Candidate bios: Dove vs Heiberg
Name: Robert Dove
Editor’s note: The original version of this story incorrectly reported that the mayor sued the town to recover legal expenses. The error has been corrected in this version.
COULEE CITY — Challenger Robert Dove will try to maintain a 30-point lead he earned in the August primary over incumbent Rick Heiberg in their race to become this town’s next mayor.
The upcoming vote remains shadowed by a failed grassroots effort to recall Heiberg shortly after he took office in 2010.
The state Supreme Court ultimately thew the recall out for lack of evidence in April 2011, but not before it sharply divided and embittered many townspeople.
Coulee City councilmembers agreed to reimburse Heiberg for nearly $50,000 in leagal expenses after, citing state law, Heiberg threatened to sue the city if they didn’t.
Dove, a town council appointee and owner of a small trucking company, says he’d seek to create a town government with a lower profile, more decision-making power for councilmembers and less for the mayor.
“We’d still have a strong mayor,” he said, “but his decisions would be subject to review. In a town this small, I believe the government should be somewhat invisible, and it has not been that way in Coulee City.”
Dove says his business experience and temperament make him well equipped to manage the town.
“I rarely make a decision when I’m frustrated or angry. I don’t have knee-jerk reactions to almost anything. I’m reasonable to talk to, and I usually treat people in kind,” he said.
Heiberg says he’s eager for four more years to see through several projects begun under his tenure.
“I’ve always believed that we have great, unrealized potential in our little town, and in the last four years, even with the difficulties, we’ve done some good things,” he said.
Heiberg points to accomplishments that include paving projects, improvements at railroad crossings, park improvements and plans to create a town website and revitalize the downtown area.
He’s also worked to secure funding for a much-needed larger reservoir to supply water to the town. Without it, he says, a now 10-year-old state-imposed moratorium on new water hookups will continue to thwart investment and development.
Financial constraints in the state legislature have slowed the project, but it continues to move forward, he says.
Heiberg says his once-volatile relationship with the town council has become more harmonious, even if it still isn’t perfect.
“It is my hope that if I’m reelected we can work together, mayor and council, even more harmoniously… to get these projects done,” he said.