by Dave DeMars
St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schultz is running for mayor unopposed this time around. As he is presently completing his eighth year as mayor, re-election would provide him with his fifth two-year term. In a phone interview with the Newsleader, Schultz explained why he wants another term as mayor and what he sees as some of the major accomplishments during past terms of office. The following interview is an edited version of the conversation with the Mayor.
General comments and observations
Schultz: St. Joe is kind of a diamond in the rough. We do an awfully lot of good things. From a vision perspective, we are a very walkable, enjoyable neighborhood. We need to keep enhancing that. People don’t go downtown St. Cloud or Sartell to walk around and get to know your neighbor. In St. Joe, you come here because you know your neighbors, and it is a great place to hang out, and it’s comfortable – like the Local Blend, and other businesses. It’s those kinds of attractions that make St. Joe unique. That’s what makes St. Joe a diamond in the rough, and people come here to experience that. I love this city because it has a tremendous amount of potential.
What got you interested in serving the community and serving as the mayor of St. Joseph?
Schultz: Initially, I became interested in serving because in St. Joseph at the time we had what I would call analysis-paralysis. We would analyze lots of data but we wouldn’t get any projects moving. I decided that we needed a good plan and I could provide some of that.
What are the major things that you feel you have accomplished over the years of service to the community?
Schultz: We’ve completed the Wobegon Trail after 25 years with the last six being really significant because we got people involved like lobbyists in Washington, D.C. We finally have a street-improvement plan that we use to guide us and we have a comprehensive plan for the city. We have better relations with CSB and SJU than we have in the past. We started the community center, and we bought Kennedy. That was a No. 1 priority in this community. They wanted gym space and activity areas for children. We are still trying to move that forward. And we have a new government center. But most of the impetus for these things comes from the community.
Financially, how would you rate the city?
Schultz: Happily, we are one of the most financially sound towns in the state of Minnesota. We get that as we hear the auditor’s report. I’d love to do more. A lot of our capital funds go toward servicing the things that we have – roads, parks, mowing, plowing – those basic infrastructure needs of the city. What is left from taxes and revenue – usually a very small amount – is used for adding trails or other services like youth services like summer softball or baseball. We are in really great shape, and we maintain a healthy balance between what we need and what we spend. There is always a lot more that we could be doing from a community resident perspective.
On zoning and annexation
Schultz: We are not looking to do any more annexation. Whether the previous annexation was done well depends on who you talk to. It took a painstaking effort to get to that point. There are probably good and bad things done on both sides of that issue. We ended up with where we needed to be, and where we probably should have been. We followed the document that was in place that allowed us to go through the negotiation with the township. Based on what we tried to accomplish and what we got done, I would call it a success. I wouldn’t say the township people call it a success, but it was a success for the city.
Going forward, what are the most important things for the city to accomplish?
Schultz: I would like to see our north and south side of the city more connected to make us a more cohesive community. We need to find some partners or players to help us deliver that north-south corridor, the bridge, the underpass – whatever it is. It’s an important connection to not only the Wobegon Trail, but the north side to the south side. We’ve explored the hotel – motel aspect of the thing, and I think we are a niche market for a motel. I’d like to see some redevelopment in downtown, take some of those older buildings and do some remodeling and revitalize the downtown area and make the downtown and kind of destination. We have a lot of activity downtown. A complement to that would be a motel.
CR 75 divides the city. All the schools are on the south side, and safe crossing of the highway is an issue. A good share of the commercial business is on the south side, and that affects people using the Wobegon Trail who might want to use restaurants and other businesses in the downtown area.