2011 Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire: Nik Kinze

1. Please tell us a little about yourself (current work, education, experience, background).

I am currently employed by Gerdau Ameristeel, as a Senior Business Analyst in the IT dept. Before moving to Italy, I have spent the past 12 years as a Controls engineer and Project Manager. I have worked for Weyerhaueser, Ford Motor Company, Eramet Marietta, and Temple Inland as either a Controls Engineer or Project Manager. I was born in Texas City, and I am proud to be a Native Texan. Professionally, I am a troubleshooter. I have been brought in on many projects that were over budget, behind schedule or both. Most of the time I have been able to work with those involved, find the root causes, and bring the projects to a timely completion.

2. How many council meetings did you attend in the last 12 months?

I have attended three city council meetings in the past 12 months. I would have attended a few more, the irritation of seeing no progress kept me away.  

3. Why are you seeking to be the mayor of Italy?

As a home owner, taxpayer and a citizen of Italy, I have just gotten tired of the status quo. I hear others complain about things, but no one has stepped up to the plate. Many times, the solution is out in the open, it just takes a fresh set of eyes to find it. I hope that I can leverage my professional skills to help put the City of Italy back on track. I will not be able to do this single handedly. I am going to rely on fellow concerned citizens to help. Everyone has ideas. Let’s get them out and get moving. To keep doing business as usual has not gotten the problem solved. People tell me, you are up against the City Council. Well then, as the leader of the city, it will be my responsibility to get people in front of the city council to voice their opinions. It seems to me that people for the most part think that what they say is falling on deaf ears. I want to change that. I plan on having monthly Q&A sessions immediately after City Council meetings for people to ask and make suggestions.

4. What qualifications or experience do you possess that voters should consider?

I like to help people. I love a challenge, in fact, at times I have volunteered for the projects that were in the worst shape. I have the “put me in coach” attitude, even when things look bleak. In the past I have had to build coalitions between union workers, management and myself to get things done. The key, I believe is in asking questions, and really listening to the answers. Sometimes, people listen to someone, but they hear the words and not what the person trying to communicate.

Finally, think of the City as a large ongoing project. You set goals, long term, medium term and immediate goals. My immediate goal is to get the citizens of Italy involved, and let them know that their feelings and thoughts do count.

5. What do you consider the most important issue facing our town today?

Lack of direction and a lack of a purpose. It looks like there is no plan to move the city forward. I have learned that Prior Proper Planning Prevents Failure. A good plan always has breakpoints, places to analyze how you are doing. Are you close to your goal, or do you need to reassess, and then modify your course if need be. Let’s get a plan in place. And work on that plan. I also say that we have enough people in this town with good ideas. Let’s take the best ideas, and work on them, then select what is the best for Italy. Once we have a plan in place, we work the plan.

6. What do you want to accomplish during the next 2 years?

Get a plan for Italy’s future in place. Get rid of the appearance of corruption and old boys club. This is why I would recommend that Italy become members of TexasTransparency.org . If everything is open to the public, then there should be less wondering about where the money is going. I have been reading the laws in Texas about open meetings. I want to put an end to the questionable “executive sessions”. Unless it is needed, they should be avoided.

7. What do you consider the most important and least important duties the mayor has?

I believe that the mayor is the voice and the face of the city. If a business is looking to build in Italy, what would they do? Why spend millions to build the facilities in a city that appears to be operated under the radar? The most important job of the mayor is to provide clear and effective leadership and to be an effective spokesperson for the community in effecting change and growth. To me the least important job is to micro manage the department heads that have been hired because of their ability to administer a department.

8. What do you think should be the top priorities of the city after this election?

I feel that the number one priority is to mend fences, get people working together for the common good, and get rid of the appearance that something shady is happening. I do not like backroom politics.

The second priority is to assess accurately where we are fiscally and get a true assessment of our infrastructure strengths and weaknesses. You have to know where you are before you can decide where you are going.

9. Is there anything you would want to change about the way the city is run?

Yes, I want the City Council, and the City Administration to take the blinds and curtains off of the windows. Open and transparent governance is what I want to see in Italy. The Constitution starts off with “We the People”, not us in power. I am also tired of elected officials thinking because they are elected, that they already know what the constituency wants. We need to be out there asking the tough questions, not telling those who elected us that we know what’s best for them. We are to be there for them, not the other way around.

Many people have the feeling that the Police department is spending too much time on I 35 writing tickets. It is the City of Italy Police Department. Let’s get them focused on the City of Italy. Let’s Serve and Protect our core constituency.

10. How do you plan to draw new businesses to Italy?

Honestly, I would like to think that we could do that immediately. But the honest truth is that we need to make it palatable and profitable for businesses to move to Italy. I am not talking about stores like Family Dollar. I think Italy needs to work with some developers and put together the infrastructure for an Industrial park. Maybe, we need to forget the old downtown and move development to I35 and expand from there.

11. What community services have you given any community in the past?

When I lived in North Carolina I was a member of the Jaycees for 10 years. I was the President of the Plymouth Jaycees in the late 1980’s. I was involved in the Marietta Lions Club. When I lived in Seabrook, I was a member of the Seabrook Volunteer Fire Department for almost 5 years. I am a current member of the Waxahachie Oddfellows lodge. I was also appointed by the current administration to the EDC in 2008. I resigned because there were problems with the way that the EDC had been running. For almost 10 years the EDC had not filed proper paperwork required by the State Of Texas. At the insistence of my attorney, I resigned because of the possible legal implications. I will commend Mark Stiles who was the President of the EDC for a short time then. Mr. Stiles has run the EDC with integrity and openly.

12. What do you want the voters to know that they might not know?

I want to make the Italy of tomorrow, better than Italy when it was in its heyday. If you want things to keep going like they have been, then I am NOT your candidate. If you are happy to have the Ellis County Observer digging up the dirt from Italy and splashing it all over the internet, then again, I am not the person you should elect. I want to make Italy’s government open and transparent. I want to get more people involved. The government is for the people, by the people.

If you want to help move Italy out of the past and into a bright future, then I would like to ask for your vote on May 14th.

The following is my 6 point plan for Italy:

Six Point Plan for Italy

Economic Development: Make Business-Friendly Job Creation a Top Priority for Municipal Government.

Government employees must recognize the relationship of public service to economic development. Primary employers who provide jobs locally ensure the revenues that allow city government to provide the level of service that citizens expect. In other words, municipal employees have a vested interest in helping to create and sustain jobs in the community.

Start an Economic Garden: Grow Our Own Local Businesses.

Economic Gardening is an economic development plan that provides locally-owned startups and existing businesses with new resources to promote growth. Traditionally, economic development plans have focused on incentive packages to bring large employers to the region, but have not included much support for growing locally-owned businesses.

Economic Collaboration: Cultivate Strategic Regional Partnerships

When we strategically combine assets we leverage our investments and achieve our goals. We are bigger and better together than we can be individually.

Economic Security: Stabilize Local Government

Business leaders are not going to move to Italy to create new jobs and existing employers aren’t going to stay here unless we deliver the services they need and maintain our municipal infrastructure. Our economic security rests on a foundation of maximized efficiency and transparency in our city government. We must restore the services and infrastructure that help our community attract and retain jobs. Also, I believe that the City of Italy needs to join an organization to promote transparency in local government.

Asset Leveraging: Grow Amateur Sports and Tourism.

Encourage our existing tourist industry infrastructure to cater to amateur sports enthusiasts and organizations. We already have the Tour d Italy here, why not more organizations and events?

Make Decisions Today to Create Sustainable Local Government for the Future

If we want job-creating businesses to make long-term investments in our city, then our city needs to assure them that we can provide the infrastructure and services they need in the present and for the future.

As Mayor, I will launch an ongoing process to evaluate how sustainable our policies, plans and infrastructure needs are now and for the future. Sometimes investing today saves more tomorrow. Other times, we will need to adjust our expectations and requirements. It is important to know the difference. A competent assessment process informing these decisions will impact our city government’s capacity to support new job creation now and sustain that process in the future.

However, none of these plans or dreams is any good without your vote on Saturday, May 14th.

I am asking you, not only to vote for Nik Kinze for Mayor of Italy, but to continue your support of “The Biggest Little Town In Texas” by submitting your ideas and getting involved in your community.