116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Randy Strnad and Dale Monroe are running for the at-large Marion council seat. ► Get to know the other candidates
Name: Randy Strnad
Office sought: Marion City Council at-large (incumbent)
Age: 52 (born Nov. 11, 1968)
Occupation: Owner/insurance Agent
Campaign website: facebook.com/ReElectRandyStrnadforCityCouncil
Have you held office before? If so, what office did you hold?
I have held office currently and in the past. I was appointed by City Council in 2016 and Elected to City Council to serve a four-year term from 2018-2021.
Personal bio: My wife and I are long standing residents of Marion, where we have raised our children and grew our insurance business over the past 25 years. Not only have we lived and worked in our community all of these years, I have engaged in being heavily involved as well. I have served on the Marion Fire Department for 8 years as a "Paid-On-Call" Firefighter, Chaired the Marion Firefighters Association, participated on the local-option sales tax Oversight Committee and was former Chair of the Marion Chamber Ambassadors. Community service has always been my passion. Being in the insurance industry has exposed me to the risks and challenges experienced by our residents, business owners and senior citizens. Understanding this helps me be of enhanced service to the City Council. Importantly, my re-election to the City Council will offer stability in this pivotal time frame. I look forward to applying my deep civic background to support the introduction of our new City Manager.
Why are you running for city council?
I have served in many roles of our city and five out of the last six years have been in the capacity of City Council. With having the experience of working within our fire department, I had the unique privilege of knowing what our employees work with in their daily tasks as they build upon their careers. This has afforded me the total respect of all our employees and for all of the internal operations and processes in which we work with. I love all aspects of what a council position is and I find myself drilling down into the internal operations of our city. With the growth of our city, we have added new department titles and positions within our organization; Human Resources, Budget, Purchasing and other positions within each of the departments. While each of us council members bring our expertise to the table, my areas of background include; Budgets, Finance, Investments, Risk, Payroll, benefits and Reporting. All of these items are areas that any and all businesses use daily in their operations. I enjoy attending, engaging and following our leaders in Des Moines and frequent the capital staying touch with current topics and following legislation. Making sure that we are staying on top of Federal and States benefit are important to me. This affords us to apply for funding and find grants that we can apply for. Currently serving on the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization, we work with applying for as many opportunities and funding as possible for Marion.
How do you rate the city’s current performance? What areas are going well, and what could be improved?
After the release or our last census data, we are now the 13th largest city in Iowa and now over 41,535 people in population. These numbers are staggering when we take a look at how quickly we acquired these numbers and ranking. The growth of our city is only one of many topics that are signs of everything going well. Municipalities are required to go through an audit routinely and we continue to hold our favorable rating from Moody's Investors Service identifying us as maintaining our Aa1 rating. The next and highest favorable rating is an Aaa rating and this requires a larger population.
This is another great financial indicator of our favorable credit terms. Growth is always an indicator of a community doing well. Overall I think we are doing wonderful. We still have topics of improvement and challenges ahead and we always will. We must remain focused on what our citizens desire, need and what the future will bring. Reviewing our Comprehensive Plan is a must for city officials. This is an indicator that we are building out our city in the best interest of everyone. We have the vision and methodical thinking our city staff, officials, residents and business owners to guide us into the future. We only get one shot to make this right and as we host our public forums and open meetings to request people to engage, I am confident that we are moving in the right direction. Marion is looked at very strongly across the state and we have many eyes upon us.
What are the three largest issues facing the community and what will you do to address them?
1. Infrastructure: As our community grows in size, we also must coordinate replacing and repairing the existing infrastructure. We need to make sure that we keep the scope of our projects in our annual budgets and Capital Improvement Projects lists. This will be done by staying on task and working in collaboration with city staff and council. It's nice to have all of our extra benefits of our community, however we must not lose site of our needs as well.
2. Comprehensive Plan: We are in the midst of developers standing shoulder to shoulder with the staff and building out city to meet our comprehensive plan and the needs of our community as a whole. It would be so simple to let everyone to simply purchase ground and develop for what we feel are todays needs and not be concerned with what tomorrow brings. We need to make sure that we have the vision, the needs of our citizens / businesses and to stay ahead of progress. By doing this, we create balance for our city and ensures that we have the correct mix of entities throughout our community.
3. Essential Needs: These are critical and this is everything from Public Safety to basic services enjoyed by all. I work closely with all of these departments that provide all of these services on a daily basis. We are so fortunate to have medical services, public transportation, parks, garbage collection, fire, police, water and all of the services one would expect in their community.
If you were forced to cut the city’s budget, how would you approach these reductions? What areas would you look to for savings and why?
When we refer to budgets there are many ways to modify, alter and approach this topic. I always use the approach of determining what it means to be fiscally responsible. We are always trying to work within our means and this is critical. We are covering current expenses and also attempting to move forward with repairs, staying ahead of the loss of future values to the dollar. We work very hard in being stewards to the taxpayers of our community. I am proud to say that we have continued to suppress our current tax levy over the last few years with minimal increases. We must remember that our assessed taxed values are determined by the county and that translates to taxable value then based on our levy. In addition to the city tax, we have multiple entities that also require a taxable portion to our annual property taxes. As we go into budget meetings this winter, we will be looking to see where we are currently at and what changes to consider. In some cases, we always consider questions like; are we on task, do all projects still score favorably for moving forward with, are changes necessary. It's never an easy process. With the talent that we have with our city staff and council understanding and direction, we make solid and well thought out decisions with our budgets. I am very proud that we have been able to hold down our tax levy for all of these years. This will continue to be our highest priority with our council each year.
What new policies might you propose for the city to enact? Why do you think they are necessary?
The number one thing that I will be encouraging our city to do, is review our current policies. As our city has grown so, we have seen an increase to new policies to stay up with the times. Things like: E-bikes, scooters, motorized vehicles that we have not really seen a lot of until these last couple of years. Do they fall into the vehicle category or are they still looked at as a bicycle. We have witnessed some cities allowing them on the sidewalks and some do not. This is only a very simple example. As I reflect on policies that we have reviewed, approved and not approved over the years, I think we need to establish a plan for the new city manager to place emphasis on each department reviewing and updating policies as a goal with a timeline. Even if a policy has no changes, we can document that we have reviewed with or without no changes. This will keep us current and allow for us to address any old language and make sure that everything is up to standards. These are merely good strategies for any growing city.
Are there quality of life improvements that could be made in the community? What are they and how would you fund them?
We continue to capitalize on this topic. One of my passions is to have sidewalks throughout our city on every block. As we continue to grow, we of course do require sidewalks be installed at build out or development. What is challenging is getting these sidewalks into the older established neighborhoods. These have a tendency to impact current homeowners in many ways. Not only are these costly, but some terrain requires massive amounts of earthwork to allow for the cutting in of a sidewalk that would be to our new standards. If you have been noticing, we are going to a much wider sidewalk to allow for ease of accessibility. We continue to build out trails that are shared with walkers, runners, bicyclists etc. As we continue to create a favorable walkability plan for our city, we must also remember that these sidewalks are a major part of our transportation for our students and schools. I am very excited to say that we have been so fortunate to work with IDOT, CMPO and private organizations to assist in these projects for the benefit of all. Promoting "Being Outside" year-round has been a wonderful thing to witness and shared by all ages. We are continuing to witness our outside activities grow with each passing year. We have our alley projects, hosting outside events in the uptown district and events across our city. A trip through our uptown district any evening is proof enough. Marion is a wonderful city and I'm so fortunate to be a part of all our progress!