Remember to vote Nov. 3

 

Marine City Council

Larry Martin, Bill Miller,

 Lon Pardun, Wendy Ward

Give a little background information about yourself, including age, hometown, education, job history and how long you’ve been in office if you are the incumbent. 

 MARTIN: Age 81. Hometown: Galesburg, Illinois. Education: Galesburg public schools. Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa B. A. in political science, organ and church music 1962. University of Minnesota-Minneapolis, Master of Fine Arts degree in organ 1966. Church pastoral musician (organist-choral director, pianist) 1958-present Residential real estate sales 1972-2005, broker and agency owner 1978-2005

MILLER: I’m 57 years old. I’m married to Leanna, and have two adult children, Jonah and Kaleb. I’m currently a Community Banking President, Minnesota Metro CCF Bank. I’m a 30-year resident of Marine on St. Croix, and currently serving as a Councilmember for the City of Marine on St. Croix for the last 18 years. I’m a retired 22-year volunteer Firefighter/EMT achieving the rank of Assisting Fire Chief for the City of Marine St. Croix. I’m also a current member of the Stillwater Sunrise Rotary Club, Committee Chair and STRIVE member. I enjoy hunting, St. Croix River, sailing, camping, film, travel and spending time with family.

PARDUN: I am 64 years old and have lived in Marine since 1996.  I grew up in Blaine, MN, joined the US Navy after high school and was a construction manager for most of my career.  I am now an assistant Veterans Service Officer in Washington County, a job I thoroughly enjoy.  I have been a council member since 2012 and was active with the fire department for 16 years.

  

WARD: I’m 56 years old and White Bear Lake is my hometown. I have a BA in Political Science from the University of Minnesota and a Masters Degree from the School of Architecture and College of Design from the University of Minnesota in Heritage Conservation and Preservation. I also have a certificate in Land Use and Environmental Planning from the University of California, Davis. 

2015-Current:  Land Use Consultant.  

2015: Working with the Red Wing Port Authority, (the economic development agency for MN cities along the Mississippi river) I lead an unprecedented, public -private partnership initiative to develop a downtown revitalization strategy for Red Wing’s downtown core. 

2014-2015:Executive Director for a Main Street program in Red Wing.

2008-2014: Executive Director, Preservation Napa Valley

If you are a challenger, describe why you are running. If you are an incumbent, explain what led you to run and how close are those objectives to being accomplished.

MARTIN: A lot of affected people feel the council needs new blood, new people. I am running with their encouragement. I believe I was first in town to speak of ethical and health implications of cell tower placement.   Minnesota open meeting law not always observed. Governor’s mandate on Covid ignored with June Council meeting. Planning Commission works in lofty isolation, does not respond to citizen letters. 

MILLER: My priority, in my continued service as a council member is and still will be public safety, fiscal responsibility, and communication, protection of our valuable local resources, and the health and well being of our entire community.     But it is my firm belief that we need to be sure that overall spending, improvements, expansions and modifications serve the ‘greater good’ of the entire community.

I am proud of our past achievements:

• Addressing the closure of the elementary school and taking positive steps to ensure that a school remains in our town, purchasing the school property and green space after 4 years of contentious negotiations and closing on a 1MM property without raising taxes. 

• Managing the complexity of the CSAH 4 project to the benefit of citizens with attention to safety concerns, storm water and cultural and natural resources is another. 

• The positive steps taken to address overall storm water management in town and the conveyance of DOT property in the downtown area establishes positive future opportunities.  

• The planning and now implementation of the Judd Street Revitalization project that is currently on budget and on schedule

• 15 years of level budgets with capital projects funded without having the city issuing bonds for debt or raising taxes

A thorough and complete comprehensive plan update the addresses our current needs and priorities of the Village, I personally represented the council and presented the update to the Met Council and we   received rave reviews for a town our size. 

PARDUN: I ran for council in 2012 because I saw a need for infrastructure in Marine to be addressed; a group of citizens were putting forth a plan to improve downtown that would have had a terrifically high price tag, our city engineer estimated it between 3.5 and 4.5 million dollars.  I thought we should look at our entire infrastructure needs not just downtown.  Working with the Mayor and current and past council members I put forth a comprehensive infrastructure program for all roads, 201 septic system, and storm water system development.  We are in the midst of a very productive time in our city regarding all of the items mentioned previously.  This did not happen overnight, planning has been ongoing for years and we are not bonding for any of these projects.  I am proud of the approach we used, applying for and received grant funding for the downtown project of over 1.2 million dollars of the total project costs of 1.8 million dollars.  This project is more comprehensive than the original vision as it encompasses the Arch Culvert repair as well as ADA compliant sidewalks and storm water infrastructure including treating Highway 95 runoff before it enters the Mill stream.  We have a capital improvement plan for roads through 2040 and have upgraded our 201 Septic system for the future.  All, again without bonding our future! I believe that is impressive and would like to continue to be proactive with infrastructure.

 WARD: I’m running because I know we have something truly special here in Marine, from our Wild and Scenic river, to our prairies, forests, wetlands and bluffs. Much of our lumbering history can still be seen and felt, as well as a rich Indigenous history that precedes 1839. I want to use my skills in preservation planning, economic development and environmental and land use planning to more thoughtfully steward this town into the future, where new ideas and voices are respectfully heard and considered as we collaboratively plan for long term prosperity.   

What is your opinion on the relationship a Mayor and a City Council should have?

MARTIN: I favor the weak mayor, strong council form of city government, which we have. See National League of Cities definition.

MILLER: At a local Village Level it is crucial for council, mayor, and all city staff, communicate and work as a team

 I would like to state for the record that I am personally witness to an incredible work ethic and a heartfelt motivation to serve and act in the best interest of the citizens, village and the community as a whole.  The Mayor and entire council has worked hard to continue to operate with transparency in every aspect of city business, we also strive to communicate and to actively listen to each and every citizens input and opinion, our meeting attendees enjoy a unique open forum at the pleasure of our honorable Mayor that is quite different that most meetings of a city council.  

In a town of our size sometimes people can feel a personal attachment to Marine and the areas of our village and that should be respected. 

But we are prudent to take the, needed time, gather the talent and as much information to solve these problems in the best interest of our community.

PARDUN: I believe the Mayor and council should work together for the greater good of the entire city.  I have witnessed other cities fall into a trap of small numbers of citizens attempting to push the discussion to their agendas and not have the entire city in mind.  Marine is a small city, most of us refer to it as the village of Marine and we need to remember why we live in Marine.  I think the reason people love it here is our community, and that includes our collaborative and deliberative way of getting things done. Some might refer to this approach as old school or” this is how we have always done it”, which can sound goofy or old-fashioned.  But I believe most of my fellow residents think this is a thoughtful and responsible way to achieve our City goals.  It also important to remember we are neighbors and most of us are acting in what we believe is in the best interest of Marine.  Treating others with respect is paramount to good governance. 

WARD: Here in Marine we have a weak Mayor system, where the Mayor works alongside the City Council. This should be a close working relationship, where the Mayor further assists our City with ambassadorship, fresh ideas, inspiration and leadership.  

What concerns do you have about the Village over the next 5-10 years (minus Coronavirus)?

MARTIN: Ethical cell tower placement at least 500 meters (1640 feet) from homes. Affordable housing, school, fiber optic Internet, renew downtown commercial spaces, citizen involvement in government. Email me at larrymartin333@gmail.com for science-based information about cell phone tower placement. 

MILLER: We have issues we need to address and those issues and needs even in a City of 700 plus people, can at times be complex.

Going Forward I would like to see our city:

 • Continue to manage a schedule of roads, trail and other future infrastructure projects so we can pay as we go without having to bond for capital maintenance

 • Continue a reserve fund to address upcoming and future needs for city sewer and other planned and emergency infrastructure needs

 Continue addressing storm water management with an eye always towards stewardship of our water resources and the St. Croix River.

• Address the noise pollution, primarily from motorcycles. 

• Focus on Future sustainability of emergency services and plan for the COVID-related changes in Marine. 

PARDUN: That we as a city begin to take our city staff for granted.  We have a small, but terrific staff.  Our staff does so many things to keep our City running smoothly. The pressure is mounting on them to do more and citizens are bypassing existing procedures making more demands on staff than ever before.  If we treat our staff well, I believe we can sustain services for our city with the staff currently in place.   Adding staff would be very expensive and could have unintended consequences. 

WARD: My top three concerns are 1) getting an active school in our Marine school building again. This is a vital issue that has impacted our neighborhoods, our downtown, our community as a whole, our coffers, and our ability to continue to attract and retain young families to Marine. 2) The cell tower is an issue we hope to have resolved in the near future. It is a priority to have reliable cell service in this stretch of the St Croix Valley so that we know medical, business and personal calls will actually go through. 3) The economic vitality of our downtown is critical. Past City Councils have had hands off approach to business recruitment, retention and assistance. I will take a proactive position on this because we cannot afford to watch our downtown continue to go through these unhealthy cycles where too many storefronts are empty.   

  

Can comprise work on the local government level because it sure doesn’t seem to be working at a federal or state level? 

MARTIN: Cooperation, not compromise, of course. 

MILLER: The pressure on a village our size to provide infrastructure, and affordable services while following the guidelines of our comp plan, coupled with  keeping our budget at appropriate levels is  incredible.

The majority of residents understands these challenges and appreciates the commitment of time put forth by city officials and city staff.  Addressing the closure of the elementary school and taking positive steps to ensure that a school remains in our town is just one major task.  Managing the complexity of the CSAH 4 project to the benefit of citizens with attention to safety concerns, storm water and cultural and natural resources is another.  Also, the positive steps taken to address overall storm water management in town and the conveyance of DOT property in the downtown area establishes positive future opportunities.  None of these has been easy but the commitment and the struggles to reach consensus or compromise on the part of the council and the commission was the only way to move each of these critical items forward.  We have accomplished this extra “volunteer” workload while maintaining our regular jobs and trying to balance our personal lives.  The same applies to city staff that regularly gets caught up in adding such contentious and labor-intensive issues to their daily workload. 

PARDUN: Of course it works at the local level.  I have stated we are neighbors and our disagreements have been mostly civil.  There is no place for negative political activism at the local level - period.

WARD: Compromise must work at the local level because it is at this level we know our neighbors, we know each other; we see each other every day. The decisions at this level have a direct and immediate impact on our residents and our environment. We need to be welcoming, respectful, and encourage the participation of our community. It is with these combined voices that we look to find solutions.   

Marine Mayor

 

Glenn Mills and

Kevin Nyenhuis

Give a little background information about yourself, including age, hometown, education, job history 

MILLS: I am a longtime resident of Marine and I have been Mayor for over 20 years. 

NYENHUIS: I’m 55 years old. Born in Massachusetts, but raised in Owatonna and Apple Valley. 

Graduate of Bemidji State University. I had an early career with National Car Rental and Target in advertising, but self-employed and an employer for more than two decades in design, marketing and sales.

If you are a challenger, describe why you are running. If you are an incumbent, explain what led you to run and how close are the objectives to being accomplished.

MILLS: I choose to run again to tackle the issues facing Marine. 

NYENHUIS: Through conversation with both longtime and newer residence of Marine I was invited to consider service as Mayor. I have been engaged in many conversations since, sharing a platform of Participation, Preservation and Possibilities. 

What is your opinion on the relationship a Mayor and a City Council should have?

MILLS: The Mayor and Council should listen to each others concerns and have good discussion. 

NYENHUIS: The structure and history of Marine is that the Mayor and Council are equal players in governance. Having served in many official and unofficial ways in Marine over more than 20 years — I have a history of working with mutual respect of all involved. The same applies in this role.

What concerns do you have about the Village over the next 5-10 years (minus Coronavirus)?

MILLS: I have a concern about keeping the Fire Department personnel numbers up in the next five to 10 years. 

NYENHUIS:  The ownership of the Marine Elementary building and grounds, as well as cell tower conversation are high profile issues for the next few years, It is also important that we take a solid inventory of our city lands, and steward them well for the generations ahead. Master planning of our parklands will be a focus. Additionally, having owned small businesses I have a hart for those that a work, employee and invest in businesses in Marine. With a long career in promotion I’ll guide conversation and bring ideas that can benefit our village core. 

Can comprise work on the local government level because it sure doesn’t seem to be working at a federal or state level? 

MILLS: I feel the Mayor and Council in Marine work together well. 

NYENHUIS: Local voices and considerations are varied too, but the spirit of Marine is to work together. As Mayor, there is a greater responsibility to listen and to make connections between the voices that differ. There is such power in the collective energy of Marine on St. Croix and it motivates us all to give our best. 

Scandia City Council

Give a little background information about yourself, including age, hometown, education, job history and how long you’ve been in office if you are the incumbent. 

AMUNDSON: I am 60 years old and grew up in New Brighton, MN. We have lived in Scandia for over 22 years and have raised a family here.  I graduated from UW Madison with a degree in Construction Administration and a secondary focus on Commercial Real Estate including city planning. I have been self employed through most of my life and have started and own a residential construction company, a vacation rental business in Lutsen, MN and also InstaTrim Products which is our current business here in Scandia in the industrial park.  I have spent the last two years on the Scandia Planning Commission and look forward to continuing my community service on the Scandia City Council.

BENSON: I am 49 years old and grew up in Burnsville, Minnesota. I graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, in 1993 with a B.A. in Sociology - Criminology and Social Deviance.  I obtained my law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1996, and was admitted to the Minnesota bar that same year.  From 1997-1998, I clerked for a Hennepin County judge, working in the area of juvenile prosecution and child protection.  From 1998-2012, I was an Assistant Washington County Attorney, and prosecuted adult felony offenses the majority of that time.  Since 2012, I have been an Assistant Dakota County Attorney, continuing my work as an adult felony prosecutor.  During the last two years, I have also been responsible for the civil commitment of sexually dangerous predators in Dakota County.  I am married, and have two adult sons, and a stepdaughter who is a senior in high school this year.  We lived in Woodbury from 1998-2018.  Although I am not from Scandia, my husband and several generations of his family are, and in 2018 we moved to Scandia, buying my husband's family home from his parents. 

GRIBBLE: I have worn many hats. I was born and raised on resort in Northern Minnesota. It was a great education, making friends with people from all over the Midwest, learning customer service, and also learning to fix just about anything. I worked in logging but probably planted 10 times as many trees as I cut. I still have many friends up north and still volunteer with a Lake Association cleaning-up day use sites and during spring fish egg harvesting.

I served 30 years in the U.S. Coast Guard, being deployed 13 times (to hurricanes, oil spills, floods, military operations, etc). I retired from the reserves as a Senior Enlisted Advisor in District 8 (FL - TX and the Midwest) in 2017. 

My principal occupation has been working for the citizens of Washington County with the Sheriff’s Office. I have been assigned to many patrol contracts, served as volunteer coordinator, crime prevention specialist, project coordinator and many other collateral duties. I have successfully written/obtained many private, state and federal grants. I am currently a Shift Commander on the afternoon shift in which I oversee approximately 20 officers. I retire in early 2021. Before working as a deputy here, I was the Chief of Police in Renville MN, a small fourperson department in central Minnesota.

My wife Ann and son John have lived in Scandia since 2000, first on Oak Hill, and now on Olinda. Before living here, we lived in Bayport and St. Mary’s Point. 

JOHNSON: I'm a tail-end "boomer gen" descendent of the area's first Swedish (3/4) and French Canadian (1/4) settlers. Born and raised here, the last of our old family farm on the prairie (~ mile past the Co 4 tunnel) was sold off with the demise of so many other family farms early 1980s. However, the farm house was later bought and restored by Gov. Al Quie and is still there; the original log house is the "settlers cabin' in Marine which was donated to the city by my mother's father Irving Massicotte and is where his older brother and sister were born back in those pioneer days. I lived, traveled and studied around the world for many years since then. Today I live in Scandia on 20+ acres; land steward once again of old family farm field, pasture, woodland and wetland habitat under restoration since the first day I built our modest home there 19 years ago. 

I attended Marine elementary (my older siblings started at one-room Hay Lake) then HS in Stillwater (78), but our family has always attended Elim in Scandia and were all confirmed there. I'm a double major- double minor grad of the University of Minnesota; My masters’ work, also at UMN, has been in Business and most recently in Sustainable Horticulture & Environmental Restoration and I volunteer with several programs through the University Extension services. . The later experience is my avocation: the background for my small home based consulting business, SylvanDell). My vocation and daily work passion is in Information Technology. I've (tele) commuted to the MetroTC the last 25 years working as a ½ IT professional with three area Fortune 100 companies.

KRONMILLER: My name is Steve Kronmiller and I am 62 years old. I grew up in Ripon, Wisconsin but have lived in Scandia longer than anywhere else. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science. I earned a Certificate in Leadership from the North Hennepin Community College in 1993 and my Project Management Professional

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certification in 1999. I spent the first 40 years of my professional career developing and delivering applications and networked systems. I recently changed careers and became the Corporate Construction Manager for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and lead construction projects all over the country. 

Four years ago, I had the good fortune of being elected to serve the citizens of Scandia as a City Council Member. I care for the citizens and businesses in Scandia and hope they vote to have me continue serving them for another four years.

If you are a challenger, describe why you are running. If you are an incumbent, explain what led you to run and how close are the objectives to being accomplished

AMUNDSON: I believe that my past experience in construction and also owning a business here in Scandia has provided me with a good understanding of how Scandia works and what we are going to have to deal with in the future.

 BENSON: I am running for city council because I feel incredibly lucky to live in this town, which is a small and safe community, filled with kind and welcoming people.  There is something really special about Scandia, and I am committed to keeping it that way.  My kids are now grown, so I find myself with time and energy, which I want to commit to something important.  Since making the decision to run for city council, I have really enjoyed the conversations I have had with residents about their concerns about Scandia and the future.  The thing I have always loved about my job, as a prosecutor is the sense that my work makes the community a better, safer place.  I believe serving on the city council will bring the same satisfaction, and I will work hard for the people in this community.

GRIBBLE: I am running for Scandia City Council because I have considerable experience and know-how relating to public issues. I am a good mediator and problem solver. Being able to work with cities around Washington County and in various jurisdictions across the U.S. has been a great leaning experience. I can bring to the table a global perspective that Scandia can capitalize on. 

This is NOT to change Scandia: I believe that government should facilitate the enjoyment of one’s home. This includes respect for the existing residents whose occupation and activities has given Scandia the flavor it has today: a rural gem within driving distance of St. Paul. I respect our landowners right to profit from their lands, and controlled growth can be a very good thing, but I do not want Scandia’s residents to lose lifelong freedoms and traditions. Finally, I am fiscally conservative. Not cheap, but rather innovative and forward thinking, recognizing certain efficiencies can be realized by sticking to the basics.

JOHNSON: I'm running to bring affordable, state of the art, Fiber Broadband Infrastructure to all of Scandia and northern Washington County. With half the population in Scandia alone essentially without broadband in this time of COVID19 crisis, we need to end the fantasy of relying on the old technology and empty promises of the incumbent ISPs. Our work with local and national experts the last three years have proven beyond doubt that this FTTP infrastructure can be very affordably built within the next 18 to 24 months. Why is it so urgent and important? There are too many reasons but the largest, long term ones stand out 

FTTP is the last best chance we and our future generations have to save, nurture and build upon our core community assets: our friendly diverse people, our love of open spaces, our clean water & air, our farm-to-table organic horticulture, our dark skies with continuous corridors of natural plant and wildlife habitat -- in short, everything that makes up our unique and diverse "rural character."

KRONMILLER: I ran because after serving for 12 years on the local Watershed District Board of Managers, I wanted to get more involved at the local level. I felt Internet access was a critical objective for Scandia, so I founded Scandia’s “Internet for All” initiative during my first year. A lot has happened since then. This month MidCo will complete their first network expansion to 25% of the people lacking access to reliable high-speed Internet. With MidCo’s help in acquiring State grants and federal funds, I believe Scandia will achieve its goal of making reliable, high-speed internet available to every home and business in Scandia while keeping taxpayers cost low.

What is your opinion on the relationship a Mayor and a City Council should have?

AMUNDSON: Extremely important. The relationship/partnership with the Mayor is an integral part of discussions and formulating plans going forth.

BENSON: The relationship between the Mayor and the council members, and the relationship between the individual council members, must be a respectful working relationship, where all feel that they can openly express opinions and ideas.  This expression of independent ideas allows for each member to bring their own unique perspective, which is based on their own life experiences.  This type of collaboration helps develop a bigger picture, in terms of solutions to problems.  In other words, a well-run council will allow for trust, respect and diversity, all contributing to better decision making.

GRIBBLE: The Mayor and Council need to be a team, but also each member should offer their own perspective and opinion. They need to get along and focus on common solutions more than their own agenda. There may be however, points where members will not capitulate and may stand apart. Each member needs to be willing to stand up for what he or she feel is best for Scandia. I work well with a variety of people and look forward to the challenges Scandia faces. I promise to do my best for all of Scandia. 

JOHNSON: Lead agreement on the goals of a common long term vision, foster collaborative open deliberation teambuilding and compromise to work through disagreements on methods and policies to achieve that vision. The Scandia mayor/council relationship, "small town model" is not like the big city "strong mayor" one.

KRONMILLER: The Mayor is the leader of the Council. We look to them for leadership and direction. However, they are also just one of 5 votes at the table. Since it takes 3 votes to approve anything, it is imperative to not only have a good working relationship with the Mayor, but with everyone else on the Council too.

 What concerns do you have about the Village over the next 5-10 years (minus Coronavirus)?

AMUNDSON: We are facing significant challenges with our infrastructure and lack of housing opportunities for young families and seniors that wish to stay in the area.  In addition, we need to expand/improve our two existing community septic systems, which are currently at maximum capacity.  Scandia badly needs to provide opportunities for new small businesses to come into the area, which will help with tax revenue and add to our overall mix of defining Scandia into the future.

BENSON: My biggest concern is managing inevitable growth without changing everything that makes Scandia a great place to live.  I also have concerns about basic needs, such as quality internet services and sewer.  There are still households in Scandia that have internet service that is not sufficient.  There are aging sewer systems that will need replacement, and I am concerned about the financial implications of this problem.

GRIBBLE: The rapid growth that is occurring in communities very near Scandia, metropolitan real estate trends, and changes in peoples work patterns (working from home) signals an impending wave of development headed this way. The distance we are from worksites may very well vanish as online work becomes more widespread. The question if newcomers demand that the services and amenities follow them?  Water, sewer, and Internet have all been identified, but what about emergency medical services, the quickening of transit, the pressure that the Met council will exert. I have seen other communities struggle when facing these challenges. Scandia has some aging infrastructure that must be addressed and we will succeed. Further, I feel we must approach the expansion of City liabilities with full lifecycle plans that will not shift the cost of development to current homeowners. As outlined in # 2 above, we need to be clear about why we are residents of Scandia and what we value. I am listening to what you are saying and I value our rural atmosphere. 

KRONMILLER: Life-Cycle Housing opportunities are needed to attract young families and allow people wanting to downsize to do so without leaving the community.

Maintaining our roads, and sewer and water systems without costly tax increases is a huge issue that needs to be solved in the next couple of years.

Ensuring every home and business has access to reliable, high-speed internet.

Can comprise work on the local government level because it sure doesn’t seem to be working at a federal or state level? 

AMUNDSON: This is the best system we have and it does work and will continue to work albeit with a lot of frustration the past few years.  Changing seats of people in office helps to bring new ideas and views on what the country and Scandia needs going into the future, which is why we have elections every 2 – four years.

BENSON: The willingness to compromise is essential in all decision-making processes, especially involving large numbers of people with different and sometimes competing interests.

GRIBBLE: So much of our country has gone sideways due to the nonstop barrage social media. Opinions frequently erupt from emotions based on partial facts or other opinions based on other opinions. I strive not to follow that path, preferring to study the facts and issues directly, talking to people first hand. Doing so almost always leads to a solution acceptable to all parties. 

My second answer the question, “ Can comprise work on the local government level? “ Man, I hope so!

  

JOHNSON: Yes we can! 

KRONMILLER: I believe openness, transparency, collaboration, and negotiation are the key skills in being a successful Council Member. The Scandia City Council has had a good working relationship all four years I have been serving and I will do my part to see it continue that way.

Scandia Mayor

 

Give a little background information about yourself, including age, hometown, education, job history and how long you’ve been in office if you are an incumbent.

MAEFSKY: I have lived in Scandia for 48 years, but was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. I am 75 years old, have four children all of whom were raised in Scandia, and 11 grandchildren. This is my 4th year as Mayor of Scandia as I was first elected in 2016. My education includes a B.A. in political science from the University of Oklahoma and an M.A. in curriculum and teaching from Teachers College Columbia University in New York. My career has been in farming as co-owner with my husband Vincent of Poplar Hill Dairy Goat Farm since 1972, and in K-12 teaching from which I retired in 2016 after 49 years.  I have been active in community service my entire life and am currently a member of the Scandia/Marine Lions Club, on the Board of the non-profit Scandia Heritage Alliance, a member of the Welcome to Scandia Committee, the council liaison to the Tourism Committee and serve as a Scandia representative on the Marine Community Library Board.

If you are an incumbent, explain what led you to run and have those objectives been accomplished.

MAEFSKY: I first ran for office because I was committed to the vision for the future of Scandia that is consistent with what residents have said they wanted - that Scandia remains the welcoming, historically and environmentally respectful, small-town community its residents love.  Since I was elected, Scandia has achieved multiple initiatives to support those things: Good Neighbor Awards, Welcome to Scandia committee, increased internet accessibility, new businesses in Scandia, state and county collaboration for new trails, increased enrollment in the elementary school, 501c3 Scandia Heritage Alliance to preserve Scandia’s history, collaboration with Gammelgarden Museum, and the Scandia/Marine Lions Club to further residents connections and pride in the city.

What’s your opinion on the relationship between a Mayor and a City Council?

MAEFSKY: I believe that a Mayor should lead by example and create an environment of collaboration and open discussion.  Since I took office, the relationship between the Mayor and City Council has been one of respect even when our opinions are different. I strive to include all council members thoughts and ideas during our discussions and before decisions are made. It is also important for the Mayor to demonstrate accessibility and open-mindedness with the residents of Scandia and encourage the same from Council members.  We are public servants and I work to ensure that we are approachable and responsive to public concerns.

What concerns do you have about the Village over the next 5-10 years (minus Coronavirus)?

MAEFSKY:  Improving reliable, fast, citywide Internet - with the educational, medical, and work restrictions placed on us by COVID19, the need is greater now than ever.  

• Continuing our history of fiscal responsibility, 

• Continuing the momentum we have built during my previous terms to accelerate bringing our roads up to high quality standards.

• Working with State legislators and the DNR to bring the Gateway Trail into Scandia, 

• Revitalization of the Scandia Village Center

• Using economic development tools to bring to Scandia new businesses that support the small-town rural character and heritage of our community 

• Taking initiatives to support recognition and preservation of historic sites.

Can compromise work on the local government level? Because it sure doesn’t seem to be working at a federal or state level. 

MAEFSKY: Under my leadership I believe our city council, particularly during the past two years, has shown itself to be willing to compromise to reach decisions that are best for the residents of Scandia. Within reason and although not always possible, I strive to reach unanimous decisions by encouraging in-depth and respectful discussion.  When this has not been possible, I believe the minority vote has without malice accepted the decision of the majority.

The Country Messenger reached out to Simonson, but he chose not to respond.

District 39A

 

Give a little background information about yourself, including age, hometown, education, job history and how long you’ve been in office (if you’ve been the incumbent) 

DETTMER: I’m 69 years old. My hometown is Forest Lake, Minn. I received a Bachelor of Science in Health and Physical Education and a MA in Education from St. Thomas University. 

Teacher, Head Wrestling Coach Forest Lake School District, 34 years, (Retired); United States Army Reserve, Chief Warrant Officer CW4, 25 years, (Retired); Wrestling official for the Minnesota State High School League; Currently serving as the Minnesota State Representative for House District 39A. 

Minnesota State Legislator in the House of Representatives 2007 – present. Legislative Committees Served on: Veterans Division (Chair and Lead), State Government Finance, K-12 Education Finance, Capitol Investments, Ways and Means Finance, Labor, Taxes, Property and Local Tax Division, Child Hood Obesity Legislative Working Group (Chair), Military Action Working Group (Chair). 

MOZEY: My name is Ann Mozey, I am 54 years of age, and grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I moved to a small hobby farm with my three children in 2012, and now my parents also live near me in May TWP.  I am a graduate of Minneapolis Public Schools and went to college at Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, Minnesota.  Following college, I was a graduate student at the University of Minnesota where I earned a Master’s in German and taught undergraduate German courses for the University of Minnesota.  I attended William Mitchell College of Law n/k/a Mitchell Hamline College of Law and graduated in 1997.  While I have worked with many law firms in a variety of capacities over the years, I have predominately worked as a solo practitioner because it has always been my joy to be 100% responsive to my clients.

Currently, I am on the Citizens Review Panel for Washington County, overseeing aspects of Child Protection, Foster Care, and Day-Care Licensing.  I am also on the DFL Environmental Caucus executive board working to nurture our communities and candidates to have an environmental focus and create good environmental policies for Minnesota.  Recently, I was a board member for the Washington County Lawyer’s Board, serving two terms as the Secretary with a focus on providing support and resources in the legal community and at large.  Always, I have volunteered throughout my 21-year career with Tubman, and with Washington County providing assistance to those in need.  

What should be the state’s role in the recovery from a pandemic? 

DETTMER: Minnesota families and businesses have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown of our state economy. One of our top priorities next session will be helping families and small businesses recover from the impacts of the pandemic and the shutdown. By safely and fully opening up all segments of the business community we can then achieve economic recovery. 

Legislators must realize that the money we spend through legislation belongs to the people we serve, the Minnesota taxpayer. I would support the concept of zero-base budgeting for the many state level agencies. They would be required to submit their budget requests to the legislature starting with a zero base and justify their budget request and not assume automatic increases year after year.  

All funding request must be prioritized as to accomplish the role of government: public safety, military, veterans, transportation infrastructure, and public education. A percentage of tax revenue collected must also be set-aside in the emergency fund account for possible natural disasters and other public emergencies. Lower taxes stimulate the economy and provide jobs.  I will support meaningful tax relief for individuals, families, businesses and farms.

MOZEY: Minnesota is 86% small businesses, and we need to keep it that way.  While some may not recover from the pandemic and economic fallout, one area of investment that might do well to address that issue is start-up funding.  Currently all relief is designed to prop up existing businesses with federal, state or county grants or loans.  There is no money going to investments in new business ventures.  And yet whenever we stand still in a fast-paced economy we are falling behind.

Universal affordable quality health care for all should be our number one priority, whether at the state or national level.  Banking and credit regulations need to be revisited to address the social functions that they serve, rather than just for-profit.  Currently only 31 Minnesota banks have stated that they would step up for their customers and help bridge a path to a better day for everyone. Without national leadership, local and state governments are left to put together policies that support their communities.  It does not take a rocket scientist to look around and see that in too many situations we have chosen to ignore the perils of this medical crisis, now also a social justice crisis as well as an economic crisis.

Boosting the local economy must be a priority. Funding the bonding bill is one opportunity.   Unfortunately, my opponent repeatedly voted

Why are your visions and plans for your District better than your opponent? 

DETTMER: Throughout my adult life I have been in positions of service in our community, state and country.  In our community I have served through teaching and coaching many children.  For our country I have served 25 years as a member of our Army Reserve, seeing 20 months of active duty after 9/11.  I have a proven record of service, success, integrity, leadership and the ability to deal with difficult situations.  I believe I’m a person that can help bring people together to accomplish things for the common good of this State. 

Serving as a state legislator I’ve met with hundreds of constituents in community meetings, group meetings at the capitol and with individuals in homes, coffee shops and in my office at the State Capitol. Emails, letters, phone calls are also ways I involve the public. I encourage the public to attend legislative committee meetings to testify on important legislative issues.

MOZEY: Always an advocate and attorney, I am an environmentalist, a small business owner and practicing attorney with offices in Stillwater.  For over 20+ years I have worked with individuals in difficult situations, giving voice and support for people-centered sustainable solutions.

I am a good communicator and a strong advocate.  I look forward to investing in and advocating for our community, connecting us with a government built by the people and for the people. This past year of campaigning, across social media, at community events and through door knocking, I have engaged in as many conversations as possible about what matters to each of us.  My decades of work in Minnesota as a family law lawyer, has given me a strong appreciation for what people struggle with every day.  

If elected, I would bring a people-centered problem-solving perspective with me to the Minnesota State House, the peoples’ house.  It is time that we come together, work together and find solutions together.  Leadership requires informed participation. I would be the leader to find and enact positive solutions working together and bringing our communities together.

 Outside of the pandemic, what are the challenges Minnesota is facing in the next 5-10 years, you would like to tackle? 

DETTMER: The support of Health Care Reform to help push down the cost of premiums by strengthening the individual market and allowing for-profit HMOs to increase competition and lower rates. 

The passing of legislation that will increase public safety supporting our first responders of our Law enforcement, Fire, EMT services and reduces traffic congestion by prioritizing the fixing of roads, bridges and essential infrastructure.

MOZEY: Investing in our public schools and good environmental policy go hand in hand that we have an opportunity to address these most important issues of the 21st century.

It is on these most important issues that my opponent and I differ significantly.  The incumbent has consistently voted against funding our public schools.  And, he does not believe that government should take a role in curbing climate change, and uses oxymorons like “clean coal,” I would be a steward of our natural world.  All of my opponent’s votes have been in favor of either obstructionism or corporate profit over what is healthy for our children and the land, water and life on this planet.  Here is a summary of his recent record:

• In 2020, playing partisan games with our Minnesota State Constitution, he voted to block environmental funding ($64.2 mil. from gambling proceeds) even though the voters had already approved such funding. (HF4554)

• Repeatedly and currently he is blocking the bonding bill, which includes many wastewater and clean water projects in Minnesota. (HF2529). Now also blocked in the Minnesota Senate.w

State Senate District 39A

Give a little background information about yourself, including age, hometown, education, job history and how long you’ve been in office (if you’ve been the incumbent). 

HILL:  My name is Josiah Hill. My wife Emily and I are raising our three daughters—Grace (9), Cleo (5), and Quinn (4)—in Stillwater. I am a Stillwater native and I teach in the English department at my alma mater—Stillwater Area High School. I have been elected by my 550 education colleagues to serve 6 consecutive 2-year terms as our local education association president. I have a BA in English from UW-Madison, a MSE in Secondary Education from UW-River Falls, and an Ed. D in Educational Leadership from Hamline University. I am seeking my first term in the Minnesota Senate. 

HOUSLEY: I’ve been married to my husband, Phil, for 35 years. I’m 56 years old and we have four grown children and three grandchildren. I’m a small-business owner (real estate) and have owned Housley Homes since 2003. I graduated from SUNY Buffalo with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. Both of my parents were schoolteachers and our children graduated from Stillwater High School. We live in Stillwater and I have been involved in the community through various nonprofit organizations, veterans’ groups, church and chambers of commerce. I was elected in 2012 to the MN Senate. For the last four years I have been the Chair of the Family Care and Aging Committee. Taking care of our most vulnerable, our seniors, has been a huge passion of mine, especially a high priority during COVID.  I’ve passed many bills that were signed into law to help protect the elderly. I have worked across the aisle as more than 70% of my bills are co-sponsored by a democrat. I am also an active member of the Commerce Committee, the Jobs and Economic Growth Committee, the Education Committee and the Veterans Committee. I was voted Assistant Majority Leader by my colleagues in 2018. It’s truly been an honor to represent this district. Thank you.

What should be the state’s role in the recovery from a pandemic? 

HILL: The COVID19 pandemic did not break our systems, but it certainly exposed the weaknesses throughout. Whether we’re looking at affordable housing, equal access to health care, child care options or disparities in educational opportunities, the pandemic clearly showed what we all knew: many of our citizens are living without a safety net. I believe government exists to improve people’s lives and in a time like this should serve to keep people safe and marshal opportunities and resources to help everyone. I believe that when everyone is helped, all of our lives improve. 

Specifically, the government can help ensure access unemployment benefits, credits for childcare, expanded housing assistance, low interest loans to small businesses and grants to support payrolls. We can make sure our citizens can access health care, and that we can provide the most up-to-date information to best address this crisis. 

HOUSLEY: From the beginning of the pandemic, we knew that our seniors were going to be the most at risk of losing their lives to COVID19, especially those in our senior living facilities. I have been critical of the state for NOT prioritizing our elderly. Over 70% of our deaths due to COVID have been in these facilities, but the Department of Health has not allocated nearly enough resources to our senior homes. They still aren’t keeping up with testing our caregivers and residents of the congregate care homes, yet they are providing free testing to anyone wanting a test on public street corners. This is wrong. I’ll continue to be the voice for these seniors who have been in complete isolation for more than seven months. Going forward, we MUST make our seniors the top priority. As far as opening our economy, small businesses are our state’s foundation. Listening to these job creators about where the state can help is needed. Whether it’s lowering taxes, removing unnecessary regulations, streamlining processes or small business loans, it should all be on the table. We’ve lost a lot of small businesses during COVID and now, more than ever, we need to come to the aid of these folks, so we don’t lose anymore. I have worked with both local chambers in my district and know firsthand that a strong business community is vital to supporting the quality of life in our communities.

Why are your visions and plans for your District better than your opponent? 

HILL: Simply put, I know the residents of my district better than my opponent. Her record shows that she’s been more concerned with party loyalty than her constituents’ needs. She is simply out of touch with the needs of common Minnesotans. I have been deeply involved in education and worked directly with families across our school district. Form more than 18 months, I have been in countless living rooms and coffee shops (pre-COVID), and then so many online events, where I’ve met and talked with the residents of the district. I’ve heard them talk about their concerns and fears. Even as the wealthiest among us have continued to experience economic prosperity, many more have found themselves struggling and becoming increasingly insecure. 

My plans will focus on how to improve the lives of my neighbors and for Minnesotans across the state. While I am running with party endorsement, I will be a fair and open-minded advocate for all Minnesotans, not simply those who support and/or donate to my party. 

HOUSLEY: A top priority for me is to bring law and order back to our state. I am honored to be endorsed by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officer Association. Residents need to know that our streets and communities are safe. When the City of Forest Lake was attempting to dismantle their police department, residents asked me to help, and I did. When talking with our residents, safety is at the top of everyone’s minds. I also sit on the Education Committee and making sure that we provide our kids, our state’s future, with the best education possible, is a priority of mine - part of that is getting broadband out to every home! The kids have really struggled during this pandemic without access to good internet. I have helped to organize stakeholders and got funding (with more coming) to get these broadband lines out to the underserved.

 Outside of the pandemic, what are the challenges Minnesota is facing in the next 5-10 years you would like to tackle? 

HILL: The next decade is critical on a number of fronts, and failure to act will have ramifications for decades to come. First, we have to improve our responses to climate change. That means supporting alternative energy, investing in new infrastructure, re-evaluating transportation plans and protecting Minnesota’s natural resources. We must think long term; if we fail to protect our environment (water, air & soil), then it won’t matter if we managed some short-term financial gains. Our children deserve better. 

Speaking of our children, we must do better in supporting public education. Despite our strong commitment to public education, Minnesota leads the nation in a racial achievement gap and our disparities in funding across the state are almost tragic. All of our children deserve the highest quality education possible, regardless of race, income, ethnicity, identity or ZIP code. We simply must do better in supporting education from pre-K to college level. Every dollar we invest in education returns four dollars to our economy. A refusal to fully fund education hurts all of us, and I will be a tireless advocate for education. 

HOUSLEY: Like I said, taking care of our seniors is my passion and it will be my mission for as long as this district will have me. There are so many issues that our seniors face, from financial exploitation, to taxed Social Security, to affordable housing, to abuse or neglect. I’ve worked very hard to pass landmark legislation to protect our most vulnerable if they live in a congregate care setting, but the work isn’t done. There is much more to do, and it will always be a top priority. Also, another problem facing Minnesota is the growing need for more people in our workforce. Not every person needs to go to a four-year college to start a career. We need to help kids find a career path and encourage programs at our technical and vocational post-secondary schools for well-respected careers. Those will be priorities for me in the next 5-10 years, along with keeping our taxes low, our roads and bridges safe, health care affordable and our police and fire departments fully funded.

Stillwater School Board

 Give a little background information about yourself, including age, hometown, education, job history and how long you’ve been in office (if you’ve been the incumbent).

BEAVERS: My name is Dawn Beavers and I am 46 years old. I am originally from Smyrna, GA and currently live in Baytown Township.  I am a former high school teacher and assistant principal.  I taught in four different school systems with widely diverse populations.  I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in biology with a minor in chemistry and a teaching certificate.  I received my master’s degree in educational leadership. This is the first time I have run for any form of political office.

BREWINGTON: Hello, my name is Tim Brewington and I am running for one of the 2-year seats on the Stillwater Area School Board and I would be honored to have your support. I am 48 years old and live in Woodbury with my wife of 25 years and family. I am a proud parent of twin girls that graduated from the district in 2019 and of a son with special needs currently in the district. I am seeking a seat on the Stillwater Area School Board to highlight the unique challenges of students with special needs and their families. Currently, I serve as a commissioner on the Parks and Natural Resources Commission in Woodbury and I am a founding member of the Multicultural Advisory Committee for the Public Safety Department of Woodbury. 

EHRLER: My name is Joseph (Joe) Ehrler; I graduated from South St. Paul High School, Augsburg College (now University) in Minneapolis (Bachelor of Arts in Political Science), the University of Vermont (Master of Public Administration) and William Mitchell College of Law (now Mitchell Hamline, Juris Doctor).  I worked for several electric utilities doing revenue and sales forecasting.  For the last 20 years, I have consulted with tax-exempt organization nationwide on compensation and benefits.  I am a licensed attorney in Minnesota and a registered financial representative (Series 7 and 63), I am licensed in life and health in all fifty states and will be completing my property and casualty licensing this fall. I am 54 years old.

GILLES: My name is Bill Gilles and I am running in the 2-year Special Election for ISD 834 Stillwater School Board.  I am a 44 year-old resident of Stillwater.  I received my Business degree from the University of Minnesota and an MBA from Notre Dame.  I have 20 years of experience in non-profit management and have owned a Landscaping business for the last six years.  I was given a temporary appointment to the school Board in early September and I am running to fill the final two years of that term.  

HOCKERT: I’m Katie Hockert and I’m running for a four-year seat on the Stillwater Area School Board.  I am originally from Milwaukee, WI and have lived in the district since 2012.  I have twins in elementary school who are keeping me quite busy with distance learning.  I am a former high school history teacher and worked in the Madison Metro School District from 2005-2012.  Since moving up here, I have found part time work as a tutor for National History Day in the St. Paul Public Schools, as a tutor then director of Education at Sylvan in Woodbury, and most recently as an AVID tutor in South Washington County Schools.  

ONKEN: Age: 45. My hometown is Slayton, MN. Education: Bachelors in Social Work and Criminal Justice from the University of South Dakota. Teaching Licensure in Special Education from Minnesota State University Mankato. Masters in Differentiated Education from Concordia University St. Paul. Work History: Social Worker from 1997 - 2003 (Olmsted County). Special Education Teacher/Site Lead from 2003 - 2016 (Rochester Public Schools, South Washington County Schools, Northeast Metro Intermediate District 916). Academic Dean from 2016-2018 (Moundsview Public Schools). Education Coordinator from 2018 - Present (Northeast Metro Intermediate District 916). This is my first time running for public office.

PETRIE: I am 68 and retired. I was born and raised in Waterloo, Iowa. I worked as a writer and editor for newspapers and magazines before deciding to stay home when my children were small. I volunteered in the schools and served on various District 834 task forces. I worked on—or led—every successful operating levy renewal effort since the early 2000s. In that time, I helped raise more than $1 million for enrichment projects in Stillwater Area Public Schools.

PTACEK: I was Born and raised in Kenosha, WI. I have BS in Political Science and History, MS in History and Education, PhD in Educational Administration University of Wisconsin-Madison. I was a classroom teacher for 18 years, taught  “Principles & Practices of Secondary Education” University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I was also a principal and associate principal for 15 years. I’ve been a School Board member for 12 years; one year as chair, three years as vice chair, and three years as clerk.   

SHERMAN: My name is Alison Sherman. I am 46 years old and was born in Albert Lea, MN. I am running for one of the two-year school board positions. I have a bachelor’s degree in communications and public relations. I am a former account executive and marketing consultant and now work as a part-time educational assistant. For the last 15 years my family and I have lived in Woodbury. I have been active in my sons’ educations volunteering in the classroom and for PTA events. I also participated in one of the district’s Bridge to Excellence committees. I currently serve on the board of the high school speech and debate booster program. During my son’s time at Lake Elmo Elementary I realized the decisions that most impacted schools were made by the school board. With that realization, I have been engaging in board and working group meetings for several years now. In an attempt to inform and engage community members I started summarizing meetings over two years ago 

ST. ORES: Bayport resident 20 years, age: 62, Education: Political Science, Economics, Computer Programming and Operations, MBA, formally trained in M+A, SEC licenses, Head of IT since age 32 in global medical device and advanced technology firms leading transformational change programs – retrained and educated 300,000 over my career.  Very experienced in distance learning and Learning Management Systems.

STIVLAND: I am an educator at heart and have always been a curious learner. My husband and I started Bluestone Physician Services, a successful medical care company here in Stillwater in 2006, and we have three children who attended and graduated from Stillwater Area Schools. I received my bachelor’s degree in Secondary Social Studies from St. Olaf College, and have a Gifted Education Certificate from Hamline University. I have been proud to serve my first term on the school board for this amazing school district. I love this community and the incredible history and natural beauty of this scenic river valley. 

ZIEMANN: Retired teacher, principal and school board member. Began teaching in 1970 (you do the math on my age). Graduated from Fairmont High School in 1966. (Fairmont is town of 10,000 in far southern Minnesota.) Graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with BA in English and Education. Graduated with MS and Spec. in Administration from Winona State University.

 If you are an incumbent, what made you want to run and have those objectives been accomplished. If you are a challenger now, what led you to run? 

BEAVERS: I decided to run for school board because I wanted to help the students in our district.  I have a passion for the education of the students we serve. I would like to represent our 18 communities and work to improve student achievement throughout the district.  I have lived in four states and two countries. This allows me to offer a unique perspective to our district.

BREWINGTON: I believe that the School Board should be a reflection of the diversity that exists in the community. When I speak of diversity, I am not just referring to racial diversity, but also diversity of thought, experience and perspective. Any organization that lacks diversity has blind spots. Blind spots are aspects of issues that one may miss because of lack of experience and perspectives. Blind spots make it difficult to make well- informed decisions that also blind you from unintended consequences. Currently the Board has a blind spot when it comes to the BIPOC population and special needs families. In September of this year I was appointed temporally to the School Board because of resignations. I am seeking to continue on the Board to bring my unique perspective as a person of color and a parent of a child with special needs. 

EHRLER: I choose to run for school board for two main reasons.  First, the chaos that the board has brought about over the last two to four years is unacceptable.  Second, I believe my education and background brings to the board a perspective that is missing, especially with the resignations that occurred earlier this summer causing the need for two seats to be filled with a special election. 

GILLES: I have been following the goings-on of the school district as a concerned parent for several years, but there is a moment that pushed me from being a concerned parent – to being a candidate for school board.

My oldest daughter – a 2nd grader - is having a real hard time learning how to read.  My daughter loves books, has been read to all of her life, and is bright, curious, and eager to please her teachers.  She was a perfectly willing, capable, and eager student, yet couldn’t learn how to read.

I started asking my neighbors about their experiences, and I was shocked at how many were having similar issues.  

My daughter adores her teachers, and her teachers are clearly fond of her.  The few examples of instruction I witnessed showed a very competent teaching professional who expertly navigated the lessons and curriculum.

I was confounded - what was going wrong?

So, I hit the books and started digging into the research and science of reading.  On the one hand, I found that the science of reading is pretty much settled.  We know how reading works and we know how to provide instruction.  On the other hand, much of the instruction we use in the schools is not consistent with the science of reading.

 We have bright students; we have capable and professional educators – what we need is reading instruction that works.  And that is why I’m running.

HOCKERT: Education is changing around us this year and we need forward thinkers who reflect on the past and are willing to make improvements to benefit our future.  We cannot afford to continue on a path that is steering us into wasteful spending, litigation, and buyouts.  Our tax dollars are too valuable and need to be focused back in the classroom.  As a student of history, I understand the value it holds in preparing us for the future.   Our district has been through so much pain in recent years, we cannot allow our families to endure any more instability.  My focus if elected would be on efforts to prepare and support a levy and bond for 2021 so that our district maintains financial stability in the immediate future.  I am also very concerned by the pressing needs of overcrowded elementary schools in the southern part of our district.  Plans to address these needs in a timely manner have been thwarted by the current board and left the staff to find “creative spacing” to absorb the pressure themselves.  The board promised but has yet to deliver district wide boundary changes to address the burdens on southern schools.  We need leaders who will take action now.   

ONKEN: I’m running for a four year position on the District 834 school board because its time to build a better board.  The current board majority has made a number of fiscally irresponsible decisions including the separation with Superintendent Pontrelli when she only had one year remaining on her contract.  Many of their recent decisions seem to be part of an agenda that has very little to do with the students of our district.  It is time to move forward, putting students and equity first, and the only way to do this is by electing a new board.  

PETRIE: I have been concerned about the direction of this board in the past two years, and I don’t believe decisions have been made in the best interests of students or taxpayers. For instance, I did not agree with the decision to oust the superintendent, at a cost of $300,000, in the middle of a pandemic, and over the objections of 80% of teachers and all principals. I believe I can bring a fresh perspective that is fortified by my experience and intimate knowledge of the district. I believe we need to get back to data-driven decision-making that puts kids first but keeps in mind that funding is limited.

 PTACEK: Twelve years ago when I originally ran for school board I wanted to make a difference. That same desire and drive moves me now. My knowledge and extensive experience equip me in the “know how” and ability to achieve meaningful results. 

Two examples of recent achievements include:

• Leadership role in bringing Project Lead the Way to District 834 and St. Croix Catholic School with no initial District 834 cost; and 

• Key role in a “Quality Compensation” bill which brought approximately $1.4 million additional funding annually to District 834 

SHERMAN: I am running because I believe what is best for students has gotten lost in recent school board decisions.  I hear over and over from people that they want their tax dollars spent educating students, they want decisions made based on data not emotion, they want our teachers and staff to feel respected, they want a school board that understands its governance and oversight role, and they want leadership by example. We have an opportunity to put a divisive past behind us, to come together and look forward to realizing the potential we have to do better for all students. We have one chance to get it right for students. The board can accomplish this by focusing on its job of establishing a forward-looking vision and creating a strategic plan that places the district in the best possible position to achieve its goals. I am ready to work collaboratively with all district stakeholders to make this happen for all students.

ST. ORES: My executive experience in transformational change, distance learning and learning management systems honed over 30 years in re-educating 300,000 employees makes me uniquely qualified.  Excellent financial/budget management, superior managerial/accounting controls and excellent team building skills are needed by the District at this time – I have all the above.  A world-class education provided to our young is why I am running. 

STIVLAND: I have had a life long passion and commitment to education, and I want to see transformation in how we teach and learn. We are experiencing a technological revolution worldwide and we want our children to be fully prepared for the new ways of doing almost everything today.  I am so proud to be a part of improving our schools and to be working hard to ensure that every student receives a top notch learning experience. We have had some challenging times here recently, but I believe that we are on the right path of improvement, and that through honest communication and trustworthy leadership, great things are happening for our schools! 

Excluding COVID-19, what are some of the challenges the District is facing right now and how would you like to tackle them?

BEAVERS: The district must hire a new superintendent in the next nine months.   We need to ensure the person hired shares the community’s values and will work well with the school board, no matter who is elected each election cycle.  Secondly, I think the overcrowding in the south must be addressed.  We must expand Brookview Elementary and rebuild Lake Elmo Elementary.  Finally, I think we are going to face a challenge trying to pass an operating levy and building bond in 2021.  The new board must earn the trust of the voters and show that they can use the taxpayer’s money responsibly.  

BREWINGTON: The greatest challenges we face is restoring unity, maintaining fiscal stability and hiring a new Superintendent. To restore unity in our district I am committed to listing, seeking to understand, speaking the truth and accepting the truth even if I don’t like the source. Recent events in our district have highlighted the need for greater transparency and accountability with the finances in the district. We need to reauthorize our operating levy soon and I am concerned that this will not happen if we have not restored trust. This goal requires that we hire a highly competent and experienced Superintendent with input from the community. I am committed to providing opportunity for all voices and viewpoints to be considered as we reset our district for success. 

EHRLER: It is hard to look past COVID-19 because it is accelerating issues that the board will have to face in the next few years such as potential reduced funding from the state and declining enrollment.  I see the shift of the school age population south of Highway 36 as a large challenge for the district.  What used to be a district made up of the City of Stillwater and surrounding rural areas has evolved into a district with multiple population centers and, like the rest of the state, an increase in diversity of the population.   

GILLES: We need to improve reading instruction, address the growing population in the Lake Elmo part of the district and we need to bridge the divides and rifts that plague our district.  

HOCKERT: Our district is in a precarious situation right now having lost three of our top administrators since the COVID-19 shutdown began in March.  Compared to other neighboring districts where COVID is the central challenge because of its unprecedented impact on education, our school board has been unwaveringly focused on investigations and buyouts.  As a parent whose children was sent home in March and is still working from home, it is clear that our current board is not focused on the future or even the present.  The biggest challenge right now is trying to draft a levy and bond proposal this year with an interim superintendent who does not know the needs of the district as a whole, nor can she assess the district because we are so far from normal this year.  Furthermore, all her resources are being used to address the challenges unique to running dual educational models this year, neither of which will be sustainable once we no longer receive emergency relief aid.  And yet our levy still expires next year, leaving us with a $12 million shortfall if it is not renewed.  In this context, spending $300,000 to buyout the superintendent in the last year of her contract while the pandemic still raged seems an unnecessary gamble with the long term stability of our district.  I know this question asked to exclude COVID, but we are in crisis this year and we are only beginning to feel the educational impact of both the pandemic and our board’s risky actions.  We need leaders who are nimble in the present with their focus on planning for the future.  The stakes are just too high right now. 

ONKEN: The newly elected board will be facing a number of challenges including the hiring of a superintendent, the upcoming renewal of the operating levy and a potential building bond to alleviate overcrowding at Lake Elmo Elementary and Brookview Elementary.  The hiring of the superintendent may be the easiest of the three items listed, however the new board will need to determine if a search firm is needed.  

As for the renewal of the operating levy it will be important for the community to know what is at stake.  If the levy is not passed, programs will need to be cut.  The new board will then need to consider the Community Development Team (CDT) recommendations and determine if a building bond is needed.  Lake Elmo Elementary is no longer a suitable building for students and Brookview Elementary is over capacity.  To help meet our equity goals, the new board will need to discuss the CDT recommendations and craft a building bond the community can support.  

PETRIE: We must hire a new superintendent, we must persuade the community to renew the operating levy that expires at the end of 2021, and we must address the overcrowding in the south end of the district. All of these require a similar approach. I believe board members need to reach out to all the various constituencies in our district in a focused, open-minded effort to determine what the community wants its schools to be. 

PTACEK: Continued financial accountability The amount requiring prior board approval for administrative expenditures was lowered from $100,000 to $50,000. Board members now receive disbursement reports the Friday before being asked to approve them. In the past, individual board members had to take the initiative to review disbursements. Higher expectations and resulting practice regarding administrative transparency and disclosure have significantly changed. Closely monitor and improve student achievement. All students need proficiency in basic skills, knowledge, and understandings to survive and thrive in their future. However, I am dismayed by the number of students, who don’t display that competence. For example a significant number of our third graders are not displaying reading proficiency. This is vital, and we must do better. Staff is already working very hard. We need to work smarter. We must all do better?

SHERMAN: There are several priorities for the board to address in the near term. Every decision requires community engagement and a focus on the academic needs of students.  Superintendent Hire – The board will be responsible for hiring a new superintendent. This decision needs to be done inclusively with input from all key stakeholders. My son who is a junior at the high school has had six superintendents during his time in the district. Stability in district leadership is a characteristic of high achieving school districts. Making this decision with a long-term vision is imperative. Operating Levy –The board will request at least a renewal of an operating levy in 2021. The board must work with the community to ensure the levy facilitates the programming and services the community most supports. Bond – Based on data, a facility review committee recently analyzed the needs of all district buildings. The results need to be discussed and decisions need to be made about what priorities ought to be pursued both in the short- and long-term so students are served equitably across the district. 

ST. ORES: Given my managerial experience the past business issues/problems will be solved in less than 90 days.  Unifying the community is needed, this will take awhile.  The real issue is to establish academic excellence.  Academic excellence and resiliency in a competitive world is THE priority.

STIVLAND:  In the coming year, the board will be responsible for hiring a permanent Superintendent. Additionally, in November 2021, the community will be asked to support an operating levy renewal and most likely, a bond for facilities as well. As most people are aware, Lake Elmo Elementary, over one hundred years old, needs to be replaced. It is our largest elementary building, and it does not serve our students very well. Every student deserves to learn in an excellent environment that encourages creativity and exploration, learning and growth. It will be critical that we are laser focused on student learning as we endure the effects of the pandemic, and as we emerge on the far side of it. This has caused such an upheaval for everyone, as we are trying to create and learn new ways of conducting so many aspects of our daily lives, in real time. This is no small thing. Many of the innovations we are seeing will continue long past the time the pandemic is over. A significant portion of our community is thriving with online learning, for example, and district administrators are working on developing this as a permanent option for families. As we follow the trajectory that has been cast, we must ensure that a high level of rigorous and engaging work is being offered for students, so that they are fully prepared for their future, whatever that may be.  

ZIEMANN: At present, the current board lacks the ability to apply critical thinking skills to problems. It reacts out of person emotions with an agenda against experts, including teachers. More specific issues include passing an operational levy and settling employee contracts. 

What are your thoughts or opinions in general on how the District handled/ operated reopening plans and how they’ve gone so far? 

BEAVERS: I believe that we should work to open schools as much as possible, while still allowing families that are uncomfortable to fully learn from home.  Our youngest learners should be in the classroom as much as possible.  I am glad that our middle school students finally get to start seeing their teachers in person on Oct 12.  Our teachers are exhausted because they are teaching both online and in person.  Some of our students are not succeeding with the hybrid model.  I would propose a model to give more students the ability to go to school full time as long as the county numbers are low.  This would include students for which this model was not working and/or families that needed extra support.

BREWINGTON: Like most people, I agree that from an educational standpoint, “in-person” learning is best for kids. However, given the fact the COVID-19 cases continue to increase in Washington County, I have great concern about the safety of our students and staff with the hybrid model that has been presented. As a parent, I have decided that my son will do 100% distance learning. My son has special needs and actually did better with distance learning. However, I am fully aware that this was not the case for many students in the district and parents want them to have in-person learning. I would feel more comfortable with providing students who cannot do distance learning (i.e. some special needs students with disabilities and other circumstances) and then having distance learning for the students where it is possible. Overall I commend the administration, staff and teachers for the exorbitant effort to provide high quality education during these unprecedented times. 

EHRLER: I believe the school board made the correct decision to start the year in a hybrid model.  The health and safety of the students - as well of the teachers and staff - needs to be the first priority this year.  I am disturbed by some on the current board who are arguing for a faster reopening of the schools despite the evidence that the spread of COVID-19 is, at least, not controlled and, at worst, accelerating. 

GILLES: On the one hand, I think that Interim Superintendent Lansfeldt did a nearly impossible job implementing the Hybrid model for the Fall.  I appreciate the herculean efforts of her team to pull it off.  However, as a parent of a 2nd grader in the Hybrid model, the at home portion is creating a great deal of stress and emotion.  There is simply too much screen time and reliance on parents to complete the lessons.  I’ve only been on the School Board a month, but I am already taking the lead in reforming the at-home portion of the Hybrid Model.

HOCKERT: After a summer focused on investigations, lawsuits, and administrative buyouts, parents were asked to choose between hybrid and distance learning models this year with no plan in place or clear idea of how school would look for either model and newly hired administration at the helm.  Shortly after, the teachers came forward saying they did not feel comfortable returning to school under the hybrid model for numerous reasons and were wholly ignored.  Parents were frustrated with the hybrid option for different reasons as they struggled to find childcare options for three days a week.  Since reopening, I have heard continued frustration from many parents in our district as well as others from neighboring districts.   No one has figured out the magic formula for education this year, but our most recent enrollment numbers show an alarming trend.  Numbers have dropped in every single school this year with lowest decreases occurring in the schools that are most pressed for space.  The rigor is much higher this year, but the frustration of elementary kids navigating computers and maintaining focus during zoom calls leaves them exhausted and emotionally spent by the end of the day.  

ONKEN: There is no playbook for how to handle this pandemic.  The board’s decision to give students the option of a hybrid or distance model was very reasonable and is commensurate with surrounding districts.  I have talked to parents who have been very supportive of the two models and I have talked to parents and students who are quite frustrated and would like to be back to school full time.  I currently work in a school setting where all of our students are on a distance-learning model and many are struggling.  A school provides so much more for students than academics, they are missing important social emotional learning and extra-curricular activities.  I am hopeful we will all be back in buildings sooner rather than later.

PETRIE: The district’s approach to offer the choice of hybrid or full distance learning was the right decision. Recent statistics indicating that there may be a rise in cases validate that decision. I realize this is a hardship for many families, and I hope that new treatment options combined with the arrival of a vaccine will allow the District to get back to normal school as soon as possible. This is what all of us want.   

PTACEK: The decision on utilizing a hybrid model versus a 100% distance-learning model was very difficult. We received an overwhelming number of emails regarding this choice with a myriad of perspectives and recommendations. At the meeting we shared many conflicting thoughts. One powerful influence I received was a written copy and a video link to a letter delivered by the Green Bay school board chair. It was lengthy, well thought-out and powerfully delivered. In the end he concluded that 100% distance learning was the only safe and effective way going forward. 

SHERMAN: I feel the school board’s decision to separate with the superintendent was not in the best interest of our students and staff and hindered pandemic planning efforts. It was organizationally and fiscally irresponsible given the unknowns and additional costs associated with COVID. The board’s 6-week hiring freeze, including the critical position of assistant superintendent was also ill advised leading into an unprecedented school year. The omission of experienced leadership heading into a period when planning and communication was critical did not provide necessary stability.

These have been difficult and trying times for students, families, and staff. There are no easy answers or quick fixes. We need to work together and listen to what our students and staff need to be successful in these unfortunate circumstances. The school district has offered as much flexibility for families as possible while following state guidance for student and employee safety. Engaging with students, families, and staff is imperative so we can strive towards the shared goal of getting back to school safely and responsibly. I would like to see more frequent and regular board working sessions around what is going well and what challenges remain unsolved so we can more thoughtfully plan, communicate, and serve students and support staff. 

ST. ORES: The district needs to improve its computer-based education.  If this were in place there would have been no issues.  We are only scratching the surface here.  This is one of my strengths.  I prefer not to point out deficiency and rather work with the staff to move forward to establish a world-class digital curriculum – in concert with teachers, administration, community and school board.

STIVLAND: This pandemic has demanded an extraordinary level of work, innovation, solution finding, and basic trouble shooting for every school district across the whole country. We are not alone in this unbelievable challenge. Someone described this experience as feeling like trying to build an airplane while flying in it. The political overtones and confusing messaging have not been helpful. I feel that we can be very proud of the leadership from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Department of Education. They provide a significant and ongoing amount of supportive information and flexibility in their guidance, yet with clear benchmarks to follow. 

ZIEMANN: So many schools in Minnesota and the Metro have or are going to on-line learning only. Stillwater needs to go to distance learning until Covid is brought under control through medication and vaccines. We cannot risk the lives of teachers and our students.

It’s been three years since the BOLD plan has gone into effect. Do you believe the goals of BOLD have been met? 

BEAVERS: I do not think the benefits of BOLD have been completely realized in our district.  Because we still own two of the school buildings that were closed, we have not seen those savings.  The biggest issue with the BOLD closures was the way it was handled.  Parents and students in the closed schools felt the process left much to be desired.  I think our biggest lesson is to learn from this and acknowledge the hurt caused in this situation.  Anytime we redraw boundary lines, we must do a better job of integrating the students and informing parents.  Finally, BOLD lost the trust of many voters and may make passing a bond in 2021 very difficult.  The school board must work to regain the trust of the public by being transparent and financially responsible.

BREWINGTON: The goal for BOLD was to “Build Opportunities for students to Learn and Discover.” I am unsure if achieving this goal by closing schools has produced the desired results.

EHRLER: No, I do not believe the goals have been fully met. There is much that still needs to be done. 

GILLES: BOLD was supposed to save the district about $1.2M a year.  The administration has never been able to account for those savings, but we know that at least 120 children left the district as a result of bold, and thus the district lost $1.2M in state aid every year.  So while all of the savings are unaccounted for, we know the district has lost almost $4M in revenues due to BOLD. BOLD was supposed to improve equity in the district.  Presumably a good measure of equity would be improved academic achievement, particularly amongst our diverse populations.  However, no group of students has improved their academic outcomes since BOLD was implemented. BOLD failed to live up to any of its claims and only succeeded in shutting down three great schools and dividing the community.  

HOCKERT: Looking over the presentation on BOLD from January 2016, some goals appear to be met while others still fall short.  Support for transitioning ninth graders into high school is successful with the help of onboarding programs like LINK crew.  Also each elementary school now has its own principal and support staff available full time.  Oak Park Elementary is currently being used for our Transitions program and has an upgraded media center capable of hosting board meetings once they continue in person again.  The ALC may still move into that building as well so Oak Park remains a practical asset to the community. Marine Elementary now hosts a Folk School after being purchased by the city.  There was an offer on Withrow Elementary, which the board rejected, so that facility has yet to be addressed.  Class sizes are more equitable when compared across buildings now, however we still have significant space shortages in our southern schools as those schools all operate above their ideal capacity and continue to grow.  Meanwhile the northern schools continue to operate just under their ideal capacity even after closing the three schools in 2017.   So when focused on the goal of more equitable learning experiences, BOLD definitely helped but did not completely solve the equity issue.  Instead the current board exacerbated the situation when it abandoned the Brookview expansion.  This went against their own Community Design Team’s recommendations as well as the demonstrated and growing need every year since it opened.  The justification offered lacked any concrete educational evidence and left families frustrated and confused.  I am concerned that history is repeating itself.  Again we are facing equity issues that our current board has exacerbated but this time we are also embarking on the most tumultuous educational year ever.  We need leaders who can learn from the past while carefully navigating us through the present with eyes on maintaining excellences for the future. 

ONKEN: For transparency sake, I was a supporter of the BOLD initiative and I feel it is still a work in progress.  We have not completely met our equity goals with regards to classroom size and space in our southern elementary buildings and the Oak Park Heights building is not being used to its full potential.  Currently the 18-21 transition program is operating in the Oak Park Elementary building but it could use some upgrades.  The extra space at Oak Park could also be used to house the St. Croix Area Learning Center and central services, allowing the district to sell the current central services site.  With regards to elementary space, the current board has not acted on the CDT recommendations, which lay out options for alleviating space concerns for Lake Elmo and Brookview Elementary.  To continue the goals of the BOLD initiative, this will need to be done.  

PETRIE: There is no doubt that the consolidation of schools was painful for families, and that the process could have been handled better. But the data that led to the decision has been confirmed by the significant demographic changes that have occurred in the district in the recent past. There’s significant growth in enrollment in the south part of the district, and little to no growth in the north. In addition, the growth in students of color went from 6% to 20% in the last decade, almost all of those students concentrated in the south. Some of these students are arriving in schools with challenging needs, such as not speaking English. We must put more resources into addressing the achievement gap for students of color. This is a district that was built for 10,000 students and hasn’t had more than about 8,300 since the advent of charter schools. We needed to take resources out of too-many buildings and put them into programs to help address overcrowding and the achievement gap. We may not have had the Dual Immersion program (Spanish/English) at Lake Elmo Elementary otherwise. This helps recent immigrant students who do not speak English, while also providing an enrichment opportunity for middle-class students.

PTACEK: The 2015-16 BOLD initiative, implementation, and subsequent closing of three elementary schools had a powerful destructive impact on District 834. It divided our district, our board of education, and our communities. Lost of trust, questions about transparency, conflicting loyalties, and skepticism flourished. Many routine issues were more seriously questioned, “put under the microscope,” and motives were often questioned. Not surprisingly many of our present board members support a governing model with more direct oversight and accountability.

It probably depends on whom you ask, but no, I don’t think the goals of BOLD were met. It did not lead to a $1.26 million savings, which could be reinvested in the remaining seven elementary schools. Not when you consider that at least 120+ students left our district and enrolled at River Grove. (River Grove’s present enrollment is probably closer to 200 students.) In fact if you multiply the number of students lost by the minimal sum of $10,000   in state aid you quickly reach a total of $1.2+million.

A second result of BOLD was the lost of support among many voters, who still refer to the action as a “bait and switch.” Because as they see it, after the voters had supported a building bond for almost $100 million dollars, in less than six months there was a proposal to close three elementary schools. Two of the closed schools had been “Blue Ribbon” performers, and a third school had the second largest diverse student enrollment and the second highest number of students, who qualified for free and/or reduced lunches. I have been told by one neighboring superintendent that it will take at least a generation to recover the lost trust. Will these communities and/or their voters ever support a levy renewal, and/or another building bond? It remains an open question? 

SHERMAN: Yes, I do believe BOLD has accomplished what it was intended to do. While I understand the emotions around the loss of a school, we have to make the hard decisions that are best for the most students in the district. The basis for BOLD was simple fiscal responsibility and equity in education.  Financially, it costs considerably less to operate seven elementary schools than 10.  In terms of equitable learning experiences, the first few years of BOLD have resulted in huge benefits for students. Class sizes in schools were balanced and there is expanded support for elementary students by having advocates and school psychologists or counselors in the buildings every day. In addition, BOLD led to a greater focus on social and emotional learning with Ready-Set-Go conferences, WEB and Link Crew, Responsive Classroom, and BARR (Building Assets, Reducing Risks). This has impacted students at all levels and reduced overall failure rates.

ST. ORES: BOLD has shrunk to size 6 font.  For whatever reason(s), BOLD has not met its goals.  Closing schools is a big decision – and it should not be made on money alone.  Schools are community – in my opinion - this was lost in the decision-making process.    

STIVLAND: The stated goals of the BOLD plan that closed three elementary schools in our district were slippery and unclear. It is hard to know exactly why this plan was proposed and executed. However, one main theme that continues to reverberate today is equity. The BOLD plan was intended to provide equity in our district, which to me means that every child receives the amount of support they need to be successful. Because this plan caused so much harm to our sense of hope, joy and pride in our district, I do not believe that it achieved anything good for our school district. Hundreds of our students enrolled elsewhere, taking important revenue and support for our schools with them. Any achievements in equity that have been made since 2017 have been made in spite of BOLD, not because of it.

   

ZIEMANN: The BOLD plan is an ongoing initiative that needs to be reviewed and evaluated fully. The Plan has not met all of its important and necessary objectives. It needs to be evaluated by an impartial task force regularly.  

Editor’s Note: Some answers throughout the Voter’s Guide had to be cut to fit the space provided. 

 

 

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