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Former Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie opens up about his departure, future

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Daniel Ainslie speaks during his tenure as Sturgis City Manager.

STURGIS, S.D. – “Sturgis is a great community, and the vast majority of the council work incredibly hard, tirelessly trying to build the community up, the staff is incredibly hard working. I don’t think enough residents understand how dedicated the staff are, they work incredibly hard. Unfortunately there are a few people in our community that have personal vendettas that are pretty loose with the truth and cause a lot of rumors to fly that have significant impacts on those same people on their willingness to work hard and also it has a significant impacts on their families,” he said.

Ainslie feels the community would do far better if people would stop listening to people who have continually lied and spread numerous false rumors that seem to destroy the community.

One of those rumors I asked him was if he was threatening to sue for a quarter of a million dollars after leaving city employment. That is false.

Other rumors center on his business on Junction Avenue, that he took money from the city to open the store and received special treatment to achieve his aims. Not true, he mortgaged his house for the money to open the store, since he wanted to invest in the local community.

“We didn’t want to invest in Wall Street, we wanted to make our community better and wanted to show that a Main Street retailer would work. We did apply for one of the economic development loans that the city has offered for more than ten years. Numerous businesses have applied for it and when we applied it went through the exact same process as every other business did, with the exception that I actually had to speak at the council meeting on that, no one else ever did but me. Ever since then, we’ve made our payments every month for three and a half years now,” he said.

What’s sad to him is even now, there are some in the community that continue to spread lies and hate about it. He feels that doing that halts the forward progress of the community. Others want to start businesses in town but see the vitriol that’s spread and the lies, and ask, why would I want to invest significant sums in the community when there are people whose sole motive is to tear people down?

As far as his tenure as City Manager, Ainslie admits there are things he wishes he would have done differently, and feels any time you spend a lot of time in office, there are mistakes you’ve made.

“There were times when I often did not want to quickly terminate an employee and sometimes the actions of an employee solidified that action should have been taken far sooner,” he said.

He added he wished someone would have taken copious notes at non-city council meetings and then published the minutes of the meeting, doing a better job at informing the public.

Some of the significant accomplishments were the tax rate falling 50 percent and residential growth starting.

In addition to several new businesses opening their doors and new events which all helped grow the city’s cash reserves. For example when he was hired as City Manager cash reserves were at about $200,000 and when he left reserves were at $2,000,000.

Garnering more community support for the Rally was a dream, but Ainslie feels there was some confusion between SMRI, the city and the Chamber, also the Rally marks but Deb Holland has done a great job helping promote the new Rally marks.

“It’s not up to the city manager to say what the council’s job is, but I do believe there could have been a lot more outreach,’ he said.

The job didn’t just impact Ainslie. It impacted his family life as well.

He admitted his wife and kids helped create a better sense of community.

And the summer events started to come around, Music on Main, the Rally Appreciation Cookout, helping establish a sense of community pride.

” The trade off was I would work at least 60 hours a week, sometimes 80, and in the summer 100 hours a week,” he said. So his wife agreed to stay with the kids while he was working. The perception  was that they were elitists, which disappointed him.

In addition, the ease at which people would lie about him and attack him surprised him.

“Look,it’s one thing to have political disagreements over political philosophy and everything else, that’s fine when that happens. There should be a healthy dialogue and civic debate, like whether they believe any government’s doing the correct thing. But to continually have such personal attacks, especially when they’re lies from people that know better,” he said.

He was specific when he mentioned Justin and Tammy Bohn and Brenda Vasknetz, and how shocked he was at their comments, along with Chad Uselman and how disappointing it was, since Buselman has never agreed to talk with him, according to Ainslie.

He said he’s feeling bad that he defended the Bohns and Vasknetz for yesrs and they were all willing to continue to spread lies about him.

” it got to the point where residents would come up to me and say ‘this is what Justin and Tammy said, and this is what Brenda said, so I’d show them documents that showed that wasn’t correct,” said Ainslie.

When it comes to plans for city growth, Ainslie feels the negative comments give a climate of concern for the community. He has especially witnessed this since he’s begun working in Rapid City.

“Seeing the business people come up to me on a daily basis and say they often thought about investing in Sturgis and that they would like to, but that some of the people seem to be more interested in trying to destroy the community than build it, it harms the community’s ability to grow,” he said.

He pointed out that the conflict, the tearing down of people and businesses doesn’t foster a belief that the community is stable.

As for his his own business, Ainslie and his wife would like to expand a little, but need a larger building, but with the conflict with others, didn’t want to take the risk.

A bigger problem for anyone wanting to establish a business on Main Street is the fact that the owners of the empty buildings aren’t allowing them to be leased at any time. They remain empty until the Rally, and for those that do lease, they have to move out for those two weeks.

Ainslie feels not enough people grasp that concept, and it needs to change.

“There needs to be a willingness to have community investment in the buildings downtown so that businesses can open and continue to operate year round,” he said.

He said that was one of his biggest disappointments during his twelve years as City Manager, not being able to make those changes.

According to Ainslie, an example of people’s attitudes towards city involvement with business was Domino’s Pizza. When SEDC helped bring the pizza store to Main Street, some were upset and said it bordered on socialism. The success of the store speaks for itself.

Ainslie is happy working for Rapid City, with a great staff, council and Mayor, and he enjoys a better work/life balance.

He gave some reasons why Rapid continues to grow.

“They have a lot of available land. Unfortunately, Sturgis is an island, almost surrounded by state and federal land so it’s challenging to find parcels where growth can occur. And again, people’s attitudes towards development comes into play.

An example is when Black Hills Federal Credit Union was built on the corner of Lazelle and Junction. Ainslie received several complaints, people wondering why was the old Sooper Dooper torn down, even though it was an empty building. The point?

“People are wrong if they think people outside the community don’t see or hear those comments.

Final comment?

“The people of Sturgis should be proud of the city council, city staff and others working hard for the community. They get a lot done in very tight budgets and do their best to make Sturgis the great place it is”.

The above story is from Meade County News’ Brandon Bennett. For more visit his site here: https://www.facebook.com/MeadeCoNews

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