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Race for Jamestown mayor: Candidates give views on city’s future

Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen says she wants to follow through on the groundwork of her four years in office. John M. Steiner / The Sun1 / 2
Challenger Pam Phillips says there is a disconnect between the city administration and its residents. John M. Steiner / The Sun2 / 2

Jamestown’s two candidates for the June 10 mayoral election — incumbent Katie Andersen and challenger Pam Phillips —  share a lot of the same views on the city’s present and future, but on some subjects they could hardly be further apart.

Andersen is running for her second four-year term as mayor under the slogan “Keep the grow going.” She said her first four years in office were spent correcting deficiencies and then laying the groundwork of planting seeds for all the things the city anticipates for the future.

“I feel an obligation to see some of those things to fruition and to make sure that we continue to take good care of all those seeds that we planted so we reap all the benefits from it,” Andersen said. “I think we’re going to see a lot of those things come to fruition in the next four years, and I think I’m the best person to make sure we follow through on what we’ve started.”

Phillips served two four-year terms on the Jamestown City Council and is running under the slogan “We can do better.” Phillips said she believes there is a disconnect between the city administration and the people of Jamestown.

“The current administration does not respect the individual citizen when that citizen comes to appear before them — it’s cold and aloof,” she said. “The City Council should not be the enemy of the citizens of Jamestown, the City Council is there to guide and to offer new ways to do things … as I’m talking to people, they just don’t feel like they’re part of this community. They don’t feel community pride, and that hurts me.”

With Jamestown’s population rising amid a housing crunch, both candidates said infrastructure needs must be met. Andersen said sanitary sewer service and water service were the two most important hurdles to clear in residential development, followed by storm water management. Phillips said the lure of the oil-rich western portion of the state has drawn a lot of developers’ eyes away from Jamestown.

Both candidates said a lack of housing is going to inhibit future commercial and industrial growth, and both supported the idea of the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp.  funding residential development.

The biggest opportunity in future development, Andersen said, is for the governing body to take the lead in implementing the infrastructure needed for housing development, which in turn would solve workforce shortages. Phillips said Jamestown could take advantage of being a close-knit community that could work well together to spur growth, but the current administration does not do enough to address a decline in community spirit.

“Volunteerism in this community has gone down, and I think that’s because a lot of people are busy, but I also think that a lot of people don’t feel like they’re valued, that their contribution is valued,” Philips said. “I want to see that change, because I think there’s room for growth here.”

Phillips said the city is not prepared for the growth that is projected because the City Council is too reactionary. Andersen said the city has taken several preparatory steps for the anticipated growth and development, including addressing the problems with infrastructure and enhancing the capacity of the water management systems, as well as passing ordinances to govern development, adult entertainment and crew camps.

“It’s more friendly for the new developers that are coming in,” Andersen said. “I think those were all really good preparatory steps for growth. There are still several items that need to be taken care of, and kind of are moving pieces, because when the economy changes there are different obstacles and different needs. So, we have to just continue to work on those tools for growth.”

Both candidates supported the city offering financial incentives to coax Menards into coming to town, saying it would be a catalyst for other commercial development and stop the flow of consumer dollars leaving Jamestown for Fargo and Bismarck.

As far as the city’s role among its surrounding neighbors, both said Jamestown has become a regional hub of activity.

Andersen said the city is very cognizant that ordinances it passes or action it takes could negatively impact surrounding communities and actively shares information with Jamestown’s neighbors as well as other sister cities. She also said it was important for the city to continue to provide employment, shopping and schooling to the region. Phillips said the city has a longstanding history of being a central hub from the confluence of the two rivers in pioneer times to the crossing of two major highways today. She said the city should continue to act as a catalyst for growth in the smaller neighboring communities.

Andersen said her vision of Jamestown’s future includes not only growth in population, but in household median incomes that will nurture the city’s economy and a growth in total assessed property.

“All those factors are what compose growth, and I think sometimes we get a little confused that growth is just population,” Andersen said. “We can certainly think of lots of places in the world where there are large populations of people and yet you don’t really think of them as prosperous or vital. So that’s the key to making sure this works is that we’re attracting all sectors of economic growth including investment in capital and property, and then humans.”

Phillips said her vision for Jamestown’s future includes bringing the community together to enact the changes needed for the city.

“What was good enough then is not good enough now,” she said. “Change is hard because it takes you out of your comfort zone, but it’s necessary for progress to happen. Individually change seems overwhelming, but if you’re working together, it’s not so overwhelming.”

Sun reporter David Luessen can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at