New council member is ready to go
New Farmington City Council member Jason Bartholomay was sworn in Monday at the first meeting of 2011. Before that meeting was over, he'd made a couple of statements, made a few motions and accepted nominations to represent the council on several committees.
That comes as no surprise. This is a guy who ran for the city council in 2008. He wasn't elected then, but he didn't give up.
Bartholomay has lived in Farmington for four years. He's married and has a couple of children. He works as a strategic enterprise consultant, which means he does a lot of analysis of businesses. Sometimes he recommends relocation or finding different venues, other times he helps companies expand. In his spare time, Bartholomay is pursuing his doctorate degree in psychology.
It seems the newest member has a bit of determination and drive. We sat down for a quick chat Monday, just before his first council meeting.
What made you decide to run for city council? This isn't your first time around, so you must have really wanted to get in there.
I did. It's really kind of frustrating to sit on the sidelines and see the city struggle with the budget and make the decisions that have been made over the last couple of years. Every resident out there is hurting right now, there are very high foreclosure rates and I personally and fundamentally believed it was time for a change. We needed somebody who knew how to link to that connection with business.... With times being what they are now, we're sort of coming out of that recession, and that's a perfect time to capture business, coming out of that recession. There's a few big businesses that build during recessions, and there's others who are looking to expand, so we want to work now to position Farmington to capture that business and expand our commercial tax base. That will do a lot of things to lower people's taxes and hopefully create a demand to live in our city, which will increase the property values.
Have you been through any kind of training for the post yet?
No. Good question. I will be, in February ... training with the newly elected officials.
For the League of Minnesota Cities training?
What kind of preparations have you made personally to take on this role?
Personally, with preparations, I've told myself I'm not going to make any emotional mind decisions. I don't believe that's in anybody's best interests, just to make an emotional-minded decision. I need to make wise-mind decisions. That's something I've done some thinking about, and how to understand myself a little bit. Being in business and municipal government are pretty different. They have some similarities, but ... there are some procedural things in place too. I want to make good decisions, sound decisions that were in the best interest of the majority of the taxpayers, and the best decisions.
Some other preparations I've made is I've spent probably almost 15 hours in (city hall) since I've been elected, meeting with Peter (Herlofksy) or Teresa (Walters) the finance director. All of the staff have been very nice, and they took the time to explain the city budget and how it worked in detail. And I spent some time with Peter, getting to understand a little bit of what he does, and I guess learning the little intricacies of the city and how things flow.
If you could have one thing, what would be the first issue you would like to tackle as a council member?
If I could have one thing come true right now, commercial development would probably be my number one thing. Getting commercial development in Farmington. Because I believe that if we were to plan a big box retailer, hypothetically, or even some more classy type of stores or semi- or medium industrial-type of park I really believe the rest of development will follow. History has shown that will happen, and it's hard to argue with history.
If there was something that could be done immediately, it would be to get the budget squared away. I believe there's a lot of opportunities there for us to make some good changes with the budget, and make it more transparent to the residents. Anyone who clicks on the Farmington web site should be able to basically see what Farmington as a city is doing and not see a bunch of transfers or anything like that.
Do you have any other government experience?
I was a US Marine, so I guess that's government. I was a police officer with the Minnetonka police department for several years back in the 90s, when I came out of the Marine Corps. I decided police work wasn't really for me at that point. I was really excelling in business, I had a lot of business contacts, and had a real good opportunity with Target. Frankly, I couldn't turn that down.
You'll be sworn in shortly. How are you feeling right about now?
Nerves. Nerves. Nerves. I'd be lying if I said I was calm, calm as warm butter or whatever you want to say.
So do you think you're going to try to get your first motion or second in tonight, or are you going to wait until you have a better feel for how things are done?
If the opportunity arises. I've done my homework. We've gotten the packets, and I've done my homework and research. Tonight's more administrative kind of stuff. I'm not a firm believer in just sitting there and waiting for somebody else. I'm going to step up. Maybe that's the Marine in me, just step up and make the motion. Let's go. Be respectful to the residents who are watching, to the staff that is here, and to the papers -- you know, to you -- so you don't have to sit here all night. So yes, I'd make the motion if need be. I'm prepared and I would do it.