Voters in Washington’s Ward 3 will decide a two-way city council race next Tuesday.
Connie Groff, who is completing her ninth year on the council is seeking another term. Her opponent, Jeff Patke, has not held public office before.
In interviews with The Missourian, both candidates agreed that the council should continue to move forward with the study on future annexation, and both said they support looking at ways to encourage construction of more affordable housing in the city.
Patke stressed that the council needs to research the annexation issue more and study all the possibilities.
“I’m not opposed to moving on, but we need to do the workshops and make the plan very specific,” Patke said.
He said he was raised on a farm and doesn’t like the idea of the city taxing farmland.
Groff, meanwhile, said she was surprised when the council voted in December to stop the annexation planning process even though additional workshops were scheduled.
She voted against the motion to kill the plan, which since has been revived. More council workshops are scheduled at the end of next month.
“We need to continue looking at annexation,” Groff told The Missourian. “The planning and zoning commission did its work and handed it off to us.
“I do think we need to annex land to protect Washington and what we have here,” Groff said. “We’ve got such an amazing community,” she added, noting the great tradition of volunteerism among Washington citizens.
“I think we’ve outgrown our city limits which is why we need to annex,” she said.
Groff said the city needs to continue looking for ways to provide more affordable homes for people who work here but can’t afford to buy a home here.
She said “young professionals” who are just starting out, like police officers and teachers, can’t afford to buy a new home in Washington.
“I think the planned unit development concept is a good thing,” Groff said. “I think we could do that here.”
She pointed to the New Town mixed use development in St. Charles as a good example of that.
Patke said more affordable housing is needed in Washington “for average, working families.” It is needed to entice young people to stay in Washington, he said.
A transport truck driver for Fas-Trip in Washington, Patke said he believes in family, a strong work ethic and “commonsense” government.
Patke, 37, said serving on the city council is something he’s been interested in doing for a long time.
“I thought this is the right time in my life to give back to the community and do my civic duty,” he remarked.
“I have no specific agenda,” Patke said. “I feel the council needs to take more time looking into issues before acting.
“I’m OK with what is going on (in the city), but I feel the council needs to watch the city’s pocketbook and make sure the people are respected,” he said.
“We need to keep pursuing more jobs and economic development opportunities,” Patke said.
Patke is a 1993 graduate of St. Francis Borgia Regional High School and he attended East Central College. He is a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Washington Lions Club and serves on the new Lakeside Music Festival committee.
He and his wife, Michelle, have two children.
Groff was appointed by Mayor Dick Stratman to fill a one-year unexpired term in Ward 3, then was elected to four more terms. Before that she served 18 years on the park board.
A daughter of longtime community leader Robert Vossbrink, Groff said she was taught from an early age to get involved in community service.
“I’ve never had a personal agenda,” she remarked. “I always felt it was my responsibility to give back to the community.”
When she was first appointed, Groff said she was surprised to learn that council members are paid a salary.
“I never knew it was a paid position. I just wanted to serve on the council because I care deeply about Washington.”
Groff said for that reason she will have trouble voting for a council pay raise when the issue, which is being discussed, comes up.
The incumbent said she’s always supported economic development efforts and remarked that the new team track railroad siding will be a “wonderful addition” to helping market Washington to prospects.
She said she supports all emergency services and city employees.
“I’m glad we’re doing a new (employee) salary study,” she said. “I feel we were falling behind.”
Groff said she also supports continued efforts to preserve and improve Downtown Washington. “We don’t want to lose that important part of the community.
“One of the things I’m proudest of is that we had the courage to be the first city to pass the prescription law on pseudoephedrine,” Groff remarked. “That, and formation of the drug task force. We have a wonderful task force that has made a big difference in this area.
She said among other things, she supported continued improvements to Highway 100 through Washington and future extension of the Rotary Riverfront Trail.
“We made so many huge improvements in recent years,” Groff said.
Groff, 62, has taught seventh-grade language arts for 24 years at the Washington Middle School. She has a bachelor degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in educational processes.
She and her husband, Scott, have five daughters and 12 grandchildren.