EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a series of profiles on the five candidates for the Yankton City Commission. The election, which was originally scheduled in April, will be held June 2.
NAME: Bruce T. Viau (pronounced as view)
FAMILY: Married to Betty Viau for 45 years. She was employed at Lewis and Clark as the Director of Clinical Services and later with Cedar Village as its director. We have two married daughters. Kristin (Dustin) Harriman they have two daughters, and youngest, Amanda Viau Hopkins (Elijah) have a son and foster daughter. Kris is employed by the South Dakota Department of Justice as a parole officer. Amanda is the Director of Food Services for Avera. Both girls were born and raised in Yankton and graduated from the Yankton school system.
Education/Employment: I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Psychology and a Masters of Arts Degree in Communications. I am retired from Kolberg-Pioneer, Inc (KPI) where I was privileged to hold many positions the last of which was Senior International Sales Coordinator. This position afforded me the opportunity to travel to more than 130 countries and see every continent except Antarctica. I was charged with everything from sales contracts to final installation of our product for customer acceptance.
Experience: I have served on the Yankton Planning Commission multiple terms, which has given me the opportunity to see and review the City budget, review ordinances, look at zoning variances regarding conditional use permits and in general, have gotten to work with some of our great city staff. I have also served on the board of Big Friend Little Friend, worked with (and am currently working with) United Way of Great or Yankton in multiple capacities, been President of Yankton Morning Optimist, President Great Plains International Trade Association, one of the original board members of the Yankton Youth Soccer Association and its second President, and currently am seated on the building committee of Habit for Humanity.
• Why are you running?
I am running because I was asked to run. It was pointed out to me that I have a few unique skill sets and wealth of experience that could be of value to the City Commission and the good people of Yankton. Now that I’m retired, I have the time that I didn’t before. I believe that being a city commissioner is more than a two-hour-a-month job and that my experience in sales, construction, international relations and knowledge of the City, plus my ability to relate to people of all ages and backgrounds, make me a good candidate.
• Going forward in the coming year, the city will be recovering from dual disasters — the 2019 floods and 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. What do you feel needs to be done for recovery and how do you prioritize the needs of each recovery?
One major concern is the repair and upgrade to the Marne Creek trail. This flood abatement structure must be in place to control excessive run-off, otherwise Yankton risks losing federal and state funding, if such flooding should occur again.
A second area of concern is the COVID-19 event. This will extend until a vaccine is available and enough folks are protected. People need as much information on self-protections as possible. The city commissioners have removed restrictions placed on business; that doesn’t mean it’s back to normal. City and county organizations must be on the same page. I’d like to see a multi-disciplinary group made up of county, city, health care, business and service providers such as the Chamber, tourism and hospitality on that advisory group.
• What non-disaster related infrastructure projects do you feel should be pursued over the next few years? Why?
Other non-disaster infrastructure that needs to be considered are the current street and utility work that is in current progress, budgeting and recurring resource funding for the waste water treat plant. That includes the Meridian Bridge and establishing an ongoing revenue source for its upkeep. If we don’t address this, the bridge will become a very expensive structure in the not-too-distant future.
• What do you think is the biggest issue at the city level and what are your plans to address it?
Biggest issue at the City level may well be the revenue streams. We have had a great tax income over the last several months, but that may be at risk depending on the next few months. Although South Dakota is open for business, some of our surrounding states and neighboring countries are not, and that may ding our tourism here in town and at the lake. Add to that, the possible loss of the five townships on our northern border. Our cost supply may see some negative pressures.
• What will some of the biggest budgetary concerns be for 2021?
Agriculture is a key source for income in our community and, for a number of reasons, it’s struggling. Weather, commodity prices and market loss make up a few of the issues they face. We may need to review our budget on a monthly basis and structure a contingency budget if we need to react quickly.
Separate to this is the progress on the park with the new pool. On several occasions, I have been asked about the spending on the pool, while people are unemployed and struggling to feed their families and yet see their property taxes go up. We as a commission and city need to explain how these contracts work and how we see this as a benefit to our community.
• Additional thoughts?
I am humbly asking for your vote because I believe I can serve the people of Yankton in a way that few others can. I am a retired guy so I understand fixed income. I have a history with Yankton and have seen its needs at the youth level. I have seen how the lack of affordable housing impacts the ability of companies to grow and I understand the need for a wide employment base so that, if a couple wants to move to Yankton, there are jobs for both. Keeping Yankton a small safe town with the opportunities to grow takes forethought and significant planning. I have the ability to help that process.