New Brighton candidates largely agree on water safety, have varying views on budget

ELECTION 2017


Six candidates are running for two New Brighton City Council seats and one candidate is challenging incumbent Mayor Val Johnson.

After years on the council, Brian Strub decided to not seek reelection this fall, however his colleague Gina Bauman is, as the only incumbent in the mix of council candidates.

The other candidates for two seats are Graeme Allen, Peter Berthelsen, Emily Dunsworth, Susan Erickson and Dave Jacobsen, a former mayor. 

Johnson is being challenged for the mayor’s seat by Sharon Doffing, a former council member. 

In anticipation of the Nov. 7 election, the candidates were asked via email why they are running, what skills and experiences they will bring to office, what they believe to be the top challenges the city faces, and what issues or projects they would prioritize if elected.

Most candidates talked about the importance of ensuring that New Brighton has clean and safe drinking water. A point of contention between candidates is their views on the handling of the city’s budget, and the proposed tax levy. Jacobsen did not return the questionnaire.

 

MAYORAL RACE


Doffing, 51, is married to Randy and currently works part-time as a health fitness coach at Lifetime Fitness. She also has past experience working as a self-employed sales representative in the insurance industry.

Doffing, who has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing from Colorado Technical University, is a former New Brighton City Council member.

She served two terms on the council and said she helped steer New Brighton to be the “first HeartSafe City in the state.” She said she also gained experience serving on several boards, commissions and committees. 

“I have been asked to return to lead the city council because of my past effective leadership,” Doffing said, noting she was working “amongst largely differing opinions while respecting other [council] members and minimizing conflict to make decisions.”

Doffing said she thinks the city’s top challenge is “how the city prioritizes its budget, safe water, police and fire, roads and infrastructure and needed development.”

“I will create stronger bonds in our city to help deal with heated political challenges that we all share,” she said. “The primary ingredient in bringing a community together is experienced leadership to build trust in its government.”

If elected, she said she would identify core services that the city should be prioritizing and funding first, like “water quality and sewer, roads, snow removal, police and fire.” 

“As your mayor, I will bring common sense to budget issues,” Doffing said. 

 


Johnson, 59, has been mayor of New Brighton since January 2016. She is the founder and president of Roundabout Ventures and has a bachelor’s degree in business management from St. Catherine University. She’s also the owner of The Village Scoop Ice Cream and Candy Shop in North Oaks.

“I am running for reelection to be mayor of New Brighton because I am passionate about our city,” Johnson said. “I believe my 55 years of living in the city make me uniquely qualified to understand and protect our past and current values while looking to the future to be certain that New Brighton continues to be a sustainable community for future generations.”

Asked what the city’s top challenges will be going forward, Johnson said, “clean and safe water is going to be a top priority for New Brighton residents for many years.”

She added that economic development and the revitalization of the city’s business corridors are necessary as well. 

“Also, we need to maintain and improve our parks, parks programming and protect Long Lake from being choked out by invasive plants and animals,” she said.

If re-elected, she said her priority “will always remain clean and safe water for New Brighton.” She also said she “will work on further community engagement, especially within our already diverse population.” 

“I’ve been very involved in the decisions and process to provide clean and safe water to New Brighton,” she said, adding, “I have the enthusiasm and desire to be out in the community meeting and listening to people.”


 

COUNCIL RACE


Allen, 39, is married to Liza and works as a community and political organizer at the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Minnesota-Morris.

Allen, who’s lived in New Brighton for the past nine years, has served as a board member for the Mounds View School Education Foundation, and currently, as a member of the Economic Development Commission.

“I have a proven track record of building coalitions, bringing groups and individuals together to find solutions,” Allen said. “Through work at the state, county and local government levels, I have a strong understanding of how different levels of government impact our lives through policy and planning decisions.”

Allen said he wants to maintain the city’s “great qualities, while positioning ourselves for an even brighter future.”

He said one of the top challenges the city is facing will be finalizing and implementing a water filtration infrastructure to address dioxane contamination. Another challenge, he said, will be increasing the amount of affordable housing options for seniors.  

“We need to be proactive to ensure that we are finding solutions for development that increase options,” he said. 

If elected, he said he would prioritize ensuring the city has the facilities and services to meet the needs of its aging citizens, including affordable housing for seniors, while also “providing for current and future neighbors.” 

 


Berthelsen, 28, is married to Stephanie and works as a technical writer for US Bank. He has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from North Dakota State University. 

Berthelsen called himself a good negotiator, “who is able to see why disagreements occur.” He said he has a “critical eye to examine current and upcoming policies and changes.”

Formerly a pastor, Berthelsen said he has experience in conflict resolution. “I am able to objectively examine situations and find common ground.”

His main motivation in running for city council is the budget, which he said “has been mishandled.”

“Instead of looking for and cutting unnecessary expenses, taxes are increased to cover increased budget proposals,” he said. “Extra funds have been put into the general fund, which has then been wasted on unneeded purchases instead of giving the citizens their hard-earned money back.”

In addition to the budget — and “reducing property tax for both residents and businesses” — Berthelsen said he would work on “wrapping up the water decontamination process and getting off of Minneapolis water.”

If elected, he said he would prioritize being fiscally responsible. 

“This city is projected to have double-digit tax levies within two years,” he said. “That is completely unacceptable, and I will do everything in my power to prevent such reckless city spending.”

 


Bauman, who did not provide her age, is married to Corey and has served on the council for three terms. She works at Cargill. 

She said she has extensive knowledge of budget and finance, a commitment to community, an understanding and awareness of issues, and has honesty and integrity.

“Serving as a council member for the last 12 years has given me the opportunity to promote and protect the interests of the people,” she said. “I have been the lone voice on many key issues, notably the effort to keep the spending of your tax dollars under control.”

Bauman said the top issues the city is facing is high taxation, economic development, maintenance for parks and streets, water resources, “government interests over that of its citizens,” and working on “clear communication to the community during the transition from Minneapolis water that New Brighton drinking water is safe.”

If re-elected, Bauman said she wants to encourage increased community engagement and input. “As I talk with people when door knocking, I have been struck by how little information they have received about the issues that the council has voted on and the affect it will have on them,” she said.  “Without input of citizens, city council decisions will continue to impose their will on the people rather than responding to their wants and needs.”

 


Dunsworth, 38, lives with her partner Anthony Pledger and their 5-year-old son Tony. She works as the dean of admissions at Mitchell Hamline School of Law and has a master’s degree in art history from the University of St. Thomas and a juris doctorate from New England School of Law in Boston, where she focused on criminal prosecution. 

“As an attorney, I have exceptional analytical, research and listening skills,” she said. “I am able to ask hard questions and make an informed decision.”

As the dean of admissions, she noted, she is on the senior leadership team at the law school. 

“I work cooperatively and collaboratively with other senior leaders to achieve goals, develop policy and shape the future for the organization and its patrons,” she said. “All my educational and career experiences have provided a solid base for being an effective city council member.”

Growing up in the area, Dunsworth, who was one of the founders of the New Brighton Farmers’ Market and serves on the Economic Development Commission, said she knows the city has “safe neighborhoods, great parks and an exceptional quality of life,” but, “there is more we can do to make it even better.”

She sees safe water and economic development as New Brighton’s top challenges. 

“My priority will be community building,” she said. “New Brighton’s greatest assets are its residents. Connecting residents and investing them further in New Brighton will lead to the enhanced well-being of the city.”

 


Erickson, who did not provide her age, is a small business owner and has an associate’s degree; she studied paralegal and general studies at Lasell College in Brighton, Massachusetts.

She said she’s qualified for a position on the council because she believes in “open communication, effective leadership and innovative ideas.”

Erickson has both paralegal and database development experience. 

“It’s crucial that our council be receptive, thoughtful, truthful, fair and respectful,” she said. “Many residents and businesses feel ignored and minimized when they are looking for honesty, transparency and accountability from the council.” She added, “I will put the people and best interests of our city first and will listen and respond to issues of concern.”

Erickson said she believes the proposed increased tax levy is an issue, and a top challenge for the city, especially because “the median household income is stagnant.” 

“We need to use common sense when prioritizing the needs of the city versus the wants,” she said. “I want to improve the city’s efficiency and performance by working with staff and other council members to develop quantifiable metrics to measure efficiency, performance and return on investment.”

If elected, she said her priority would be to make sure that ordinances are being enforced fairly. She said it’s an issue that is “causing resentment between neighbors.” She said she would like to address the issue of enforcement and review all ordinances “for applicability.”

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at 651-748-7815 or jpoole@lillienews.com



 

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