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Local business owner Richard Lays to seek GF City Council seat in Ward 7

Shuttle bus company owner Richard Lays has declared his intention to seek the Ward 7 seat on the Grand Forks City Council.

Lays, 38, outlined a platform based on fiscal responsibility. He described opposition to a potential city sales tax increase and advocates for changing where local road dollars are spent in the city -- a portion of North 42nd Street is just one part of town that needs work, he said.

"I think we pay enough taxes here. We need to trim the fat a little bit," he said, criticizing the long list of projects city leaders hope to pay for with the tax's increased revenue boost. "We have big dreams, but we don't have the budgets to fill those dreams."

Lays is a native of the Chicago area and graduated from UND in 2002 with a bachelor's degree in psychology; during his college years, he was a member of the school's football team. He owns and operates a company called Skitchy's Shuttle Service in Grand Forks, which he founded this past fall, and has spent time as a stay-at-home father for his three young children. His wife, Andrea, is an obstetrician-gynecologist at Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, and he is applying for graduate programs in public health.

Lays noted that he is a supporter of building a new public library near Grand Cities Mall, a project he said could be expanded to include an "arts center" in the city. He said he hopes the primary source of funding for it will be from donations.

Lays added he also hopes to spend more on fire and police personnel for the city, as well as start a campaign to get more local residents using the Nextdoor app—a kind of neighborhood-centric social media program—for safety purposes.

Ward 7 includes a central, suburban area in Grand Forks, and lies between South 20th Street and South 42nd Street. It is represented by Ken Vein, who is seeking re-election.

"I haven't heard any bad things, I haven't heard any good things about Ken," Lays said, declining to offer further comment on his opponent.

"I want to bring common sense back to City Council decision-making. ... I think we waste too much time (forming) committees, which create roadblocks to community growth," Lays wrote in a news release. "I will give the City Council fresh insight and new ideas. Grand Forks is a nice community, but I think we can make it great."

Meet Richard Lays

Age: 38

Address: 1200 Block of S. 36th St. in Grand Forks.

Professional experience: Stay-at-home father; owner of Skitchy's Shuttle Service, which was founded in 2015; previous experience as a sales representative for a Stone Design, Inc. in Chicago during the 2000s.

Political Experience: N/A.

Community Involvement: Master mason and member of the Kem Shrine in Grand Forks; member, Holy Family Catholic Church.

Education: St. Viator High School in Chicago area, 1995; Psychology degree from UND, 2002

Family: Wife, Andrea; three small children.

Why should voters choose you? "I think I'm a realist. I'm a common man, and I want to live within our means, and I'd be a new voice for the community."

Sam Easter

Sam Easter is a City Government reporter for the Grand Forks Herald. You can reach him with story tips, comments and ideas at 701-330-3441.

(701) 780-1108