The two candidates running for mayor of Solvang answered three questions posed to them regarding issues the city is facing, the coronavirus pandemic and the recall effort of Councilman Chris Djernaes.
Here's how each candidate, Councilwoman Karen Waite and Deputy Sheriff Charlie Uhrig, answered the questions and watch the video to see why they say they're the best person for the job:
1. What is the most important issue facing the city of Solvang?
Councilwoman Karen Waite said, "It's kind of two parts: the capital improvement projects that have been kicked down the road for so many years, mainly our wastewater treatment plant that is in dire need of upgrades and repairs. That's a project that we've started to work on with consultants. I'd like to see that into fruition and into the development stages. It's quite an expensive project and we're doing it in tiers at this point and without infrastructure, we cannot have reliable resources for our businesses to continue operating at the rate of our growth of tourism, which as you know, drives the City of Solvang."
Deputy Sheriff Charlie Uhrig said, "There are a number of issues I feel are important. I believe right now, one of the ones at the top is to try to figure out what our financial situation is. It's one of the topics that keeps coming up with residents and business owners. I think with the way COVID has hit us, just the cutback on the staff that the city council made prior this year, there's just a lot of questions that need to be asked and answered. I think they've been asked but not answered. I feel that openness, that transparency, is very important and that's one of the issues I'm running on."
2. What is the best way forward for a Solvang rebound after coronavirus restrictions are lifted?
Councilwoman Karen Waite said, "Right now what we have is the closure of Copenhagen Drive that we are experimenting with, running that through our Branding and Design committee, having surveys by our business residents and tourists. It's an open promenade, European-style that has allowed us to expand the outdoor footprints of our businesses so they can maintain operating. When we open Solvang, the hope at this point is that we may be able to continue that. Right now, since we've been able to keep things going, we're looking for a smooth transation [sic] towards reopening. We're hoping that not too much will change if we reopen. People can go back to business as usual or perhaps maintain their expanded outdoor footprints. It adds a nice European flair to the town. We're hoping it will if it goes to our Branding and Design committee, but we also want to run that through a couple more public workshops to get a better feel from the community about it."
Deputy Sheriff Charlie Uhrig said, "Solvang is known for parades so maybe just a giant, big parade. Maybe we can combine Independence Days, and Danish Days, the little children's Halloween parade and our Yule Fest parade, maybe just combine them all into one. As you may know, I was a community resource deputy here in Solvang and every special event that was held in Solvang I was in charge of on the law enforcement end and public safety. And so that was one of the big things we always did. Solvang was always known for - we have more parades here in little Solvang than anywhere in the county and we have a great little town to be able to advertise, Mission Drive, the way the lights are at night. It's just very magical here in Solvang so I think that type of celebration would be great, along with some Concerts in the Park."
3. Do you agree with the recall effort of councilman Chris Djernaes?
Councilwoman Karen Waite said, "I will let you know that I did vote to go ahead and have that on the ballot. I do believe in the democratic process of election. I feel that, in this case, this is the first time in Solvang history that we have recalled a candidate. I think it came across quite negatively. I'm sensitive to the residents and my fellow councilmen. I would prefer that if you don't like a candidate that you unanimously elected into office that you just do not reelect them when their term has ended, but since I represent the people of Solvang who elected me to my position and my record will show that I vote in favor of what they want and this was legitimately put to us with the number of votes needed to put it on the ballot, so I voted to go ahead and put it on the ballot."
Deputy Sheriff Charlie Uhrig said, "Yes, I'm a full supporter of the recall effort. I believe the dialogue that he presented to the council and his constituents that would come in a lot of it was not to a code of ethics that we as public servants should be held to. I definitely agree to the recall of Councilmember Djernaes."