BOA candidates make their final sales pitches

BOA candidates make

their final sales pitches

Ray Scherer

Three of the four candidates running for seats on the Hermann Board of Aldermen spent Monday night detailing how they would seek to improve the city's economic landscape if elected April 6.

Those candidates -- former mayor Robert C. Koerber and Derek J. LeRoy for Ward One and incumbent James R. Schirmer for Ward Two -- appeared on stage at Hermann High School at the "Meet The Candidates" program sponsored by the Hermann Area Chamber of Commerce. Schirmer's opponent, Joseph T. Gleeson, was unable to participate due to a prior commitment, but submitted a brief statement read on his behalf by the chamber.

The three candidates were each allotted eight minutes for opening issue statements and background, and later answered two questions submitted by the chamber board. They also fielded a series of audience questions, many of which dealt with earlier topics on how Hermann's growth would become a priority under their leadership with the city.

The city's economy took center stage, as each candidate professed an ability and willingness to put forth the necessary effort to transform Hermann into a model of its own sustainability. Hiring a full-time economic development direction was mentioned more than once as a means to garner civic improvement.

"We're currently seeing an economic boom," said LeRoy, noting he would support residents along with businesses. "I'm also very into budgeting" and would serve a stewardship over use of taxpayer dollars, he added.

Koerber likened his situation to that of John Quincy Adams, who entered the House of Representatives following the presidency because of his continuous interest in public service.

"There's a lot I can do for Ward One," he said. "I think more affordable and desirable housing is something we should be working on."

Schirmer, the only incumbent on stage, couched his thoughts on a mission for the city that seemed to drawn down to the basics.

"It's for you that an alderman works," he said. "I do have common sense, logic, and street smarts."

He also said a focus on economic development would lure industry and general merchandisers to Hermann.

"These elements will help stop the decrease in Hermann's population," said Schirmer.

One of the chamber questions asked the candidates how they see the ongoing discussion toward locating the city's visitor center. LeRoy said he hasn't made a choice, but pointed out the solution would have to fall in line with the budget. He believes both the city and chamber would be satisfied with the eventual location -- whether it's the Amtrak station or the 1906 firehouse.

According to Koerber, the best answer to the matter is via compromise by the affected entities.

"I think we have a lot of room to work together," he said. "I can see it either way."

Asking all tourism-related organizations and businesses for their opinions could create the best proposition for a visitor center, he added.

Taking a different tack, Schirmer counseled that Hermann should be able to look elsewhere along with tourism for its strengths.

"We need to survive on other items too," he said, suggesting industry and business could provide sales tax revenue for the city.

A second chamber question deal with what the candidates would command as their goals for the business community in their first 90 days in office. LeRoy said Hermann should continue "riding the wave of new businesses coming into town." Meanwhile, Koerber said he would seek to meet with each business and listen to their concerns. Schirmer said Hermann was experiencing "stagnant" growth, but said that trend could be reversed by all groups working together.

A full-time economic development director could help bring jobs, he continued, but would have to fit in with budget concerns.

"We need a trained person who's been successful," said Koerber of the notion.

Audience questions asked the candidates to pinpoint their views on such items as whether Hermann might benefit from a vocational technical school.

"It's definitely something to look into," said LeRoy. "If the opportunity came along for Hermann, it would definitely make sense."

Better-paying jobs would handle the problem with declining population, he said. "A rising tide will raise all ships."

Koerber said a vo-tech school has been discussed before, and said such an institution could feature programs for historic home renovation and like topics familiar to Hermannites.

"It has to be economically feasible. I'm all for it," he said.

Grant funds may be a good idea to help get a trade school off the ground for Hermann, said Schirmer, and could be another way to stave off population loss.

In his brief statement delivered second-hand to the audience, Gleeson pledged to work with civic groups in the city in order to move Hermann forward.