After 19 years of service to the city of East Bethel, Councilmember Steve Voss is stepping aside.
Voss, along with Councilmember Bill Boyer, chose not to file for re-election. Voss served on the planning and zoning commission from 1993 to 2004 until he was elected to his first council term. He has been on the council since January 2005.
Boyer, who could not be reached for comment, has served on the council since January 2001 and was on the planning and zoning commission for four years prior to that.
Voss said his decision to not seek another four-year term was personal. With almost 20 years of public service and night meetings, he would like to pay more attention to his family. He has also needed to travel more for his job the past few years, which makes him miss some council meetings.
“We’re at an important moment in our city with the economy recovering here and our desire to encourage business and new development,” Voss said. “It’s going to take some effort. I’m glad to see we have several candidates who have more energy than I have and the time to commit.”
When asked what he was most proud of, Voss talked about the changes the city has gone through over the past two decades. When he moved to East Bethel in 1993 and was appointed to the planning and zoning commission, the city staff was fairly small. It has grown over the years and has been filled by people who were very professional. He said it, as a whole, is still a good staff.
Voss has also been proud about the city’s efforts to improve communication with citizens. When he moved to East Bethel there was no newsletter or city website. Town hall meetings started in 2005 and have been held twice a year.
The first town hall meeting drew over 300 people, Voss said. He has liked the informal setting of these events in which citizens can ask questions of city staff and give suggestions.
When asked if he has any regrets, Voss said he does not. He did say the last year-and-a-half “has been challenging.”
“The councils in the past always didn’t agree on everything, but we still had an open and respectful dialogue,” Voss said. “For whatever reason, that hasn’t happened in the last year-and-a-half.”
When asked if his viewpoint about the sewer and water project has changed, Voss said it has not.
Voss, along with Boyer, both voted for the sewer and water contracts and bond issues in late 2010. He said the prior council’s goal was to have the infrastructure ready for when the economy recovers, which he believes is happening.
According to Voss, the city will need a business development director some day whose job would be to work with the East Bethel Economic Development Authority and bring businesses in, but the next council will have to decide if the time is right for this.
City Planner Stephanie Hanson resigned effective Aug. 22 to take the city planner job in the city of Andover. The city is now advertising this available position and will include community development responsibilities in the new job description, according to a consent agenda item in the Aug. 15 council meeting packet.
Voss does not believe the council’s role should be to recruit businesses itself because members of the council are volunteers and some have day jobs that make it difficult to go out and recruit anyway.
One of the most important things for the city is to move forward and not look back, Voss said. Developers pay attention and it is best for a council to use its energy in a positive way, he said.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]