Meet the candidates: Summerset Mayor

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SUMMERSET — Residents head to the polls on Tuesday, April 13 to elect candidates for the Summerset Mayor. The Black Hills Pioneer sent a candidate questionnaire to the individuals vying for one position, which carries a three-year term.

The candidates’ answers are published below as received. When necessary, answers were edited slightly for length.


Melanie Torino

Name and what do you do for a living?

I am Melanie Torno and I am a candidate for Mayor of Summerset. I am a wife to my husband, Gerard, and a mother to our five children. I am a Mental Health Therapist in private practice, as well as a Mediator, Parent Coordinator, and a Custody Evaluator. My practice is called Torno Mediation & Mental Health Services. I am expanding my business and hiring more therapists to better serve the community. My husband and I also own and operate residential and commercial property. I am the Lead Organizer for 1 Million Cups - Rapid City and volunteer mentoring and empowering entrepreneurs.

What motivated you to run for this office?

I love the community of Summerset, where I have called home for nearly eight (8) years. I have always been active in the community and believe in serving others. I have followed the growth and progress of Summerset, as well as some of the issues that Summerset has overcome and is facing in the near future. As a problem solver, I would like the opportunity to serve my community, without an agenda. I want to continue to move Summerset in a positive direction through sound decision making, innovative ideas, collaboration, and problem solving to grow and prosper our community.

Why do you think you are qualified for this position?

I am a proven leader in my community. I have excellent communication and listening skills and can build positive and professional relationships. I have the ability to identify different solutions and to make the tough decisions that are needed. I have experience with business and organization budgets and being financially responsible for large amounts of revenue. I have been an active community member for many years and I have the desire and passion to serve the citizens of Summerset.

With regards to leadership, what other elected public or nonprofit offices have you held?

I am currently the Lead Organizer for 1 Million Cups - Rapid City and the founder of this chapter, which currently serves the entire Black Hills area. I have been elected as both President and Secretary for various networking groups in the Black Hills area. I was voted onto the Leadership Rapid City Board of Directors and also served as the Curriculum Chair for this board. I was accepted to both Leadership Rapid City (2014) and Leadership South Dakota (2018). I have served on the YFS Board of Directors, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) Leadership Team, and other youth activity boards as a voting member.

How many city commission meetings have you attended within the last year and during your candidacy?

I have attended city commission meetings consistently since the summer of 2020. Since last summer, I have missed only 2 meetings. I have attended all meetings during my candidacy. Prior to last summer, I had read the meeting minutes to stay informed, as well as the monthly newsletter.

Do you subscribe to your community’s legal newspaper, the Black Hills Pioneer?

I do not subscribe to the Black Hills Pioneer. However, I subscribe to various online news sources, as well as watch the local news.

What are the most important issues that need to be addressed in your community?

Public safety of Summerset’s citizens is always a priority. Economic development and business opportunities in our community are needed for more options for our citizens, as well as a strategy to create more tax revenue for Summerset. As our community continues to grow and develop, it is imperative to ensure Summerset’s infrastructure is sound and ready for more development, including the waste water treatment facility. I believe that community involvement is also a priority. As mayor, I will create more opportunities to connect with Summerset’s citizens outside of the Commissioner meetings to allow citizens to interact with the mayor in a relaxed setting.

How do you intend to solve these issues?

A professional working relationship is needed with local police officers and city officials to ensure communication regarding the needs of the community while collaborating for solutions to the issues that arise. With the ability of 24 hour police duties, the public safety issues can be addressed quickly. Working with the City Administrator, communicating with potential business owners/developers, and creating professional relationships are essential for community growth, as well as an increase in the tax revenue. Ensuring that our waste water treatment plant can process the amount of sewage that is required for more development is needed, while exploring possible solutions.

What do you believe is working for your community and how will you retain that progression?

I believe there are many things that are working in our community. I have witnessed how the city’s employees truly care and are invested into the wellbeing of Summerset. I will continue to share my appreciation for the work they are doing, as well as assist in finding solutions to issues that may arise. I have been impressed with the changes made to the finances of Summerset and implementing new strategies to have more checks and balances. I will continue to work with the current Finance Director to ensure proper checks and balances while looking at our budgets for future growth.

What is the single most important stance you want to take if elected to city commission?

The most important stance I will take as mayor is to build professional relationships with city officials, the citizens of Summerset, businesses, and neighboring municipalities. I am a firm believer that developing positive relationships allows you more opportunities for collaboration, cooperation, and opportunities for the city of Summerset. I am and have been invested in Summerset and will continue to be. I have great professional relationships within our community and region, as well as integrity, excellent communication and listening skills, and the ability to lead and collaborate with a team to find the best solution.

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

I hope to serve the community that I love with integrity, to be a positive role model, to collaborate with others to find the solutions to the issues Summerset has and will face, to make my family and community proud, and to continue to move forward and grow Summerset in a positive direction.

What else do you want people to know about you?

I have a strong work ethic and I give 120% to my family and my commitments. I am financially responsible with large budgets and have demonstrated the ability to make sound financial decisions. I have the ability to see the larger picture, collaborate with others, lead a team, and make difficult decisions. I have excellent communication skills and can resolve conflicts in a timely and respectful manner. I have experience leading and empowering teams, as well as being a positive role model in the community. And I love our community. I am asking for your vote for Mayor on April 13th.

How would you propose to bring more businesses to Summerset that would help to offset high property taxes within the city?

As mayor, I will work with the City Administrator to inquire about potential businesses that would create a higher tax revenue for Summerset, such as restaurants and retail stores. It will be important to understand and know the population requirements for certain franchises of retail stores and restaurants that may be interested in the Summerset area. I would like to attract various types of businesses that provide the citizens with options and can be a successful business in our community, as everyone would benefit from that success.

What would you do about getting recreation areas such as parks, pall fields, and possible a swimming pool in Summerset?

I will work with the Parks and Recreation committee of Summerset to discuss the needs of the community while ensuring there is adequate representation of the citizens on the committee. As mayor, I will have an interactive conversation regarding the desires and needs of the community regarding recreational activities, which would assist in determining the annual budget for Parks and Recreation, and ensure all recreational equipment meets the requirements and regulations for public areas. I will also work with future developers to assist in the planning of walk ways and recreational areas in new developments of Summerset.

If elected, would you be in favor of expanding the police force or the hours which police actively patrol the community?

I believe Police Chief Allen has done an amazing job with the police department. Under his leadership, he has written grants to retain and hire new police officers. Recently, Summerset was able to hire more police officers. They will be able to provide 24 hour patrol after the last two Summerset police officers complete the police academy. Summerset also has a resource officer in Stagebarn Middle School, which is a great connection between school and community. I will build a professional relationship with Chief Allen and continue to communicate regarding the needs of the community and the police department and make decisions accordingly.


Tim Hughes

Name and what do you do for a living?

I am a disabled Navy Veteran who is dedicating his life to being a supportive father and husband.

What motivated you to run for this office?

As a member of this community I have increasingly felt that my voice and the voices of our community have historically gone unheard. I am a regular guy, that wants to make a difference for my family, neighbors, and community.

Why do you think you are qualified for this position?

To be honest I am not a career polition just looking for a position of authority. I am not the typical candidate who be selected for this type of role. My qualifications come from my time serving this country, living in this community and being you neighbor.

With regards to leadership, what other elected public or nonprofit offices have you held?

I selected this opportunity as my first public office involvement because I truly see this as a way to be the voice of the underrepresented.

How many city commission meetings have you attended within the last year and during your candidacy?

I have recently become more involved in the ongoings with the city commission, and have the ability to attend six city commission meetings.

Do you subscribe to your community’s legal newspaper, the Black Hills Pioneer?

No I do not currently subscribe to the Black Hills Pioneer. However, I would love to connect and discuss strategies for the Black Hills Pioneer to connect to a broader audience in the community like myself.

What are the most important issues that need to be addressed in your community?

We are a growing community, and so the top issues needing be addressed include the safety of our children, growth in businesses coming into the community to offset property taxes, and growing a more engaged community with parks, ball fields, or community centers.

How do you intend to solve these issues?

With the growth our community has seen, traffic and the speed of traffic through our neighbor hoods and main thoroughfares is alarming. I have already began conversations with our State Department of Transportation, to receive expert guidance and advice on how we can build a cross walk and awareness to pedestrians enjoying the area.

To attract new businesses to the Summerset community, I plan to work with the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Fully tapping into South Dakota’s campaign of Taking Care if Business, I will highlight the many opportunities that business owners can experience in South Dakota. There are many incentives and grants for new businesses, and by highlighting these programs and connecting prospective businesses to resources we can create a more friction less process for entry into our community.

 What do you believe is working for your community and how will you retain that progression?

We are a community that cares for its neighbors. We have seen people come together through challenging times, to support and care for others. Summerset is a very attractive community for families and professionals all across the Black Hills Area. When homes in our community go on the market they are desirable and close very quickly. I have even seen interaction on social media pages of individuals inquiring on up and coming homes available for sale in the future. This attraction to the community will continue through adding more businesses, attractions, and parks to accomidate this growth.

What is the single most important stance you want to take if elected to city commission?

Always being a true authentic voice for the people. Whether I can directly resolve the people’s requests or not, I will follow through and address opportunities and concerns.

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

We are a growing community, and so the top issues needing be addressed include the safety of our children, growth in businesses coming into the community to offset property taxes, and growing a more engaged community with parks, ball fields, or community centers.

What else do you want people to know about you?

I am a vet, a dad, and a husband, nothing extremely special. I want our people to have a choice of electing someone who listens.

How would you propose to bring more businesses to Summerset that would help to offset high property taxes within the city?

To attract new businesses to the Summerset community, I plan to work with the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development. Fully tapping into South Dakota’s campaign of Taking Care if Business, I will highlight the many opportunities that business owners can experience in South Dakota. There are many incentives and grants for new businesses, and by highlighting these programs and connecting prospective businesses to resources we can create a more friction less process for entry into our community.

What would you do about getting recreation areas such as parks, Ball fields, and possible a swimming pool in Summerset?

Having two young boys who are growing up in this community, recreation areas would bring enrichment to them and their friends lives here in Summerset. I would work with the city, the community and state officials to find opportunities of funding to bring these assets to our community.

If elected, would you be in favor of expanding the police force or the hours which police actively patrol the community?

Absolutely, and thankfully our community has already decided this is a priority. As of one of the last city council meetings it was announced that we have a total of ten patrol men and women, which offers 24 hour patrol in our community.

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