by Dave DeMars
There are three people running for election to the St. Joseph City Council in the coming Nov. 6 election. They are Dale Wick, Brian Theise and Anne Buckvold. Wick and Buckvold are both incumbents while Theisen is running for election for the first time. Wick has served for 16 years on the council. Buckvold was appointed to the council and sworn in at the June 4 meeting. All parties have a keen interest in serving the public. The Newsleader put several questions to each of the candidates. The following is an edited version of their responses to those questions.
What qualities/skills do you possess that would make you an ideal City Council member for the city of St. Joseph?
Wick: I feel my ability to ask the right questions and my capacity to work with others has served the city well over the last 16 years. In the number of years I have served on the Council, I have been fortunate to be a member or officer on a number of city and regional committees. Being a manager for a global company has taught me how to facilitate very diverse groups of people with different end goals in mind. Using different project-management techniques, I have been able to successfully meet very tight timelines and budgets on a regular basis while providing excellent customer service and meeting the needs of our internal clients. My engineering background has taught me how to break down diverse subjects, to find the root cause of situations and successfully evaluate the different options presented and even determine other possible solutions.
Theisen: I think being on the City Council is solving problems for the city. I’ve been in law enforcement for 18 years, and basically what I do every day is to problem solve. I think with my law enforcement background I have a different perspective on things. The other thing is that I have been on the fire department for five years, and I see how things are going in the city.
Buckvold: I really love St. Joseph. I’m a good fit for the council because I’m pretty friendly and relatable and I can work well with other council members, city employees and citizens. I’m pretty open to problems and finding solutions to problems. I want people to see me as a person who they can call whenever they have a problem and know I will get them answers or help figure out a solution to the problem.
In your opinion, what are three of the most important issues facing the city of St. Joseph at this time, and why are those issues so important? How would you suggest dealing with these issues?
Wick: Managing the equipment needs of a growing city and balancing the need for replacement versus repair through implementing an asset tracking system. Finding the right mix for a Community Center. Not everyone in the city thinks it is needed, and we need to continue those discussions in order to find out the long-term costs. Managing growth. Residents want to keep our small-town feel while we grow, but growth also brings in more tax revenue. We need to keep an eye on how those dollars are spent or not spent.
Theisen: One thing I know I would be against is the underpass on CR 75. It’s supposed to cost millions. I think those funds can be used elsewhere or for other things that are needed. Another thing I would like to see – St. Joseph does not have crime-free housing. Even though St. Joseph is one of the safest cities in the state, I would like St. Joseph to continue in that status. Crime-free housing is a three-step program offered through the state for landlords and homeowners. It’s a program to help keep the city housing safe especially with the number of apartments in the city. Finally, I would like to act as the liaison between the city and the St. John’s students especially relating to homecoming and other events where there is a lot of partying. A better system needs to be found to please students and citizens.
Buckvold: One thing is in the financial management. I think a lot about taxes and efficiency. I don’t have all the money in the world. I want to make sure our city government is working well, that it is using resources – local, or state – as efficiently as possible. One of the items that got me involved was transportation. People still have lots of needs in transportation. The underpass on CR 75 is a great idea and is funded largely with state dollars. I am interested in making sure we have the money we need for our roads and bridges. We have a lot of students and aging seniors moving to the area and they will need public transportation.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future as a City Council member?
Wick: As I look at future goals, I do the same thing as I do at work…look at the plan. For the city we have just renewed the Comprehensive Plan. This plan has hundreds of goals and items to work on. A subset of those goals I want to work on would be to retain, attract and grow business and to provide facilities that support the community’s values and needs while maintaining a proactive, responsive and accessible government.
Theisen: I like to know what is going on in town and I would go out and walk around town, and solicit ideas and issues from businesses and people in the community rather than simply relying on my own ideas. I would rather know what the people want.
Buckvold: I believe we are at a point where we will either become more disconnected in our city government or we start to build a cohesive city identity. I am really concerned and thoughtful about building trust in our community and our leaders. As we grow, we need to grow a city that has a common identity and common values.
How can the city better support small-business development and expansion? Has enough been done in the past to solicit businesses and industry to move to St. Joseph?
Wick: The EDA has implemented a few programs to help small businesses. The Demolition Grant, Building Facade Grant and our revolving-loan funds help new or existing businesses with certain costs at either no or low cost to the business. We have also implemented a lodging tax that will be used for a convention visitor bureau. The CVB will have these dollars available to them for marketing the city and its amenities. More people coming into the city means more opportunities for small-business development.
Theisen: I think the city can do more with the funds they have to try and invite some of those businesses. I think St. Joseph has the potential to grow as far as business is concerned. With the annexation, we have the land. With Waite Park kind of creeping from behind I think St. Joseph has the opportunity to grow and encourage more business. That is something I would be in favor of. I would support some sort of tax break. There has to be some sort of incentive to get those businesses to want to come into St. Joseph. I think there is more room for more expansion with other businesses and to draw more people to come to St. Joseph rather than going to St. Cloud or Waite Park. At the same time I wouldn’t want to see smaller businesses hurt by something like the big-box stores.
Buckvold: Our downtown is healthy, but I think we can do more in that area. I think we want to make sure we have a steady and successful growth. We need to reach out to businesses that fit with the character of St. Joseph and that we think will be successful in St. Joseph. It should benefit both the business and St. Joseph. As far as what we are doing now, it’s OK but we have room for improvement. We need to get more people to come in to the community to see all the good things we have here. There have to be more ways we can build on to attract people and businesses. We do raise money through a lodging tax and we haven’t used that money for any particular purpose, but we should absolutely bring more people into the community. I’m a particular fan of small business in the downtown area that will increase walkability and create a sense of connectivity. But it really is a balancing act between bigger businesses and smaller businesses.