Editor's Note: Elk Grove Patch is interviewing candidates running for mayor in 2012. , , and check back soon for an interview with .
When longtime Elk Grove resident and business owner Jerry Braxmeyer announced his candidacy for mayor earlier this year, .
Braxmeyer, who owns a legal business that negotiates workers' compensation settlements, said members of the Elk Grove City Council have become too focused on political aspirations and pleasing donors.
He's lived in Elk Grove for more than 40 years and said he is running for elected office for the first time to make things easier for businesses.
The candidate sat down with Elk Grove Patch on June 13–when the field of candidates only included three people–to talk about his campaign and his vision for the city. The below interview has been edited for length.
What are some specific things that the city should be doing that it’s not?
Well according to ... some of the business owners that I have [talked to], the interactive process that businesses have with the city of Elk Grove is not a very favorable one... I believe the city of Elk Grove needs to be more proactive and we need to understand that we are there to serve our businesses–that our businesses are not there to serve us. And I believe that we don’t take a proactive approach. I believe, from ... the people that I've talked to, it’s more of a reactive approach. We need to make sure that the overburdened regulations that are killing our businesses are looked at and determine how we can make a difference to make sure that the businesses that we have here are thriving. And if a regulation is not allowing that business to thrive, then it needs to be looked at.
So when you say being proactive about things, is that proactive in looking at regulations to see if they’re working? What do you mean by that?
Being proactive is basically understanding what our businesses need. What does a business need in the city of Elk Grove to thrive? What do our businesses need in order to expand? What do the businesses want in the city of Elk Grove? Go out and talk to them, find out the information that they want instead of basically having a out-of-touch attitude. ... Are the regulations that we currently have–are they helping our businesses? And from the information that I’ve received and the people that I’ve talked to, the overburdened regulations are killing our business. And they’re not allowing them to thrive, they’re not allowing them to expand, they’re not allowing them to create more jobs. And that’s why we need to be a better business partner.
Are there any particular regulations that you think are really over-burdensome? Or have you heard people mention specific laws or rules?
Haven’t heard anybody talk about specific laws or rules because I’m really not privy to a lot of those regulations because I’m not on the city council. However I can tell you that most of the businesses I’ve talked to really voiced a concern about the impact fees, and the cost of starting a business. I’ve talked to business owners that have said that the interactions with trying to get a permit, trying to get a business started, trying to get all the things you need in order to start a business, are very difficult–it’s not user-friendly. ... That’s what we don’t want to have in the city of Elk Grove. We want our businesses to come off and come out of any interaction they have with the city of Elk Grove and say it was positive, and they felt like their needs were met and that they were listened to.
What do you think of , and is that something you would support?
I believe another problem that we have is an out-of-control spending issue. I think that if you have to spend tax dollar money in order to bring a business here to the city of Elk Grove, I don’t believe that’s an effective way of spending our tax dollars. We have to identify ... where did that money come from? Where did the incentive money come from? ... For example, the Department of Corrections that you’re talking about ... Those jobs are relocated here to the city of Elk Grove, those are not necessarily new jobs, and we had to spend some money to improve the building where they’re going to be housed. Now that money was taken from a certain fee and a certain [place]. Did that money affect any other agency such as the police officers? Did it affect any employees? And that is why right now I would never have spent that money, because I don’t believe that’s an effective way to spend tax dollar money.
So how do you bring businesses like that to Elk Grove? Is it just word of mouth and being a good agency to work with?
... With anything else you have to give them a reason to want to come here, and I don’t think an effective reason and an effective way of spending our tax dollar money is giving them an incentive to come here financially. They’re either going to want to transfer here, it being a nice place to be ... We need to let them know that we need to work with them, and we need to stand strong that we’re not going to spend unnecessary tax dollars to bring a business here to Elk Grove.
Along those lines of doing whatever you can to help businesses, how do you balance those desires with people who want to maintain the character of Elk Grove? ... How do you balance both sides of that?
Well from my perspective, when you have an individual who makes a donation ... and something comes in front of the city council, and the city council decides to deviate from the current ordinance, you have to ask yourself the question, "How did politics get involved in this?" And that is where we need to make sure politics are never put ahead of the people. My slogan is "putting people ahead of politics." That’s how you balance that–you basically don’t have any political influence whatsoever. And talking about the sign ordinance ... I really don’t have a comment until I see exactly what happens … but I can tell you that when we have somebody that makes a donation, and something comes before the city council, and then the city council deviates from the ordinance that is in place in favor of the person making that donation, that’s when you have to ask yourself, "how did politics get involved in this process?" And we need to start putting people ahead of politics. And that’s how you balance it.
What are your thoughts on the ?
Like I’ve said from day one–and I will continue to say it–we have so many things that we need to take care of within our boundaries in the city of Elk Grove. I think we need to get things fixed here such as ... overburdened regulations that are killing our jobs, we need to stop out of control spending, we need to work with the citizens of Elk Grove because we need to put people ahead of politics. While I’m not opposed to growth, I believe that right now, where we are currently in the city of Elk Grove, we have so many other things that are currently needing our attention, that when I’m elected mayor I’m going to be focusing on those core issues that I believe are existing within our boundaries. Then at that time I believe it’s something we possibly could look at–at expanding our boundaries. But right now we have a lot of work to do in the city of Elk Grove before we need to start looking at expanding our boundaries–because that’s costing tax dollar money to expand and right now we basically need to create jobs, bring some sanity back to Elk Grove city government, and we need to put people ahead of politics.
Is this the first time you’ve run for office?
Yes. I’m not a politician. I don’t plan to be a career politcian. I was born and raised here in Elk Grove, my wife’s here, my family’s here, my kids are here, I run a business here, and I have no aspirations whatsoever to go any higher than the mayor of Elk Grove. I believe that is important and I believe the city of Elk Grove deserves to have their first duly elected mayor be somebody who’s going to stay here, who’s going to have passion for the city of Elk Grove, and who really cares abut the interests of the citizens of Elk Grove. That’s important.
If there are other people on the ballot who are more experienced with politics, how do you convince people that you’re a better choice?
When I decided to run for mayor, I knew that I did not have experience as a politician; however, my experience running a business, owning a business and the day-to-day settlement negotiations I’m involved in–multimillion dollar settlement negotiations–I have multiple times that I appear in front of worker’s comp administrative law judges, where we have multiple legal issues that are being talked about and discussed. We have multiple parties that are involved. What you have to do is you have to be able to listen to each and every one of those individuals, get information from each and every one of those individuals, and from that information be able to make a decision. And with that experience, and the experience of running my own business, and the passion that I have, and the fact that I’m not a career politician, and the fact that I’m not going to be leaving, and that my decisions are going to be what’s best for the citizens of Elk Grove, that’s what’s going to make me the best candidate for the city of Elk Grove.
Is there anything else you would want voters to know about you, personally? Any hobbies or anything interesting about yourself?
The only interesting thing is that I love to golf; golf is a passion of mine. The only thing that I really want the city of Elk Grove to know is that when I’m elected mayor I’m going to do whatever it takes to be a mayor that’s going to listen to the city of Elk Grove and listen to their needs and to find out what the city of Elk Grove and the citizens of Elk Grove want and how they see their city and where they would like to see their city go. I will serve the citizens of Elk Grove–they’re not going to serve me. I will serve the citizens of Elk Grove. I’m a husband, I’m a father, I’m just like everybody else, and I’m a business owner and I have a lot of passion. I’m committed to anything that I touch. I will work hard for the city of Elk Grove, I will do the best job that I possibly can in order to be a very, very good mayor, and I think at the end of the day we’re going to be able to put people ahead of politics. And at the end of the day I will be elected mayor.
If , would you run against her? [Editor's note: This interview was conducted before Scherman announced her candidacy for mayor. Braxmeyer supported her as a candidate for State Assembly. After Scherman announced her candidacy, Braxmeyer gave a similar answer to the same question.]
At this point, my whole goal is to become the first duly elected mayor of Elk Grove. And while I know there can be other candidates that will run in the race, I have to focus on my vision and my goal and my pursuit of the mayorship, so right now I don’t believe anything will change that.