|Gering Mayoral candidates: Kaufman challenges with civic, board, managerial experience|
|October 23, 2014 Jerry Purvis|
Seeking elective office for the first time, Tony Kaufman is seeking to become the next Mayor of Gering.
Kaufman has served on the boards of the Scotts Bluff and Morrill County Extension, Riverside Discovery Center, the Scottsbluff-Gering United Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs and Agribusiness Committees and the Panhandle Cooperative Association Board. He’s also a board member of the business incubator committee at Western Nebraska Community College and on the business and economic advisory council for U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith.
Kaufman said that last fall several people approached him about a possible run for Gering mayor.
“I’m a believer in that if you really want to make changes and see the community go in a better direction, you’d better be willing to roll up your sleeves, jump in and be part of the solution,” he said. “You need to help make a difference and not just hope someone else does.”
In talking with Gering residents, he said the biggest issue he hears is that city government isn’t as transparent as it should be and it isn’t very accessible to people.
“Whether it’s about small utility issues or meatpacking plant issues, big or small issues, people are very dissatisfied right now,” he said. “It covers all the hot issues you’d expect.”
Kaufman said the proposed meatpacking plant for Gering was an “interesting” issue. “We’ve had those types of businesses in our past, but the problem is trying to fit the right economic development opportunity into our community and utilizing the resources we have available to us to decide if it’s right for us.”
He added what could have contributed to the controversy is that Twin Cities Development and the City of Scottsbluff, after studying the proposal, recommended not going forward with it.
“I won’t say there won’t be an opportunity in the future,” he said. “But for this particular company, it wasn’t right for us.”
He said because agriculture is such a big part of our economy, the city should be open to opportunities to bring value-added agriculture businesses to the area.
Another concern he hears about is the city’s aging infrastructure. “I think infrastructure is linked to economic development,” Kaufman said. “When you have good infrastructure, utilities, water and power, and roads, it attracts businesses. We need to be thoughtful about the needs of future businesses that may come here.”
He added that when businesses choose Gering, owners want to know what amenities we have and whether we’re good stewards of what we have.
“We have to take care of the resources we have,” he said. “We have a lot of great things going on in the community, but we need to reinvest in ourselves and make sure we’re positioned for the future.”
Kaufman said the area also has great potential for increased tourism, first because Gering is on the old Oregon Trail. The new consolidated Legacy of the Plains Museum and future expansion at the Wildcat Hills Nature Center, Scotts Bluff National Monument and other attractions will make an impact.
“We have a great community and a lot of people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and pitch in to get the job done,” he said. “We have to have the structure in place to let those people get involved. And we need to make sure there are opportunities for our young people who may want to return home.”
Kaufman said he would bring a fresh perspective to city government and making sure the city is more open, transparent and accessible for the people.
Kaufman is challenging incumbent Mayor Edwin Mayo in the Nov. 4 election.