YORK – When residents of York go to the polls next Tuesday, Nov. 6, they will see five people listed on their ballots who are running for four seats on the York City Council.

The candidates in this year’s General Election are Barry Redfern, Diane Wolfe, Jeff Pieper, Scott Van Esch and Sheila Hubbard.

All four incumbents filed to run again and are joined by one non-incumbent.

This race comes amid a lot of conversation about the city’s financial status; the working climate for employees and department heads; and the future of York.

The York News-Times asked very specific questions of all the candidates regarding these issues and the candidates were extremely straight-forward in their answers.

The candidates’ responses are being published exactly as they were received and have not been edited in any way.

They are also being run in no specific order.

Barry Redfern

Barry Redfern

Barry Redfern

Occupation: Banking

Past experience in civil service, volunteerism, community action: I have been involved in numerous organizations, served on a number of boards and participated in many fundraising projects over the past 34 years that I have worked since coming back to York after college.

Past political experience: I have served several terms on the York City Council.

Q: Why did you file your candidacy to run for the York City Council?

A: I am a lifelong resident of York and am very proud to be a part of this community. I not promoting any single agenda but only want what is best for citizens and York’s future. The City needs to work openly with all the different groups that make York a great place to live. We need to be positive and not let negativity hold us back.

Q: York has experienced financial challenges in the last few months. How do you feel about the spending cuts that were made? And if further cuts are needed in the future, in what areas should those be made?

A: I think the council did the best they could working with the administration considering the time constraints that we were under. No one liked what had to be done to balance this budget. As I have said, I am sure that this wasn’t a perfect process and it will take a while and communication with all the various organizations to find out just what the effects of the cuts are. It will be important to find additional revenue sources before just turning to increased property taxes.

Q: Do you believe that the City’s financial situation is as dire as has been portrayed?

A: The City was in a situation with its operating budget that it was spending more money than it had available to operate. That had to be corrected immediately. Reserves had been used in previous budgets and they were used for capital expenditures instead of borrowing the money or doing lease purchase agreements. The ’17-’18 budget was the first where reserves were budgeted in excess of what was available. When looking at this year’s budget we had $700,000 available to be used from the utility funds and approximately $1.6M available from assigned but not restricted funds that would be available for emergency so we were far from “broke.” That does not change the fact that we “overdrew” our checking account and needed to make changes as it was not sustainable without exhausting all of our available cash. We made a choice to present a balance budget and that is what I believe the taxpayers expected to see.

Q: Do you believe there is enough transparency regarding city government operations?

A: I believe that for years the City has had open meetings and I am not aware of anything that I felt was being “hidden.” I think the York News-Times and KAWL do a great job reporting City and County issues and meetings to make citizens aware of what is going on. We can always do a better job of communicating and with the increased interest in City operations the past few months I am sure there will be more involvement from citizens going forward than maybe in the past.

Q: What do you think is the City’s most positive asset?

A: I would have to change that to “Assets” and say our people and all the wonderful facilities York has.

Q: Do you feel any city services should be discontinued in the future if the city’s finances continue to be a problem? And if so, which?

A: I don’t have anything I would discontinue at this time. Cuts were made pretty much across the board as to not eliminate services. As I said we will need to evaluate the effects of those cuts.

Q: Do you think the employee step program and longevity pay arrangements should be reinstated at some point?

A: The step program is used by almost every municipality and is approved by the council annually. It develops a range of pay for every position with the goal at the end of the steps to bring that employee’s wage to comparability for the job they are performing. It also gives supervisors a range of what they can pay a new employee based on that employee’s experience in that job. Public employers have different rules than private employers. Adjustments can be made in the current step program but I think it is necessary to have in place to make sure we are paying fair and comparable wages. Longevity pay has been around for decades in the City and I think it is an area that we will need to further discuss.

Q: What can be done to generate more revenue for the city coffers?

A: Again I think this is where communication between the City and all the community groups is so important because ideas will come from building these coalitions. I have already heard some great ideas for additional marketing and advertising ideas. It will not be easy and this is a struggle for every community as support from the federal government and from the state is very slim.

Q: Would you support a LB840 program in York?

A: I would support a LB840 plan and would vote to put it on the ballot. Several attempts to have a committee agree on the details of the program have come up short. I think this has to be something driven by the community and be requested to the council to have people vote on it.

Q: What do you hope for the future of the York community? How do you see the future of the City of York?

A: I am continually optimistic about York now and in the future. I think we have to maintain a positive outlook and treat “problems” as opportunities to make things better. We have so much to offer for a town of our size and it is a great place to live.

Q: With so much negativity in the last year/two years regarding the “state of the city,” what positive things have happened here in recent years that can be considered positive and something to be proud of?

A: There are endless positive things happening every day -- just read the newspaper. So many things to be proud of: support shown for great causes, progress in providing more housing opportunities, new businesses opening and the many successes of the youth of our community. There has been a lot of negativity and that is the most important thing to stand up to. I think a positive result from all of this is there are a lot of people paying more attention to the things that matter most to them which sometimes we all take for granted. I have talked to so many people about different issues and I have heard the passion in their voices. That’s a good thing.

Diane Wolfe

Diane Wolfe

Diane Wolfe

Occupation: Insurance agent

Past experience in civic service, volunteerism, community action: York Adopt-A-Pet photographer, assistant/photographer for Kathy Johnson’s dog training school

Past political experience: Three terms on city council

Any other information you would like the voters to know about you, that would make you a favorable city council member: I have served as church youth leader, church organist, Sunday School teacher, and have been on two mission trips through Compassion throughout the years.

Q: Why did you file your candidacy to run for York City Council?

A: I want to continue to serve the people of York and represent everyone to the best of my ability and to do what is best for the community.

Q: York has experienced financial challenges in the last few months. How do you feel about the spending cuts that were made? And if further cuts are needed in the future, in what areas should those be made?

A: I think some decisions were made in haste, including the people losing their jobs before the city council were able to vote on it. I don’t believe there will be future cuts necessary.

Q: Do you believe that the city’s financial situation is as dire as has been portrayed?

A: No, I do not. I believe there was some money spent on paving that should have been bonded, but I believe the city’s finances are better than what is being portrayed.

Q: Do you believe there is enough transparency regarding city government operations?

A: No, I don’t believe there is any transparency.

Q: What do you feel is the city’s most positive asset?

A: Services, the ball complex is bringing in revenue, the Holthus Center is paying for itself with the hotel tax and events, and we couldn’t do it without the fire and police departments. Plus the library and the other programs through Park and Rec. All of these things are why people move to York. They might work out of town, but they move here for the services.

Q: Do you feel any city services should be discontinued in the future if the city’s finances continue to be a problem? And if so, which?

A: No. Absolutely not.

Q: Do you think the employees’ step program and longevity pay arrangements should be reinstated at some point?

A: I believe most cities use the step program so yes, I would check on comparable size cities and see what they do and go from there.

Q: What should be done to generate more revenue for the city coffers?

A: I think we are doing it with the ball complex, TIF funds and fixing up some of the housing.

Q: Would you support a LB 840 program in York?

A: Yes, if the people voted for it.

Q: What do you hope for the future of the York community? How do you see the future of the City of York?

A: Some growth for York, more job opportunities for both men and women, and more middle income housing available.

Q: With so much negativity in the last year/two years regarding the “state of the city,” what positive things have happened here in recent years that can be considered positive and something to be proud of?

A: The ball complex is wonderful. If you haven’t been out there during a tournament you are missing out seeing all the youth and their parents. The new waste water treatment plant will soon be up and running this next year. We are making progress on the quiet zone, though it seems like it is taking forever.

Jeff Pieper

Jeff Pieper

Jeff Pieper

Occupation: Plumber – Pieper’s Inc.

Past experience in political service: York city council 2014-present

Q: Why did you file your candidacy to run for the York City Council?

A: I filed to run for reelection to the council to serve our community by steering our city’s governmental policies in a positive direction that strives to serve the best interests of the majority of our citizens. Like any large group of people, our community members hold differing political views and ideas of what is “right for York.” I believe it is the obligation of the council to listen to all the citizen constituents and their views, and act on what is appropriate for the majority of the people.

In the past four years, I have served under two very different administrations. My first two years under Mayor Chuck Harris and Administrator Tara Vasicek, I experienced what I believe was very efficient and effective city governance. Mrs. Vasicek took care of business on a day to day basis with the best interests of the city’s finances and future direction at heart. Mayor Chuck Harris was a very strong supporter and promotor of our community in many different ways and a very positive representative of our city at the state and regional level. Things were going pretty smooth my first two years. If there were disgruntled citizens not happy with how things were being ran, I sure didn’t hear from them. Most of the time there were very few attendees at our meetings and city business was getting done by our administration without opposition.

Back to the question of why I filed for re-election back in February. At this time, we were just over a year under the current administration. I was very frustrated with how City Hall was being run and the different policies that were being proposed and changed. A part of me wanted to throw up my hands and leave it to somebody else. I decided to file for candidacy after speaking to many citizens who shared my same concerns. They convinced me that it was my civic duty to seek retention of my seat on the council to hold back the reins on some of these changes that could have negative consequences for our future, and do what is right for the majority of our citizens.

I have learned a lot over the past four years serving on the council and I hope I have earned your support to serve another four. I think it’s time for me to take my training wheels off and apply my experiences in a positive way for our city moving forward.

Q: York has experienced financial challenges in the last few months. How do you feel about the spending cuts that were made? And if further cuts are needed in the future, in what areas should those be made?

A: I believe the spending cuts were pretty brash. During the last budget process, it was very disheartening to hear that we were cutting personnel after being told as a council that we had a balanced budget without any jobs lost. I don’t foresee any further cuts in the future.

Q: Do you believe that the City’s financial situation is as dire as has been portrayed?

A: No. I have believed from the onset of our “financial crisis” that York was not and is not broke. The city has cash and certificates of deposits in many different accounts as well as numerous valuable assets. With conservative spending and some corrections in small inefficiencies, I believe we can build our reserve funds back up very rapidly. Over the years, the city has utilized many different avenues to fund projects and capital expenses. It has been the practice over the last few years to use cash for these projects and capital improvements which brought down the cash reserves. York is healthy and prospering.

Q: Do you believe there is enough transparency regarding city government operations?

A: As a council member I would say yes. There has been no privileged information shared with me or private conversations or meetings that would make me think otherwise. I cannot speak to any other transparency issues regarding other government officials as I don’t have any knowledge of their actions.

Q: What do you think is the City’s most positive asset?

A: Our most valuable and positive assets are our people, quality of life, and geographical position in the heartland.

Q: Do you feel any city services should be discontinued in the future if the city’s finances continue to be a problem? And if so, which?

A: No. If anything I would hope that we could add or improve on the services that we already have and provide.

Q: Do you think the employee step program and longevity pay arrangements should be reinstated at some point?

A: Yes. I think it is important to reward members of a team whose dedication to their job leads to positive outcomes. I hope to see some form of valuation process in the future to help identify the individuals who are putting in the extra effort as well as weaknesses that may be present to improve efficiencies in the day to day operations of the city.

Q: What can be done to generate more revenue for the city coffers?

A: Promote York in a positive way. Show people what York has to offer as a great place to raise a family, great place to bring a new business or industry, and great place to visit. The York Chamber of Commerce and the York County Development Corporation work their tails off and do some tremendous things (mostly with private funds) to promote our community and attract people and business. But, it only takes one small negative action by our city government to turn them away. We must ensure that we do everything we can do to accommodate these future Yorkites and seal the deal that has been laid out for us by these organizations. It takes an entire community, united together, to build great things.

Q: Would you support a LB840 program in York?

A: I am all for economic development but I don’t feel right spending tax dollars of those whom don’t support it on such programs. I believe that fundraising for economic development should be left to the private sector and I firmly believe that an economic development program of any kind funded by our property taxpaying citizens needs to go to the vote of the people. When the concept of LB 840 was first brought to the table, I was openly opposed to it. If it comes up again and I hear from the majority of the citizens that it might be the right thing for York, I might change my views and be in support of the program. I am on the fence on this subject and would encourage some public input.

Q: What do you hope for the future of the York community? How do you see the future of the City of York?

A: Prosperity. Bright.

Q: With so much negativity in the last year/two years regarding the “state of the city,” what positive things have happened here in recent years that can be considered positive and something to be proud of?

A: We are all truly blessed to call York our home. Our little city always has and will continue to provide a great place to grow up, raise a family, and get a little older in. We have a brand new ball field complex that rivals or exceeds any of its kind in the region. We have a brand new state of the art wastewater treatment facility that went into operation this month that ranks up with the best in the state of Nebraska (You can be proud to know that your human waste might be traveling to a place that has never been explored before by a creature of its kind). You can also be proud and assured that our public works employees in the wastewater department are very skilled individuals that are dedicated to their job and will efficiently maintain the new plant for years and generations to come. These valuable assets come with large price tags but the long term and residual benefits will far exceed the upfront costs. With all of the political hatred and resentment prevalent in our world today, regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election and special election if it may arise, I prayerfully hope and believe that we will come out as one community, united under God, with a very positive outlook for our future.

Scott VanEsch

Scott VanEsch

Scott VanEsch

Occupation: I am employed at Mogul’s Transmission and Auto Repair as a mechanic and tow truck operator.

Past experience in civic service, volunteerism, community action: When my children were in school I volunteered to assist with school activities; including, coaching softball, hosting after prom programs, and singing with the men’s choir at York High School.

Political experience: This is my first venture into elected office.

Any other information you would like the voters to know about you that would make you a favorable city council member: I am originally from Washington State in a city just north of the Seattle area. As a teenager our town was the size of York. Twenty years later it had grown to the size of Grand Island. After college I worked for a heavy construction company as a project supervisor. We primarily worked with municipalities in the Washington/Oregon area building new parks, landfills and industrial parks. In this capacity, I met and worked with city officials and community leaders to ensure the projects were completed correctly, on time, and within the budget. These experiences give me unique insight in working with city government and exploring ways to grow responsibly and successfully.

Q: Why did you file your candidacy for York City Council?

A: We moved to York in 2005 to be closer to family and to raise our children in the York community. My children are now grown and starting their own families and lives. Because the community gave so much to us and our children I want to give back to the community. York has been through some difficult times in the past months. Because of my past experiences I believe I offer a new set of eyes to look at problems, a new set of ears to listen to new ideas, and new experiences to help York discover new solutions. I believe I can help facilitate communication between the offices and individuals of city government.

Q: Do you believe the city’s financial situation is as dire as has been portrayed?

A: In short, No. The city maintains reserves to help when situations like this arise. This “Rainy Day Fund” is designed to keep services going until adjustments in the operating budget can be addressed. As a member of the City Council, I will work to improve communication and accountability to assess our current situation and make sure it does not repeat itself.

Q: Do you believe there is enough transparency regarding city government operations?

A: Following the events this summer concerning the budget, it is apparent more transparency is needed. Additionally, communication between city agencies, department heads, and individuals, needs to improve. Communication is the key to fixing problems and finding ways to avoid repeating them. Better communication between the Mayor’s office and the City Council must be a priority. This will improve the operation of both areas and improve the transparency of government in general.

Q: What do you feel is the city’s most positive asset?

A: It is the people that make a city. In general, the citizens of York obey the law, respect each other, and work together to make York a great place to live. The business community is vibrant and ready to assist. Whenever my family visits here, they always comment on how polite and friendly the people of York are, and how they wish their hometowns were like the people of York.

Q: Do you feel any city services should be discontinued in the future if the city’s finances continue to be a problem? And if so, which?

A: I do not believe any city services should be discontinued. Current services support both safety and quality of life for the citizens of York. Police, fire, and transportation may not be things everyone needs every day, but we do not want to think what our community would be like without them. The same is true for all city services; we all may not need them now, but many York residents rely on these services.

Q: Do you think the employees’ step program and longevity pay arrangements should be reinstated at some point?

A: Yes they should be reinstated. Good employees are a value and necessary for government to function. Retention of experienced employees is both necessary for continuity of services and fiscal responsibility. Training new employees is expensive, both in inferior performance and in the total cost of training verses retaining current employees. Without scheduled pay raises, the best and most productive employees will eventually look elsewhere.

Q: What should be done to generate more revenue for the city coffers?

A: Property taxes have already been raised. Sales tax projections appear to be sufficient. As budget work continues both will be evaluated. However, the best way to generate additional revenue is to attract more businesses to York. Increased employment, sales taxes, and increased property values will all add revenue without increasing the cost to current residents. I would call on the city to explore new ways to attract new long term businesses.

Q: Would you support a LB 840 program in York?

A: No, not at this time. The city must be fiscally sound and able to support such a program for the long haul without impacting current services or resources. Also, this is such an important decision it must be voted on by the people of York, not made just by the council.

Q: What do you hope for the future of the York community? How do you see the future of the City of York?

A: My hope for the future of York is that it continues to be a great place to raise a family, continues to be a safe place to live, and York is always able to meet the needs of its citizens. The future of York looks solid. We are situated in a great geographic location with the intersection of I-80 and 81. In the future we need to use our location to expand our economic advantages and build an even stronger future.

Q: With so much negativity in the last year/two years regarding the “state of the city,” what positive things have happened here in recent years that can be considered positive and something to be proud of?

A: York has one of the best school districts in Nebraska. It is great because of the community, from teachers, administrators, and a supportive school board to motivated students, the community has supported excellence in education. It would have been tougher for students to earn state championships in One Act, speech, football, basketball, and golf without community support. The softball/baseball complex brings many out-of-town visitors to York and provides York with a sense of pride. The pool provides recreation in the heat of summer. The convention center hosts many different events and could be modified to connect with a hotel or other facilities. The parks, city center and library add to the quality of life for countless residents. York is clean and well maintained. We should all be very proud of York and all we have accomplished.

Sheila A Hubbard

Sheila A Hubbard

Sheila A Hubbard

Occupation: A Nebraska Mediator working in business, restorative justice, divorce, parenting plans, and HHS conference facilitations.

Past experience in civic service, volunteerism, and community action: I was an educator for a number of years at many levels: K-12 public schools, community college, college, and adult ed. These are some of my volunteer experiences, past and present: Girl Scout Badge instructor, Nebraska Art Teachers Association, Family Campers and RVer’s, 4-H, my church, Youth Camps, People’s City Mission, and Crisis Response.

Past political experience: I am completing my first term on the York City Council.

Any other information you would like the voters to know about you that would make you a favorable city council member:

I like to read and research, travel, and work with youth. I am patient and like to delve into situations and view them from multiple perspectives. I am willing to work through conflict and search for consensus. I have lived in York most of my adult life. I am a wage earner from both the public and private sector.

Q: Why did you file your candidacy to run for York City Council?

A: I love York! My parents set an example of civic service by holding various elected positions in the rural Nebraska community where I grew up. Running for my first term I was doing it to give back to the community that has been good to me. I filed to run for my second term because I want to continue to serve. With the financial strain York finds itself in today, my goal is to be the listening ear to constituents, a city council member that gathers information, develops possible solutions through citizen input, and evaluates what outcomes could be. Another goal is to always be accessible for feedback from York residents.

Q: York has experienced financial challenges in the last few months. How do you feel about the spending cuts that were made? And if further cuts are needed in the future, in what areas should those be made?

A: I was not happy with many of the cuts. I understand the necessity. I did not vote for the budget. I thought the budget merited a special meeting a week later giving the council an additional week for more input and study. We could have still met the state deadlines with doing this. The cuts to the Anna Palmer Museum were short sighted and saved very little. I am afraid not having a person dedicated to the Ball Field Complex will hurt it being completely booked the entire season, like it was this year. I was raised with the idea that public libraries are one of the greatest assets of our country, so that cut was hard to swallow as well. Personal mobility in my vehicle is important and a necessity for me professionally, even after a snow storm. Cuts in snow removal will likely affect me and others and this worries me.

Q: Do you believe that the city’s financial situation is as dire as has been portrayed?

A: The current financial stresses need to be monitored closely. Budgets are created on projections, which can change. I do believe I need to question financial information I am told, and look over figures myself. The city would have been better served if a couple bigger projects would have been bonded rather than coming directly from one year’s general fund. The current budget is bare bones and revenue projections made at a low level…I think this will lessen the dire portrayal. The city will also begin collecting on a couple big projects that were not bonded but could have been and this will support stronger financial health.

Q: Do you believe there is enough transparency regarding city government operations?

A: The perception is it is not transparent. I believe the council wants it to be and all members want the public to feel they are accessible and willing to listen. A few times I have felt kept in the dark myself. Another reason I know I need to question often.

Q: What do you feel is the city’s most positive asset?

A: York’s greatest asset is its people. The number of people now contacting me, attending meetings, wanting to know and understand, and share their ideas and thoughts is a positive in these hard times.

Q: Do you feel any city services should be discontinued in the future if the city’s finances continue to be a problem? And if so, which?

A: This question is hard. I honestly do not know. Future cuts need to allow for a longer and a more studied approach to finding the right mix of cuts among services and programs. I dislike cuts, especially those that impact children in our community.

Q: Do you think the employees’ step program and longevity pay arrangements should be reinstated at some point?

A: The combination of both a step program and longevity schedule is positive. It gives workers two ways to improve their pay. A step program is related to yearly evaluations by the direct supervisor who rates the employee on duties performed and additional education gained. A longevity schedule allows for a slight pay increase based on years of service. One method is subjective the other objective that is what makes the combination positive. My hope would be that both arrangements with updated formats will be reinstated for York City workers.

Q: What should be done to generate more revenue for the city coffers?

A: Keeping the Holthus Center booked with daily and weekly events is needed. The Ball Field Complex needs to be booked April through mid-October. Both these venues bring many people to York, this benefits our sales tax numbers. Each of us needs to be selling York regularly as a place to move a business and/or a family too. Every citizen has the opportunity through their own connections to market the city.

Q: Would you support a LB 840 program in York?

A: I support LB 840 going to the ballot for the citizens of York. It is the voters right to decide the issue of economic development. I was not in support of fees added to water and sewer bills. Before a vote on the matter, a committee of business owners, interested citizens, and other volunteers should be available to go to groups and explain how money from this program would benefit York. This educational component is extremely important so all would know what LB840 could do for positive growth in York.

Q: What do you hope for the future of the York community? How do you see the future of the City of York?

A: My hope is for positive change for York. I hope the council, with input from many citizens, will develop a plan to support consistent, steady growth in economic opportunity and population expansion. I hope for many levels of diversity in this growth. This includes: business ventures, ages of citizens, economic status, ethnicity components. Each of these areas needs attention to make growth possible, positive, and long-term.

Q: With so much negativity in the last year/two years regarding the “state of the city,” what positive things have happened here in recent years that can be considered positive and something to be proud of?

A: The city has formed a strong inter-local agreement with York Public Schools. The City Parks and Rec department works with the Kilgore Library, York County Extension, Yorkshire Community Theater, York Chamber, and private businesses to provide amazing educational and fun activities for local youth and their families.

This October the new sewer treatment plant went into service and is going through start up protocols. It is state of the art and working well.

The combined and upgraded 911 system in cooperation with York County is moving forward.

In the past two years several new retail operations have opened at the city interstate corridor.

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