Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of five articles featuring candidates for Brookings City Council.
BROOKINGS – Nick Schmeichel believes the future is dependent on everyone working together and sticking to the plan to make life the best it can be for the residents, and that’s why he’s running for Brookings City Council.
“My thing is everything is in tandem; everything works together,” Schmeichel said.
“I think we’re gonna continue being the city that we’ve already done in our comprehensive master plan. That plan is put in place for that reason,” Schmeichel said, adding he keeps going back to it because it was put together by many members of the community “and it’s such a great guideline for us.”
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 Schmeichel, Dr. Isaiah Crevier and Nate Holden.
Schmeichel grew up in Salem and graduated from McCook Central in 2003, then came to Brookings to attend South Dakota State University. He graduated with a degree in mass communications/public relations and has a minor in political science.
He and wife, Joni, have an elementary-aged son.
“When I graduated from college, I started as an intern at Daktronics to finish out my degree, actually. And the area I worked in was called rental and staging,” Schmeichel said.
He sold equipment to companies across the country, “which led to me owning my business,” Schmeichel said.
In April 2012, he started Sideline Productions, which rents Daktronics equipment across the country.
He’s learned nobody can be an expert in everything; to cover all the bases takes diversity.
“I think the council should be a diverse group of people coming together to do the best they can for the city,” Schmeichel said, and bring their different areas of expertise to the table.
In addition to being a business owner, Schmeichel has served on the Board of Adjustment and the Swiftel Center Advisory Committee since 2018, and the Visit Brookings board since 2019.
Being a business owner and serving on boards helps him understand the council’s job, including budgets, employees and planning ahead. On the Board of Adjustment, he and others hear a case and apply the city’s guidelines to it.
“That board I’ve really enjoyed because I’ve gotten to know and work with more city staff, and that’s been critical,” Schmeichel said, adding it’s helped him understand what city staff does.
“The Swiftel Center Advisory board, that for me, that’s my industry,” Schmeichel said, so he knows what those facilities have been facing the past year.
A big part of that is COVID-19, and he thinks working together is what will get the city through it.
“One of the things I’m most proud about is the POD (vaccination event) at the Swiftel Center. The (Brookings) Health System and the team at the Swiftel Center and just various people within the city have been planning for this since 2008. Again, who knew a pandemic was coming, but I think that shows a lot of foresight into the fact that this has been planned. And those have went off incredibly. I volunteered for one, it was awesome. That is the type of thing where I believe our city has stepped up,” Schmeichel said.
Being a business owner himself, he’s talked to many other business owners and found out some things.
“Most business owners I’ve talked to, especially bars and restaurants, do not care one iota about the mask mandate. What I’ve heard is they’re already pre-disposed, especially in those industries, of not wanting people to get sick,” Schmeichel said. “Nobody wants their workforce gone.”
One complaint he did hear was the lack of “agility.” The mandates ran for 60 days, and there was no discussion of “how we’re gonna get these business operators back,” he said. “I know it was only recently that councilors were saying, ‘Yeah, we have to start looking at this.’ It should have been looked at all along.”
“Obviously with owning a business in town, I am going to focus on more workforce-type things,” he said. “I believe we have to strengthen our partnerships with the (Brookings Economic Development Corporation), with SDSU, large and small businesses. I want to have a people-first approach. We have to focus on getting these people into job roles that our companies and our businesses need.”
He’d like the city to work with the BEDC to “put together a survey” to see what students want in the community and believes that will help retain students after graduation.
Part of that retention is taking care of the amenities we already have, like the Children’s Museum of South Dakota, upgrades to the Swiftel Center and other facilities, and the parks – “We have about three times the park space of cities comparable to our size,” he said – to keep the city attractive to people.
He was very happy to see the new fire station go up on South Main.
“That was absolutely crucial. We needed that to get our response times down. I know our city is going to need a new police station. (We have) to make sure we can finance those types of projects,” Schmeichel said.
These are areas where the comprehensive master plan comes in: it is a long-range plan for the city that was born from the ideas of different members of the community and reflects the views and dreams of various stakeholders.
Schmeichel thinks the city should use the comprehensive plan but be “willing to change if it needs to” and take a holistic approach because everything dovetails with other things.
“It’s one of those things where one problem leads to another, right?” he asked.
“We’re eventually gonna have to deal with some of the land-lockedness of our community, so … there’s only one of two ways, right? You build out or you build up,” Schmeichel said.
Land dovetails into housing.
“The housing has always been critical here, and it’s because we’re so land-locked, we’re gonna be out of developable land in 15 years,” Schmeichel said.
That affects workforce.
“If you don’t have houses for people to come here and work, you don’t have a workforce,” Schmeichel said.
He wants to keep Brookings attractive to employees and employers, like Bel Brands, and “make sure everyone is welcome in our community.”
“Ever since I’ve been here, I’ve known this community to take care of its people, I’ve known this community to have great things and be what we all say in our marketing stuff to the outside world: that small town feel with big town amenities,” Schmeichel said.
Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]