Economic diversification and good planning are essential to Minot's future, city manager candidate Greg Sund told a gathering of community members and city staff Wednesday.
Sund, the first of three candidates to address and field questions from the public, said he thinks Minot is on the right track.
"I am very impressed with the amount of work that's already been done," he said.
Sund, of Hays, Kan., was Dickinson city administrator from 1996 to 2008 and has been county administrator in Ellis County, Kan., since 2010. Ellis County is the largest oil-producing county in Kansas.
Sund said he has observed Minot's growth during visits in recent months. His daughter and her family moved to Minot last summer.
"The goal of managing growth, whether a city is faced with an economic boom or not, is to ensure that residents can continue to access the services they want and need," Sund said. "One of the key things that you look at when you are facing a boom or when you are involved in one is not to let the oil economy totally control your economy. It's very easy to let that economy push you around."
Instead, a community should focus on creating a balance, he said.
"Always keep an eye on keeping diverse development throughout the community, because at some point, this type of industry slows down, or heaven forbid, goes bust," he said. "That always has to be in your mind when you are projecting what will happen. You always have to be aware of the future."
He noted that the city must avoid over-extending and getting caught with payments it can't meet if circumstances change suddenly. Another challenge is putting money aside for the post-boom.
"Oil is not a forever resource," he said. "You need to plan for an economy that doesn't necessarily include as much oil development."
Sund also discussed the need to solve problems that come with oil development growth, including housing shortages. He said the growth in multi-family housing in Minot has been a good thing for freeing up hotel space for conventions and tournaments. The next move for new residents will be into single-family homes, which also will be good for Minot, he said.
But he added that disparity of income can be a challenge when oil money is in a community. He said it takes businesses and residents pulling together to find solutions and ensure that people can afford the cost of living.
Quizzed by the audience, Sund advocated working closely with Minot State University and supporting the downtown business sector. Sund and his wife have owned a bookstore and been involved in other private ventures.
He also supported Minot's city manager and council form of government.
"It truly is a team effort," he said. "Weaknesses, when it comes to the city manager form, are more perception than reality. I have heard and read a lot of times that people think the city manager has too much power. I really don't see that as part of this position. The person who is working in this position bounces ideas off the council, promotes policies, implements policies and is always looking out for the best interests of the community and takes direction from the elected leaders of the town."
He described residents as owners rather than as consumers of city services and spoke of the need for civic engagement. One method of engaging more people is to hold certain public meetings by private invitation, which can be more effective in drawing people, he said.
Sund described his management style as one of engagement. He said he would want to stay informed about what is happening within city government and what is happening in the community. He cited the importance of joining organizations and serving on boards.
"It gives me an opportunity to get to know the community and the people who are in it and to get to know the priorities of the community," he said.
A native of Illinois, Sund has worked in government service since 1983 and has more than 20 years of professional government management experience. He holds credentials in local government management and has a master's degree in public administration.
His previous employment included: city administrator in Spearfish, S.D.; regional director of the South Dakota Small Business Development Center in Pierre, S.D.; finance officer for Platte, S.D.; and special project employee in Rapid City, S.D. He served on the city board in Deadwood, S.D.
A task force is reviewing candidates to replace city manager David Waind, who retires at the end of March. The task force will be submitting its recommendations to the Minot City Council for consideration at its March 3 meeting.
Today, the public is invited to an 11:30 a.m. event at the Grand Hotel to meet candidate Kevin Degenstein, a Minot native and former natural gas company executive from Great Falls, Mont. Cindy Hemphill, Minot city finance director, will be speaking at the final candidate presentation Friday at the same time and location. The city requests people call 857-4750 to RSVP if attending the luncheon portion of the event.
The public presentations of the city manager candidates are being filmed and will become available Friday afternoon for viewing on the city website at (www.minotnd.org).