June 2 is fast approaching and plenty of major decisions will be made at the polls. Rapid City elections include the hotly contested race for mayor, several council seats, and a vote on increasing property taxes via the Rapid City School District opt-out.
Having served on the Rapid City council with Sam Kooiker as mayor and Steve Allender as chief of police, I have a different perspective on the race.
Truth be told, I knew Sam Kooiker long before I served on the council and was impressed with him. But Kooiker is a much better mayor than alderman. As a council member, he would challenge people and look at details.
As the mayor of Rapid City he has looked at the big picture and made much needed long-range planning changes, including changes that no other mayor had taken on. He has kept the budget from growing and worked to create more efficiency.
When on the council I did not always agree with Sam. We had quite a few healthy debates after meetings. What impressed me was that over time I found him to be right more often than not.
As police chief, Steve Allender made several changes to improve the business aspect of the police department. Rapid City has an outstanding police department.
Kooiker and Allender both performed admirably in the wake of a tragedy that led to the death of two police officers, the suspect in the shooting, and seriously injured a third officer. Kooiker was only a month into his first term as mayor when that took place. Allender said all the right things at the press conferences.
Outside of that, I also had interactions with Allender at that time in regards to the Humane Society of the Black Hills (I was the council liaison). He brought forward some suggestions for changes to operations. Changes and improvements were made and then their funding was cut. I saw that as bad faith negotiating.
Also, in a meeting he shared some things that were not very kind to animals and added that using a bullet is cheaper than housing an animal. I was surprised that he would bring that up given the audience he had in the room. However, it has come to light that he also had problems that resulted from telling racial jokes in his past.
As a police chief, the spotlight shines brightly from time to time. As mayor, the spotlight stays on most of the time, which means any missteps or off-color comments could become news stories.
Other factors to consider are the candidate’s backgrounds. Kooiker has outside business supervisory experience. Allender’s work experience for the last 30 years has been solely with the police department.
Kooiker has shown a vision for the future in what he has already accomplished as mayor. It is also impressive that he has continued to be responsive to citizens’ concerns.
Registration deadline to vote in the election is May 18. Don’t sit this one out.