by Dennis Dalman
(Note: There are two candidates vying for the position of mayor of St. Joseph. They are Kelly Beniek, an incumbent city-council member and the incumbent mayor, Rick Schultz. The Newsleader will have separate stories written about each one. This story is about Schultz.)
The story is based on Schultz’s responses to a Newsleader candidate questionnaire.
Rick Schultz is a firm believer and practitioner of doing lots of detailed homework before helping make decisions that will affect the long-term growth of St. Joseph.
Schultz graduated from Osakis High School and attended St. Cloud State University and St. Cloud Technical and Community College. He has worked for 42 years in the information technology sector for a variety of industries.
Other memberships: board member of the League of Minnesota Cities and first vice president of the Greater Minnesota Board of Directors, past president of the St. Joseph Lions Club.
He holds a Minnesota State High School League basketball officials’ license but because of injuries has been unable to play for the past two years.
Schultz and his wife are dog “parents” for the No Dog Left Behind rescue program for the past nine years, fostering dozens of dogs.
The Schultzes have three grown children and three grandchildren.
What are the three main reasons why you would make an excellent mayor?
“The buck stops with me,” he said. “I accept responsibility for those decisions within the city that get singled out as issues. That is, I will not ever pass the blame for bad decisions onto others nor take credit for good decisions for myself. It is a measure of leadership I agreed to when I took this job.
“As mayor I’ve done my best to be better prepared for growth by serious and continuous planning efforts, along with those governance rules that play a part in any enforcement . . .
“One of the most important tools available is our council-board-staff work sessions . . . Today, those groups meet monthly to plan and set direction for the community, while providing the best quality of life for our residents.
“I come prepared to participate in discussions by doing my own research and reading related materials prior to attending meetings, sessions, committees and more. It is easy to believe being an elected official means attending a few meetings a month, but I find it much more effective and productive by doing my homework. I never underestimate the mental preparation required to make decisions about the long-term sustainability of St. Joseph.”
Strengths/weaknesses of St. Joseph and why.
One strength is safety. There’s a much lower-than-average crime rate; people are friendly, willing to help lend a hand; children can play outdoors without parents worrying; the police help create and maintain the safety.
A second strength: thriving businesses. “The restoration, energy and variety of new shops is a blessing . . . They are a very good sign as St. Joseph has become a destination, a place to be.”
A third strength: city events. Joetown Rocks, Millstream Arts Festival, Rock-4-Alzheimers, the Farmers’ Market, the Small-Shop Crawl – to name just some. Those events encourage people to get to know one another and create fun places for people to be.
Improvements should include more facilities and activities. Schultz said city youth summer activities have improved, but that program should be expanded and include people of all ages. That can happen with current hard-working volunteers in addition to partnerships with the colleges, school district community education and eventually the YMCA.
The city could use better and more facilities: pickleball courts, a skateboard and basketball courts and upgrades.
Another needed improvement, Schultz noted, are trails and sidewalks.
“Kind of like the Safe Routes to School program, residents should have off-street access to get anywhere in the city,” he said.
Describe St. Joseph in one (or two) sentences.
“A diverse group of residents and businesses pulling for the common good to build a community that will be a model of livability, sustainability and creativity all the while embracing our history and protecting our natural beauty. We stand for preservation of what has come and what has been given to our area while understanding the future is now and continued growth is underway. “
What specific issues or needs of the city would you prioritize on your “Must Get Done” list?
Schultz noted about seven years ago, a task force identified some major objectives. First was the upgrade to police and administration (city hall), which was done. The other two objectives were a community center and pool. Schultz said as mayor, he has spent much time and effort toward a community center. He met with neighbors, businesses, legislators, governor’s staff and lobbyists as part of the effort.
“The community has been seeing and hearing tidbits about this project and soon I would like to announce when we may finally break ground,” Schultz said.
Do you think the city has a good relationship with the two area colleges and their students? Are there ways those bonds and communications could be improved?
“In my six terms as mayor, this is the fourth president of the CSB/SJU post,” said Schultz. “The city has also had three public-works directors, three city administrators, three police chiefs and last year appointed two council members.”
That turnover, he noted, can make college-city relationships at times problematic. Shultz added that those relationships are always evolving, and it’s important to think of colleges and city as valued resources that can and do enhance one another for a greater community strength.
Schultz has met with the new college president and meets with students every year and through the years to get fresh ideas. The city, he said, also has trusted working relationships with the two elementary schools.
Do you think taxes on residents and businesses is too high, too low or just about right?
“In my wildest dreams, I would never say my taxes are too low,” he said. “No one enjoys seeing their tax statement, especially me.”
He said staff and the finance director do a good job of balancing St. Joseph’s needs vs. wants in a financially responsible way. About 30-35 percent of city parcels are tax-exempt. The tax goal has always been a zero-percent increase, but to ensure the city services, there may be times when increases are necessary.
Feel free to give any other comments.
“As mayor, I am extremely proud to have been elected to so many terms . . . My personal expectation is to give more than I receive. The mayor is the most visible representative of city government in most communities. As a result, I spend a great deal of my time simply being present, listening to the concerns of neighbors, friends, businesses and developers.
“Public service is a public trust . . . I serve at the pleasure of the people. Being mayor is humbling, yet an honor and privilege. In my mind, there is no better job in America than being mayor of St. Joseph.”