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Q&A: Three incumbents, one newcomer vie for Kearney City Council seats
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Q&A: Three incumbents, one newcomer vie for Kearney City Council seats

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KEARNEY — Three of the four candidates in the Nov. 3 Kearney City Council race have firsthand knowledge about elected office.

The fourth candidate has classroom experience, and at age 20, he’s not letting his lack of knowledge hold him back.

“I never thought I’d be running for office this young,” Jaden Longfellow said in a Hub interview earlier this year. “At first I wasn’t sure about it, but as I researched what was possible and what people who had run for office had achieved, I got so invested I found I couldn’t not do it.”

A student at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, Longfellow said two of his key issues are housing and increasing the minimum wage. He said Kearney needs a renter’s bill of rights and $15 per hour ought to be Kearney’s minimum wage.

In order for Longfellow to advance those issues, he’ll need to out-ballot at least one of the three council veterans on the Nov. 3 ticket.

Incumbents Stan Clouse and Bruce Lear have 16 years experience, while Jonathan Nikkila has eight years. Clouse has served as mayor since 2006.

Those three incumbents and Longfellow are campaigning for the three seats open in the Nov. 3 election.

Each of the candidates responded to questionnaires from the Kearney Hub.

Stan Clouse

Stan Clouse

Stan Clouse

Question 1: Why are you seeking office and what are the strengths you bring?

I believe in servant leadership and the council is closest to the people we serve. I helped lead our community through some difficult times with ice storms, tornadoes, blizzards, recession, flooding and now a pandemic, yet we continue to persevere, grow and maintain a positive attitude vital to community success.

Question 2: What is the most pressing issue in your race?

Most pressing is how we recover economically from COVID-19 and the new normal created by changes made in dealing with the pandemic. We need strong leadership with vision and experience in facing challenges of the unknown. We need to be willing to adapt to change and embrace the inevitable.

Question 3: How will you make a difference if you are elected?

I will continue to utilize experience in economic development and leadership to keep Kearney on a successful path. Working cohesively, with vision, is Kearney’s trademark and I not only subscribe to it but cultivate it through my leadership style and sharing our community culture with the next generation of community leaders.

Bruce Lear

Bruce Lear

Bruce Lear

Question 1: Why are you seeking office and what are the strengths you bring?

I am seeking re-election because we have work to do in making our community a great place to live, raise and educate our children, and retire comfortably. My greatest strengths relate to my experience both in serving on the council and the work I do outside of the council setting.

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Question 2: What is the most pressing issue in your race?

The most pressing issue is supporting businesses and citizens as we emerge from the coronavirus. We need to strategically support schools in a difficult environment and local businesses as they develop paths to success. We need to manage fiscal resources and to help our community stay engaged in a positive way.

Question 3: How will you make a difference if you are elected?

I intend to use my 16 years on the council, 30-plus years of business experience, and 25-plus years of community service to engage new ideas, remain committed to core principles of fiscal and personal responsibility, and keep our community energized despite challenges that can take us off course.

Jonathan Nikkila

Jonathan Nikkila

Jonathan Nikkila

Question 1: Why are you seeking office and what are the strengths you bring?

Kearney is my hometown. I am passionate about helping it chart a course so that things remain vibrant for years to come. My greatest strength is transparency. Whether people agree or disagree with my decisions, I feel I owe them full explanations of city decisions.

Question 2: What is the most pressing issue in your race?

Right now, I have three things at the top of my mind: 1) concern for our tourism sector, 2) improving the condition of streets and 3) continuing to give Kearney employers the stability they need to invest resources and provide jobs in the community.

Question 3: How will you make a difference if you are elected?

Elected officials do have a role to set vision, but many lack humility and think that they should get all the credit. I believe the primary job of an elected official is to create reasonable rules and regulations that provide a stable place where others can invest, innovate and contribute.

Jaden Longfellow

Jaden Longfellow

Jaden Longfellow

Question 1: Why are you seeking office and what are the strengths you bring?

I’ve seen the problems facing our community, and we need someone who will fight for solutions. Our community is one-fifth students, and almost half renters, yet there is no one on the City Council that is either of those. We need someone to fight for our problems.

Question 2: What is the most pressing issue in your race?

The biggest problems facing our community are affordable housing, public transportation and improving our infrastructure. These problems affect every corner of our community and need new solutions and perspectives. We will bring the solutions we need to solve these problems, like investing $1 million per year in affordable housing.

Question 3: How will you make a difference if you’re elected?

We’re fighting for everyone in Kearney, and the issues that we all face. We will break the silence on affordable housing and public transportation and find real solutions. Together we can make the change that we need to see in our community and solve the problems we face together.

mike.konz@kearneyhub.com

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