I posed the following questions to the dynamic Mayor of Brookings, Scott Munsterman.
Scott is a strong leader and has been the catalyst of bringing people together to solve problems. He is a leader in not only Brookings development but also in regional development. His latest effort is the recently announced I-29 Corridor Economic Development effort.
Scott a native Minnesotan is a Chiropractor in Brookings.
He and his wife Mary Jeanne have five girls and two grandchildren. Scott Munsterman also serves as the Chairman of the Brookings County GOP and blogs at Dakota Dreams 2020.
Q. Why is Brookings the best City in South Dakota?
Q. Why is Brookings the best City in South Dakota?
A. Asking me that question is a little bit like asking me which of my five daughters I like the best! I truly believe each community in South Dakota has a set of qualities they can proud of. I also understand the importance of the role larger communities like Brookings must play in the development and investment of the communities around us. We are only as strong as our smallest community, and with that statement came the action behind developing our regional partnerships.
Q. What are your two biggest accomplishments as Mayor?
A. As a team, we have brought Brookings from a poor financial position to a position of strength. Our fiscal management, the accountability we have set up with our outcome based budgeting over the last 5 years has proven successful, in conjunction with a focused investment of time, energy and finances in economic development has carried the day. Seeing our community and region forge ahead on solid ground as we enter into the ‘new knowledge-based economy’ is a great accomplishment I share with many in Brookings who have worked together to make it happen. In 2001, when I took office, I made a presentation on Establishing a Vision for Brookings, still found on our city website. We have brought this to fruition.
Q. What is your biggest disappointment?
A. My biggest disappointment was also my biggest surprise: the State of South Dakota. I anticipated our approach in state government would be more involved in what goes on in communities from a strategic development perspective. I was wrong. Cooperative efforts and synergy between all partners in the future of South Dakota, including local and state government, are not what they could, or should be. There are many cooperative efforts in place but there is still much room for improvement. In a state the size of South Dakota this should be viewed as a priority for successful development. As a matter of fact I found it difficult to communicate to the state level the needs of our community and the region in a variety of ways; it is as if there is a huge disconnect between communities and the function of state government. Why do we not have a strategic plan that addresses development from the bottom up, a ‘community focused’ approach? Why do we move towards driving people out of smaller communities without including them in a regional and statewide effort to build them up, integrating them into our long term plan for the entire state? It is sad to say this, but I never once received a call from the administration of our state to find out what our plan is, what we needed to help us out; the effort was always one sided on our part. Brookings is the fifth largest community in the State of South Dakota, if we have these issues, what about all the other communities smaller than us? Please understand, I don’t say this to be critical of any one person in our state government, it is just the way we have done things. We need to think differently and transform our model if we want to create significant impacts.
Q. Brookings is often referred to as the People’s Republic of Brookings. The City owns the utilities, telephone service, is the franchise holder for Sprint Cell Phones for much of Southeastern South Dakota, even the hospital. Scott, as a strong economic conservative in your role as Mayor how do you reconcile your personal philosophy with your public responsibility?
A. Easy. Brookings is an entrepreneurial community. It is a conservative community. Like many other communities, owning your own utilities and telephone service was an important piece in the development of our community. Having control in making investments to expand infrastructure when a private company probably would not (they answer to share holders, not to the electorate) at critical times is a great plus. Our county and city started the hospital when no one else would have, we have maintained it to this point to bring much needed services like kidney dialysis, a loss leader but deemed important to provide. The success of our enterprises adds to the bottom line in our city budget – a budget focused on improving the quality of life for the people of Brookings.
Q. Briefly explain your I-29 Corridor Economic Development initiative?
A. Regional development is simply working together for the common good. We think nothing of seeing farmers helping each other in the field, or borrowing a tool or getting advice from our neighbor. The I29 Corridor project are communities coming together to strategically develop our region as a whole – together we have many resources and we can use them in a synergistic and collaborative way within a regional growth strategy shared by all connected in the region. We are currently developing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will unite communities together on this project, we will seek funding from local communities, local economic development entities and the state – (who ever would like to come on board in the endeavor) and we will then commission a detailed study to assist us in developing our regional growth strategy. What will this accomplish? It will allow communities to better understand how we can strategically invest in economic development (and education) in a way that will make an impact in the new economy for generations to come.
Q. How do you see this working better than economic development programs being initiated by State Government?
A. The state has done a good job at identifying target industries for recruiting purposes; but have not initiated the next step: a deeper analysis of industry cluster development. We must as a state make a strong willed effort to strategically develop our whole state, engaging even the smallest communities.
Q. Brookings employers, like Daktronics are opening plants in other cities because they cannot get enough employees, what is the City doing to attract more people to live and work in Brookings?
A. Our growth model is progressing at a strong pace. Brookings has needed affordable housing. We now have several developers stepping up to the plate and this very important piece will be in place to enable us to continue to grow our region. I say region because the key areas (most affordable) to be developed for housing are our neighboring communities who are our regional partners. Additional growth strategies are underway and in the development stages.
Q. What was the population of Brookings in 2003 when you became Mayor? and what is the population today? What were the annual sales tax receipts for 2002 and 2007 respectively?
A. Population for Brookings has been up for grabs. The census in 2003 showed 18,751 and in 2006 18,802. During that time, Brookings added 400 new housing units. A recent housing study we performed in 2007 suggests the census may be short as much as 1500 people. In regards to sales tax revenue: Calendar year taxable sales for city of Brookings were: $285,897,905 in 2002 and $492,059,360 in 2007. This would include retail, manufacturing equipment, and other sales, etc. Sales tax receipts for 2002 - 5,314,220.34 and 2007 – 10,636,781.77. Our general budget expenditures are capped at a growth rate of the CPI, allowing the city to capture surplus budgets the last several years. As I mentioned before, strong fiscal management with strategic investment in economic development/education yields an enviable financial position of strength; the formula for a successful government model – in my opinion.
Q. What three items in your refrigerator might be considered unique or unusual?
A. Okay, I had to ask my wife. Here it is: homegrown horseradish, capers and fish sauce.