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Election Preview: Mayoral Race in O’Fallon

O'Fallon City Hall
O’Fallon City Hall (File photo)

On April 6, voters in O’Fallon will head to the polls to elect a new mayor. To help voters get to know who the candidates are and to better understand their priorities for their cities, Mid Rivers Newsmagazine asked each candidate to answer the questions shown below, plus “What specific skills will you bring to the position?”

Mid Rivers Newsmagazine has not verified and does not endorse the statements made by the candidates. Candidates in all races are listed in ballot order; incumbents are identified with an asterisk after their names. 

Q1.What inspired you to run for the office of mayor?

Q2. What specific skills will you bring to the position?

Q3. What are your priorities if elected?

Q4.Over the years, the city of O’Fallon has experienced a number of lawsuits brought against the city by members of its police force. As mayor what would you do to change the culture within the force to better protect the city, its officers and its residents from the burden of legal actions? 

Q5. If you are elected mayor what will you do to improve the reporting process (chain of command) between the police department, the city and the City Council?

Paul Carlson

Q1. I have served my country for over 20 years in the U.S. Army, I am still wanting to serve my community in any way I can and bringing leadership to the mayor’s office is one way.

Q2. Leadership. Being a great leader is not only having the ability to tell someone what to do, it’s about inspiring them to do it.

Q3. Community policing. We must bring the police back into our community

Q4. Being a U.S. Army retired senior non-commissioned officer, I know the struggles that goes on with a police officer on a daily basis. Having to leave your family in the morning not knowing if you will be home that night. I think I could bring some common ground and at least start to change all the cultures.

Q5. To change or improve the reporting process would take both sides to be willing to change. Just knowing how a chain of command works and where you fit in is the biggest part of it. If you have not been in a chain of command that has brave men and women putting their lives on the line for you, how could you even think about telling them how to do their job. I could bridge that gap as mayor.

Bill Hennessy*

Q1. I would like to continue making O’Fallon one of the best places in which to live by maintaining our safety, continuing fiscal responsibility and insight.

Q2. I was elected as an council member in 1999 and served in that position until I was elected mayor in 2009. Under my leadership, the city achieved unprecedented growth with a new Police and Justice Center, a new park in south O’Fallon, the expanded Alligator’s Creek, the new Krekel Civic Center and new road and interstate exchanges and water/sewer expansions that modernized the city. O’Fallon welcomed thousands of jobs to the region with growth in every business sector, changing O’Fallon into a city with more than 1,500 businesses and global connections. I have proven experience and leadership with a vision for the future of O’Fallon.

Q3. First is keeping O’Fallon one of the safest cities in the country. Our state-of-the-art Justice Center allows continuous police training and faster response times. Second is infrastructure, including safe roads and continuous street repairs; completion of our new sewer plant to allow for a cleaner, more efficient system; and repairs to our water and sewer lines. Third is parks so residents have places to enjoy the outdoors. During my tenure we completed O’Day Park, which won the 2020 Missouri Municipal League Innovation Award. We also opened the St. Charles County Veterans Museum and upgraded the lights to LED for our Celebration of Lights.

Q4. The new chief of police has already helped to change the morale and culture within the police force. Officers have higher morale and are enthusiastic with the changes that have been happening under the leadership of the new chief of police.

Q5. The reporting process between the police, the city and city council is outlined in our charter. I will continue to follow what is stated in the charter as it was voted on by our residents.

Mike Pheney

Q1. Many people have asked me to run for mayor and I thought about it for a long time. I believe our mayor should be outgoing, attending the mayors’ meetings that our county has and which will bring forth cooperation amongst the cities. I believe our mayor should be full-time even though he gets a part-time salary. He should be there for the people.

Q2. I have demonstrated my devotion to the city of O’Fallon as a hard working council member for 10 years. I led the City Council for two years as president pro tem. I served two years on the Planning and Zoning Committee, eight years on the Public Works Commission and two years on the Senior Advisory Commission. I worked diligently to maintain its existence and importance to the needs of our seniors. I have a complete understanding of the workings of our city and the needs of our residents.

Q3. My priorities will be to focus on fiscal discipline by ensuring that the city meets its needs within its means. I will promote economic development, provide strong support of the police department and work to ensure that our seniors can get the Meals on Wheels and other programs they deserve.

Q4. Lawsuits have come about with our hiring substandard city administrators. We now have an administrator that shows that we, as a city, can keep growing and handle the problems of every day. We need the city council to let him do his job and not try to interfere with his operations. This is what brought on the (police personnel) suits. A mayor should help and give directions with every day operations that need his input.

Q5. I believe that we should follow the city’s charter and how it is laid out. This will bring forth the right type of chain of command for responsibilities. Only then, can we, as a city, provide the police department with the proper equipment, which we don’t have; give them the proper training; and give them the right to talk to their commanders.

Debbie Cook

Q1. I believe that O’Fallon needs to go in a new direction to ensure our future. We have to get the budget back under control, and we have to start investing more in priorities like giving our police a raise and ensuring our city has the infrastructure to attract the jobs of the future.

Q2. I will bring a dedication to fiscal responsibility and a strong understanding of the issues facing this city.

Q3. I will work to get our budget back on track. We have to stop the deficit spending. I will also fight to increase funding for our police to keep our community safe, and I will work hard to make O’Fallon a leader in job creation.

Q4. I believe strongly that we need to make sure officers feel that they can talk about their concerns, and there has to be an open line of communication between elected officials and the department. We have to ensure police feel like they can do their job without interference, as well as make suggestions that can improve the department.

Q5. I do not think there is enough communication between officers and city government. I want officers to feel like they can come to the council with concerns without any fear of reprisal.

Arnie C. “AC” Dienoff

Q1. The city needs to provide better responsible, transparent and ethical leadership, someone who cares about O’Fallon residents and does not cater to special interests. I will restore integrity to the mayor’s office by being honest, having open meetings with no secrets. I will keep our city out of the courts by making sound management decisions. That starts with hiring a true police chief professional. By being president of the council, I would move for a charter amendment to restore free testimony and comments to 5 minutes and make the auditor independent. We need to listen and stop giving free passes to corporations.

Q2. I feel the calling to serve the citizens of O’Fallon. I have been to at all city council, planning, and adjustment meetings for the past 13 years. I will bring a diverse, vast knowledge and keen skills that will be an immediate asset on day one and am a team player. I am community and civic-minded. I am talented and college educated in business administration/management, have worked or been appointed at the municipal, township, county and state levels and have managed multi-million dollar organizations. I am an advocate at the state and county levels. I will make the citizens my first-priority.

Q3. Restoring and mandating accountable government for all residents. We are in this together! Balanced solid budgets with annual audits. Stop the secret meetings and exercise full compliance of the State Open Meetings Act and Records Law-Chapter 610. Communicate with the public. Stop all of the lawsuits by treating employees fairly. Clean-up the fraud and hire solid leaders in the police department. Stop discrimination and bigotry, eliminate all wasteful programs and salaries. Promote economic development. Improve roads and solid neighborhoods. Eliminate the lobbyist and special interest. Revamp the recycling program, parks and recreation, open space opportunities, water issues and street cleaning.

Q4. Hire a real and responsible police chief with great leadership abilities and great communication skills. Change the climate and toxic work environment by doing a top to bottom audit and rebuilding our police department as a leader in the nation. Reteach functions and operations of the department standard operating procedures. Hold officers accountable for their actions. Put into place a whistle-blower program and protect those employees that report abuse, neglect, wrong-doing and fraud. We need a brand-new command staff. We need to know why we are paying a deputy chief and captain to be at home with full-salary, benefits and pension.

Q5. I will have an open door policy. I will meet with the chief every week to get briefed and discuss issues within the department. I want to improve the communications and establish a great rapport with the community through community policing, getting accurate and factual information out to the residents and creating a new citywide crime map. Communications and a neighborhood partnership are the keys to the rebuilding and success of the department.

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