Stillwater News Press

Local News

March 2, 2012

Stillwater mayor candidate says public input key to improving city

STILLWATER, Okla. — Mick Hoeltzel wrapped up his life philosophy in two phrases. One of those is “compassion is not a sign of weakness.”

Hoeltzel, who is vying to become Stillwater’s next mayor, said he saw three people living under a bridge a little more than one year ago. When he passed the bridge after a tornado system passed through the area, Hoeltzel said all of the group’s possessions were gone.

“What I’m thinking is that with people living under bridges, there’s a reason to (want) something being done,” he said.

Hoeltzel said he didn’t necessarily believe it was the government’s role to address the homeless issue, but he said what he observed illustrates a need. Another event Hoeltzel said spurred an interest in politics was the 2010 recall election of Mayor Nathan Bates.

Hoeltzel grew up in rural Oklahoma and graduated high school in Covington. He holds a bachelor’s degree and has worked for oil companies and done information technology work.

Hoeltzel said he wants to see more public input in city government. When asked about his philosophy for dealing with rezoning requests, he said such input would help the process. Hoeltzel referred specifically to the Feb. 20 City Council meeting when several neighbors voiced their concerns over a proposed retirement community in their neighborhood.

“The main reason (for the controversy) is the people around it haven’t bought in on it,” he said.

He suggested the city utilize the website to measure public sentiment on proposals. Next to a list of proposals, Hoeltzel said, residents could log in through the same process they do to pay utility bills online and vote “yay” or “nay” and leave comments.

“The thing is to try and get some buy in from the community before we have the perception of ramming something down their throats,” he said. “The other is from a developer’s point of view, this lets them solve issues well ahead of time.”

He also suggested including flyers in utility bills that tried to notify residents of major upcoming development decisions or ordinances to increase awareness and participation.

“Hopefully it will take on a life of its own,” he said. “I think it will improve the perception of city government (with) its response to the citizens.”

Hoeltzel said he would be willing to vote against majority opinion in certain situations.

“If I believed it wasn’t warranted or if (there were) factors that I didn’t think made sense or were appropriate,” he said he would vote against the majority.

The other phrase Hoeltzel said described his philosophy was borrowed from the U.S. Marine Corps:  “Adapt, improvise and overcome.”

He talked about residents who have lost their jobs in Stillwater either due to the recession or high profile business closing such as Quad/Graphics or MerCruiser. Hoeltzel said re-training is necessary as well as finding ways to help entrepreneurs. One idea, he said, would be to invest in a MakerBot for the library. A MakerBot is a 3D printer, which can be programmed to create small models out of plastics or other materials based on a design that is entered by a user.

Hoeltzel said it could help residents with business prototypes or other projects.

“If every individual homeowner ran their own business, it would be great,” he said.

Hoeltzel added that there are a number of residents who run businesses out of their homes already, and keeping the library funded was key for those entrepreneurs.

“Every time I go in there, there has only been one or two computer stations open,” he said. “Even if somebody is making ends meet by selling stuff on Ebay, that’s still enabling them to improve their situation.”

As for any economic development plans, Hoeltzel wasn’t specific about what businesses or type of manufacturing he’d like to see in Stillwater, but he said earlier in the week that it was important to utilize entrepreneurs.

“The thing that’s probably going to take Stillwater to the future is something we can’t imagine right now,” he said. “That open-mindedness is going to be required for the leadership.”

Hoeltzel said he realizes the city can’t fund everything, suggesting the city keep all avenues open to fund quality of life services such as public-private partnerships or using city employees to staff facilities.

“There’s a wide variety of things that depends on what the group’s needs are,” Hoeltzel said.

There is some quality of life duplication between the city, university and schools, Hoeltzel said, but some of that is because residents like to go different places.

“I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have the Senior Citizens Center or the Stillwater Community Center. I mean, I think we should have those,” he said. “For one thing if we let that stuff deteriorate and go away then the next thing we’re doing is renting stuff from the high school or the university.”

Infrastructure, Hoeltzel said, is also a big issue. He cited the construction of Interstate 35 where engineers used 25 feet of concrete and reinforcing bars in sections for durability. Hoeltzel said this isn’t his suggestion for Stillwater roads, but the principle of higher design standards to delay maintenance is a good idea.

“There may be some other things that come up in the future where we look at implementing that (strategy) in our specifications,” he said.

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