City council- St. Cloud, Sartell, St. Joe, Waite Park, Sauk Rapids

As the 2020 election draws near, we sent out candidate surveys to better understand how our Central MN candidates hope to represent us. Because we are interested in building communities that emphasizes our shared sense of safety in hopes to decrease fear and suspicion of those who are different from us, we focused our questions on these issues. We will share the responses from all candidates who were gracious enough to share their vision for our communities. We hope the information helps you find candidates who will represent you in elected office.

This blog explores the mayor races in the cities of St. Cloud, Waite Park, and St. Joseph, Waite Park, and Sauk Rapids.

ST. CLOUD

Hassan Yussuf

What 3 words best describe how you would serve your constituents? 

Love, transparency and accountability

If elected, what would be your top priority while in office? 

Community policing, affordable housing, ending homelessness, and bringing love to St. Cloud

Do you support the #BlackLivesMatter movement for racial justice in our country? 

Yes

Do you believe that all people should be able to practice their religion freely and without discrimination in America? 

Yes

Do you believe in full rights and freedom for our LGBTQ+ neighbors?

Yes

Do you believe that businesses should be able to discriminate (both in hiring and in whom they serve) based on sexual orientation? 

No

Do you support the mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19?

Yes

Do you believe that climate change is real?

Yes

What would you do if you heard a friend or family member disparaging someone based on their religion, ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation?

Take action to stop it right there and then.

If elected, how do you plan to build empathetic connections with your constituents?

Through education

If elected, how will you help your constituents feel a greater sense of safety and hope in their community?

By building positive community and police interactions through community policing.

If elected, how will you help diverse neighbors decrease their fear and suspicion of one another?

Education and deliberately create opportunities for diverse neighbors to work together. Know your neighbors initiative.

If elected, what are your plans to address poverty and the widening income gap and income disparities? 

Increase minimum wage, bring more jobs to our city and boost small business ownership

Anything else you would like to add?

Love you all

 

Buddy King

What 3 words best describe how you would serve your constituents? 

Humble, understanding, doer

If elected, what would be your top priority while in office? 

Downtown Revitalization

Do you support the #BlackLivesMatter movement for racial justice in our country?

 Yes

Do you believe that all people should be able to practice their religion freely and without discrimination in America? 

Yes

Do you believe in full rights and freedom for our LGBTQ+ neighbors?

Yes

Do you believe that businesses should be able to discriminate (both in hiring and in whom they serve) based on sexual orientation? 

No

Do you support the mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19?

Yes

Do you believe that climate change is real?

Yes

What would you do if you heard a friend or family member disparaging someone based on their religion, ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation?

I would simply let them know you are free to feel your truth. What I will not let you do around me is talk negative about anyone who differs with you in lifestyle choices.

If elected, how do you plan to build empathetic connections with your constituents?

I am a people person. I am a firm believer in hearing people stories and finding solutions to create a little peace in their lives. I am an open book and would also look to hear the hearts of the people.

If elected, how will you help your constituents feel a greater sense of safety and hope in their community?

I would continue to speak about the good work that we are doing in St. Cloud. I would talk about the programs and try to assure that those programs and organizations would have continued support to continue the work.

If elected, how will you help diverse neighbors decrease their fear and suspicion of one another?

I would encourage and create opportunities for neighbors to interact. Citizens of this community to participate in festivals that are welcoming for all residents.

If elected, what are your plans to address poverty and the widening income gap and income disparities? 

We need affordable housing, we need a wage increase statewide that is comparable to the cost of living. to many of our residents, our underemployed. We must begin to think differently and creatively to address this nationwide problem and be the model for the state to follow.

Anything else you would like to add?

It’s time for a change, If you are ready to make a difference in your community, if you are ready to see a council that looks like the community it represents.

 

George Hontos

What 3 words best describe how you would serve your constituents? 

Committed, accessible, follow-through

If elected, what would be your top priority while in office? 

Being a voice for constituents is a major duty. I pride myself as someone approachable and responsive to the concerns of our residents. A Council member cannot be one dimensional. Being an advocate for sound fiscal management of the taxpayers dollar is a very important duty I take seriously. Making our neighborhoods livable for everyone is no easy task but a necessary goal. Increasing economic opportunities, increasing household income and reducing poverty must be priorities. Public safety and delivering public services are fundamental duties of elected officials.

Do you support the #BlackLivesMatter movement for racial justice in our country?

 Yes

Do you believe that all people should be able to practice their religion freely and without discrimination in America? 

Yes

Do you believe in full rights and freedom for our LGBTQ+ neighbors?

Yes

Do you believe that businesses should be able to discriminate (both in hiring and in whom they serve) based on sexual orientation? 

No

Do you support the mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19?

Yes

Do you believe that climate change is real?

Yes

What would you do if you heard a friend or family member disparaging someone based on their religion, ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation?

I’d suggest they ease up and not go there

If elected, how do you plan to build empathetic connections with your constituents?

By demonstrating you are open and fair to everyone. Treating everyone equally.

If elected, how will you help your constituents feel a greater sense of safety and hope in their community?

By providing good city services that goes along with a high priority of mine in making our neighborhoods livable for everyone. By being approachable and concerned for their needs. And being a voice for them. Listening to their particular problem and being a liaison for them at City Hall. I have taken on many phone calls from constituents over the years on issues that may seem trivial to others but I have always tried to be their spokesperson and get it resolved running as their agent at City Hall. Regarding “a greater sense of safety”. We do need a well funded police department that has their priorities in the right place. St. Cloud is fortunate to have a well operated PD. We may not be perfect but we have many community based programs funded by our taxpayers that are community based and proactive.

If elected, how will you help diverse neighbors decrease their fear and suspicion of one another?

Lead by example. Present them with facts not fiction. Support strong neighborhood programming and participate in neighborhood events.

If elected, what are your plans to address poverty and the widening income gap and income disparities? 

This is an issue I have been publicly expressing concern about for years. One concrete thing I initiated 7-8 years ago was the reorganization of the HRA (Housing Rehab Authority) as we moved the primary duties of economic development from the HRA to city hall. The strategy was that the HRA can stay focused on low income housing and serving people in need, while the city can have a one stop shop for all economic development activities. I believe this strengthens our economic development potential that in the long run can attempt to create good paying jobs. The City’s poverty rate of 22-23% is well above the State average of about 9%. The City’s household income is only 68% of the statewide average. We have a lot of work to do and unfortunately it does not change overnight. We have to continue to hold the economic development authority accountable and make sure they are addressing the income and poverty issues with results.

Anything else you would like to add?

As a City Council member I have always been a non-partisan, issues related representative. Our City does not need political or partisan leaders. We need people who work for all our residents and work to improve the quality of life for everyone. I owned and operated a small successful business for 18 years, I worked at a hospice house for 4 years before retiring and have a very good knowledge of how our city government works and runs. And I always return phone calls when asked to do so.

 

Carol Lewis

What 3 words best describe how you would serve your constituents? 

Respectful, helpful, resourceful

If elected, what would be your top priority while in office? 

I think we as a community need to get to know each other better. I would propose getting the neighborhood groups together for a potluck dinner at a local park. The cost is minimal and people from the northside should know their neighbors from the SE and vice versa.

Do you support the #BlackLivesMatter movement for racial justice in our country?

 Yes

Do you believe that all people should be able to practice their religion freely and without discrimination in America? 

Yes

Do you believe in full rights and freedom for our LGBTQ+ neighbors?

Yes

Do you believe that businesses should be able to discriminate (both in hiring and in whom they serve) based on sexual orientation? 

No

Do you support the mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19?

Yes

Do you believe that climate change is real?

Yes

What would you do if you heard a friend or family member disparaging someone based on their religion, ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation?

I do correct them. I do this all the time with people.

If elected, how do you plan to build empathetic connections with your constituents?

As I suggested in my top priority.

If elected, how will you help your constituents feel a greater sense of safety and hope in their community?

Crime is low in St. Cloud. We need to continue to have community conversations about safety.

If elected, how will you help diverse neighbors decrease their fear and suspicion of one another?

Again, finding opportunities to bring people together. I think it is best done by neighborhoods.

If elected, what are your plans to address poverty and the widening income gap and income disparities? 

In the Parks survey completed a couple years ago, the state demographer said that the median income in St. Cloud would be going down. As a result, I voted to have Costco come to town because they pay $15.00 an hour to start. We need to raise the base. We need to fully fund the EDA so they can do the job of bringing in needed jobs to St. Cloud.

 

Natalie Ratha

What 3 words best describe how you would serve your constituents? 

Diligence, integrity, compassion

If elected, what would be your top priority while in office? 

I envision St. Cloud as an economically thriving and socially welcoming city in Minnesota. This calls for not only a stable and growing economy but also an inclusive one, one with excellent infrastructure and amenities, enriched by public arts and cultural initiatives. With school and work going online, the internet is a basic necessity and should be affordable to all. So should be preventive and basic health care. These are worthwhile investments that improve people’s general well-being and productivity. They also add to property values and hence tax revenue that can help fund some of the public goods referred to above.

Do you support the #BlackLivesMatter movement for racial justice in our country?

 Yes

Do you believe that all people should be able to practice their religion freely and without discrimination in America? 

Yes

Do you believe in full rights and freedom for our LGBTQ+ neighbors?

Yes

Do you believe that businesses should be able to discriminate (both in hiring and in whom they serve) based on sexual orientation? 

No

Do you support the mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19?

Yes

Do you believe that climate change is real?

Yes

What would you do if you heard a friend or family member disparaging someone based on their religion, ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation?

I would first defend the person then have a conversation with the friend or family member to gain understanding of the source of the perspective and then educate the individual as to why the comment is not ok.

If elected, how do you plan to build empathetic connections with your constituents?

I have witnessed the power of public art building community connections. When people work together toward a shared goal, a natural connection magically happens. While beautifying the city, a connection to place and home is also created. This sense of belonging and recognition of common goals promotes team efforts on several fronts, whether it is fighting the pandemic, educating our masses, or celebrating a hometown win. Goodness comes from good will and compassion can be contagious.

If elected, how will you help your constituents feel a greater sense of safety and hope in their community?

People have an inherent need to feel safe. The St. Cloud police have a dangerous job and feel misunderstood by the community. I envision the police and the community make connections to alleviate this tension. Perhaps this is some policing on foot and meeting neighbors, or creating public art or other public work together to get to know, trust, and understand each other.

If elected, how will you help diverse neighbors decrease their fear and suspicion of one another?

There is a fear of the unknown. I would love to see cultural festival weekends like Summertime by George or the Downtown Art Crawl. We did this where I grew up and it was wonderful to try foods from all over the world and enjoy traditional dance and dress to learn about a culture. We have a start with our German festival, but St. Cloud has so many ethnicities to embrace. This exposure may help with xenophobia.

If elected, what are your plans to address poverty and the widening income gap and income disparities? 

Education is the key to getting out of poverty. Preventative care should be free and I propose a mobile health unit. School and work is going more and more online and I propose free access to the internet. People are losing jobs due to automation and we need to equip our workforce for the 21st century. While K-12 education is freely available, the quality varies a lot and I support our schools.

Anything else you would like to add?

I believe in market friendly yet compassionate policies. Investment in public goods and amenities not only promote private sector growth but also improve the quality of life for all

Jeff Goerger

Candidate Jeff Goerger did not fill out the survey and did not communicate with us at all.

 

To learn more about the candidates, view the link to local media below:

St. Cloud City Council candidates share thoughts on priorities, whether city is welcoming

https://www.sctimes.com/story/news/local/2020/09/28/get-know-six-st-cloud-city-council-candidates/5822475002/

SARTELL

Aaron Johnson

What 3 words best describe how you would serve your constituents? 

Fair, Inclusive, Non-Judgemental

If elected, what would be your top priority while in office? 

Making sure that all decisions at the City Council level are for the benefit of ALL residents of Sartell. Making sure we are addressing the concerns of everyone regardless of Race, Religion, affiliation, or Sexual orientation. A fair and steady voice for all.

Do you support the #BlackLivesMatter movement for racial justice in our country?

 Yes

Do you believe that all people should be able to practice their religion freely and without discrimination in America? 

Yes

Do you believe in full rights and freedom for our LGBTQ+ neighbors?

Yes

Do you believe that businesses should be able to discriminate (both in hiring and in whom they serve) based on sexual orientation? 

No

Do you support the mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19?

Yes

Do you believe that climate change is real?

Yes

What would you do if you heard a friend or family member disparaging someone based on their religion, ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation?

I have experienced this first hand as the proud father of a member of the LGBTQ community. I stand beside my son and support him and all “marginalized” segments of society.

If elected, how do you plan to build empathetic connections with your constituents?

By listening and being their voice whenever possible.

If elected, how will you help your constituents feel a greater sense of safety and hope in their community?

By letting them know I am here for them, and want a safe, and free city for everyone. I will do what it takes.

If elected, how will you help diverse neighbors decrease their fear and suspicion of one another?

By reminding those that are racist, sexist or homophobic that we are all one society and need to foster kindness and acceptance.

If elected, what are your plans to address poverty and the widening income gap and income disparities? 

Remembering that we need to help each other. I truly believe it takes a village to make us live a safe and fruitful life.

Anything else you would like to add?

I love what Unite Cloud Stands for. Keep fighting the good fight.

 

Jill Smith, Mike Chisum, and Alex Lewandowski

None of these candidates filled out the survey or communicated with us in any way.

 

To learn more about the candidates, view the links to local media below: 

Sartell City  Council Candidates

https://www.newsbreak.com/minnesota/sartell/topics/sartell-city-council-candidates

Four candidates vie for two open seats

https://wjon.com/four-candidates-vie-for-two-open-sartell-council-seats/

Video: Candidate Forum

https://www.facebook.com/CityofSartell/videos/254901949168077/UzpfSTE5ODM0NjcwNjY1NToxMDE1ODA1Njg3NzgzMTY1Ng/

 

St. Joseph

Troy Goracke

What 3 words best describe how you would serve your constituents? 

1.Truthfully 2.Thoughtfully, 3.Honorably

If elected, what would be your top priority while in office? 

My top priority, if elected to the St. Joseph City Council again, is to dig into the assessment policy.to see if there is a different way to implement, to make it less expensive for the residents. I also want to take a look at the parks in St. Joseph for possible.

Do you support the #BlackLivesMatter movement for racial justice in our country?

 Yes

Do you believe that all people should be able to practice their religion freely and without discrimination in America? 

Yes

Do you believe in full rights and freedom for our LGBTQ+ neighbors?

Yes

Do you believe that businesses should be able to discriminate (both in hiring and in whom they serve) based on sexual orientation? 

No

Do you support the mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19?

Yes

Do you believe that climate change is real?

Yes

What would you do if you heard a friend or family member disparaging someone based on their religion, ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation?

I would explain to them that we all bleed the same color blood. Meaning that we all should treat people with respect because one never knows what the other person has gone through. We all are struggling in life.

If elected, how do you plan to build empathetic connections with your constituents?

Public hearings, sit down at coffee shops, in the grocery stores

If elected, how will you help your constituents feel a greater sense of safety and hope in their community?

By keeping the economy going, keeping the guidelines in place until the the numbers drop.

If elected, how will you help diverse neighbors decrease their fear and suspicion of one another?

Tell them to get out and talk to one another keeping at a safe distance.

If elected, what are your plans to address poverty and the widening income gap and income disparities? 

I voted for a low income housing community in St.Joseph. Educate the people on the options, services they have.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for thinking about me.

Kelly Beniek

Candidate Kelly Beniek did not full out a survey. She did email us the following message:
“I have just noticed and I apologize that I was not able to take part in the survey.  We have had a family ‘end of life’ process and my time has been given to that. Thank you for reaching out. I appreciate you trying to connect.”

Bob Loso, Mike Osterman, Carmie Mick, and Paul Orvis

None of these candidates filled out the survey or communicated with us in any way.

 

To learn more about the candidates, view the links to local media below: 

Voter’s Guide: St. Joseph City Council candidates talk budget priorities, pandemic

https://www.sctimes.com/story/news/local/2020/09/30/get-know-st-joseph-city-council-candidates-2020-election/3479957001/

 

Waite Park

Shawn Blackburn

What 3 words best describe how you would serve your constituents? 

Consistent, Informed, and Prepared

If elected, what would be your top priority while in office? 

Top Priority is to get Waite Park up and running and as close to back to normal as we can.

Do you support the #BlackLivesMatter movement for racial justice in our country?

 Yes

Do you believe that all people should be able to practice their religion freely and without discrimination in America? 

Yes

Do you believe in full rights and freedom for our LGBTQ+ neighbors?

Yes

Do you believe that businesses should be able to discriminate (both in hiring and in 

whom they serve) based on sexual orientation? 

No

Do you support the mask mandate to slow the spread of COVID-19?

Yes

Do you believe that climate change is real?

Yes

What would you do if you heard a friend or family member disparaging someone based on their religion, ethnicity, skin color, or sexual orientation?

First, I would be appalled. After calming down, I would explain why it was inappropriate and what behaviors are expected and most importantly why.  

If elected, how do you plan to build empathetic connections with your constituents?

I will always be available. I will reply to every call and email. I will dig for answers and strive for compromise and community.

If elected, how will you help your constituents feel a greater sense of safety and hope in their community?

I am certainly behind any efforts by local coalitions and neighborhood watches. I believe communication is key and we need to reestablish trust with law and order.

If elected, how will you help diverse neighbors decrease their fear and suspicion of one another?

Breaking down barriers builds understanding and kills fear. We need to embrace our diversity in cultures while rejoicing at our variation and our togetherness.

If elected, what are your plans to address poverty and the widening income gap and income disparities? 

We need to get up and running again. We cannot do much on our little local level to address policy and the national tax code. However, we need to create opportunities for folks to come here and spend their money supporting our local companies and their workers.

 

Kenneth Schmitt and Mike Linquist

Neither of these candidates filled out the survey or communicated with us in any way.

 

To learn more about the candidates, view the link to local media below: 

Voter’s Guide: See side-by-side responses from Waite Park City Council candidates

https://www.sctimes.com/story/news/local/2020/09/29/get-know-waite-park-city-council-candidates-mike-linquist-ken-schmitt-shawn-blackburn/3479551001/

 

Sauk Rapids

Dottie Seamens, David Rixe, and Nicolas Sauer

None of these candidates filled out the survey or communicated with us in any way.

 

To learn more about the candidates, view the link to local media below: 

Nick Sauer seeks reelection to Sauk Rapids council to continue work on trails, businesses

https://www.sctimes.com/story/news/2020/06/29/nick-sauer-seeks-reelection-sauk-rapids-council/3280772001/

David Rixe to leverage city, county board experience in Sauk Rapids council run

https://www.sctimes.com/story/news/2020/06/28/rixe-use-city-county-board-experience-sauk-rapids-council-run/3263536001/

Dottie Seamans seeks reelection to council to help make Sauk Rapids a destination

https://www.sctimes.com/story/news/2020/06/22/dottie-seamans-seeks-reelection-sauk-rapids-city-council/3235747001/

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