Simplified: Three new faces joined the Sioux Falls City Council on Tuesday. Sioux Falls Simplified caught up with all three of them to give you a look at what the newcomers plan to focus on now that they're sworn in.

Why it matters

  • The three newbies – physician Sarah Cole, pastor Rich Merkouris and attorney David Barranco – were all endorsed by Mayor Paul TenHaken, who won a decisive second term in the April city election.
  • That means TenHaken has three more allies on the council that already widely supported him in his first term.
  • All three new councilors said they've spent the weeks since the election meeting with city department heads, learning about ongoing projects and chatting with constituents.
"My joke is: a doctor, a lawyer and a preacher walked into a bar ..." Barranco said of himself and his fellow incoming council members.

What's up first for Sarah Cole?

Cole, an at-large council member, doesn't have a specific initiative she plans to bring forward right away. Instead, she wants to focus on learning.

She did mention a few issues that have risen to the top of her list as she's met with people. Those include:

  • Making sure the police department has enough funding
  • Looking at after-school care and daycare needs citywide

Since getting elected, she's also met with outgoing Councilor Janet Brekke and got some tips from her, and some books to add to her reading list.

"I've just been trying to absorb as much information as I can to be able to make informed decisions," Cole said.

What about Rich Merkouris?

Merkouris was the only councilor of the three to name a specific first initiative he wants to bring forward.

He said he wants to focus on bringing councilors together to talk about East Eighth Street and the Whittier neighborhood.

Specifically, he wants to focus on:

  • homelessness,
  • loitering,
  • and the transition between the Whittier neighborhood and downtown Sioux Falls.

Since the election, he's also heard lots of questions from constituents about the proposed pork processing plant (more on that here).

"I'm trying really hard to be available and to respond to public requests and public questions," he said.

What about David Barranco?

Barranco said he considers himself to be the "junior councilor" in the room, and he plans to start by listening and learning.

One of the issues most recently to come to light for him is the looking at the use of sirens in severe weather events.

  • Tornado sirens didn't sound in last Thursday's wind storm because a tornado wasn't present. Barranco wants to talk about whether we need to expand the definition of when the sirens are used.

He also sees the commanding re-election of TenHaken – and the election of all candidates he endorsed – as a sign that residents are happy with how things are going and that "the city's on track."

"What they are saying is, 'We expect you to continue with that,'" Barranco said. "More of the same, but better."

What happens next?

The new councilors – as well as re-elected Councilor Curt Soehl and Mayor Paul TenHaken – will serve four-year terms.