Newport City Council candidate Q-and-A: Bill SumnerNewport City Council candidate Bill Sumner answers questions posed by the Bulletin.
Why are you most qualified to serve as a member of the Newport City Council?
I have served four years on the council so I’ve been through a portion of the learning curve. My education is a business degree from the University of Minnesota. I have managed up to 40 people and had responsibility for a large physical facility. I can recognize efficiency and expect it. Currently I am an auditor for the state of Minnesota. I have dealt with many types of businesses and have a feel for what they need to succeed.
What is the biggest issue facing Newport, and how would you address it?
Right now there are two different groups competing to present the face of Newport to the broader world. One depicts our city, our home, as run-down and dilapidated. I prefer to point out the expanding and upgrading of businesses along Hastings Avenue as examples of positive improvements. In addition, Newport’s largest employer is interested in continuing to grow his business right here. This is a chance for people to work close to home.
When candidates for the council or mayor tell the incumbents and residents there is no progress I find myself wondering, “How can they expect to lead development activities when they can’t recognize development that is happening all around them?”
My plan is to expand the variety of production, manufacturing and repair operations that take advantage of our central location so we can have more local jobs.
Another focus is to continue to support the introduction of new retail operations that can act both to serve the residents and also as a draw to people from outside of Newport. This task is made more challenging because we must keep the personal service that is available from our current stores. It is a part of the elusive element that makes our city feel like, well, home.
Regarding recent potential financial oversight issues that were raised, are you satisfied with the city’s finances and the current controls in place? Why or why not?
The issues about the finances have been raised to try to discredit the incumbents. Several of the concerns happened over a year ago and were resolved long before NewCo started trying to fan them into a fire. The chief of police and the superintendent of Public Works testified they review all credit card and charge purchases. Perhaps an invoice may be missing. Ask yourself if this is a problem that deserves the furor that has developed?
I do ask that you be aware of the findings of Moody’s, an independent evaluator of organizational financial health, when they improved our bond rating recently: “This upgrade is indicative of the city’s modest tax base, stable financial reserves despite reduction in local government aid from the state, and low debt profile with limited additional borrowing planned.” This is the truth of our financial situation.
In conclusion, I have lived in many places because my father was a naval officer. I consider Newport my home and I will work hard to protect and improve it.
Occupation: Auditor for state of Minnesota
Lived in Newport: 24 years
Family: Married, two daughters; two granddaughters