Zack Tucker is the assistant to the mayor of Monticello.
This is the last in a series of candidate profiles of the five candidates for Monticello mayor. Each candidate is running in a special election in June to complete the term of the late mayor Allen Maxwell which ends on December 31. They are also running in the November General Election for the upcoming 4-year term which begins January 1, 2015. In this series of unedited interviews, candidates were asked to respond in writing to 12 questions. The series ends today.
SEARK TODAY: Do you think there are budget areas in which the city is spending too much and/or not enough money? Explain.
TUCKER: I believe the City has made some tremendous investments in our parks and recreations infrastructures over the last decade that has elevated our community and park system, but in the process, the City has lost its focus on investing in actual youth activity programs for children to participate in while using our park.
One small example of a youth activity program that has changed the face of our park, which I have championed, is the new Movies in the Park program. Which for only $3,500 a year, is expected to reach over one thousand residents by the end of the ten movie series. We have had over 300 residents attend the four films thus far. The Movies in the Park program offers residents a chance to connect and enjoy a community atmosphere in our City parks. In today’s high tech, video game/ computer based world, youth activity programs, like Movies in the Park, help us modernize and reutilize our parks increasing community participation and involvement of our youth would not use the parks otherwise.
SEARK TODAY: Do you anticipate a need to increase city water, garbage and/or sewer rates during the next four years?
TUCKER: All current indicators suggest that there is no need to increase water, sewer, or solid waste rates in the next four years. Current sales tax revenues are on the rise, and have allowed the Mayor’s Office to budget $1.8 million to go toward water renovation bond payments while still funding every capital improvement request made in the 2014 budget. Sales tax revenue reports provide no evidence that there will be a need to new funding to help fund bond payments. Once the water renovation project is complete, the Mayor’s Office anticipates for expenses in the water department to decrease drastically. The need to purchase massive amounts of new piping and meters for water leaks will be replaced with our world class water system. Electronic meters will help reduce of salaries in the water department; employees will be reassigned within the city.
Furthermore, by transitioning to a standardized cart collection system, the Mayor’s Office was able to decrease solid waste’s budget by $100,000 in 2013. Planned increases in use of technology to modernize the trash route making the department more efficient we anticipate further decreasing operation expense by 15-20% more in the coming years.
Simply put, in the upcoming years the city will see a decrease in water and solid waste expenses matched with an increase of sale tax revenue; leaving no foreseeable reason to increase water rates.
TUCKER: Would you support or oppose an initiative to get the wet/dry issue on the ballot in Marion Township? Why?
The process to get a popular initiative on the ballot, such as the wet/dry issue, must be submitted to the voters by a petition of the people. As a mayor I would not get involved in the initiative or discussion to intentionally sway or interfere with the constitutional process directed by voters. Popular initiatives are one of the last truly democratic processes in our country, where the people file a question with the voters to decide policy without inference of courts, legislatures, councils or even a mayor. It would be my interest to not get involved to allow to protection this sacred constitutional right of the people.
SEARK TODAY: How would you build consensus in a community with a broad range of competing interests and demands?
TUCKER: In recent years, local government work has been handicapped by declining citizen confidence and involvement in government. Opinion polls and a growing docket of initiatives signal that citizens do not feel that government officials listen to them, or that citizens have significant influence on community decisions. To regain citizen trust, government officials should work with citizens to recall why we created government in the first place and what benefits it provides us. In short, government is expected to go out of its way to provide opportunities for public input and civic engagement, and make decisions that reflect and empower public input. I believe the majority of Monticellonians care about our community and are urging to get involved. By making public participation a default policy of the city government, I feel strongly that we can create an environment that is supportive and encouraging for civic engagement. To achieve this goal, I will work to advance the following proposals:
The only promise I am making in this campaign is to “Act Second.” As stated on my website, zacktucker.com, Public participation and engagement should be the default policy of the city government. When reasonable, on issues government should always engage interested or impacted citizens, listen to their input, create cooperative relationship with residents and organizations to help design policies and then act accordingly. I promise as Mayor, my office’s default policy will be to engage, listen, cooperate, and then act on issues; to ensure citizens can be engaged in the process and public opinion is valued.
The initiative I am the most proud of designing while at the City of Monticello, is the last project Mayor Allen Maxwell approved; what would have been The Mayor’s Volunteer Service Initiative. I value volunteering as the essential act of citizenship, a means for combating social exclusion and an important contributor to delivery of high quality public services. The nature of collaborating in volunteering includes: community partnership, networking, advocacy, funding, support, and invitation to participate in the community. The Mayor’s Volunteer Service Initiative is a commitment by the Mayor’s Office to support volunteerism and inspire an environment on civic engagement throughout the community. More information about the initiative is available on my website, zacktucker.com.
SEARK TODAY: Do you have a four-year plan, illustrating your vision for the city, in the event you are elected? If so, what are the primary points in that plan? Be as concise as possible.
First and foremost, in late of 2013 the City entered into a $10 million renovation of the city’s water system. The work on the project began March 2014; and will continue for the next three years. The City needs leadership that is aware & informed of the project’s and the bond issue’s plans. I have been involved in the signing of the bond issue and briefed weekly on the status of progress and planning of the water renovation’s phases. I can provide the strong leadership needed to ensure accountability and oversight of the project’s contractors and the bond issues’ finances; better securing an on time delivery of services to the public.
Although more detailed information about my proposals for a prosperous Monticello: “Continuing Forward Together” at my website zacktucker.com. I plan to further City Government’s focus on civic engagement through initiatives disused in this survey, make city hall more transparent to the public through requiring city offices to better communicated with the media & automatically making documents accessible to the public, increase use of technology to help make government services more effect and efferent, continue our successful efforts in economic development and encourage programs that support small business development.
SEARK TODAY: Explain why you chose to run as a Democrat, Republican or independent (whichever applies to you)?
TUCKER: I am a conservative Democrat that believes in government’s roles to provide quality services to the public and be an advocate for the public; while spend within its means. While in the Mayor’s Office I worked to reduce the 2014 budget by nearly $1 million while not cutting services to the public; in fact the city launch new services like yard waste collection and free composting to the public, while still cutting the budget.
SEARK TODAY: Describe the ideal mayor.
TUCKER: The ideal mayor is one that is establishes an open door policies with the community’s citizens; who proactively reaches out to residents for community input before making major policies decision. The ideal mayor also knows how to manage the public funds, always open and exploring for new ways city government can reduce cost with not comprising services to the public.
SEARK TODAY: What can you bring to this position your opponents cannot?
TUCKER: Monticello has seen a lot of progress in the past few years; I have had the opportunity to have experience in an effect mayor’s office with insight on how to successfully keep Monticello moving forward. I am the only candidate with experience as a professional economic and community developer, working here in Southeast Arkansas for Monticello.
As the Assistant to the Mayor, I worked with finance staff to reduce the 2014 budget by nearly $1 million; I helped create a more effective and efficient solid waste department by introducing GPS technology; I have been committed to introducing initiatives that would make city government more community centered; and as a professional economic developer I will work closely with community leaders and educators to help continue to create skilled job opportunities here in Monticello.
SEARK TODAY: If your name was not on the ballot, which one of your opponents would you vote for and why?
TUCKER: JoAnn Trotter has shown herself to be competent and pleasant individual to work with.
Situational (Hypothetical) Questions:
SEARK TODAY: You have $1 million. You can (hypothetically) appropriate it to any one or all of the following areas: Economic Development, Recreation, Capital Improvements, and/or Infrastructure. How would you appropriate it and why?
TUCKER: Small businesses are the backbone of today’s economy. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, states in from 2009 to 2012 over half (67%) of all job creation in America came from small business development or expansion. However, today’s global retail environment makes it harder than ever for small business to compete in local markets with large box and internet retailers. If communities, like Monticello, want to invest in the future of workforce sustainability, there has to be an investment in small businesses and local entrepreneurs.
If, hypothetically, as mayor I could invest $1 million into a program that would elevate our communities economy and workforce, I would invest in a small business incubator. Small business incubators are one proactive initiative that many communities utilize to invest in the future of their small businesses. The incubator would offer training, support, and facilities to startups and developing small businesses. Resources offered through the incubator can be strengthen by partnering with UAM’s Small Business & Technology Development Center and other state and national small business support organizations. The initiative will offer a location for local entrepreneurs to startup in a safe collaborative environment free from many of the largest startup costs (technology, utilities, etc.) that discourage butting entrepreneurs. The initiative would also make UAM’s ASBTDC easier access to established local businesses not currently utilizing this regional resource.
SEARK TODAY: A heated city council meeting begins to get out of control. How do you address it?
TUCKER: With my working relation with the current City Council, which has included writing ordinances for members, researching law for meetings, and developed policies for Council’s approval, I do not foresee any major “heated” conflicts in Council meetings. Council members, like anyone, will work well with anyone who is willing to work with and not just against them. However, if one were to arise, as mayor and chair of the Council, I would assert my knowledge of parliamentary procedure to not only resolve the heated situation but further insure that the Council considers matter rational and in a civil manner.
SEARK TODAY: Two of your strongest supporters come to you, with competing interests, asking for your support. How do you respond?
TUCKER: Whether they are supporters or every day citizens I would work with both parties to cooperatively develop a compromise that benefits the public at large and all interested or involved. If the two cannot come to a compromised, I will always side on with the individual that benefits the citizens of Monticello.