A hat in the ring

A hat in the ring by David Lias Vermillion City Councilman Dan Christopherson announced this week that he intends to run for mayor in the June 1 municipal election.

Christopherson, a Vermillion businessman whose first term on the city council is about to come to an end, said citizen input played a large part in his decision to seek the mayor's office.

"I guess I'm a real believer in requesting and listening to input from the public," he said. "I thought it was time to walk the walk, because I've had so many people requesting me to do that (run for mayor)."

Christopherson said he was initially hesitant, but the number of requests has grown too large to overlook.

"I've had literally many dozens of people talk to me personally about it," he said. "It kind of got to the point where I thought, 'if this is really what the people want, maybe I have a duty to listen to them because that's what I've been saying all along.'"

Communication will be a major part of Christopherson's mayoral campaign.

"Communicating, listening to the people, and really hearing what they are saying ? and making them feel like they've had fair hearings and have been listened to and understood," he said. "I think that would be the cornerstone of anything that I would do."

The city council, Christopherson said, needs to be sensitive to the needs of the people and taxpayers.

"The citizens and taxpayers are the only reasons we have elected officials," he said. "The only reason we have bureaucrats or city employees are because the people are paying for it, so I think we need to give people a chance for input at all times, and listen to what they have to say."

A city government that always listens to its citizens, Christopherson believes, has a much better chance of reaching consensus and compromise.

"There is so much less chance of having controversy if you listen first and act second," he said.

Christopherson was born and raised in Vermillion. He left the city to serve in the military, and worked in Minnesota for a short time.

He and his wife Gloria have operated a retail Main Street business in Vermillion for 30 years.

"I do think it helps to have in-depth knowledge of the community," Christopherson said. "Some of that you can get through experience."

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From 1983 to 1989, Christopherson served as executive vice president of the Vermillion Area Chamber of Commerce and the Vermillion Area Development Company.

"That's something in which I think I was really able to make a difference," he said. "I've got some really good memories of that experience. It was a good productive time, we had good boards of directors and we were able to do things that I think that the community felt were positive."

The Vermillion Development Company under Christopherson's direction led the charge for the implementation of the bed, board and booze tax in the city.

"That was initiated by the people through the work of the development company," he said. "In other words, the people voted themselves a tax, which I thought was pretty incredible."

Businessmen and women who sold alcohol and who provided meals and lodging, and thus would collect the tax, became involved, Christopherson said, in the petition drive to initiate the tax.

"I always thought that was the way to do it � to get the people that are affected by the decision involved in the process early on," he said. "That's something that I learned with that, and I believe we can carry that theme out in city affairs."

Chances are there will be at least a two-person race for mayor in Vermillion.

Roger Kozak, the incumbent, said Wednesday he hasn't begun circulating nominating petitions yet, but he does intend to run for re-election.

The following city offices will be vacant due to the expiration of the present term of office and will be up for election in the combined primary, city and school vote scheduled June 1.

* Mayor (Kozak incumbent)

* Alderman Central Ward (Christopherson incumbent)

* Alderman Northeast Ward (Wright incumbent)

* Alderman Northwest Ward (Powell incumbent)

* Alderman Southeast Ward (Hofman incumbent)

Nominating petitions can be picked up at the city finance office during office hours. Petitions need to be signed by 50 registered voters from the ward nominating the candidate.

Petitions can be circulated starting March 1 and must be filed at city hall by April 6.

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