By Tim Leeds
Two Havre businessmen want to use their business expertise to lead the city. Erik Meis and Ron Wolford are vying Tuesday for the Republican nomination in City Council Ward 4.
Meis said his work experience will be a great benefit to the City Council.
"The city needs to be run like a business," he said.
Meis has owned and operated five businesses in Havre in the last 25 years. He employs a total of 10 people at West Wind Courier Service Inc., Blue Bear Car Wash, EMT Car Wash, and Emtas Inc. He feels his experience in business more than qualifies him for the council position.
"My current qualifications are head and tails above the current city council members," he said.
Meis wrote in his reply to a questionnaire from the Daily News that the three most important issues facing Havre are updating and maintaining the city's infrastructure, attracting new businesses to broaden the tax base, and working to control juvenile and adult crime and litter.
He said community service sentences in court should include activities like picking up litter, sweeping sidewalks and shoveling snow.
Meis said the city needs to take an active role in partnering with business to help current businesses prosper and attract new ones. He said a committee of business representatives needs to be formed to advise the City Council.
"The city hasn't really taken an active role in partnering with business," he said.
The city needs to work more with businesses to help them find low-interest loans and grants, Meis said. He added that the city could be applying for Community Transportation Enhancement Grants to help businesses repair and maintain their sidewalks and generally improve the business environment, instead of concentrating in nonbusiness areas.
Meis doesn't think the city needs to find new sources of revenue. Rather, he said, any operation with a budget the size of Havre's can trim without hurting employees, balancing the budget without raising taxes.
Meis thinks supporting the 4 for 2 project to widen U.S. Highway 2 to four lanes is an obvious action for the council to take. Not endorsing the project sends a strong message that the government lacks planning and goals that would benefit Havre and the Hi-Line, he said.
Wolford also cites his business experience as an asset for his candidacy, along with 30 years of military experience. He was in the Air Force and Air National Guard from 1962 to 1992 and then moved to Havre to be closer to family.
He was a recruiter on active duty for the Guard for three years, and working, mainly in insurance and home construction, for the rest of his time with the Guard. He now is self-employed as a landlord and works as a school bus driver for the schools.
Wolford said his community involvement is also an asset. He is active in the American Legion, is senior vice commander of the Havre VFW and will be commander next year, is in his fourth year as president of the Havre chapter of the Montana Landlords Association, in his eighth year as secretary of the Havre Rotary Club and is on the board of directors of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
Wolford said the military discipline he learned will be one advantage for him on the City Council.
"In the military, discipline is a way of life, and I'm certainly filled with that," he said.
Wolford said much of his work in the military was in management fields. He said his experience in management and working with people will be a major strength for him if he is elected.
One of Havre's problems is a lack of growth, he said. Havre has been about the same size for many years, and such lack of growth can cause stagnation, he said. He added that he wants to find ways to stimulate growth in the city.
"I don't have the answer yet, but I sure have talked to a lot of people about it," he said.
Like Meis, Wolford thinks the city should address attracting new small businesses to town. He said one way to do that would be to offer some kind of tax incentives to encourage new businesses to open and to help the businesses get through the crucial first few years after they open.
"I'm not saying we have to give the farm away," he said. But, "there has to be some kind of tax structure for a new business to help them out and get them going."
Some kind of planning is necessary to revitalize Havre's downtown, Wolford said. He anticipates needing a group of city leaders and business people brainstorming to find a long-range plan.
Wolford said trying to beautify the downtown is a valid part of revitalization, but it needs to be carefully planned. He said for any project the city should have long-range planning, preferably at least a five-year plan.
He added that a major issue for him is street maintenance, or lack of it, including snow removal during the winter. Other street issues also bother him.
"I find it absolutely appalling that we have dirt streets inside the city limits in this day and age," he said.