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Dakota County Commissioner Voter Guides

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Business Ideas, Editorials

2018 Dakota County Commissioner Candidates

The following questions were developed and used from the 2018 Election Candidate Questionnaire and East Metro Voters Guide. 

Kathleen Gaylord

Bio: I am the Chair of the Dakota County Board of Commissioners. I am an attorney/partner in the law firm of Weinblatt & Gaylord in Inver Grove Heights and the former Senior Corporate Counsel for Northwest Airlines. I am also the former Executive Director of the Minnesota Tax Study Commission where I built the first computer simulation of Minnesota’s property tax system and was instrumental in bringing “Circuit Breaker” property tax relief to Minnesota. Tens of thousands of Dakota County residents have received tax refunds from the Minnesota Property Tax Refund and Renters Credit that evolved from my work.

I am also the former Mayor of South St. Paul. I have over 30 years of public policy experience leading local, regional, state, and national organizations with the skills and experience to deliver smart, creative solutions and real results.

I attended Macalester College as a math major, earned a B.A. degree in economics Magna Cum Laude and continued my post-graduate studies in Business Taxation and Public Administration at the University of Minnesota before earning my Juris Doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law.

What is the biggest challenge facing your district and how would you address it?

Two of the communities in my district are struggling financially. I have recognized that challenge and have worked to keep county taxes as low as possible to help residents already burdened by high city taxes. I have also stepped up to offer a wide range of county services to benefit these communities and sought out grant and funding strategies to help them with trails, road improvements, wetlands restoration and economic development.

What would be your top three priorities if elected?

  1. Addressing the challenges we face with smart, creative solutions.
  2. Maintaining our high-quality services and our leadership in controlling county property taxes.
  3. Listening to all voices and building coalitions and partnerships to move the county forward.

What do you believe are the most essential services provided by county government?

Dakota County provides 225 programs and services to county residents, including record keeping, emergency services, veterans services, public safety, public health, elections, transportation, parks and libraries… but the most essential services are the human services provided by community and social services. These services include child protection, emergency assistance, food supports, housing and economic assistance, and other safety net services.

Todd Podgorski

Bio: I have been fortunate to serve South St. Paul as a two-term City Council Member and a one-term School Board Member. On the City Council, I supported and helped lead our voter-approved parks and Doug Woog arena improvement bond referendum. I am also proud to have supported hiring two additional police officers and a Sgt during my time on the Council. Working on the South St. Paul Economic Development Authority to assist with economic development and job growth, has been a highlight. While I was on the School Board I helped support a voter-approved operating levy that helped us reduce class sizes, improve discipline with having a planning room at the H.S., and having all-day kindergarten with no fee years before the state covered the full cost.

I earn a living as a peace officer in one of the state’s largest and most diverse counties. As a peace officer for over 20 years, I understand the importance of public safety. My background as a long time CIT-Crisis Intervention Trained officer dealing with mental health emergencies gives me a unique understanding of our shortage of mental health and chemical dependency treatment options.

What is the biggest challenge facing your district and how would you address it?

There are many important issues facing our district. I am passionate about keeping our community safe and believe the County has not done enough to help with our district’s crime concerns. With 4,900 active criminal warrants in Dakota County we need a dedicated warrant apprehension team to help bring justice to victims. We also need to better serve people in our community who have mental health and or chemical dependency concerns. We can better serve these people by providing supportive 16 bed or smaller treatment centers.

What would be your top three priorities if elected?

  1. Enhancing public safety and health.
  2. Improving roads and infrastructure.
  3. Fostering job creation, economic development and housing options.

What do you believe are the most essential services provided by county government?

Public safety and health. Roads and infrastructure.

 

November Business Lunch Focuses its Menu on Drug Trends

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Business Ideas, Editorials, Event News, Marketing

Food for Thought, Business Luncheon Open to the Public

Inver Grove Heights, MN (October 23, 2018) – The River Heights Chamber of Commerce started its new business luncheon series, Food for Thought, when it launched their new brand in August, with the purpose to include all area businesses, not only Chamber members, in a once a month event. The River Heights Chamber is about working together and building relationships – businesses [all of us] benefit when we work together and know what’s going on in our community, so we [the Chamber] want to gather more businesses and leaders from the community together for an hour and a half on a monthly basis. “It is one of our Board’s goals to emphasize the Chamber’s inclusivity, so to have a welcome forum open to the public (businesses, schools, individuals) that will feature various business-related topics and speakers for the community to collaborate, network and learn from one another, each month, is a great initiative,” says Chairman Brenda Dietrich, co-owner of Hardline Concrete & Masonry.

In November, the River Heights Chamber invites everyone to take part in this important conversation of Drug Trends at the next Food for Thought, on November 20, 2018, from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at Evolve Workplace in West St. Paul.

“Everyone with an invested interest in Dakota County should attend this informative business luncheon with presenter Agent Pete Zajac from the Dakota County Drug Task Force,” says Nicole Bengtson, Director of Marketing & Communications of the River Heights Chamber of Commerce. You’ll hear all about the current drug trends (what drug is making a comeback, what drug is still a huge problem, edibles, and more on what looks harmless but may not be), get your questions answered and learn some warning signs to watch for whether that be at school, work, home or in your community.

“Drugs are everywhere, no matter what community you live in. They affect everybody, directly or indirectly,” says Agent Zajac. Be in the know. Stay safe. Help protect your people and your community. Don’t miss it!

Join us to learn more! Register by Friday, November 16 online at www.riverheights.com or by contacting the River Heights Chamber office at 651.451.2266 ext. 1032. Chamber member ($25) or non-member (business, resident, school leader, parent) ($35).

Minnesota House Seats 52A, 52B and 54A Voter Guides

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Editorials

2018 Minnesota House Seats 52A, 52B and 54A Candidates

The following questions were developed and used from the 2018 Election Candidate Questionnaire and East Metro Voters Guide. 

52A Candidates

Rick Hansen

Bio: B.S. Biology, Upper Iowa University; M.S. Soil Management, Iowa State University; Owner, Harmony Cedar, Inc. 2001-present; Minnesota Department of Agriculture 1989-2004; Dakota County SWCD 1996-2004; Minnesota House of Representatives 2004-present, lead Democrat on Environment and Technology committees.

I ask for your vote for State Representative. I have the experience as a small business owner, local government official, state employee and a farmer. As your current State Representative, I have listened and learned to develop the experience to serve the district well.  We have a lot of work to do and my ability to work on tough subjects and provide solutions is needed.  Problem-solving is in short supply and I ask for your support to apply my knowledge, skills and abilities for you at our Capitol.

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

  1. Clean Water
  2. Funding for basic infrastructure such as Robert Street debt relief,
    Inflow & Infiltration and local road, bike and pedestrian
    improvements.
  3. Levy equalization for school districts & student debt relief

The Minnesota Constitution states that “[n]o law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.” (Article IV, Section 17.) In recent years, the Legislature has passed bills that encompass far more than one subject. According to critics, multi-subject bills make it difficult for legislators to vote on the merits of an issue, for citizens to be informed, and for the Governor to engage productively with Legislature. Would you support reforms to the legislative process to prohibit consolidating all omnibus spending bills into one large omnibus bill? 

Yes.

Do you support moving the state primary election from August to June in order to improve voter turnout and maximize the time candidates spend with general election voters? 

No.

Beth Arntson

Bio: I have broad state government experience working 35 years in 10+ state agencies as Human Resources professional, director and manager. My experience in these agencies included Employment, Economic Development, Transportation, K-12 Education, Higher Education, Natural Resources, Vocational Rehabilitation, Trade, Human Services, and other state programmatic and administrative issues. I am running because I was recruited by the local BPOU and want to help change the direction the Democrats are leading Minnesota in health care, school funding, and spending in state government without proper oversight and accountability such as MENLARS and the child care fraud.

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

  1. Equalization of school funding across districts
  2. Eliminate taxes on social security
  3. Protect property rights and eliminate burdensome regulations

The Minnesota Constitution states that “[n]o law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.” (Article IV, Section 17.) In recent years, the Legislature has passed bills that encompass far more than one subject. According to critics, multi-subject bills make it difficult for legislators to vote on the merits of an issue, for citizens to be informed, and for the Governor to engage productively with Legislature. Would you support reforms to the legislative process to prohibit consolidating all omnibus spending bills into one large omnibus bill? 

Yes.

Do you support moving the state primary election from August to June in order to improve voter turnout and maximize the time candidates spend with general election voters? 

No.

52B Candidates

Ruth Richardson

Bio: I earned my law degree from William Mitchell College of Law and have experience working in senior leadership positions in the government, non-profit, and private sectors.  I’ve worked as a business attorney, in disability rights, and to support small, minority-, and women-owned businesses.  I have worked with bipartisan groups to advance legislation to support homeless veterans, people with disabilities, paraprofessional educators in schools, social workers, and people with substance use disorders.  Currently, I work as the Director of Programs and National Strategic Initiatives for the Minnesota Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  I have worked as a community faculty member for Metropolitan State University.  Also, I serve on the Minnesota Judicial Branch’s Committee for Equality and Justice, the Minnesota Department of Human Services Behavioral Health Planning Council, as co-chair for the DHS African American Birth Outcomes Task Force, and the Minnesota Department of Health’s Healthy Equity and Leadership Advisory Committee. I am a past chairperson of the Minnesota Board of Social Work and current chairperson of Ampersand Families.  I am also a member of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s Interagency Coordinating Committee on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Justice Workgroup.

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

  1. Ensuring all Minnesotans have access to affordable and quality healthcare
  2. Investing in early childhood, K-12, and post-secondary education
  3. Ensuring we are investing in small business development and infrastructure

The Minnesota Constitution states that “[n]o law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.” (Article IV, Section 17.) In recent years, the Legislature has passed bills that encompass far more than one subject. According to critics, multi-subject bills make it difficult for legislators to vote on the merits of an issue, for citizens to be informed, and for the Governor to engage productively with Legislature. Would you support reforms to the legislative process to prohibit consolidating all omnibus spending bills into one large omnibus bill? 

Yes.

Do you support moving the state primary election from August to June in order to improve voter turnout and maximize the time candidates spend with general election voters? 

Yes.

Regina Barr

Bio: My husband and I have lived in Inver Grove Heights for 20 years. I am a small business owner, am active in the River Heights Chamber of Commerce, and previously served on the IGH Convention and Visitors Bureau. My business background, extensive nonprofit experience, and a solid first term as State Representative delivering results for our communitylike tax relief, fully funding our schools, and lowering health insurance costsprove that I have the broad range of experience necessary to serve effectively.  I believe effective leaders prioritize results over partisanship. If re-elected, I will be committed to working with those on both sides of the aisle to deliver results for our community. I recently received the Housing First Leadership Award and the NFIB Small Business Guardian Award. In addition, I have received endorsements from a number of organizations including: the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, Care Providers of Minnesota PAC, Latino American Today, Dakota County Regional Chamber PAC, Builders Association of the Twin Cities’ Housing First PAC, the MN Chamber Leadership PAC, and the Southeast Metro Business PAC.

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

If re-elected, I will prioritize:

  1. Making health care more affordable
  2. Delivering middle-class tax relief
  3. Ensuring that Minnesota families have access to affordable childcare

The Minnesota Constitution states that “[n]o law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.” (Article IV, Section 17.) In recent years, the Legislature has passed bills that encompass far more than one subject. According to critics, multi-subject bills make it difficult for legislators to vote on the merits of an issue, for citizens to be informed, and for the Governor to engage productively with Legislature. Would you support reforms to the legislative process to prohibit consolidating all omnibus spending bills into one large omnibus bill? 

Yes.

Do you support moving the state primary election from August to June in order to improve voter turnout and maximize the time candidates spend with general election voters? 

Yes.

54A Candidates

Anne Claflin

Bio: I bring the experience and passion to serve the people of our district well.  A graduate of South Saint Paul High School, I chose to live here with my husband Warren and my son William – a fifth-generation native of this district.

For my career in science and policy, I earned my bachelor’s degrees in Russian and Biology and a Master of Science degree in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy from the University of Minnesota.  For twelve years, I have worked as a scientist at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, analyzing greenhouse gases and the policies’ effects on climate change.

I lead my MAPE union local as president, and mentor women in science – helping girls with the Girl Scouts and women at the University of Minnesota, and leading Hamline University’s Women in Public Service Conference. As a scientist, I am prepared to support data-driven, evidence-based decisions.  As a working mother and union leader, I am prepared to fight for women and working families. As a listening leader, I am prepared to collaborate to build our community. I have the talent, experience and drive to build a vibrant economy and a healthy environment where we have the freedom to pursue our dreams – together.

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

  1. Protecting clean, safe drinking water and a healthy environment is my highest priority.  As an environmental scientist, I will ensure cleaning up our water happens now and happens right.  I will act to protect our waters; hold those responsible accountable, and make sure this never happens again.  We have a right to a healthy environment – clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, natural areas for people and wildlife.  A clean environment supports Minnesota’s vibrant economy and helps create good jobs that can’t be sent overseas: jobs in clean energy and our great natural heritage – hunting, fishing, and the outdoors industry.
  2. Fighting for our students to get a world-class education is critical to protecting Minnesota’s legacy of educational excellence and supporting job growth right here.  I will support learning from early childhood through career training. I will ensure that our students and teachers have the classroom and supportive resources they need to create the next generation of leaders – business owners, lawyers, scientists, people working in the trades.  Our children have unlimited potential – let’s help them reach it.
  3. Building a vibrant economy that works for us all means protecting the freedom to pursue our dreams and care for our loved ones.   I will work for affordable health care that won’t bankrupt you if you get sick. I will fight to ensure paid family leave, earned sick time, wage theft protections, and affordable childcare to help families get ahead.  I will defend the freedom to have a fair shake – to join together, negotiate, and speak up for better pay and better working conditions. I will work to un-rig the economy, close corporate tax loopholes, and make the American dream achievable again.

The Minnesota Constitution states that “[n]o law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.” (Article IV, Section 17.) In recent years, the Legislature has passed bills that encompass far more than one subject. According to critics, multi-subject bills make it difficult for legislators to vote on the merits of an issue, for citizens to be informed, and for the Governor to engage productively with Legislature. Would you support reforms to the legislative process to prohibit consolidating all omnibus spending bills into one large omnibus bill? 

Yes.

Do you support moving the state primary election from August to June in order to improve voter turnout and maximize the time candidates spend with general election voters? 

Yes.

Keith Franke

Bio: I was born, raised and lived in every city in district 54A and have family living all throughout the district.  I am a father of two and a grandfather of two granddaughters.  I am running for office because I believe in giving the people in our district an honest, common sense voice in our state government.  I have a proven record of collaboration with other lawmakers and put principle over politics.  I have a wide variety of life and work experiences which give me a unique insight into many social and economic challenges that people in our district face.

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

My top priorities if elected include:

  1. Making sure funds designated by the 3M settlement to ensure water quality for our residents, are kept in our district and spent effectively to provide future generations with water safety and sustainability. 
  2. Quality affordable health care and health insurance is a priority for me.  We need to bring everyone to the table to find solutions to our current problems by looking at prescription drug costs, the disparity in health procedure costs, transparency in billing and giving people options to make choices about their own healthcare. 
  3.  I would like to continue the work on eliminating taxes on social security income for low and median income seniors with a goal being total elimination of taxes on all social security income. 

The Minnesota Constitution states that “[n]o law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.” (Article IV, Section 17.) In recent years, the Legislature has passed bills that encompass far more than one subject. According to critics, multi-subject bills make it difficult for legislators to vote on the merits of an issue, for citizens to be informed, and for the Governor to engage productively with Legislature. Would you support reforms to the legislative process to prohibit consolidating all omnibus spending bills into one large omnibus bill? 

Yes.

Do you support moving the state primary election from August to June in order to improve voter turnout and maximize the time candidates spend with general election voters? 

Yes.

***Information Supplied by Minnesota Business Community 2018 Election Candidate Questionnaire

Inver Grove Heights Mayoral Voter Guides

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Editorials

2018 Inver Grove Heights Mayoral Candidates

The following questions were developed and used from the 2018 Election Candidate Questionnaire and East Metro Voters Guide. 

Jonathan Weber

Bio: Reliable, honest, loyal and resourceful are defining characteristics of who I am.  With over 20 years of business experience, my passion originates from being an entrepreneur who is committed to creative problem solving and thoughtful leadership aiding me both personally and professionally to be the best father, son, husband, brother, friend, neighbor, business owner, and leader I can be.  I take great pride in all things I am involved in, specifically within my current role as an IGH Planning Commissioner serving our community these past two years. This experience has allowed me to expand my servant leadership philosophies, which enriches lives, builds better organizations, and ultimately contributes to the creation of a more just and caring community.

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it?

Development.  As a planning commissioner, I have seen the new developments coming into our city and one major thing they are missing is a park or trails to a park.  As Mayor, I would work with developers to create spaces for families to gather and play at. I feel this has been a major miss in our current developments.  When families are looking to move to our city we need to make sure the basics are there for them.

What would be your top three priorities if elected?

  1. Residential and Business Development.
  2. Safe Schools and Safe Environments for our citizens.
  3. The Health of our city and its citizens.

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities?

I do not feel we have any services that the city provides that need to be cut back or eliminated.  I do see with new development that we will have lots of new opportunities and work together with neighboring cities to share services.

George Tourville

Bio: I grew up in South St. Paul and attended the University of Minnesota before being trained as a medic in the USAF. I worked as a Paramedic at Divine Redeemer and served on the IGH Fire Department for 26 years. I worked in the Telecom Area for 22 years and retired from Short Elliott Hendrickson in October 2017. I worked as a Sales Manager for most of that time interfacing with businesses large and small gaining valuable business experience. We have lived in IGH for 44 years serving on the City Council for 21 years and as Mayor for 14 years. I am a member of the River Heights Chamber of Commerce, Progress Plus and serve as Chair of the NDCTV Cable Commission, Dakota County 9-1-1 Board and Dakota County Broadband Board. I have served on numerous committees at LMC and Metro Cities in Transportation, General Government and Telecom. I am active in our Church (Good Shepherd), Neighbors Inc., grandchildren activities and youth sports programs. My wife, Barbara, and I have three adult children and 7 grandchildren all living in IGH. I am respectful, accountable, experienced, and involved in our City, I promise to work hard to make IGH a better place to live, work, play, and learn.

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it?

The biggest challenge facing Inver Grove Heights and all other cities is balancing revenues to our services and budget; now and into the future. We need to maintain and grow the City’s Tax Base, so we can support the services and programs our city needs and desires. IGH needs 5 to build on our economic and city strengths to support ongoing growth in housing, retail, commercial and industrial across the entire community. 

What would be your top three priorities if elected?

  1. Strengthening city services through the responsible use of taxpayer dollars; while keeping taxes affordable in Inver Grove Heights. My highest priority is making sure our City Departments are well staffed, have the equipment and facilities they need and are well trained to serve the citizens and businesses of IGH. 
  2.  Grow our Tax Base and add quality development and jobs. We can do this by using the strengths we have to promote new development in housing, commercial, industrial and retail. Helping existing businesses to grow, prosper and add jobs. Continue to work with Dakota County, CDA, MnDOT and private developers to plan, build and complete the transportation plans in our Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). This will allow us to grow our Tax Base and add the services that citizens are looking for.  
  3.  Increase communications with citizens and businesses by improving the Cities INSIGHTS Publication, better social media presence with Facebook and Twitter, continue to improve the city’s website and work with Town Square TV on good cable coverage and promotions.

 Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities?

We review services, staffing and programs on an annual basis for additional efficiencies and cost savings. We also evaluate if shared services, partnerships and or additional Joint Powers Agreements could save money.

Food for Thought Business Lunch Series Open to Public

Nicole Bengtson
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Business Ideas, Editorials, Event News, Marketing

October Business Lunch focuses its Menu on Speed Networking to “Leverage Your Connections”

Inver Grove Heights, MN (October 9, 2018) – The River Heights Chamber of Commerce started its new business luncheon series, Food for Thought, when it launched their new brand in August, with the purpose to include all area businesses in a once a month event, not only Chamber members. The River Heights Chamber is about working together and building relationships – businesses [all of us] benefit when we work together and know what’s going on in our community, so we [the Chamber] want to gather more businesses and leaders from the community together for an hour and a half on a monthly basis.

“It is one of our Board’s goals to emphasize the Chamber’s inclusivity, so to have a forum open to the public that features various business-related topics that allow the community to collaborate, network and learn from one another each month is a great initiative,” said River Heights Board Chair Brenda Dietrich, co-owner of Hardline Concrete & Masonry.

The River Heights Chamber invites you and/or your employees to attend the October Food for Thought, Speed Networking event, on Tuesday, October 23, 2018 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at Evolve Workplace, 260 Wentworth Ave E., West St. Paul. Bring a guest or 2 and remember your business cards!

The featured speaker for Speed Networking is expert, Kelly Jahner-Byrne, of Kelly Enterprises International. “Kelly is engaging, energetic and entertaining all while facilitating this valuable business connection event,” noted Colleen Murphy Roth, Director of Membership Development for the River Heights Chamber of Commerce.

“Speed Networking/Leverage Your Connections“ is a structured, efficient, FUN and fast-paced event where participants will have face-to-face introductions with other business representatives, one to three minutes at a time. It is fantastic for experienced and nervous networkers alike. We KNOW that you will meet more people than you would during the same amount of time in an unstructured setting. Don’t miss this opportunity! Be sure to get there early to meet as many people as you can. “This speed networking event will exponentially expand your business contacts over the lunch hour and maximize your time investment while meeting with accomplished professionals,” added Chamber Chair Brenda Dietrich of Hardline Concrete & Masonry.

Both Chamber members and non-member businesses can register to attend online at www.riverheights.com or by contacting the River Heights Chamber office at 651.451.2266 ext. 1032.

About River Heights Chamber of Commerce
The River Heights Chamber of Commerce is committed to its mission to aggressively promote the interests of the business communities of Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul. The organization is volunteer-driven and strives to attract and retain businesses to keep the business community thriving. Driving economic progress and business development is its focus. The River Heights Chamber continues to provide value-added opportunities for all members and is dedicated to making connections and delivering resources that benefit local businesses. Visit www.riverheights.com or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn about the benefits of membership and events.

About the Presenter
Kelly Jahner-Byrne, From meager beginnings, with zero connections and with very limited business acumen, Kelly excelled at her first sales job and ended up as its #1 producer in less than 6 months. Achieving the top spot in every organization she has been employed eventually pointed her internal compass in the direction of forming her own business entity, Kelly Enterprises International. Kelly is a dynamic speaker, entrepreneur, and international businesswoman who is a recognized expert on leveraging your network to grow your business. She is known for inspiring leaders across the country to be their best selves and up-level their lives and is a thought leader in explaining the HOW of getting your business moving forward faster. As the CEO of Kelly Enterprises International, she is a collaborative influencer with a “let’s work together” attitude.

Her speaking career has landed her on diverse and varied stages around the globe. Kelly has acquired and implemented myriad business skills and solutions for herself and now promotes and shares that plethora of her HOW with others. She has built her international sales and marketing organization and for more than 25 years and has establishing double-digit growth amassing more than 1000 customers in three countries.

Crowned Mrs. Minnesota in 2001, Kelly utilized her skills to raise more than $1 million for charities. She is the Founder of The Cancer Benefit Fund and the author of Volunteer for Life – Achieving Your Personal and Professional Goals and One Great Idea Can Revolutionize Your Business! Kelly is married to her husband, John, a renowned chef who she met on a cruise or as they call it, “Their Love Boat Adventure” and together they have two children and live in Woodbury.

South St. Paul City Council Voter Guides

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Editorials

2018 South St. Paul City Council Candidates

The following questions were developed and used from the 2018 Election Candidate Questionnaire and East Metro Voters Guide. 

Bernie Beermann 

Bio: I’ve had a long history with South St. Paul. In the `40’s, I took the streetcar to the south pool.  In 1956, I graduated from SSP High School.  In 1958, I bought my first house on 242 E Dale Street.  I moved to Inver Grove Heights for more space, to operate my hauling company.  I returned to SSP when I retired and live at 206 E Spruce Street.  

While in Inver Grove Heights, I spent 8 years on the City Council.  South St. Paul and Inver Grove Heights share a complicated border, especially near the airport.  I was pleased when South St. Paul and West St. Paul combined their fire departments. I hope we continue to work effectively with all of our neighbors. 

In the first half of my adult years, I owned and managed a company, which grew to 75 employees, serving 12,000 customers with trash and recycling services.  I learned to investigate, to understand, and to consider alternatives, before jumping to conclusions.  At that same time, I learned to anticipate what might go wrong, and to ‘be prepared,’ a skill which I actually learned as a boy scout. 

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it? 

One of the biggest challenges facing our city, and maybe every city in the United States, is that there are ever increasing numbers of people that are willing to break our laws.  I would continue to be supportive of making sure that the public safety and services departments of our city have adequate funding and staffing.   

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

#1. Continue existing efforts that keep our city a safe place to live.

#2. Take the steps to acquire the necessary properties for benefit of community, conveniences and events.

#3. Expand our relationships with surrounding communities for the objective of improved economies and responses for mutual benefits. 

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities? 

I am not aware of any move to cut back on any services currently being provided by the city. I’m always open to considering cost-saving proposals that might be brought to the council by our city administrator, which could include proposals that combine services with other entities for mutual benefit. 

Isaac Contreras 

Bio: I am native to St. Paul, married a wonderful South St. Paul HS graduate and have been raising my boys in South St. Paul for the last 12 years.  

Engaged in my communities since my return from active duty service in the Navy, I have served in several volunteer positions including as a founding member of the St. Paul Police Foundation, District 2 representative on the St. Paul Capital Improvement Budget Committee and President of a youth sports booster organization. 

I am a business owner currently serving on the South St Paul’s Planning Commission, the Dakota County Sheriff’s Citizens Advisory Council, and attending the South St. Paul Citizens Police Academy. 

With over 25 years of experience in operations, sales and leadership roles, I have been developing and advocating for the best interests of my family, peers, teams and clients with a simple yet effective “Do not let them outwork you” philosophy, which has led to a reputation for listening and acting on their behalf.  These are the same traits that I will bring to the City Council. 

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it? 

Perception.  There seems to be an issue with perception.  Internally, meaning how current residents are seeing the city and externally meaning how we are being looked at from the outside in.  In following the conversations that folks are having on Facebook, you would think that SSP is just falling apart at the seams, but when I have face-to-face conversations with the folks as well as those who have the direct contact with the issues that have been raised, it doesn’t match up.  Crime for instance.  We’ve had some very visible and highly disturbing incidents of crime over the last couple of years, but there are many longtime residents as well as those on the front line who will say that not much is different.  Externally, I think we still deal with an antiquated perception of the potential that is SSP.  Large dirt mounds and smells don’t help, but an Open for Business is an image that helps bring in new companies and new residents.  Working on the perception is an important piece to SSP growth.    

 What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

#1. Public safety – Additional support in appropriate equipment and personnel.  For example, equipping every squad in the fleet with spotlight infrared equipment that allows an officer to scan a dark alley for suspicious activity without having to turn into the alley.  This allows the officer to cover more ground.  In regards to personnel, hire and mobilize an officer/social worker team to identify and employ pre-arrest diversion tactics where mental illness and addiction recovery residents are better served.  

#2. Economic Development – “On the verge” may be a fair description of the current business climate. There have been a number of positive business accomplishments.  Not just talk, but actual ground-breaking.  With the opportunity that presents itself from the reconstruction of the Concord Corridor, we are “on the verge” of shedding the cow town image and being able to use words from 10-year-old planning documents like “Rediscover” and “Renaissance”. 

It’s important that we have a marketing mindset.  We know we have a good thing going on here, with access, a productive workforce, and a stable community, but waiting for it to come to us is not a successful approach. We must put ourselves in the path of the businesses and organizations that are at the growth stage. This includes our current businesses.  Retention and growth of our current business residents are critical, and this happens with inclusive economic round-table discussions.   

#3. Housing – One of the bigger challenges is our housing inventory.  It is stunting our growth and even though we welcome prospective Packers, where would they live?  We need to seek and secure developers that provide quality options to incoming and current residents of South St. Paul to support for retention and expansion of our tax base. 

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities?   

Speaking from a candidate’s point of view that has watched the department heads repeatedly go back to their areas of responsibility, sharpen their pencils and work to submit reasonable increases in their budgets, I feel that we must hold the line on spending that is above inflation.  We can protect our budget by enlisting private sector specialists that audit, consult and integrate smart design, energy efficiency and cutting waste for long-term cost savings.

Sharon Dewey 

Bio: I possess a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and graduated with honors.  I also acquired a certificate from the University of Minnesota – Duluth for completing the Tribal Administration and Governance Program.  My leadership development education was acquired through the Bush Foundation’s Native Nation Rebuilder’s Program (Cohort 2), Tiwahe Foundation’s Oyate Network (Cohort 5), and John Maxell courses.  Our Bush Foundation training included community organizing workshops, facilitated by Peggy Flanagan of Wellstone Action (currently Minnesota State Representative for District 46A).  I was with the U.S. Small Business Administration for almost ten years.  As a Business Opportunities Specialist, I grew to love economic development and small business development.  I previously served an appointment to a term on South St. Paul’s Economic Development Advisory Board.  My experience also includes public service to the White Earth Nation.  As their Self-Governance Coordinator, I managed a multi-million-dollar contract, promoted the image and well-being of the community, conducted business with the Federal government, and coordinated special projects.  My volunteer life consists of involvement in a grassroots organization geared at educating tribal members on the importance of culture, values, governance, and the political system.  It also includes 6 years of direct service to a homeless shelter.  DEW it!  

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it? 

Good question!  I see a beautiful city – a small city, with a big town feel.  I love it!  I’d love to preserve that.  Ensuring South St. Paul combats the decline other cities experience will be key.  This will take a unified front to accomplish that; it’s not just a governance issue—it’s a community issue! 

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

#1. Economic development

#2. Public safety

#3. Environmental sustainability

I see these three categories as major components of community well-being. 

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities?  

At this time, I will reserve comments because I don’t feel I have enough data to respond.  I would rather provide an informed response than portray myself as someone having all the answers.  However, answers I will seek!

Joanne Rothecker-Woods 

Bio: My leadership skills, my vast knowledge of the community, working with diverse people, and learning to mediate issues qualifies me to be the next City Council Member for South St. Paul.  

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it? 

Taxes and a workable budget.  It is the foundation of a strong community. With a stronger tax base with building on economic development, both businesses and residents will benefit. As a City Council, we need to continue to support and invite new businesses and opportunities to build the tax base which will allow for more programming including youth, police and code enforcement.  

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

#1. & #2. Taxes and the budget would be my top two priorities to make sure it is balanced, affordable for the residents and businesses and that there is no frivolous spending.

#3. I will strongly support a strong economic development plan for South St. Paul, bringing in additional taxes, making South St. Paul budget stronger and a great place to live, learn, work and play. 

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities?   

No, I don’t believe at this time that there are any services they should cut back on or eliminate. Because at this time with everything that is occurring within our city/community, all services are needed.  Also, there is always room to address/discuss ideas for new opportunities to share services.

Tom Seaberg 

Bio: Member South St. Paul City Council 1987-present, Member SSP HRA/EDA 20+ years, Member River Heights Chamber of Commerce, Past Board Member River Heights Chamber. 

Endorsed by the Southeast Metro Business Political Action Committee, for the 2018 City Council Election. 

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it? 

The biggest challenge we face is to continue the momentum of the past few years in attracting new businesses and development and redevelopment to South St. Paul.  We have worked hard on attracting businesses to the Bridgepoint Business Park, we must continue to look for new businesses and redevelopment opportunities in that area and we must work in conjunction with existing businesses along the North Concord Corridor, an area that is ripe for growth.  We must also provide an efficient way for businesses to expand and thrive in the Southview-Marie Avenue business district, by encouraging existing businesses to reinvest in their buildings and partnering with the River Heights Chamber, Progress Plus and South St. Paul Future to create win-win, public-private partnerships. 

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

#1. Provide quality city services at a responsible cost.

#2. Work together with all parties on development and redevelopment.

#3. Provide quality housing options for all of our residents.

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities? 

Yes, we are in the final contract negotiating stage of turning the management and day-to-day operations of both of our publicly owned high-rises, over to a private company.  We believe this will help us reduce the number of FTE’s dedicated to these operations and will help us keep our property taxes lower and allow our staff to focus on other areas of City operations.

Joe Kaliszewski

Bio: Hi. I’m Joe Kaliszewski. I am a native South St. Paulite, being raised and raising our family here in this great town for 5 generations. Graduating from SSP HS, I then attended and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. I married Anita in 1980 and have been happily married since, raising two sons and now we have four grandchildren. Our community will always be most important for all of us to keep as long as we live, for generations.

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it? 

I feel one of the challenges is safer housing, especially those vulnerable, aging, and with disabilities. For those mentioned, I feel a staff person should be on staff for multiple people dwelling in these homes. Our public services are facing increased calls and care for something other entities should be funding and handling.

What would be your top three priorities if elected? 

#1. Continue the great services we provide.

#2. Have more public awareness and hearings for engineering projects.

#3. Have more newsletters sent to our community constituents.

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities? 

Cutbacks/elimination- let’s start with the city planner. Before such a position was created just some years ago, the city engineer and the engineering department handled any issues related. I wonder if citizens would care to become more involved and empowered to police their neighborhoods for trash and parking violations, suspected drug use/distribution, criminal acts and such, reporting them to the departments.

***Information supplied by East Metro Voter Guide (http://www.eastmetrovoterguide.com/)

 

Inver Grove Heights City Council Voter Guides

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Editorials

2018 Inver Grove Heights City Council Candidates

The following questions were developed and used from the 2018 Election Candidate Questionnaire and East Metro Voters Guide. 

Paul Hark

Bio: I am honored and proud to serve my first term on the IGH City Council. We have made very good progress on all issues concerning development in IGH and need to keep the momentum we have. I have many diverse professional experiences. I have owned two small businesses and am married to a small business owner. I understand the pressures involved in owning a business and creating jobs. I’ve worked in large and small organizations, and in the public and private sector. I served on the IGH Planning Commission for nine years, ending up as Chair. I understand land use issues and how they impact our business climate. I have been a ceaseless promoter of the IGH business community and plan on continuing this over my second and final term. I am a budget hawk and pay attention to the budget process.

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it?

The biggest challenge facing the city is effectively dealing with our population growth. It is expected that IGH will have 50,000 residents by the year 2030. We need to manage this growth and ensure that we have the right mix of housing and commercial opportunities.  The estimated growth will put pressure on our budget and affect the costs of city services. The growth will put pressure on our police and fire departments, cause more wear and tear on our roads and add pressure to our water and sewer systems. It will also create the need for additional open space (i.e. parks).  This all needs to be managed so we do not end up taxing residents out of their homes.

What would be your top three priorities if elected?

  • Actively manage the spending side of the budget (as this affects the revenue side of the budget)
  • Create a more effective Economic Development Authority to create a more development-friendly reputation for IGH
  • Continue to insist on First-Class Customer Service. We have initiated a new Customer Service policy and we need to insist that it be followed.

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities?

Because Inver Grove Heights is in rapid growth mode, we need to proceed very carefully and strategically with regards to which services should be reduced, enhanced, or shared. These types of decisions cannot be made in the abstract but need to be fact-based and made relative to the long-term benefit of IGH.

Brenda Dietrich

Bio: Local business co-owner of Hardline Concrete & Masonry Inc., a family-owned business in Inver Grove Heights for over 35 years, Tri-district mentor for students at Henry Sibley Memorial High School, River Heights Chamber Ambassador and former Chair, board member and current Chair, Southeast Metro Business PAC (Political Action Committee) former secretary and Vice President, Delegate for the River Heights Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC (2015), Course study of the Government Affairs Curriculum, focused on the process of government at the grassroots, local, state and federal levels of government, involvement in Inver Grove Heights Local Issues meetings monthly with department leaders in the city.

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it?

The biggest challenge facing the city is developing open lines of communication between local residents, the city and business.  This foundation affects the success of all other factors.

What would be your top three priorities if elected?

  • Being a voice for residents’ concerns
  • Transparency & consistency
  • Smart business growth, fostered by open lines of communication stated above

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities?

This is a topic that I would need to get residents feedback from before eliminating or cutting back. I do believe in trying new things and assessing what is working and what can be done more effectively. I do think we can explore sharing resources with surrounding communities. Good ideas can come from anywhere, we need to listen and make wise decisions, learning from each other.

Rosemary Piekarski Krech

Bio: As an educator, urban farmer, child-care provider, daughter, sister, wife, caregiver, widow, lifelong learner, former mayor and current council member, I have developed a balanced approach of process and people-oriented problem-solving skills. I always try to work for consensus not compromise and maintain respect for everyone when dealing with city governance. I think as a city we have accomplished a great deal. We have added hundreds of new residents, new businesses have opened, we selected a new police chief, are on our way to finally build a fire station to serve Southern IGH, have added a Communications director, a new Development director, and still maintained a reasonable levy rate.

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it?
Financing the many needs of a growing community is our biggest challenge. We need to be fiscally careful and spend city money in a way that keeps us a competitive city in Dakota County.

What would be your top three priorities if elected?

My top three priorities would be:

  • Sound finance
  • Completion and equipping the fire station
  • Sustainability

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities?

We are always looking at what is necessary and needed and have several JPAs and are always open to others.

Todd Kruse

Bio: Residents of IGH would benefit from my career experience as a city franchise agreement negotiator, my experience as a business owner/consultant to businesses, and as an MBA instructor specializing in strategic management which would be an asset to a city in need of innovative approaches to serving its constituents.

What is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you address it?

The business climate. The climate is stagnant and actually a deterrent for entrepreneurs since numerous business owners have informed me that contractors they wanted to work with have refused to work in IGH. This lack of competitive bidding on business and residential projects (such as a new garage or a deck on your home) becomes a form of hidden taxation since the competitive pressure to keep prices down and quality of service high is limited.

What would be your top three priorities if elected?

  • Re-brand and re-constitute the membership of the city’s Economic Development Authority
  • Reorganize the city’s citizen commissions/committees based on community feedback to guide the decisions.  Some commissions I would like to consider are: 1.) Arbor Pointe Commercial Area Commission, 2.) Empty Buildings Commission, 3.) City-to-City Regional Collaboration Commission, and 4.) Innovation/TED Talk Commission (could invite River Heights Chamber of Commerce as a participant).  I know firsthand that our current city leaders turn away volunteers interested in serving, so let’s harness interested citizens’ creative energy where the city needs innovative thinking.
  • Start working on 2020 city elections to recruit candidates who share my worldview to transform our city

Are there any services currently provided by the city that you believe should be cut back or eliminated? Or, are there new opportunities to share services with other entities? 

Hopefully, residents will agree with me that money pits like Inver Wood Golf Course and The Grove recreation center are not sacred cows that will ensure my election defeat should I advocate any changes. Imagine an IGH where our recreation center is managed by LA Fitness or Lifetime Fitness where membership rates are lower, AND members get the added benefit of access to other branches such as LA Fitness on Robert Street in West St. Paul or Lifetime’s Eagan facility.

Voters need to ask themselves – “Hey, since I am shopping at Hy-Vee in Eagan today, I think I will go swimming at the Lifetime location on Cliff Avenue…” simply because their The Grove membership now (assuming Lifetime or LA Fitness become the management company) provides them with a greater range of options for recreation throughout the Twin Cities metro area.

 

***Information Supplied by East Metro Voter Guide (http://www.eastmetrovoterguide.com/)

River Heights Chamber Clay Shoot September 27

Nicole Bengtson
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Editorials, Event News, Marketing

 

 

 


River Heights Chamber Clay Shoot September 27

Beginner-Friendly Event, Give it a Shot

Inver Grove Heights, MN (September 18, 2018) – This year, the River Heights Chamber of Commerce’s Fall Fundraiser teams up with the South St. Paul Rod & Gun Club for the 2nd Annual Clay Shoot on September 27 from Noon – 4 p.m.!

Join the River Heights Chamber for a unique fundraiser that’s sure to be a blast! The Clay Shoot is a fun and adventurous day outdoors that lets participants support the Chamber with a day out on the range… the shooting range that is!  A friendly clay shooting competition, a gift bag for each participant and an after-shoot appetizer buffet are all included with registration. This fundraiser supports the River Heights Chamber of Commerce in continuing their efforts to sustain and develop the local economy and keep the business community thriving!

We welcome straight shooters and novices of all skill levels who enjoy the fast-paced excitement of sporting and trap clays. Register as an individual for $75 or as a team of five for $65 per shooter. Prizes will be given to 1st place tournament teams, individual contest winners, top male and top female shooter. “Come build camaraderie at this fundraising event as you network and clay shoot with other businesses,” says Colleen Murphy Roth, Director of Membership Development for the River Heights Chamber of Commerce!

Raffle tickets are available at the Chamber office.

An RSVP is required. Thank you to our Corporate Sponsors Deerwood Bank, Frattalone Companies, Progress Plus, Sportsman’s Guide and Xcel Energy and our many Shooting Station sponsors.  For more details, sponsorship opportunities and to register, visit the event website at www.riverheights.com/clayshoot or call the River Heights Chamber office at 651.451.2266, ext. 1032. Payment is due upon registration. This event is rain or shine.

About River Heights Chamber of Commerce
The River Heights Chamber of Commerce is committed to its mission to aggressively promote the interests of the business communities of Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul. The organization is volunteer-driven and strives to attract and retain businesses to keep the business community thriving. Driving economic progress and business development is its focus. The River Heights Chamber continues to provide value-added opportunities for all members. Visit the River Heights Chamber website www.riverheights.com to learn more!

Media Contact for River Heights Chamber of Commerce:
Nicole Bengtson
Director of Marketing & Communications
651.451.2266 ext. 1033
Nicole@riverheights.com

Food for Thought Business Lunch Series Open to Public

Nicole Bengtson
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Business Ideas, Editorials, Event News, Marketing

 

 

 

 

Food for Thought Business Lunch Series Open to Public
October Business Lunch focuses its Menu on Speed Networking to “Leverage Your Connections”

Inver Grove Heights, MN (September 18, 2018) – The River Heights Chamber of Commerce, a not-for-profit business organization that supports businesses in Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul, as well as around the South Metro, with advocacy, networking and educational programming, started a new business luncheon program called Food for Thought. The new series, which kicked off in August, features various business-related topics and speakers for the community to learn from and network with each other on a monthly basis.

The River Heights Chamber invites businesses to attend the October Food for Thought, Speed Networking event, on Tuesday, October 23, 2018, from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. at Evolve Workplace, 260 Wentworth Ave E., West St. Paul. The featured speaker for Speed Networking is expert, Kelly Jahner-Byrne, of Kelly Enterprises International. “Kelly is engaging, energetic and entertaining all while facilitating this valuable business connection event,” noted Colleen Murphy Roth, Director of Membership Development for the River Heights Chamber of Commerce.

“Speed Networking/Leverage Your Connections” is a structured, efficient, FUN and fast-paced event where participants will have face-to-face introductions with other business representatives, one to three minutes at a time. It is fantastic for experienced and nervous networkers alike. We KNOW that you will meet more people than you would during the same amount of time in an unstructured setting. Don’t miss this opportunity! Be sure to get there early to meet as many people as you can. Remember to bring your business cards and calendar to schedule meetings with your new contacts!

“This speed networking event will exponentially expand your business contacts over the lunch hour and maximize your time investment while meeting with accomplished professionals,” added Chamber Chair Brenda Dietrich of Hardline Concrete & Masonry. Both Chamber members and non-member businesses can register to attend online at www.riverheights.com or by contacting the River Heights Chamber office at 651.451.2266 ext. 1032.

The River Heights Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to making connections and delivering resources that benefit local businesses. Visit www.riverheights.com or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn about the benefits of membership and events.

About River Heights Chamber of Commerce
The River Heights Chamber of Commerce is committed to its mission to aggressively promote the interests of the business communities of Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul. The organization is volunteer-driven and strives to attract and retain businesses to keep the business community thriving. Driving economic progress and business development is its focus. The River Heights Chamber continues to provide value-added opportunities for all members. Visit the River Heights Chamber website www.riverheights.com to learn more!

About the Presenter
Kelly Jahner-Byrne, From meager beginnings, with zero connections and with very limited business acumen, Kelly excelled at her first sales job and ended up as its #1 producer in less than 6 months. Achieving the top spot in every organization she has been employed eventually pointed her internal compass in the direction of forming her own business entity, Kelly Enterprises International. Kelly is a dynamic speaker, entrepreneur, and international businesswoman who is a recognized expert on leveraging your network to grow your business. She is known for inspiring leaders across the country to be their best selves and up-level their lives and is a thought leader in explaining the HOW of getting your business moving forward faster. As the CEO of Kelly Enterprises International, she is a collaborative influencer with a “let’s work together” attitude.

Her speaking career has landed her on diverse and varied stages around the globe. Kelly has acquired and implemented myriad business skills and solutions for herself and now promotes and shares that plethora of her HOW with others. She has built her international sales and marketing organization and for more than 25 years and has establishing double-digit growth amassing more than 1000 customers in three countries.

Crowned Mrs. Minnesota in 2001, Kelly utilized her skills to raise more than $1 million for charities. She is the Founder of The Cancer Benefit Fund and the author of Volunteer for Life – Achieving Your Personal and Professional Goals and One Great Idea Can Revolutionize Your Business! Kelly is married to her husband, John, a renowned chef who she met on a cruise or as they call it, “Their Love Boat Adventure” and together they have two children and live in Woodbury.

Media Contact for River Heights Chamber of Commerce:
Nicole Bengtson
Director of Marketing & Communications
651.451.2266 ext. 1033
Nicole@riverheights.com