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Voter's guide: Mayoral candidates

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Farmington, 55024
Farmington Independent
651-463-7730 customer support
Farmington Minnesota P.O. Box 192 / 312 Oak St. 55024

We asked all candidates for city positions the same six questions and gave them each 900 words with which to answer. They got to use those words however they thought was best.

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The questions are:

1. Why are you the most qualified candidate for this city council position?

2. What do you like about Farmington? What would you change?

3. The issue of a divide between north and south Farmington comes up a lot. Do you believe there is a divide? If so, what can the city do to address it?

4. What do you believe is the role of the city council in attracting commercial development to Farmington?

5. Cities have to balance the need to provide services with a desire to keep taxes low. What would your priorities be when putting together a balanced budget?

6. If you could address just one issue as a member of the Farmington City Council what would the issue be and how would you address it?

Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.

Todd Larson

Why are you most qualified? 

I have lived in Farmington most of my life. I have served on the Farmington Planning Commission for 13 years, I am a city council appointed member of the Farmington Empire planning board and the Farmington Castle Rock planning board. I am a member of the MUSA review committee. I have been part of two orderly annexation plans with the townships, and two city of Farmington comprehensive plans. I have been a member of the Farmington School Growth Task Force and Saving Small Downtowns Task Force. As I sit in workshop meetings and attend the city council and the economic development authority meetings it is clear to me that there is no real leadership or direction with in the city. For about a year the economic development authority (a.k.a. the city council) has been working on plan about how to contact businesses about Farmington and the plan still is not done. This is one example of no leadership. As mayor I will lead and guide this plan into action in a timely manner, not let this important plan take a year. I will be a leader to create a healthy relationship with the school district and stop all the fighting that is costing us the tax payer's money. I will explore opportunities to partner with the school, for example sharing equipment that is used infrequently like tractors, ball field drags or striping equipment.

 What do you like? What would you change?

I like the small town charm Farmington has, I like how nice and friendly the residents are, and I believe they deserve more from their city government than what they are currently getting. I would change how the city welcomes new and expanding business, I want the city to greet potential new businesses with open arms and a what do you need and how can we help you attitude.

 How do you address divide?

I do believe there is a divide between north and south Farmington. I lived in the north part of Farmington (Hill Dee) for many years until my wife and I bought a house on Seventh Street and have been on both sides of the divide. However I believe that it is improving. If Farmington had more commercial and retail business, then people would have a common place to shop and dine and everyone would have more of a community feeling. I would like to partner with the chamber and set up more community events within the city to bring people together and give them opportunities to get to know their neighbors.

What is city's role in attracting

business?

I think the city council needs to do whatever it can to attract commercial development into the city. The current plan of waiting for development to come to us is not working and we need to change now. I would encourage the economic development staff to set up meetings with targeted businesses and development groups and actively market the city's availability for commercial development. I would invite businesses to tour the city, and do what ever it takes to get the job done. Under my direction, city staff will research grants and low interest financing opportunities that will entice companies to build in Farmington. I firmly believe that the longer we wait the more opportunities pass us by.

What are your budget priorities?

Although economic development is the issue I hear about most, I believe public safety (police and fire protection) needs to be the number one priority when it comes to budget time. Farmington has excellent police and fire departments; as mayor I will sit down with the police chief and the fire chief and discuss their needs to help make their departments the best they can be.

Just one issue?

The issue that I would address would be bringing business into Farmington. People want to spend their money in Farmington but they want more options. As I have said before I would target desired business and development groups. I would explore different marketing and funding ideas to entice companies to look at Farmington. I am willing to put much needed leadership and guidance towards the economic development Farmington so badly needs.

David McKnight

Why are you most qualified? 

I am the most qualified candidate for mayor because I bring a combination of successful experience working in local government and leadership abilities that will allow me to lead the next city council by taking the strengths of each individual member to form one unified city council.  The agenda that I propose as the next mayor includes: 

1) A mayor with leadership abilities to unify the city council and get things done.

2) Development of strategic plans to prepare our city for the future.  These strategic plans include the areas of economic development, transportation, securing our sound financial future and detailed yearly city council priorities.  The most important of these plans is economic development and I have a framework ready to get the work on this plan started.

3) Unification of Farmington from past issues to become one great community.

 I have worked for years in local government taking the individual strengths of team members and using them to form successful teams and outcomes.  As mayor I would use this approach to unify our city council.

 What do you like? What would you change?

I love almost everything there is about Farmington.  This is my hometown and I want to be the mayor who leads this city to great things, who unifies the city council, who works hand in hand with the school district, that grows our commercial/industrial tax base and leads us to that one cohesive city that everyone wants to see.  I love the hometown feel of Farmington and want to add additional amenities including more retail businesses and recreational facilities for all of our residents to enjoy.

 The one thing I would change about Farmington is our history of not keeping pace with our neighboring cities when it comes to commercial and industrial development.

How do you address divide?

Farmington has experienced issues in the past few years that have divided us for a number of reasons.  Whether differences exist or not based on location, length of residence or any reason does not matter.  The unification of Farmington from past issues is one of my top three priorities.  We do not all need to agree on issues, but one of the things that I would like to help change as mayor would be to bring a tone of civility to discussions when we do not agree.  I would bring a "One Farmington" approach as mayor.  Unified we will grow into the great community that we can become.

What is city's role in attracting

business?

The role of the city council in commercial development is to get the city ready for this much needed development.  We need a wholesale culture change when it comes to economic development in Farmington.  We have a poor reputation in the development field and that needs to change now.  I propose a three part framework to address this issue that includes:

 1) Create an atmosphere of success to improve our reputation.

2) Collaborative marking plan with the city, chamber and school district.

3) Comprehensive business retention/ recruitment program.

 Once this plan is developed with the support of the entire city council and the roadblocks to development in Farmington are removed, the market will bring this development and the results we all want to see.

What are your budget priorities?

My priorities include public safety and transportation.  We have superior public safety departments including police, fire and public works.  They provide the services that local governments are based upon and are the area that need to be fully funded.  In addition, a well thought out transportation system will always be a priority for me as mayor.

Just one issue?

While economic development is the most important issue that the city council must work on, I believe it will be vital for the next mayor to have the leadership ability to unify the city council.  Our city council members all need to be on the same page, working on strategic and visioning issues, and putting a plan in place for years to come will be my priority as mayor.  We have wasted too much time over the past four years on minor issues without developing strategic plans on the most important issues that are facing our community. I pledge to every resident of Farmington to work on these issues so we can all be proud of the great things to come for Farmington.  As mayor I will bring the leadership skills that will take Farmington to the next level in terms of professionalism, progress and improving our reputation.  This is my hometown and I will set the example as mayor so every resident is as proud as I am to say that they are from Farmington.  If voters give me the opportunity to serve as mayor, I will get to work on getting things done.

Abel Miranda

Why are you most qualified? 

One of the best things that I love as an American is to know that our Founding Fathers set in motion a system that is open to anyone. As a concerned citizen, I want to make sure that our city can move forward in a positive direction. We need someone who will listen and care about the people of Farmington. We have too many politicians. I would ask the people of Farmington if they want  someone who would serve their interests, or someone who is trying to serve himself. I am ready to serve you.  

 What do you like? What would you change?

I love our small town feel. We have plenty of great caring people in town. We also have a great police and fire rescue system in place. I think, if I could change anything, I would try to bring in more businesses to town. As residents, I think our taxes are too high. If we bring in more business we can expand our tax base and lessen the burden on everyone. 

How do you address divide?

The biggest divide that we have in town is one of style. Part of town was built in the last twenty years or less and the other part was built about one hundred years ago. I have spoken to hundreds of residents in the past two weeks and I find that we are more alike than different. I have seen beautiful families and caring people in both parts of town. I don't really see this as an issue to address. I think it is one of preference. If you like classic architecture then the down town area is for you. If you like a more modern style, then the northern area is always available. I think we should welcome these differences and see it as another positive aspect of our town. We can have both classic and modern elements here in Farmington.

What is city's role in attracting

business?

I think the city council should listen to what the residents want. I find that most people would prefer to shop in town instead of driving all over the suburbs for their needs. I believe that the council should attract more stores to town. We should be able to shop, eat, and enjoy ourselves without traveling twenty miles or more. We need to move forward with a plan to cooperate with current businesses, attract new ones, and facilitate their integration into town.

What are your budget priorities?

My number one priority would be to lower taxes. We have a great police and fire system. We must keep our town safe, but I think we can spend less in other areas. We need to continue to open our services to the marketplace. Who can do the job for less? Competition is always good for keeping high quality and low cost services.  If we combine competition for services with an expanded tax base from new businesses then we can still provide even more for less. 

Just one issue?

I think I would like to simplify access to information about all our city services. All our public information regarding public servants, prices for goods, schools, expenditures, contracts, revenue, and such should all be accessible from one we page. The easier it is for the people to look at all public records, the more accountability we will all have. After all, we should be here to serve the people of our great city. If they see where their tax money is going and how things are being used, then they can always have an informed voice in town business.

Kevan Soderberg

Why are you most qualified? 

As mayor for the past four years I've demonstrated my integrity. I've had people ask me for special treatment from the city by virtue of their relationship. Their request shrinks when I challenge their motives. I remain steadfast in avoiding even the appearance of impropriety. I am accessible, approachable, and engaged with citizens and their events. I have demonstrated that I listen and I am skilled in building relationships beneficial to Farmington. I have the knowledge and experience necessary to do the job. I make decisions based on what is best for the whole city, not just a small segment.

 What do you like? What would you change?

Though we are a mid size city of 21,500, we still possess a small town atmosphere. I like that we are growing and that we have an opportunity to build a great city. But that opportunity is going to require all the governing bodies and citizens to work together for a common purpose, not protecting their own empires. This requires trusting relationships which I have already demonstrated that I can build. If I could change one thing, I would eliminate the "What's in it for me" attitude prevalent in some people and replace it with a genuine "what can I do to help" desire.

How do you address divide?

When I first got on the council 10 years ago there was a distinct physical separation between the north and south of Farmington. The council has focused development to close that physical divide.

What is city's role in attracting

business?

There are some things outside the control of the city council. The economy is one such thing, but even though we've had a down economy, there has been growth in Farmington's business sector. Over 60 new businesses have come into, started, or expanded in town. While we have lost some for a variety of reasons, we have had a net increase of over 30 businesses in the past four years. Not the big box that many people want, but growth none the less. What the council can and must provide is an even playing field to make Farmington more attractive than other communities to new businesses. The largest factor is affordable land. While Farmington has land space, it is in the hands of private owners. The city, through the EDA can, with a variety of tools, secure and stabilize land prices. It does the city no good to get a major player interested in locating in Farmington, only to have a land owner kill the deal by jacking up land prices because they perceive the player has deep pockets. This is just one facet of a comprehensive economic development plan that is in development now.

 What are your budget priorities?

Are property taxes too high? Yes. Is the city of Farmington solely responsible? Absolutely not! Property taxes are a composite of taxing entities; the state, county, city, and school district are the major takers. This behooves each of us to understand who is taking what from us and to hold each accountable. I often use my own home, which has a value near the median in Farmington, as a measure of how the city is doing. The city portion of my taxes has gone up about $250 in the past four years. Some of this is due to increased value of my property. When you consider that my total tax bill has more than tripled during that same period, the amount the city increased my taxes pales by comparison. I believe the city council is doing a good job at holding the line on taxes. But it will take all taxing entities working together to reduce taxes. Thus the need for good working relationships becomes evident and which I have been building for the past four years. Aside from public safety and basic governmental services, I believe we need to be more aggressive in economic development. If we can dedicate resources to making Farmington an attractive place for businesses to locate, thus expanding our business and commercial base, we will see a real decrease in property taxes and a real increase in property values.

Just one issue?

I have been working for the past four years on building relationships. Good, trusting, working relationships with other groups that can and do have an impact on life in Farmington. Good relationships are foundational to successfully addressing any other issue. I believe if we all work together with a common goal, that nothing is impossible.

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