SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — In six weeks, Sioux Falls voters will head to the polls for the city’s mayoral election. Lawyer Taneeza Islam is one of two challengers hoping to replace incumbent Paul TenHaken. By election day, she and TenHaken will each be 44 years old.
“My work has always been centering community voices and priorities, and that’s what I will continue to do,” Islam said.
Also challenging TenHaken is 60-year-old David Zokaites. If you’ve followed public input at Sioux Falls City Council meetings, you probably recognize him.
“I’ve been up there about 140 times with PowerPoints,” Zokaites said. “140 PowerPoints.”
TenHaken defeated five opponents in the 2018 election.
“I’m going to be working hard to just reinforce during this campaign that if you like the direction the city’s gone, if you like how we’ve managed through some real historic times, then I’d love to keep doing the job,” TenHaken said.
This past Saturday the three candidates came to the KELO-TV studio for interviews.
“We can fix all manner of problems just if we decide that we want to,” Zokaites said. “Food deserts, for example. That’s not a hard problem to understand, it’s not a hard problem to fix. We just need to subsidize some grocery stores here and there.”
“Three big priorities that I know I’m hearing about a lot, and that’s workforce, that’s housing, and that’s public safety and crime and making sure the community stays safe,” TenHaken said. “So if I get a chance to serve, you’re going to see our administration continuing to double down on our efforts around those three big initiatives.”
“Housing in general is at a shortage, but really affordable housing for the majority of our population is unattainable right now,” Islam said. “Access to child care really needs to be an issue that the city gets heavily involved with.”
KELOLAND News also gave the candidates the opportunity to clear up misconceptions.
“I would say the biggest misconception about me may be that I’m a politician, because Dan, I don’t particularly enjoy politics, and some people will say, ‘Well why are you doing this?'” TenHaken said. “I love Sioux Falls, I love this community, I feel a desire to keep moving Sioux Falls forward.”
“I think in this community, the biggest misconception about me is that I’m a one-issue person, and that’s not true,” Islam said. “I’ve worked with vulnerable communities across issues, across ethnicities, across immigration statuses, across race, gender and age for 20 years now, and I think people also assume that I’m much younger than I am.”
“If there’s a misconception out there it might be that I’m a little bit too crazy to be a mayor, and that misconception might be kind of characterized here by my tie,” Zokaites said. “It’s not quite normal, it’s a little more colorful, it’s a little more alive, it’s more dynamic, and that’s just who I am. But if you’re more alive and more colorful and more dynamic, then you can be more free to analyze what’s going on, to greater depth than, to a greater understanding than is the norm.”
The candidates now have until April 12 to make their cases to voters.
“I think the city needs to be much more heavily involved in basic services such as food, housing, child care, and of course public transportation as we continue to sprawl,” Islam said.
“You spend the first four years kind of setting up the chessboard, getting your team in place, building relationships in the community, working with the school boards, the county commissions, and so now that all those pieces are in place, the next four years is where you can really see a lot of progress,” TenHaken said.
“I believe in honest, practical, caring government,” Zokaites said. “Really, those three words say everything: honest, practical and caring government.”
KELOLAND News is planning to hold a mayoral debate in the coming weeks. Those details will be released at a later time.