Meet the candidates for HCCC

Esther Noe
The race is on with just a few weeks before the election for Hill City Common Council (HCCC) June 6. This year two positions are up for election. 
In Ward I, incumbent Carl Doaty Jr. is opposed by Ethan Walker. Meanwhile, in Ward II, incumbent Gary Auch is opposed by Lori Miner. The winners will serve a two-year term on the HCCC. 
Carl Doaty Jr., a wildland firefighter and EMT, and has been a resident of Hill City for six years. For the last three years, he served on the HCCC and was the council president this past year. 
Through this role, Doaty served as a liaison to the Hill City Ambulance District, Hill City Fire District, Hill City Park and Rec Board and the Boys & Girls Club of the Black Hills. In addition, Doaty attended planning and zoning commission meetings as a liaison and attended Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce meetings and other meetings as needed as a representative for the city. 
“I am seeking reelection to continue to fight for city infrastructure. As a council, we came up with a plan to pave the remaining streets and are working on plans to fix water and sewer issues. I would like to remain on council to continue this work and see it completed,” said Doaty. 
Doaty is working on infrastructure plans to speed up repairs to roads, sewer systems and potable water. Infrastructure is one of the biggest issues facing Hill City in his opinion as are food trucks and the public’s trust in their elected officials. 
“I bring an open mind and no hidden agenda. I speak for my constitutes whether they are city residents or business owners. I am the voice of the people,” he said. “I listen to people's concerns and ask questions. I care about what people think and how the outcome could affect someone. I speak from the heart and for the people. I have no agenda and only want to see our town and its citizens be successful. I bring unity in our community by uniting our citizens and avoid negative confrontations, such as Lane of Lights, Fourth of July Parade and the Parade of Lights.” 
In conclusion, Doaty said, “We have a great town full of great people, and win or lose, I’m proud to have served them as their representative for Ward I. I hope I can continue to serve them and help make a difference for another two years.” 
Opposing Doaty for Ward I is Ethan Walker. Walker is a husband, a dad to four children and an Enterprise Software Solution Engineer. He grew up in Custer State Park before going to college and starting his career in technology. His family has lived in Hill City since 2018. 
“For a couple years, I have been thinking about getting involved in city government,” said Walker. “I have spent the last five years getting to know the community and all the great people here, as well as learning how our city operates.
“Last year, I inquired about filling a vacant seat on the planning and zoning committee, and it was brought up that I should consider running for city council. After another individual whom I respect decided not to run, I made the decision to throw my hat in the ring.”
There are three main reasons why Walker decided to run. These are perception, transparency and accountability. 
“There is a perception that the people’s voices are not being heard. There is a perception that the city does not care about their concerns. There is a perception that the current environment is ‘anti-business.’ These perceptions need to change,” said Walker.
In terms of transparency, Walker said that many of the people he has talked to feel transparency within city government is lacking. 
“My position is to bring absolute full transparency to the position. One of the things we are pushing right now is to get the council meetings online and easy to view/listen to. We are dealing with the people’s money, and there is no reason anything should be hidden or left in the dark,” said Walker.
Walker’s final reason for running is accountability. In his opinion, the city is currently facing several challenges. 
“It will be important to understand why we are in the position we are in to make sure we don’t repeat the same mistakes that have happened in the past. Your tax dollars need to be spent wisely as to go the farthest and meet the critical needs of the city. We should be focusing on the ‘needs’ versus the ‘wants,’” said Walker. 
If elected to this role, Walker believes his primary duty would be to act as a public servant. He said, “My job will be to work for you, to listen to you and to understand you. I want to make dealing with the city easier, whether you are a business owner or a resident.” 
Along these lines, Walker said that he is fiscally conservative and takes a common sense approach to solving problems. 
“My approach will be to listen to the people, understand all sides of every issue and make decisions based on the best interest of Hill City and its residents. I will speak the truth, regardless of how popular it is,” said Walker. 
To Walker, the three biggest issues facing the City of Hill City are infrastructure, housing and taxes. In regards to infrastructure, Walker said that water, sewer and roads should have been prioritized long ago. 
Meanwhile, housing is becoming more and more expensive in Hill City. Walker said the council needs to collaboratively work to get creative and support the people who work in Hill City and want to live here. 
Walker added that taxes are going up, and the money needs to be used wisely. 
“People in the community are starting to wake up to what is going on in the city government,” said Walker. “We need your help to get engaged. Come to council meetings and planning and zoning meetings and make your concerns known. Join the Hill City Town Hall Facebook group and engage in dialogue and debate. 
“It is time to hold elected and appointed officials accountable for how they are spending your tax dollars and prioritizing projects. We need your help. Please join us.” 
In conclusion, Walker said, “I am prepared to impact positive change for Hill City. I am prepared to be the biggest cheerleader for you, whether you are a resident and/or a business owner. You are the reason that Hill City is such a great place to be.” 
Meanwhile, Gary Auch is the incumbent running for Ward II. Auch was raised in the Black Hills and attended school in Rapid City as well as Black Hills State in Spearfish. Later his job as a QA/safety rep for Boeing Aerospace took Auch across the western United States, including a station at Ellsworth Air Force Base. Despite his travels, this area was always home. 
Today Auch is retired and has been a resident of Hill City for seven years. Previously, he served on the HCCC in 1991 for one term while living here and working at Ellsworth. 
Most recently he served on the council for three years to complete Bill Miner’s term and fulfill his own term. Within this role, Auch sees his duties as ensuring the safety and continued growth of Hill City and said he brings stability to the role. 
“My training has been to gather all the data, weed out the lies and then make a decision on what is best for the whole of Hill City, not just a select few,” said Auch. 
According to Auch, the biggest issues the city is facing are the strengthening of the water and sewer system. Being proactive in planning ahead rather than waiting for issues to become critical is another issue Auch sees. 
He specifically would like to address “building our infrastructure of water and sewer so that we can continue to grow as needed without the worry of outgrowing our resources.”
“I do not have any specific agendas,” Auch said. “I want to see Hill City grow and flourish, while still maintaining its ‘home town’ lifestyle. On any issue that is brought before the city council, I will weigh all information at my disposal and then place a vote based on the data I have and what is best for Hill City as a whole.” 
In conclusion, Auch said, “As a city alderman, I am always available to speak with anyone regarding current city issues. During my time on the council, I find that the staff at the city offices are always willing to sit down with those who have questions. 
“We strive to be transparent at all times, but I have found that there are very few people who will come and ask their questions directly with the city staff. They prefer, instead, to talk amongst themselves downtown with minimum information. This is how things get distorted and misinformation is spread. I would encourage all who have questions about how the city is being run to take the time to come and ask the city directly.” 
Opposing Auch for Ward II is Lori Miner. Hill City is Miner’s hometown, and she graduated from Hill City High School. She came home often over the years and finally returned upon retirement with her husband six and half years ago. 
During her professional career, Miner was a registered nurse. 
“Part of being a good nurse is listening, being compassionate and advocating for others. I was passionate about my career of service to others, and I would bring those same skills to the council,” said Miner. 
Miner began serving the Hill City community in high school. She was a member of the youth advisory board for the Hill City Youth Center as well as a member of the Hill City Historical Society that brought the Charlotte Hicks cabin to Tracy Park. 
“I have been thinking about running for council for some time,” Miner said. “While talking to citizens and business owners and asking questions, it became clear that many feel like their voices are not being heard and their concerns are not being acknowledged. 
“I am stepping up to be a voice for others and to restore fiscal responsibility and transparency. There have been many years candidates have run unopposed, and I think it’s important to give citizens a choice.” 
If elected, Miner said her duties within this role would be to carry out the business of the city and foster sustainable growth in the city so services like water and sewers are provided for citizens. 
“I bring an advantage of knowing a longer-term history of Hill City. I can see where we were and where we are now. I worked in my father’s Main Street business here in Hill City, and I am familiar with the ebb and flow of funds based on a tourist season. My father taught me you can’t spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need,” said Miner.
In Miner’s opinion, the three biggest issues facing the city are water, sewage treatment and streets. 
In regards to water, Miner said there are problems with storage capacity, leaks, too much or too little pressure and dead-end lines. 
On the topic of sewage treatment, Miner said, “Infiltration adds to the capacity issues and increases costs to treat. The sewer plant is more than a decade old and requires routine maintenance. It’s time to start planning for upgrades to the plant. 
Meanwhile, paving is Miner’s end goal for streets. In the meantime, she believes the gravel streets need to be maintained. 
Another issue Miner would specifically like to address is transparency. 
“There is a sense in the community that things are hidden. Open meetings law for South Dakota is based on the idea that the people are entitled to as much information as possible about public affairs,” said Miner. 
In conclusion, Miner said, “I would be a new face to the council with new ideas. If we keep doing things the same way, we will get the same results. I speak up and am not afraid to say no. 
“I have repeatedly heard no one listens. I would be here to listen. I would work for positive change in the city. I am optimistic about the future of Hill City.” 
Polls will be open June 6 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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