Joining returning Mayor Richard Lawrence in taking their oaths of office Jan. 9 were two new East Bethel City Council members, Ron Koller and Tom Ronning. They fill the seats formerly occupied by Steve Voss and Bill Boyer.
Koller has lived in East Bethel for about 22 years and has two children. He is a tool and die maker at Graco, Inc. and has worked there for more than 35 years. His hobbies include motorcycles, hunting, snowmobiling, all-terrain vehicles and camping.
When asked what he thinks is the most pressing problem facing East Bethel, Koller said it is the city’s sewer and water project. “It is behind schedule, over budget and I do not believe it will ever have a return on investment,” he said.
“In my opinion it should never have been started. It will be a difficult job for the city council to finish this project without putting a burden on the taxpayers.”
Ronning has lived in East Bethel for eight years and is retired after 37 years with the Ford Motor Company, the last 17 years of which he was on a union leave of absence working for the United Auto Workers International Union in Detroit, Mich. He describes that role as invaluable, having given him experience in five sets of negotiations with Ford Motor Company, problem solving methodology, arbitration and cost analysis in product out- and in-sourcing decisions.
Ronning said he decided to run for city council after witnessing the conflicts among city councilmembers after the new sewer/water system was approved.
“Many of us spoke against this project meeting after meeting for six years… in 2010 three members of the council were voted out,” said Ronning. “Before finishing their term as a lame duck they pushed the bonds and let construction contracts in their final two meetings in December. Two of those members remained on the council with two years remaining on their terms. “I saw more fighting and obstruction than actions and progress with our problems and decided I would try to change what I could to work with the council on day-to-day and long-term issues.”
Ronning said his goal as a city council member is “to work with the council members and city staff to be a sustainable and safe community. This is our home.”