabrication firm. Current Ward 2 Council member Joe Spinks is not seeking re-election.

In an at-large race, Bruce Cummins, who works with troubled teens at Four Oaks, is vying for an open seat against insurance agent Randy Strnad, who served a year on the council in Ward 4 after being appointed in 2015 to fill a vacancy. Current at-large Council member Mary Lou Pazour is not seeking re-election.

Our endorsement call in the at-large race was simplified when Cummins declined our invitation to meet with the editorial board. Strnad did participate in our interview session, and earns our endorsement.

Strnad’s previous council service and his experience in business, opening and managing grocery stores for a national chain before starting his own insurance agency, should serve him will on the council.

“Versatility runs in my veins,” Strnad said.

We faced a much more difficult call in Ward 2.

Jensen has lived in Marion 55 years and retired in March after a long career as a CPA, CFO and loan officer. Johnson, like so many who live in the ward, came to Marion from elsewhere and started his business from scratch. They each support building a new library as part of a mixed-use development in Uptown, depending on the details, believe new business development along Tower Terrace Road is essential and insist growing the city’s commercial tax base is a top objective.

In the end, experience proved to be the tiebreaker. So Jensen earns our endorsement.

In a city where residents have expressed repeated concerns about city finances and debt, Jensen’s decades of experience in accounting, corporate finance and economic development should prove valuable to the council. He’s also been active in numerous civic organizations, including the YMCA, Chamber of Commerce and MEDCO.

“The reason I’m running is quite simple. I want to help Marion continue to be a place to live, to raise a family and to grow a business,” Jensen told us.

We believe Jensen is the best pick to keep Marion’s momentum on track. But we also hope he and the City Council will recognize the challenge they face engaging residents who believe the Council listens more to development interests than public input.

“I think it’s a very fair criticism,” Johnson told the editorial board. “Everybody should have a voice, and I think there are more areas of agreement than disagreement. But the perception in the community is that (the Council) is very much a rubber stamp. And that has to change.”

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

Learn more about the candidates:

• Ward 2, Peter Johnson

• Ward 2, Steven Jensen

• Ward 4, Rene Gadelha (unopposed)

• At-Large, Bruce Cummins

• At-Large, Randy Strnad

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