Mayoral candidates Mike Evans and Angie Lauritsen offered their ideas to Gretna residents at an open forum, held Sept. 28 at Gretna American Legion Post 216.
All four Gretna City Council candidates were able to briefly introduce themselves and their ideas before the mayoral forum got underway.
Both Evans, a Republican, and Lauritsen, a Democrat, offered up introductions and background information before questioning began.
Lauritsen went first, sharing a story about her childhood: growing up in a military family, she had moved eight times by sixth grade.
“We really wanted that place for our kids, where they can plant their roots and grow up with their friends,” Lauritsen said. “When it comes to Gretna, I think we all kind of moved here for the same reason. We all moved here because we wanted that small-town feel. We wanted that community we could really be a part of and participate in.”
As a pastry chef and small business owner, Lauritsen joined the Gretna Area Chamber of Commerce “almost immediately,” following her September 2011 move to the area.
When looking into opening a storefront, Lauritsen ran into hurdles facing businesses considering a move to Gretna, she brought those issues back to the Chamber’s Board of Directors, helping to form a Business Development Committee and open lines of communication between business leaders and the city.
Evans followed, highlighting his dedication to family. He and his wife moved to Gretna 19 years ago, where they have raised three children.
“We were looking for a community that felt like a home,” he said. “More importantly, we also wanted a town with a great school and safe neighborhoods. It’s really a special place.”
An avid member of the Gretna Optimists Club, Evans also owns True Horizon Real Estate. He says his business sense will help him push to create more jobs in town.
“I want to build on the progress we’ve made, but still keep our community,” Evans said, mentioning goals of bringing goals of bringing businesses to town and effectively managing cost as the city grows.
The Gretna Breeze and Gretna Guide and News asked a combined four questions before a short intermission, during which attendees could submit questions weighing on their minds.
Lauritsen highlighted community, accessiblity and growth as three of her top priorities if elected.
“You know I will show up for you,” she said, pointing out her thorough involvement in community meetings. “If no one is sitting at the table representing your community, your community is not represented in those decisions.”
She said that while growth is important, she hopes to bring back those things that make Gretna special.
“We need to be able to foster growth,” Lauritsen said. “But, why everyone moves here and everyone stays here, as growth comes, we need to capture that and keep that with us.”
Evans goals include managing both the city and recent growth more efficiently.
“We need to be more intentional in what we do,” he said. “I really want to focus on fiscal responsibility.
He also hopes to bring more business and jobs to Gretna.
“I would like to take the word ‘commuter’ out of our town,” Evans said. “It’d be nice if we had a community where we had these jobs and careers.
“Growth is going to happen but we need to manage our growth.”
Both addressed how their political party affiliation affects their values.
Evans said that keeping government small and his business-forward mindset are values that line up with the Republican party.
“Those are my values and they happen to align with being Republican,” he said.
Lauritsen said for many years, her neighbors had not idea she was a Democrat.
“My job is to make sure I’m listening to residents and taking care of your needs,” she said. “When residents call me, I don’t ask them what party they are. I make sure their problems are solved and I find solutions for them.”
Both candidates agreed on the importance of involving the community in decisions that affect them.
Lauritsen said she tries to point out important City Council meetings on her Facebook page and hopes that the Zoom broadcasts of city meetings will continue.
Evans said that he supports transparency, and that it's leaders’ responsibility to respond and reach out with regular information about what’s going on around town.
When posed with a hypothetical million dollar grant to use as they wish, Evans said he would be fiscally careful, possibly applying it toward Gretna Crossing Park or existing debt.
“I would use it to keep cost down rather than start something new,” he said.
Lauritsen said that in a city with high turnover and lower pay than neighboring Omaha, she would first ensure that current employees are taken care of.
Other topics touched on included how candidates would address potential protests or riots in Gretna, fire department growth and a potential police department.
The forum, in its entirety, was streamed live on the Gretna Breeze Facebook page. Those videos can be found at facebook.com/gretna.breeze.
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