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Q&A with the West Fargo Park Board candidates

Question: Why are you running for election/re-election to the West Fargo Park Board, and what makes you the best candidate choice?

Denise Johnson: I continue to be focused and committed to serving the residents of West Fargo. Several projects have been identified and discussed by the board as future needs/wants for our community and I hope to continue with the board, being a part of the process to develop those for our residents. I have been a resident of West Fargo since 1978 and have seen the growth and changes in our city. I have served five terms on the board and have the background knowledge about our goals, parks, programs and budget. I work with youth and their families, which has kept me current with the changing interests and needs.

Jeff McCracken: I feel there is a need for a fresh voice on West Fargo Park Board. West Fargo Parks are a very important part of the community. We are facing some challenging times ahead and I believe the Park Board could use some new ideas and a positive, creative person for the future of West Fargo Parks. I believe I am the best candidate for this position for many reasons. I have spent the majority of my life in West Fargo and I have been involved with many sports over the years. I continue to be active in coaching WF Girls Fastpitch Softball and officiating high school basketball. I feel with that background and my construction knowledge, I will be a valuable asset to the Park Board as West Fargo continues to grow.

Sharon Odegaard: As a current member of the Park Board, I am well aware of issues that have faced us in the past and those that are on the horizon. Over time I have developed a rapport with other public and private organizations as well as developers. With a limited budget such as we have in the Park District, it is essential that partnerships be developed with private organizations as well as other public entities. I have a good relationship with elected officials from both the school district and the city commission. To get the best bang for the taxpayer's buck, all elected boards simply must work together for the common good. Communication is key and I am a good communicator.

Ken Zetocha: I am seeking re-election to the office of West Fargo Park Board Commissioner in order to continue the work on the park and recreational programs and projects currently being undertaken by the park district and commission. There are long-range plans and visions of additional programs and facilities needs I would like to see through to completion and becoming a realization for the citizens of West Fargo. I feel my experience as a business owner and a longtime resident of the city, along with my knowledge of the West Fargo Park District's past and current operation, as well as, future program and facility needs makes me the best candidate choice. Also, having raised three children with my wife, Marie, who were very active throughout their youth, as well as, my continued involvement in youth and other organizations within the community, helps me to understand and work for these program and facility needs of the Park District for the citizens of West Fargo.

Q: What do you perceive to be the biggest issues facing the Park Board during the next four years?

Johnson: Maintaining and developing the parks, programs and facilities to a high standard, along with meeting the ongoing and future needs of our growing community. Being fiscally responsible to the citizens and using tax dollars as efficiently and effectively as possible. Encouraging communications and input from our residents.

McCracken: The Park Board and the West Fargo School District need to work together to be able to provide the most opportunities and facilities possible for the community. This partnership will provide the best park system for the citizens, and most importantly the kids of West Fargo. As West Fargo continues to grow, we will need more parks and facilities. Hockey and soccer are growing at a rapid pace and there is a need for more ice time and soccer fields. Baseball and softball numbers are also on the rise, more fields will be needed in the future. Another challenge will be to address the current West Fargo swimming pool facilities. West Fargo Slow Pitch men and women softball numbers have also been on the rise and better facilities are also needed to accommodate these organizations. As our city grows, we are in need of more bike paths to connect our city with parks and schools so the citizens of West Fargo feel safe letting their children navigate through the city. Bike paths are a great place for people of all ages to get some safe exercise. We need to move forward on projects in the works and put the finishing touches on them.

Odegaard: Undoubtedly aquatic facilities, and particularly a pool, jump to the top of the list. We need to offer all-inclusive facilities and programs and be sure that no one in the community is denied participation. Whether someone is 3 or 83, we try to offer something for them through our park district. I recognize that all citizens are not athletes and that we need to develop programs for people that don't require physical strength, but still offer a relaxing, fun escape from the daily grind. Through all this it is essential that we maintain and improve existing parks throughout the city even while we strive to develop parks in new areas.

Zetocha: The biggest issues I see are the need for aquatic facilities, a growing demand for walking and bike paths, as well as, being able to maintain and meet our ever-increasing demands for our existing park and recreational program and facility needs, within the mill levy available. We have a tremendous staff at the West Fargo Park District and due to their hard work and dedication we have been able to meet the many needs currently before us.

Q: If elected/re-elected, what issue will receive your immediate attention?

Johnson: I will continue to support a solution for the aged and deteriorating Veterans Memorial Pool. At this time, I see that as our most urgent issue and greatest need.

McCracken: I would like to work on the relationship between the Park Board and the West Fargo School District. Both of these organizations are in place for the good of the kids of West Fargo.

Odegaard: It would be terribly difficult to choose just one issue when there is so much work to be done. As I said previously, though, my goal is to see a new swimming pool become a reality in West Fargo. I pledge my continued due diligence when it comes to taxpayers' dollars and will continue to work with other elected bodies in West Fargo as well as in other metro area cities in an attempt to maximize our dollars and avoid duplication of efforts.  Through all this, we must continue to survey residents to help guide us in setting our priorities.

Zetocha: If re-elected, it is my desire to continue to work for the continued growth of the West Fargo Park District in all areas, including our strong effort to maintain and improve on existing park programs and facilities, as well as, to work with the park board commissioners and staff, the City of West Fargo, the West Fargo School District, Fargo Park District, private groups, the developers and community in recognizing and developing new park and recreational opportunities for the citizens of West Fargo and the entire metro area. I have no set agenda, as I have learned over the years there are so many needs and wants within the city of West Fargo for park and recreational activities, facilities and programs, that one can not focus on just one item.

Q: On a scale of one to 10, where 10 is the highest, how would you rate West Fargo Park District services and operations? Explain.

Johnson: Without hesitation, I rate the park services and operations as a 10. The park district staff is extremely dedicated and committed to serving the residents of West Fargo. They regularly go 'above and beyond' what is expected. Recreational programs and facilities are well run and well maintained. A comprehensive variety of activities has been developed, offering something for all ages.

McCracken: I would give the park system a 7. They do an awesome job of maintaining the facilities we have. The West Fargo Park Board/District needsto have an open mind and partnership with organizations that come forward with proposals to improve existing or build new facilities.

Odegaard: I would definitely rate the West Fargo Park District services and operations as a 10 because our staff members are dedicated and committed to the park district and, even though we only have 14 employees, I marvel at how much they get done. As for facilities, however, I would rate them a 7 or 8 because in order to have a 10, there would have to be a better swimming pool, more baseball/softball fields, better connectivity of bike/walking paths and more shelters as well as ice rinks and warming houses in our neighborhood parks.

Zertocha: I would rate the West Fargo Park District at an 8, as there is always room for improvement, as we all know, however, we have a tremendous staff at the West Fargo Park District, along with the commissioners and due to their hard work and dedication we have been able to meet the many needs currently before us. As an example, we have seen our summer recreational programs, including soccer, baseball, arts and crafts, camp-a-day, tennis, golf and many others, grow tremendously and in which we have over 1,500 participants alone. The improvements at the Vets Arenas, the Legion and Babe Ruth Baseball fields, Scheels Soccer Complex, the BMX track, skateboard parks, disc golf, shelters and playground equipment throughout the existing parks and ongoing work and development of new park areas and facilities.