Julie Struck is running for mayor of South Bend. The Herald interviewed Struck about her candidacy. Below are her responses.
Please give a little background about yourself.
“I am native to this area. I grew up in Bay Center on the Rose Ranch. My parents are Bob and Janie Rose. I have worked for 36 years for Safeway Stores Inc. During my employment with Safeway, I have attended numerous leadership classes, diversity training, and have been involved with employee recruitment and dismissal. I am going to retire after the first of the year and will be able to devote my time to the city as mayor.”
The most obvious question is why did you decide to run for Mayor of South Bend?
“A number of years ago I was impressed with Mayor Katy Kimura and thought then that I would like to be a mayor like her. I will be retiring after the first of the year and decided that now is the time to give back to my community. I believe I can make a positive difference for our community as the mayor.”
Do you have any political background? If so, what are your biggest accomplishments related to politics?
“My background is in business, not politics; however, the leadership lessons learned there transfer over to the political side very easily. Teamwork, leadership skills, integrity, goal setting, time management, budgeting, communication; these are all necessary for business and politics.”
Do you feel you’re at an advantage running against a write-in candidate? But, do you feel it is a disadvantage running against an incumbent mayor? What will you do to make up for that disadvantage?
“Yes, my name is the only one on the ballot. That is a definite advantage. In this case, I do not feel that I am at a disadvantage running against an incumbent. I have campaigned aggressively and my opponent has not. I believe the citizens of South Bend are ready for a change of leadership.”
“Yes, I am confident that I can win. I am a lifelong member of this community. People know who I am, who my family is and that I am an honest person of integrity, intelligent and capable of making good decisions to lead the City of South Bend. Again, I have campaigned aggressively and my opponent has not.”
“We can do better. Our current mayor has lost the respect of the city council members and the city department heads. How can you function as mayor effectively when neither you nor your decisions are respected? I will lead with integrity and honesty – working with the council and department heads instead of against them.”
What’s the biggest problem facing South Bend and what will you do to try and fix it?
“Lack of revenue. We need our economic base to grow. I would like to help get 4G service to our area. I would like to work with the EDC to attract new businesses. I would like to develop a research team to look at successful communities and see what may be applicable to help our revenue base expand. I am not a fan of new taxes. Increasing taxes do not attract new businesses to a city. Increasing taxes do not make people want to live in a city. We’ve already had enough hikes with the new sewer system.”
The community is aware of the recent investigation into missing monies from the city court fund. How will you ensure that this doesn't occur again?
“Regular audits are conducted by the state auditors office. As mayor, I would ensure that all recommendations by the state office would be followed completely. I would personally work with our city clerk to be certain that ongoing compliance is taking place. I would also review the current operating policies and procedures with the city clerk and make certain that we have the strongest internal controls possible. The public trust is a fragile thing and once it is lost it is not easily regained.”
Do you feel that the mayor is responsible for the missing money from the court fund since it did happen during his tenure?
“Yes, to some degree, I do. Obviously, sufficient oversight was lacking or this would have been caught long before it came to light.”
How do you feel about your relationship with the current city staff and city council?
“Good. I respect the city council members and am looking forward to working with them and the city staff.”
If elected, what approach would you take to improve the working relationship between the city council and yourself?
“As mayor, I will foster an open, transparent line of communication between myself and the city council members. There will be no manipulation of or withholding of information by me. South Bend has a hardworking, conscientious council team that I personally respect. My goal is to work with and alongside them for the betterment of the city.”
Do you believe the current mayor handled the situation with the cities aging infrastructure?
“No, I believe the aging infrastructure will be a problem facing South Bend for some time. You can’t correct a problem thirty years in the making overnight, especially in a time of revenue shortfall.”
The infrastructure is aging. What plans do you have to address this?
“I would like to have a proactive rather than a reactive approach. It’s far easier and less costly to have an ongoing systematic maintenance program in place rather than to be out in the dead of night or on weekends trying to repair something that has failed. I would work with the city supervisor to assess our infrastructure and develop a long-range plan of attack addressing the most critical areas first. I recognize that budget constraints may affect our ability to do all that we would like to do in any given year, but we will have a plan in place and a course of action to follow.”
“Some staff training is elective, some is mandatory. I believe in training as much as we can within the funding available. Mandatory training is mandatory; we have no choice. All other training should be evaluated on a case by case basis weighing costs versus benefits.”
One of the mayor's duties is to oversee various city departments. What procedures would you use to implement that oversight?
“I will impart clear, reasonable expectations in a respectful manner. I will establish weekly meetings (more if necessary) between each department head and myself to recap the past weeks events or issues and to also discuss future actions or events. Any discipline that may have to be done will be done in a fair, respectful manner focusing on the issue at hand and not denigrating the person involved. The department heads are vital to the operation of our city. I respect the jobs that they do. Most of them have held their positions for a number of years. They’ve seen mayor’s come and go. I would work with them as a team to make the city of South Bend the best that it can be.”
Would you ever use your position as mayor to hire someone without advertising the position and then giving the job to a handpicked person?
“No, I don’t believe in that. That type of policy limits the pool of applicants and short changes the city and its’ citizens.”
“Yes. The mayor needs to know and hear the concerns of the public. The mayor ultimately serves and answers to the citizens of the city that elected him/her.”
If there’s anything else you’d like to say, please do so.
“I have lived in the city of South Bend all of my adult life. As a child, I lived in the Bay Center area and attended and graduated from the South Bend School District. The citizens of South Bend deserve a dedicated, hard working mayor who will lead in a fair, open, non-partisan manner. I pledge to work with all community members to improve our economy, enhance our quality of life, and to return to common sense government.”
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