Members of the business community gathered Monday to hear from the candidates vying to be Bozeman's next mayor and city commissioners.
Dozens gathered at the Best Western Gran Tree for a luncheon, where candidates presented their positions and addressed key issues. Candidates for mayor each had 13 minutes to present their platforms, while city commission candidates had nine minutes apiece.
One-by-one, candidates took to the podium to share some details of their backgrounds and weigh in on hot topics like the future of Bogert Pool, a new police station and the proposed Gallatin College mill levy, which is also on the ballot.
Current City Commissioner Carson Taylor, who is running against John Duncan, owner of J. Duncan Construction, for the mayor's seat, said he has the experience, skills and temperament to serve as Bozeman's next mayor.
“I would like to be the mayor of your city because I feel I can help bridge some of the gaps between public servants and the public,” Taylor said.
Of Bogert Pool, Taylor said he is “not interested in continuing with a money pit.”
“I believe the concept of the city continuing to put money into Bogert Pool just isn't going to work anymore,” he said.
As for the police station, Taylor said that the city is considering a land swap with the Montana Department of Transportation. The situation at the current Law and Justice Center, which Bozeman police share with the Gallatin County Sheriff's Office, is untenable and needs addressed, he said.
Taylor also approved of the Gallatin College mill levy and a high-speed broadband network for businesses that are looking to move to Bozeman and for the schools.
Duncan said working in the private sector over the last 15 years has taught him to value the customer, the value of a dollar and the importance of how that dollar is spent.
He said he would like to add jobs while maintaining Bozeman's quality of life.
“We can't continue to treat Bozeman as an exclusive community. We're becoming that,” Duncan said.
On Bogert Pool, Duncan said if the city decides to spend the money to build an aquatics facility, he hopes that it will also consider the cost of maintenance so the city doesn't end up with another Bogert Pool.
The police station was a concern in the early 1990s that was never rectified, Duncan said.
Duncan said the city must also have a plan for its water needs. He said he is concerned that a fire in Hyalite Canyon would endanger the city's water. He said he would also like to see a performing arts center in Bozeman.
Current Commissioner Chris Mehl, who is running for re-election, said his priorities are the same as when he ran four years ago. His campaign focuses on infrastructure and public safety, managing taxpayers' money wisely and promoting quality of life and economic growth in Bozeman.
Mehl said Bogert Pool needs to be replaced; police need a new facility; and city government has the duty to help business grow in the city.
“We are the silent partner. You are the active partner, and that's the relationship I wish to continue,” he told business leaders gathered for the luncheon.
If elected, Al Kesselheim said he pledges to listen respectfully, prepare thoroughly and to stay true to his principles.
He said he would love to keep Bogert Pool, but he understands the problems with it. He also said the need for a new police station should be addressed.
“It is on the verge of dysfunction, it is so crowded,” he said.
He applauded current commissioners on the work that has been done to develop a 50-year water plan.
During her nine minutes, I-Ho Pomeroy was adamant that the Bogert Pool should be scrapped and a new facility should be built, adding that the city should pursue working with groups like the YMCA.
Her two main issues, she said, are having enough housing for a growing and diverse population and attracting high-paying jobs to Bozeman.
“The No. 1 job of the commission is to work together to accomplish good things for Bozeman,” she said.
Meanwhile, candidate Brett Potter said the city is facing a massive bill with projects like a new law and justice center, aquatics facility, sewer line and dam at Sourdough.
“My viewpoint is extremely different than everything you have heard today,” Potter said. “We are facing a mountain.”
He said the city must tackle these issues while still paying attention to environmental issues and attracting business to Bozeman that may otherwise look outside the city limits.
Finally, candidate Alisa Voris said she would not change the commission but step into the already functioning board.
She said Bogert Pool should be closed and replaced with an indoor-outdoor facility that would attract tourists and generate money.
Voris also said she would like to attract satellite offices of larger companies and focus on “compact development” in the city to prevent sprawl.
“I have seen smog here in the valley,” she said. “It is an issue that is important.”
Candidates will have another chance to present their positions today at a forum at 6:45 p.m. at Bozeman City Hall. The League of Women Voters and Inter-Neighborhood Council are hosting.
Ballots were mailed to Bozeman voters Monday. They will vote for one candidate for mayor and two for Bozeman City Commission. Ballots are due back to the Gallatin County Election Department by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5.