Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of five articles featuring candidates for Brookings City Council.
BROOKINGS – Nate Holden says the Brookings City Council doesn’t think enough about the city as a whole, especially during the COVID-19 crisis, and he wants to change that, so he’s running for a seat on the council.
“I think a lot of times, certain demographics or certain areas of the town get overlooked because we’re deciding we’re gonna focus on a certain area and they don’t think of where that impacts other people,” Holden said of the council.
Two three-year council seats are up for election April 13. They are currently held by Patty Bacon and Nick Wendell. Joining them on the ballot are Holden, Dr. Isaiah Crevier and Nick Schmeichel.
Holden was born in the Minneapolis area and moved around as a child. He graduated from Chamberlain and came to Brookings to attend South Dakota State University.
“I’ve been here about 25 years,” Holden said.
His mom is in Minneapolis, and his brothers are scattered across the country.
Holden has worked at Einspahr Auto Plaza about a year. Before that, he worked at Brookings Auto Mall about three years, Lowe’s for three years, and Walmart for seven years.
“I managed Meadow Creek (Golf Course) over in Volga for a couple years; worked at Edgebrook (Golf Course) for like five, four to five years,” and a couple of different bars. He worked one summer for the city of Chamberlain, “so I’ve done a little bit of that and seen how things work,” he said.
“Between different jobs, having to manage employees and manage, you know, budgets and try to create a revenue as well as keep things where you’re making money, not losing it,” Holden said of his qualifications.
Holden said he’s been toying with the idea of running for council for about 15 years. When he was working for one of the bars that he managed, his bar and others were trying to work with the city to get liquor licenses “and they were kind of holding onto it,” Holden said.
He asked himself why the city council did things like they do.
“Started getting me thinking about, you know, do we need somebody else on there?” Holden said of his decision to run. “I’ve seen and done a lot of things in town, so I know kind of what the town wants and how to do things, I guess.”
“I want to dive into this as being someone who’s gonna spend the money of Brookings wisely,” he added.
He sees the council’s job as “budgeting things to create new opportunities … with businesses and infrastructure,” Holden said. “I know a good chunk of where their responsibility lies and what they should be doing.”
What the council should not be doing is shutting down businesses, he said.
“Government overreach, and they’re taking the rights away from people by the shutdowns and the mask mandates. I don’t know that that’s something that technically they should be allowed to do, but it’s a big uphill battle to fight legally the city, so they’ve gotten away with it so far,” Holden said.
“I think people are very smart and if they have health issues or they’re just worried about it, they’re gonna wear the masks, they’re gonna social distance. They’re gonna quarantine when they need to. They don’t need to have a mandate or a shutdown to force that on them.”
He thinks businesses will do what’s best for themselves, whether that’s wearing masks, limiting capacity or continuing curbside service.
“I think the overreach is too much, but I think our community is very sound and smart and we’ll do the right things, but to mandate it to somebody is a little bit of an overreach,” Holden said.
The council’s top priority is fiscal responsibility, Holden said.
“Making sure that we’re spending our money wisely so that when we do have things that we need to spend it on, we have it there,” Holden said.
He’s aware the city has issues with low-income housing and infrastructure, especially drainage, that will need to be taken care of in five to 15 years.
“So planning ahead for things that we know that are gonna come through … obviously we do update the roads and we’re changing sewer systems and waters and everything that’s under those roads,” Holden said.
In the future, he wants to focus on bringing more small businesses to town.
“I don’t think that we’re gonna be driving in these big box stores, so getting the mom-and-pop stores and getting that local money still coming into the community through what we can do to help with (that) to see what we can do to help ease burdens on local business owners and make it more invitable for people to come in to live here to start a small business,” Holden said.
The council’s focus has been on certain groups; they should be focused on the whole town, he said.
“How does that affect all of Brookings, not just some of Brookings?” he asked. “I think that’s kind of, unfortunately, the way a lot of the city council has been in the past; they don’t think of the broad picture – which is gonna help Brookings as a whole – and they think of a small area.”
He wants to keep an eye on things, like spending.
“Save it for the rainy-day type of things or knowing that we’re gonna have infrastructure issues in the future, with drainage … we’d rather have the money being saved for something like that,” Holden said. “Spending that money wisely, to see that we have something for when that future does get here to be able to spend it on that.”
One thing he talked about for the future was a rec center, like he saw when he lived in Utah; one with basketball, racquetball and indoor swimming, but he’s not sure if it should be owned by the city or a private entity.
“I would like to set up a special council or a committee to look into the feasibility of something like that,” Holden said.
Ultimately, he would like “to get us back in a mentality state of where we were 10 years ago, 15 years ago, of proud to be from Brookings,” Holden said. “Almost a cocky attitude that ‘I’m from Brookings, I’m from the best city in the state.’ And I don’t think we have that anymore, so I want to get us back on track to that feeling.”
Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]