Scott Hoeke is running for reelection to the Milbank City Council on June 7. He sat down with The Valley Express to answer a few questions.
TVE: How long have you been a member of the city council?
Hoeke: This is my second stint on the council. I was on the council for 16 years the first time, starting in ‘96, and then I moved out of the ward. Then Pat (Raffety) reappointed me. This is my second term since being reappointed. So, I guess it’s just under 20 years.
TVE: What do you think is the most important quality or skill a council member needs to have?
Hoeke: I think the biggest quality is listening. Because of the fact you need to listen to what people expect and what people want. Yet, you also have to turn that right back around and listen to the city employees. So, I think it’s listening to all the information first before you really make a decision. Because if you do that, then those decisions become informed decisions. There’s a reason behind everything. So, communication gets a lot easier after you’ve got all the input.
TVE: What do you think Milbank voters are looking for in the person they choose for this position?
Hoeke: Again, I think they want somebody that will hear them out. Because when people come to me as a councilman, they’ve got a concern.
TVE: What do you think will be the biggest issue facing the council in the next year?
Hoeke: I think our biggest issue is housing and our workforce. We’re at a point where we’ve got to try to keep up with housing and a workforce so that our businesses and industry can stay active. Small communities are fighting for what they have. They’re fighting to get those people that want to come here and we need to be in that fight with the rest of the state and communities our size if we want to continue to grow.
TVE: What aspect of life in Milbank seems to get residents most fired up?
Hoeke: You know, anytime something happens that affects them personally, whether it’s a storm sewer or a power outage. It’s things like that. I think people get excited because it’s hitting them at home. We’ve done so much with drainage in town. We fixed a lot of those issues and it’s still an issue.
For some of them, there aren’t any fixes. We can’t do much more than what we’ve done. But we try to mitigate as much as we can.
TVE; How do you fit into the city council’s team?
Hoeke: I think pretty good. We’ve got some new members right now and yet there’s a couple of us that have been around to see a lot whether it’s a bond issue or things that affect how city government operates.
I think we get along pretty good. We have a lot of different people as far as their personal jobs go that we haven’t had in the past. Before, we’d see mostly business guys, but now we’ve got a seed salesman, a construction guy, somebody who works at the cheese factory, and one retired from running a small business. So, I think that’s really good because they all have differences of opinions on a lot of things. But we’re all here for a reason. We all live in Milbank for a reason. So, I think we get along pretty good. Everybody has the community at heart really.
TVE: What skill or talent do you think you bring to the table that others maybe don’t have?
Hoeke: I think I have the ability to bring people together. I say that because I’ve been involved with so many projects over the years like the veterans memorial, bringing the apartments to town, serving on those boards that introduced people and brought partnerships together that made things work. Whether it’s working with the school board or the school, I think I can call just about anybody and have a conversation with them.
Yet, I also think we can agree to disagree and still walk away with a handshake. We’re going to talk about it.
I think that comes from years of being a business owner. The main reason why Hunt Brothers Pizza came after me to take on a different job in the last year was because of my ability to talk with people. So, I thank them for that. It’s interesting because now I get to see a lot of other communities and how things operate throughout the state. I get to every corner of the state. We are pretty lucky where we live.
TVE: What would you like to see happen in two years that you can look at and say, I made that happen?
Hoeke: Number one is housing. And number two, I want to see that baseball park. The park itself. Don Larson – rest his soul– and I went out and negotiated the purchase of that land. Years ago, it got referred to a public vote and voted down because everybody thought it was just for the hospital.
In reality, we were looking to protect our park. We’ve got such a beautiful park that we want to make sure we can maintain and make that park grow. Because we really can’t grow Pribyl Park. Pribyl Park is really a spot to catch water that we get to use as a park sometimes. But if we want anywhere in the south end of town to flood, we want it to be that park. And you’ve seen that in the last 10 days. But, we got water moving through there and moved out pretty quick. We got it collected there and that got it out of people’s yards and backyards and in the streets quicker.
The real goal is to promote that Legion baseball is great for kids and the history of the American Legion. We know the history of veterans and we want to make sure that we do that right in Milbank. It’s pretty easy to put one statue up and say it’s us. But, we have big plans for using the facility for regional college games and regional tournaments. I know we will become the home of the Division Two national tournament every year if we want it. It’s a big tournament. We’d have it if we wanted it, but I think we’ll also get in the mix for the A tournament as well.
TVE: People are concerned about the integrity and character of their elected officials. Describe what this means to you?
Hoeke: I think there has to be a certain trust factor when you’re voting for somebody. In the last few years, one of the jokes has been that politics is a contact sport and elected officials don’t care what they say. But it’s a matter of can you look somebody in the eye and say, let’s talk about this. And that takes you right back to trust that I’m going to do what’s right.
We deal with millions of dollars a year – that’s something we vote on all the time. You better trust us when we’re spending your hard-earned dollars because that’s the job you gave us.
So, the biggest thing is just to have a conversation. And I take that really to heart because you need to have a good feeling about the people that are making those decisions. And I would hope that I give that to most people. That they trust that when I vote for something there’s a reason behind it. You know, it’s not because I hold a grudge against the north side of town or the west side of town or this business or that business. It’s simply, we’re trying to do what’s best. And we’re setting things up for the future.
TVE: How have the decisions you’ve made for Milbank changed the way you make decisions in your own life?
Hoeke: I think I’m probably tougher on my kids now.
TVE: What was the best decision you think you made as a council member?
Hoeke: This goes all the way back to Rudy’s (Nef) term, I don’t remember if it was the first or second, but when we put that second penny sales tax on. He had the vision to look into the future to see what that could do for the citizens. Sales taxes are dictated by state law about where you can spend that money. So when we put on that third penny it was to market the city and advertise the city. The second penny is what has redone our streets and utilities. So, I think that was the best decision, and it was a hard one at the time because nobody wants to pay extra taxes. And yet it’s a fair tax because everybody pays it. You know, it doesn’t matter if you live in a $10,000 house or $500,000 house, everybody pays it. Everybody gets the use out of it. So I think that probably ranks right up there.
Also, the drive to get the Veterans Memorial done. I think that’s a beautiful entrance to the cemetery and it gets a ton of visitors. I think that was a great decision back in the day to get that.
TVE: What decision do you wish you had handled differently and why?
Hoeke: I was the one No vote on recycling. I voted against it because, although I believed we should probably recycle, I didn’t like the process to try to make it work.. And I took some heat for that because it’s like, don’t you believe in recycling? So that was probably one that I really thought we should’ve had more discussion on.
TVE: If we were to encounter a similar situation to the one we had back in 2020 would you make the same decisions in regard to things such as imposing restrictions?
Hoeke: Hindsight again. I think I would be onboard for not imposing restrictions because of what we know now and how we handle it in the Midwest. We learned a lot over the last couple of years – how we socialize, how we have people at our house, how we go out.
I was the lucky one. We sold our business right before it really got bad. But watching some of the other businesses try to survive, I struggled with that.
I think we were a little tougher on restaurants. It put some people out of business and I think we were scared. We were worried about is this the end? But I think people have to have their own comfort level. So I think I would probably be a little less stringent and let each individual business make their decision versus us pushing. We didn’t really close them down, but we did mandate a few things, and I don’t think that I would ever do that again
TVE: What three to five words do you want people to think of when they go into the voting booth and see the name Scott Hoeke on the ballot?
Hoeke: Caring, compassionate – which are pretty close – and hard working.
TVE: What are your hobbies?
Hoeke: I love baseball, golf, and bowling. Dan and I bought the bowling alley and it was probably really dumb to do it. It doesn’t make money. But we want to keep it open because it’s one more thing for people to do. It’s a spot and I love watching kids come in, and their first attempt at bowling, and all the smiles. It’s just fun.