Election 2015 - City budget, infrastructure and services concern Falcon Heights candidates

Peter Lindstrom
Peter Lindstrom
Lisa McDonald
Lisa McDonald
Tom Brace
Tom Brace
Joe Brown Thunder
Joe Brown Thunder
Randy Gustafson
Randy Gustafson
Gordon Strom
Gordon Strom
Tony Fischer
Tony Fischer
Michael Tracy
Michael Tracy

A slate of eight candidates is in the running for four seats at Falcon Heights City Hall.

Mayor Peter Lindstrom is running to remain mayor against challenger Lisa McDonald.

Council member Joe Brown Thunder, who was appointed to the council Oct. 8, 2014, is running for one of two full-term seats against challengers Tom Brace, Randy Gustafson and Gordon Strom. Brown Thunder was appointed to replace Keith Gosline, who resigned citing personal reasons last summer.

The vacated term runs through Jan. 1, 2018. Two candidates are running to fill out the remainder of that partial term: Tony Fischer and Michael Tracy. 

The Review asked the candidates what skills and experience they think they'd bring to the office, what they think are the top challenges facing Falcon Heights in the coming years and what issue or project they would prioritize if elected. They answered the questions via email.

Election day is Nov. 3. To find your polling place head to www.pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us or call Ramsey County Elections at 651-266-2171.

Mayoral candidates

Peter Lindstrom

Lindstrom, 44, is a local government outreach coordinator for Clean Energy Resource Teams, an environmental organization. He has a master's degree in public administration from Hamline University and is married to Nicole.

Serving on the city council since 2000, Lindstrom was first elected as mayor in 2008.

Lindstrom is a former president of the area Lions Club and is chair of the board of Northeast Youth & Family Services. He says he forges agreements and keeps an eye on the future.

"I've honed the ability to find consensus from a diverse council and various stakeholders," he says. "I have the foresight to recognize challenges and take proactive steps."

Lindstrom says the city's top challenges in the future will be maintaining a high quality of life in the city while updating aging infrastructure, like roads and sewers. He says he's optimistic the city can do so while keeping property taxes reasonable.

Lindstrom says he'll continue to prioritize providing quality city services and the city's commitment to sustainability. He notes Falcon Heights is highly ranked in the state's GreenStep Cities program.

"Cities like ours can be at the leading edge to combat climate change by demonstrating effective solutions," he says.

Lisa McDonald

McDonald, who did not give her age, owns the academic tutoring service My Tutor. She has a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and is not married.

A 15-year resident of Falcon Heights, McDonald says she communicates well and that as a former math teacher, she has a "head for numbers," important when dealing with city budgets.

"My diverse job experience includes positions in small business, government (city, county, state, and federal), library service (Ramsey County Library), education (teacher/coach), and sports and recreation," she says.

McDonald says keeping housing affordable in Falcon Heights is a challenge; there are few rentals in the city, long-term residents need to be able to stay in their homes and the city needs to attract new residents.

"Another top challenge is balancing the needs of our residents with those of local businesses, the Minnesota State Fairgrounds, and the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus," she says, adding that the city council's actions must be transparent.

Speaking from the experience of having a sidewalk installation and assessment at her home, McDonald says she would prioritize not building a sidewalk on Garden Avenue.

"We shouldn't needlessly assess our neighbors on Garden Avenue," she says.

Council four-year term

Tom Brace

Brace, 70, works part time as state coordinator for the National Fire Sprinkler Association. He has a Ph.D. in urban political geography from the University of Washington and is married to Gunta.

Seeking his first term on the city council, Brace was previously the State Fire Marshal of Minnesota and Washington state, and served as the executive director of the Minnesota State Fire Chiefs Association.

"I will use this combined expertise to help the council to make good public safety decisions in concert with our residents," he says, noting that a large part of Falcon Heights' budget is public safety.

Keeping the city's AAA bond rating will be a challenge moving forward, Brace says, as well as working to grow the tax base in Falcon Heights, a city that is nearly fully developed. He says the city needs to resolve the sidewalk issue on Garden Avenue, as well, in a sensitive and inclusive manner.

Brace says he'll prioritize growing the tax base and that he'd bring a useful point of view to the council.

"One issue will be solved by my election," he says. "The profession base of council members will be expanded and senior citizens will have representation."

Joe Brown Thunder

Brown Thunder, 44, owns  Buffalo Nickel Creative, a marketing and communications company. He has a bachelor's degree in theater arts and American Indian studies from the University of Minnesota.

Appointed to the council last year, Brown Thunder says in that time he's become familiar with how the city works, has listened to the concerns of residents and been a part of dialogue and consensus building when making decisions.

"I have been an entrepreneur for the past 14 years and am confident that my experience and skills in government, corporate, and nonprofits have prepared me for the challenges the city faces," he says.

The city's most pressing challenge, Brown Thunder says, is "maintaining our excellent city services while balancing the budget," while demographics in the city change.

"We need to better understand the true cost of government, so we are better able to properly fund current programs and future initiatives," he says.

Brown Thunder says the city's parks are in need of attention and are important to healthy communities.

"Our parks are at the center of this and I would make it a priority to make sure we take care of this important component of our city," he says.

Randy Gustafson

Gustafson, 61, is public communications and crime prevention coordinator for the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office. He has a bachelor's degree in communications and business administration from Augustana College and is married to Lyn.

Serving on the Falcon Heights Planning Commission from 2009-2014 and as chair of the commission in 2010, Gustafson says he also has experience in small business and volunteering in local schools and youth athletics.

"If elected, I will bring thoughtful, respectful and community-focused leadership to my service as a council member," he says.

Gustafson says the biggest challenge facing Falcon Heights is continuing its legacy of being safe and affordable while being fully developed.

"I believe our public services need to be delivered in the most effective and cost efficient methods that we can," he says. "Affordability is a particular challenge, because about two thirds of our property is not taxable."

Informed by his time on the Planning Commission, Gustafson says looking at the long-term implications of decisions will be a priority.

"The history of Falcon Heights government shows that this approach has been working well for decades," he says.

Gordon Strom

Strom, 54, is a senior architect at RSP Architects. He has a bachelor's degree in architecture from North Dakota State University and is married with a wife and daughter.

Between his work as an architect and role chairing the Falcon Heights Parks and Recreation Commission, Strom says his experience, part of which includes securing an $85,000 grant to rebuild the playground at Curtiss Field, will suit him well as a council member.

"By actively listening to the needs of architecture clients, pushing through roadblocks, and working to make their visions a reality, I come prepared with a strong skill set that will enable me to listen to the needs of my Falcon Heights neighbors and work to solve their complex issues," he says.

Strom says "maintaining and improving the city's infrastructure while continuing to be fiscally conservative, will be the biggest challenge ahead for the city," adding that he'll work to maintain the city's AAA bond rating and will work to increase its commercial tax base.

"My simple goal as a city councilperson would be to increase the happiness quotient of all of our citizens," Strom says.

Partial council term ending Jan. 1, 2018

Tony Fischer

Fischer, 41, is a freeway analysis supervisor at the Minnesota Department of Transportation. He has a master's degree in applied economics from the University of Minnesota and is married to Cristina Castro.

Previously board chair of University United, Fischer says he currently serves as a classroom volunteer at Falcon Heights Elementary School and a fundraiser for Cub Scout Pack 297.

He says his master's in applied economics, which included accounting and finance classes, positions him well to work on the city council.

"I can bring a strong technical training to the issues Falcon Heights faces," Fischer says.

Fischer says the top challenge facing Falcon Heights is reacting to change.

"The constant trickle of social, economic and technological change will transform our society over time," he says. "We need to be vigilant for opportunities and address concerns in a timely way for the benefit of our citizens and businesses."

If elected, Fischer says he’ll prioritize a well-crafted city budget.

"My priority will be that our budget reflects our priorities, that it be balanced in such a way as to provide the services we expect in the near term but provide for long term stability and sustainability," he says.

Michael Tracy

Tracy, 68, is a real estate agent at RE/MAX Results. He has a master's degree in exercise physiology from the University of Minnesota and is married to Becky.

Involved in city politics since the mid-1990s, Tracy says he's worked with the "Keeping Connected in Falcon Heights" group that fostered neighborhood communication and cooperation, previously served on the city's Planning Commission and also served on the Roseville Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

Tracy lists what he says are the issues that Falcon Heights faces:

"Our top challenges are to keep our current city services, while maintaining our fair and reasonable property taxes," he says.

Remaining frugal with respect to city spending will be a priority, Tracy says, as well as improving the city's parks and pathways to make it more walking and biking friendly. He says he would also like to encourage environmentally friendly practices in the city.

"I would also like to see Falcon Heights look into allowing our home and apartment owners to install small windmills, to reduce global warming, and help make Falcon Heights become the Greenest City in the USA," Tracy says.

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.

 

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