- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

MANDAN, N.D. (AP) - Tim Helbling has a vision for Mandan that is fitting for a mayor, a father and a grandfather.

“All my kids are here,” Helbling, 53, said. “I have grandkids here, and I want them to stay here. I want Mandan to be the place they want to stay and not go out of state.”

In 2012, Helbling intended to hang up his political career after serving 22 years in local government offices. In his role as mayor, the father of three and grandfather of three more, spent hours in flood meetings in 2009 and again in 2011. He also helped lead the city through a diesel spill cleanup, the Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/2968qER ) reported.

It was time to put focus on his family as well as become more attentive to the family businesses, Corral Sales and L & H Manufacturing, which Helbling co-owns.

“I’ve always had a deep passion for Mandan. I’ve been involved with a lot of things. My family has had ties here for many, many years. I have deep roots here,” said Helbling, whose soft-spoken demeanor belies his vision for action.

His frustration in recent years has caught up with him.

“I didn’t like the way things in the community were going and how they were progressing,” he said.

When his wife, Sue, told him, “if you’re sitting at home complaining about it, why don’t you do something about it?”

So Helbling handily reclaimed his title of mayor, beating incumbent Arlyn Van Beek in Tuesday’s election.

While Helbling said the city needs to maintain its unique identity, it does need a stronger voice with the Legislature, retail groups and in the economic development community.

“I want Mandan to be Mandan. I don’t want it overrun by Bismarck and Bismarck organizations. I think it is very important that we keep our own heritage and identity,” he said.

Helbling said Mandan does events very well.

“That’s the brand for Mandan … We have to be sure the things don’t go backwards and not let any more events transfer to Bismarck … I’ve been hearing the chamber has a group going together that would like to move the (stock car) races to east of Bismarck. I am totally against it,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons I ran. I don’t want to see Mandan lose more events.”

Helbling notes Dacotah Speedway can hold 3,500 people plus participants and the venue is a good fit for rodeos, monster trucks and the circus. He also pointed to the success of the Independence Day Parade, Rodeo Days and Buggies-n-Blues.

“Those people buy gas here and eat here,” Helbling said of Dacotah Speedway.

What niche the city lacks is a national brand sit-down restaurant and enough retail base to lift some of the property tax burden off residential homeowners, something unusual for its size, according to Helbling.

“We are going to have to pop for some monetary incentives or to develop a small retail park, get the industrial in place and go after businesses,” he said.

He said he wants local lawmakers to speak up at the Legislature on Mandan road projects and funding sources.

He opposes splitting the implementation of a master plan for “the Strip” into three construction seasons and wants Kist Livestock to stay in place.

He still wants Mandan to build an event center but doesn’t see state funding becoming available for such a project in the next four years.

He is vocal in his disappointment over the location chosen for a sports complex but concedes he wants to work closely with the park and school district on future projects.

Helbling said he looks forward to working with Scott Davis, who has been newly elected as a city commissioner, and describes Davis, with a solid background as executive director of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission, as someone who will ‘bring a talent to the commission that may be lacking.”

He wants the city in partnership with local lawmakers and state transportation officials to build a new interchange south of Interstate 94 and west of Sixth Avenue to attract businesses to Mandan.

Helbling acknowledges he cannot realize his vision alone.

He said he wants to work with city commissioners to find common goals for the city and to work with the park district and school board in a way that best benefits Mandan.

“I have a vision. I have to make sure my vision meshes with the rest of the commissioners,” he said.

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Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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