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South St. Paul City Council Voter Guides

Nicole Bengtson
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Advocacy & Public Policy, Editorials

2018 South St. Paul City Council Candidates

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.

 

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