In Polk City, five people are running for two seats on the City Council. Dan Lane is the only incumbent running. He faces Michael Bakken, Brian Nelson, Mandy Vogel and Jeff Walters. We reached out to every candidate by the email that they have listed with the city. All the candidates took part in our question-and-answer article, as follows.


Michael Bakken


Age: 40


Number of years in community: 30 years, North Polk graduate class of ‘95, bought current home in 2002


Occupation: Salesman – Pepsi Co., 17 years


Why are you running for the City Council in your community?


I am running for City Council to be sure that our city’s future and residents’ quality of life continues to strengthen. Polk City citizens have a right to be recognized, heard and represented by the city council.


Have you ever served on City Council here before?


No


What experiences/qualifications are you able to bring to the City Council?


Current member of Polk City board of adjustment (four years), Polk City Little League board (six years), current North Polk United Soccer coach (10+ seasons), Polk City Fire Department (two years, 1995-1996)


In your opinion, what are the top two issues facing your community, and where do you stand on these issues?


Growth – Polk City continues to grow at a pace that has not been seen before. I moved back to this community in 2002 to start my family in the small town I grew up in, but our community now feels as if it is trying to become something bigger. More houses and developments versus less trees and a weakened sense of community doesn’t seem equitable to me… manage the pace of growth.


Quality of life for Polk City residents – Polk City has outstanding EMS, fire and police departments. Everyone in the community should vigorously support these services, as they are vital to our safety and well-being. Parks, recreation and community events should also be supported and expanded. Polk City residents should be encouraged to get outdoors, be active and utilize all the activities our “land between the lakes” has to offer.


In your opinion, has the current City Council/leadership been doing a good job for your town? And why do you say that? What do you think your city could be doing better?


I believe a majority of residents would like to see a slower, more controlled pace of growth within our community. I cannot speak to what the current council/leadership have done to check the pace of growth, but believe that they have and should always have the best interests of community and it residents top of mind. I love the support given by the current council/mayor to local events, summer recreation program and the Four Seasons Festival.


Who are the members of your family?


Wife, Michelle Bakken, North Polk Graduate 1989 and current North Polk Middle School special education teacher; sons Evan (14) and twin boys, Logan and Lucas (10)


Brian Nelson


Age: 37


Occupation:General manager at my family’s business, Nelson Automotive.


Number of years you’ve lived in this community: 27 years. I grew up in Polk City and graduated from North Polk. I lived here the first 23 years of my life before moving to Des Moines, and I moved back to Polk City four years ago.


Why are you running for the City Council in your community?


The reason I am running for City Council is because of my love for Polk City. I have wanted to be more involved with the city and to serve my community since moving back — having the chance to represent the people of Polk City by being voted to the City Council would be a great honor.


Have you ever served on the City Council before?


No, I have not.


What experiences/qualifications are you able to bring to the City Council?


For the past two years, I’ve attended nearly all the City Council meetings and P & Z meetings to get a better understanding of how our city government works. While there will still be a lot to learn if I get elected, I do know that my years of running a successful and growing small business and working with the public has given me the experience needed to communicate with the citizens and make educated and tough decisions for our community. I also believe that knowing this area and its history, growing up here and doing business here will give me an advantage when making decisions.


In your opinion, what are the top two issues facing the community, and where do you stand on these issues?


The first issue facing our community is the lack of businesses. We need more business to bring more variety and tax money to our city. With this tax money, the city will be able to invest more into our streets, parks and public safety. As a businessperson in Polk City, I can attest to how supportive our community is and how other business would find our community a great place to call home. The second issue facing our community is our sports complex. As the amount of kids participating in soccer, baseball and softball grows yearly, we are dealing with the difficult task of finding space for games and practices. Our current sports complex was outgrown long ago and the parking lot lacks sufficient parking and is a huge safety concern. We also need to plan for future growth.


In your opinion, has the current City Council/leadership been doing a good job for your town? And why do you say that? What do you think your city could be doing better?


I would have to say that I truly do have a great amount of respect for our city leaders, though I have not always agreed with the decisions they have made. I believe we need new people with fresh ideas who will listen to the members of our community and make decisions that will benefit the entire city.


Who are the members of your family?


My wife Angel; my daughter Alexanna, age 7; and our two dogs, Daisy and Rocket


Jeff Walters


Age: 41


Occupation: Principal environmental scientist


Number of years you’ve lived in this community: 13


Why are you running for the City Council in your community?


I have been on Polk City’s Planning and Zoning Commission, Four Season’s Festival committee, Polk City Council and represented the city at DART. While all of the positions and appointments have been wonderful opportunities to give back to my community, my tenure on City Council was the most rewarding. As a council member, I want to continue to support the city and its citizens by making fiscally responsible decisions in order to continue sustainable growth of Polk City. I want to maintain that small-town feel that makes Polk City our home. I look forward to these challenges and responsibilities.


Have you ever served on City Council here before?


I was on Polk City City Council from January 2012 to March 2015. It was a very rewarding and eye-opening experience.


What experiences/qualifications are you able to bring to the city council?


My professional experience in engineering consulting has allowed me to work with various clients, including municipalities, state and federal agencies, and the private sector. I have been on project teams where we completed planning, design and construction services of parks, roads, stormwater utilities, sanitary utilities and facilities, and residential and commercial developments throughout the Midwest. This experience proved to be very valuable during my first tenure on council because I could identify potential flaws and determine the appropriate action, while minimizing financial impacts to Polk City.


My professional career has given me the opportunity to be in front of the public. These opportunities helped me become an effective communicator. I am comfortable speaking to the public in groups as well as on a one-on-one level. I can articulate accolades and issues that citizens and city staff bring to in a public arena. With an open mind, I enjoy listening to people in order to understand all sides of an issue.


In your opinion, what are the top two issues facing your community, and where do you stand on these issues?


Infrastructure is critical for the survival and growth of the community. While I was on council, we successfully tackled sanitary sewer issues by connecting to the Wastewater Reclamation Authority. We also developed a plan to repair city streets that were in disrepair. Many of the street are now repaired and reconstructed under the implemented plan. The next infrastructure issue facing the community is water. As the community grows, so does the need for water. We will need to produce, purchase and store more water for our citizens. I have significant professional experience working with public water supply and can provide support to city staff as they complete the planning and design documentation to meet our community’s future water needs.


Our community’s second issue is growth. For Polk City, this a positive issue that brings several challenges. Growth puts pressure on existing services, infrastructure and other resources. Council and staff must make financially sound decisions in order to manage Polk City, today and for the future. The decisions made by City leaders will have a significant impact on the city’s future. I want to maintain positive growth without harming the tangible and intangible qualities that make Polk City great.


In your opinion, has the current City Council/leadership been doing a good job for your town? And why do you say that? What do you think your city could be doing better?


The current staff is doing a good job. Recent City Hall staff changes are positive and there is improved cohesiveness amongst department heads and staff. I sat with most of the current council while I was on City Council and we made positive strides for the city. I believe that, as a council member, I can strengthen the leadership and continue to improve relationships with staff, department heads, and the citizens of Polk City.


Who are the members of your family?


My wife Kim, and daughters Lauren and Rachel.


Mandy Vogel


Age: 37


Number of years you’ve lived in this community: 7


Occupation: Bank compliance officer


Why are you running for the City Council in your community?


I love Polk City and am passionate about serving my community. I want to help shape the future of Polk City and be involved making responsible decisions as we grow.


Have you ever served on City Council here before?


No


What experiences/qualifications are you able to bring to the City Council?


I have been in the banking industry for 15 years, with experience as a credit analyst, commercial loan officer and compliance officer. This professional experience has given me the background to understand complex financial information, as well as laws and regulations. It has also have given me an understanding of the financial and economic challenges that both individuals and small business owners face. I have been involved in our community by serving as a member of the board of directors for the Polk City Community Library since 2015. Prior to moving to Polk City, I was involved in a number of community organizations and leadership positions including chairperson of the Ankeny Young Professionals, board member of the Ankeny Chamber of Commerce, graduate of the Ankeny Leadership Institute and member of the Mayor’s Economic Development Task Force.


In your opinion, what are the top two issues facing your community, and where do you stand on these issues?


Polk City is a very desirable place to live, and more people are choosing to move here. I do not view the growth we are experiencing as a problem; however, it does bring challenges. One of these challenges will be to ensure we continue to provide adequate city resources for our residents, for example, ensuring we have an adequate water supply. I think it is very important to not only address our current needs, but to plan for the future as well. The second challenge will be to maintain the quality of life we currently enjoy. We have nice parks, we have friendly neighbors, and we know many of our local business owners. As we grow, I think the city needs to continue making it a priority to bring the community together by supporting events, such as the Four Seasons Festival and Square Lighting. We also need to continue providing quality of life amenities such as parks, and seeking out new opportunities such as a connection to the High Trestle Trail, which our residents would be able to enjoy and would also provide economic benefits to the community.


In your opinion, has the current City Council/leadership been doing a good job for your town? And why do you say that? What do you think your city could be doing better?


I think the current leadership has done a good job. Polk City is a great place to live and I hear very few complaints about the city. With our growing population, the city needs to continue looking ahead and planning for the future. We need to be progressive in our thinking and use responsible planning. We will need to find ways to utilize technologies and gain efficiencies so we can preserve the quality of life for our residents, without creating a significant financial burden on them.


Who are the members of your family?


Husband, Justin Vogel: daughter Brooklyn (6); son Tyson (5)


Dan Lane


Your Age: 59


Your occupation: Retired - Iowa DNR


Why are you running for the City Council in your community?


I am running for re-election because I feel that I have more to accomplish. In particular, I have stated that getting a connector trail from the Neil Smith Trail to the High Trestle Trail, running through Polk City, was a major priority for me in my current term. The reason why it is is because the economic impact of such a trail would be in the millions of dollars. To not complete this project while in office would be a failure, and I didn’t want to leave the most important job that I have ever had, except for being a parent, feeling like a failure.


Have you ever served on City Council here before?


I am in my fourth term, or 16 years.


What experiences/qualifications are you able to bring to the City Council?


I have already served 16 years on the Polk City City Council, so I have plenty of experience in how city government works and what it takes to get things done.


In your opinion, what are the top two issues facing your community, and where do you stand on these issues?


1. Continued growth: Polk City has experienced tremendous growth in the past, and with over 400 buildable lots in various stages of approval, will continue to do so for some time to come. Since you can’t, nor would you want to, stop growth altogether, it is my belief that the best way to control the growth is to do just that - control the quality of the developments through proper building codes and ordinances, and the equitable enforcement of those codes and ordinances regardless of the size of the development or whom is the developer.


2. Quality of life: Quality of life encompasses many issues, such as recreation, good streets/infrastructure, and access to restaurants and shopping to name a few. I obviously believe this to be so important that I decided to run for re-election. I have always supported the city’s park system, and I’m happy to see that the city will be able to make a significant investment in the park system this fiscal year. And as I have said, I strongly support making the Polk City Connector Trail a reality. I support the city’s current approach to street repair/replacement, which is to complete these projects on a priority basis. Little projects are combined into an annual repair program; major projects, such as complete street replacement projects, are completed only when the city has been able to set aside sufficient funds to complete the project without borrowing money or paying interest. Finally, I believe that if Polk City has a shortcoming, it is in the area of commercial business. It’s my opinion that the attraction of commercial business to a city is a legitimate responsibility of that city’s governing body. A new business, such as a hardware store for instance, not only provides a needed service for the general public, but will also provide needed jobs for Polk City citizens. I support making reasonable incentives available to attract commercial enterprises that are a good fit for Polk City.


In your opinion, has the current City Council/leadership been doing a good job for your town? And why do you say that? What do you think your city could be doing better?


Yes, I believe that the current City Council/leadership has been doing a very good job for Polk City. This is a very forward-thinking council, which has, along with an excellent staff, been able to manage massive growth and increased demand for city services, with no increase in the city’s property tax rate, which continues to be one of the lowest in the state. Other examples of the effectiveness of Polk City’s leadership team are joining the Wastewater Reclamation Authority (WRA) and hooking up to the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW). In anticipation of both the upcoming growth and proposed changes in Iowa DNR regulations, the council commissioned a study to determine the most economical way to meet these requirements. The study showed that by far, the most economical choice was to join the WRA and build a pipeline to convey Polk City’s wastewater to WRA’s system. Since Polk City’s joining, the WRA has closed its doors to any new entity wanting to join. This was a joint project involving Polk City, Ankeny, and Polk County, thereby maximizing the benefit while minimizing the cost to Polk City’s taxpayers. Since the completion of this project, Polk City has refinanced Polk City’s portion of the project, saving tens of thousands in interest.


DMWW - Polk City was having difficulty maintaining an adequate water level in the city’s water tower with its existing wells as the city started to grow. Again, it was decided that it would be more economical to build a pipeline to bring water from the DMWW to Polk City. Water from the DMWW is blended with Polk City’s own well water. Since the completion of this project, Polk City “bought in” to the DMWW as a wholesale customer for a portion of its total needs. This makes Polk City both a wholesale and retail customer. The advantage of being a wholesale customer is lowered overall costs both now and in the future. This past year, the council became aware of an opportunity to buy additional wholesale capacity, submitted a bid, and was able to secure an additional 250,000 gallons of wholesale capacity. Without these two moves on the part of the council, the city would not have been able to manage the massive growth without raising property taxes, cutting services, or both. The council is currently working on a project with Ankeny and Polk County on the possibility of constructing a shared water tower to supply water to western Ankeny, eastern Polk City, and unincorporated Polk County; yet another example of working with area partners to share services and costs.


As far as what the council/leadership could do better, I believe that the city needs to continue its efforts to increase transparency in city government. Great strides have been made in the last year or so, including website improvements, the establishment of the Neighborhood Citizens Group, and the live broadcast of all council meetings. The council needs to be watchful of additional opportunities to increase transparency, and be supportive of the implementation of same.


Who are the members of your family?


Wife, Patsy; daughter, Melissa and son, Jake