Incumbent Union Alderman Dustin Bailey faces challenger Dennis Soetebier for the Ward 3 seat on April 4 municipal election.
Bailey, who has held the position for the past six years, said he is running again to make Union the best place it can be.
“I have been fortunate enough to be entrusted to this position,” Bailey said. “I loved this town growing up and I want my daughter to grow up in a town of which she can be proud.”
Soetebier, 66, who ran unsuccessfully in 2013, said he has been thinking about running for many years, and feels like now is finally the right time to again seek the alderman position.
“I am semi-retired and now have time to give back to this community that has done so much for me and my family,” Soetebier said. “I am a lifelong Union area resident and I care deeply about the Union community and keeping it a great area to live and work.”
With several issues facing Union in the upcoming weeks and looking forward to the next few years, both candidates agree transportation is not only in the forefront, but is a linchpin to other issues.
“Recent road improvements on Highways 47 and 50 have alleviated most of the congestion at this intersection,” Soetebier said. “However, traffic still backs up near Independence Drive during rush hour.”
Bailey, 32, says city residents have a history of needing to go to other communities for basic goods and travel outside the city for items like clothing or shoes.
Because of this, citizens are forced to deal with traffic and congestion any time they need something.
“A major issue the city has had is its relationship with the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT),” Bailey said. “A prime example is the intersection at Main and Highway 47. We need to find a way to lead the charge on some items, instead of simply being informed of them.”
Connectivity around town for those without cars in Union is also a factor that Bailey feels should be addressed.
“Many areas of town are still isolated from others,” Bailey said. “Without a car, people south of Highway 50 or east of Highway 47, struggle to get to jobs, parks, or access to a grocery store. I think we need to go forward and create a Union transportation committee to advocate for our needs.”
Soetebier said if elected, he would focus on keeping services available through increased housing and new jobs for existing and future residents.
“I would like to see industry and business continue to grow, particularly in the downtown area,” he said. “The industrial park has continued to expand, which is great for bringing jobs and families to the community.”
He added an ongoing social problem will also be addressed and support of law enforcement is key.
“Unfortunately, and it’s not just a problem in our community, but I would like to continue to see the drug epidemic addressed,” he said. “I know officers are trained to carry the lifesaving drug Narcan, which is good. I would like to see more proactive approaches. Let’s continue to support our city police by ensuring they have the tools and financing needs.”
Bailey said he will continue to push for fiscal conservatism to allow the city to move forward with several projects that have been proposed in the past, but put on the back burner.
“Staff do a great job recommending things to the board of aldermen, but it is up to us to make final approvals,” Bailey said. “ In addition, we have discussed a citywide trail system, and a study has been done to support it.
I think this should be pursued in a fiscally responsible manner. The new park has supported the idea and use of a trail and I think it is time we move forward with its planning and implementation.”
Bailey added the most important issue facing Union is leadership to guide the city through the changes it faces and he hopes to be one of them.
“The city will be facing the retirement of many department heads and staff members over the next few years,” Bailey said. “Many of these people have served the city for decades and will be sorely missed. The city is going to need to make some important decisions in order to hire people who can successfully guide the city for the next several decades.”
Soetebier said dealing with older infrastructure while preparing for new projects is a universal problem of aging communities.
“Ward 3 is home of most of the oldest residences and business properties in Union,” he said. “I think this juggling act of preserving the old and welcoming the new is one of the many important roles of a city leader.
We need to continue to expand and grow the city as a whole, but not forget to revitalize the more historic downtown areas.”
Soetebier said his many years of experience in the building trade, working with members of the city, business and home owners makes him a perfect fit for the board position.
“I am used to listening to what people want and helping adequately address their concerns,” he said. “There are many city issues regarding building projects where comprehensive understanding of the building industry would be an asset to the board. I have a good relationship with community members, and this relationship will bring valuable insight to alderman meetings.”
The incumbent said he also draws on his experience if he is selected to continue serving the Ward 3 residents.
“I am the most experienced candidate running for this office and I feel that I am the most qualified,” Bailey said. “I have a history of speaking up for what I feel is right and am not afraid to stick my neck out for residents and my beliefs.
I represent a younger generation, but still deeply respect those who have come before me. I feel as though I respect Union’s history, but want to continue to help Union progress to greater things.”