The Bloomington City Council primary election is Tuesday, Aug. 13. The top two candidates in each race will advance to the Nov. 5 ballot.
As prescribed in the city charter, seats in all four of the city’s districts are up for election as a result of last year’s legislative redistricting. In addition, the city has one at-large seat up for election this fall.
The Sun Current asked candidates for Bloomington’s city council election to submit answers to questions regarding their background and interest in a city council seat.
The candidates for the District 1 seat, representing southeastern Bloomington, are Richard Bohnen, Robert Chamberlain, Dwayne Lowman and Marcus Page. Councilmember Steve Peterson is not seeking re-election.
The candidates for the District 2 seat, representing southwestern Bloomington, are Andrew Carlson, Councilmember Thomas Hulting and Scott Lechtenberg.
The candidates for the District 3 seat, representing northwestern Bloomington, are Councilmember Jack Baloga, Russ Burnison, Steve Peer, Ryan Reetz and William Reichert. Reetz has withdrawn from the campaign, but his name will appear on the primary ballot.
The candidates for the District 4 seat, representing southeastern Bloomington, are Ken Johnson, Sally Ness and Jon Oleson. Councilmember Vern Wilcox is not seeking re-election.
The candidates for the at-large seat are Cynthia Bemis Abrams, Zavier Bicott and Carol Wagner. Councilmember Karen Nordstrom is not seeking re-election. Wagner did not respond to requests for candidacy information.
Election Day and polling place information will appear in next week’s Sun Current.
District 1 (southeastern Bloomington, 2 years)
1. I am a lifelong resident of Bloomington. I am married to Tara, a dedicated school teacher, a father of one and expecting another. I went to college at Hennepin Technical College and graduated with a degree as an auto technician. I currently own and operate two gasoline, convenience and auto repair shops in south Minneapolis.
2. I feel my background in Bloomington and business makes me a perfect candidate. Having spent a lifetime in retail gasoline I have experience with government, employees, budgets, insurance companies and, of course, the public. I would like to have our property taxes become more competitive with surrounding communities while adequately funding our core functions such as fire, police and water.
1. I’ve lived in Bloomington for 20 years. I moved here in 1992 after graduating from college, earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. I’m 43 years old, married to Diane, and we have three boys who are 6, 8 and 10. I enjoy gardening, working in my yard and playing golf. Our boys enjoy soccer, baseball, basketball and golf through the Bloomington Athletic Association.
In my 20-year career I’ve worked for two consulting firms. In that time, I participated in well over two dozen consulting opportunities in the areas of finance, health care, retail, transportation and state government.
2. Over the past 10 years I’ve paid increasingly more attention to how politics and government actions affect our daily lives. I approve of some decisions made by our leaders, while others disappoint, giving me the drive, desire and encouragement to be a part of the process. It’s easy to narrow one’s vision, focus on your job or just live for the moment. I can’t do that. I can’t sit on the side any longer.
My background in business and IT consulting make me an excellent candidate for Bloomington City Council. I’ve got the experience of having worked in many industries and have seen first-hand how government regulations affect business operations.
Bloomington has been a great place to live and raise a family. Now, I want to give back to the community. I’m ready to play a role in city governance. It’s up to you to give me that opportunity.
1. While at Bloomington Kennedy High School, I was selected to the board of directors of the National Youth Leadership Council. I also got to study land-use coding as a city-planning intern in the Bloomington Rotary intern program. These experiences inspired me to obtain a B.A. in regional planning and political science. While at Augsburg College, I was elected West Bank Community Coalition president and chair for two terms. The Bloomington Rotary sent me to Sweden to study international business and serve as an ambassadorial scholar of goodwill. I’m currently part of the workforce management team for a major Minnesota company.
2. I love Bloomington. I have lived here most of my life. It’s a city of opportunity. Now I want to help shape Bloomington’s future as your city council member. Together, we’ll work to ensure that Bloomington remains a fantastic place to live, work and grow up. I look forward to bringing new energy and passion to the city council. I can inspire a fresh perspective, for dealing with ongoing concerns, as I did when I was president of the West Bank Community Coalition. While I was at Kennedy High School, the Bloomington Veterans of Foreign Wars honored me with a Human Relations Award for community service – that opportunity helped to strengthen my communication and leadership skills. Giving back to the community fills me with pride, honor and joy. Learn more at dwaynealowman.com.
1. I’ve resided in Bloomington since 2001. Former board member of directors at Associate Healthcare Credit Union in St. Paul and employee of Paradise Car Wash in Bloomington. I am 22 years old. My family life here is with my mother and younger brother, who currently attends Kennedy High School. I graduated from Kennedy High School in 2009, then went to Normandale Community College, and transferred to Southern New Hampshire University. I have been active in my community since high school, working alongside the city, Bloomington School District, as well as many nonprofits such as Bolder Options, Students For Education Reform and the Sanneh Foundation.
2. We need our city government to step up. We need to invite more business into our community to create multiple job opportunities for the citizens of Bloomington. We need to become a city that is more than just Bloomington, home of the biggest mall in America. We need to become a city that has its own identity apart from Mall of America. We need to find plans to lower the property taxes and find ways to give relief funds to the homeowners here in Bloomington. It is time for the city council to stop sitting on their hands and actually find ways to re-energize this great city. I plan to push these items further in the city council, as well as push for multiple issues that my district is facing, from property taxes to gaining more foot traffic into our businesses in District 1.
District 2 (southwestern Bloomington, 2 years)
1. My wife Kari and I have been married for 11 years and have two daughters. Both girls attend Olson Elementary School. We are members of St. Edwards Catholic Church.
I received my Bachelor of Science degree from Iowa State University and my Master of Business Administration from the University of St. Thomas. In my professional career, I am a Project Manager with a background in economic development. I serve as a commissioner on the Bloomington Housing and Redevelopment Authority. My campaign website is carlson4citycouncil.com.
2. My interest in local government and running for city council began when I was a graduate student at the University of St. Thomas. There I learned the importance of being a morally responsible leader who thinks critically, acts wisely and works skillfully to advance the common good. I’ve applied those lessons throughout my professional career and will continue to do so as the next District 2 city council member.
As a Bloomington council member I will collaborate with the mayor and city council to provide clear, results-driven information to all Bloomington stakeholders, listen to Bloomington residents, business owners and visitors to help ensure a public-friendly approach to government and be open to new ideas, but remain committed to providing high-quality city services at a good value to Bloomington taxpayers. As a council member I will work diligently to help our city remain strong and prosperous now and into the future.
Thomas Hulting (incumbent):
1. I am a product of Bloomington. I grew up in East Bloomington, attending elementary through high school. Thereafter I worked my way through the University of Minnesota, ultimately with the help of the G.I. Bill, commuting daily from Bloomington. I moved to my District 2 home 26 years ago, with my wife Linda, also a product of Bloomington – now a 20-year special education teacher at Burnsville High School – where we raised two sons, Evan and Christian. Most of my career has been selling large-ticket, computer-driven capital equipment to the regional engineering, manufacturing and scientific communities.
2. I first ran because it was unsettling to watch my annual property taxes go up dramatically, owing to year-after-year increases in city spending, especially, while in more recent years, our property values have fallen. For the last several years, many, if not most, Bloomington residents have seen their incomes drop, their hours cut back, their 401k retirement programs shrink, and in many cases, their jobs disappear, yet the city has continued its upward spending trajectory. In 2013, that levy increase was 4.95 percent, after two years of no appreciable increases. I was the lone vote against the increase. According to the League of Minnesota Cities and Hennepin County property tax database, Bloomington businesses and residents pay higher taxes to the city for services, per person and per comparable residence/business, than do our counterparts in the surrounding cities, notably Edina and Eden Prairie.
1. I’ve been a Bloomington resident for more than 18 years. My wife and I have been married more than 20 years. Our three sons have grown up in Bloomington. I’ve been involved in community activities throughout our time in Bloomington; primarily activities where my sons were involved. These activities include Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Bloomington Athletic Association and Bethany Academy School Board. I’ve had positions from coach, treasurer and vice president to just plain helping out. My professional background is in managing and leading at technology companies.
2. I bring a fresh, new outside perspective to build on and enhance the good foundation of Bloomington. Bloomington has a long history of families. The family values of working hard and having a home you’ve earned is what built Bloomington and has made it a community of choice for many. I support, encourage and will foster all these principles as a council member. Bloomington is a place of destination because of the great parks with athletic fields, play areas and opportunities to enjoy nature located throughout the city. This is foundational and supports the fundamentals of residents and families. Finally, it is my belief all government, including city operations, are servants of the people. Governments exist to serve the citizen and listen to them. I will help foster a cultural change in the operation to listen to the residents and consider their input before making decisions.
District 3 (northwestern Bloomington, 4 years)
Jack Baloga (incumbent):
1. I am Jack Baloga, the incumbent council member for the City Council District 3 seat and candidate for re-election. I am a 25-year Bloomington resident. I hold a bachelor’s degree in business and accounting from the U of M. I had a successful business career as a commercial real estate developer and small business owner. I have spent more than 20 years as a volunteer to the city serving on many of its boards and commissions. I founded a not-for-profit in 2000 and have served on boards of many other nonprofits.
2. My vision for Bloomington is for a high quality of life, good housing and jobs, superior educational opportunities and outstanding city services at an affordable cost. In 2012, Bloomington citizens participated in a survey in which 88 percent rated the overall quality of life excellent to good. I will continue to work to provide that environment.
Bloomington is a well-run city in great financial condition. I will work to keep property taxes low and affordable. This year we were able to reduce the monthly cost of services from $67.82 to $66.04 for a median valued home. Further, Bloomington is 1 of 31 communities nationally to receive a AAA bond rating by all three rating services.
Bloomington needs experienced and knowledgeable leaders to help it address and solve its problems and create future opportunities. I have those skills and experience and ask for your vote on Aug. 13.
1. I have lived in Bloomington for the past 21 years, am married to Trish, and have three children and four grandchildren. I have a business degree from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. I served our nation and state in the Minnesota Army National Guard for 29 years, and am now retired from the service. I have worked in the transportation field for more than 40 years as a “small businessman.”
For 20 years and currently, I work for IMD Transportation based in Bloomington, where I’m a general manager.
2. I am running because I am very frustrated with the lack of transparency in our budget, and with what the taxpayer is paying in property taxes, along with how the balance of funds are collected and what they pay for.
We first need to make sure to fund essential services: police, fire, water and street services. These make up the core of what cities are to take care of.
We must make our commercial tax rate more competitive with surrounding cities. Example: Ours is 62 percent higher than Edina’s.
We need to take a look at our total outstanding debt of $73 million. This portends a serious problem in the future. We must start holding the line on increasing the debt and our budget now.
Russ Burnison is asking for your vote on Aug. 13 in the primary. Thank you.
email: email@example.com, website: russ4citycouncil.com
1. Twenty-five years ago my wife and I chose to live in Bloomington. We chose to buy a home, to open two businesses and to have our children attend Bloomington schools. I love the community here and have volunteered with the Bloomington police, parks, schools, public health and BCAT cable. Now I want to serve Bloomington in an even more meaningful way.
2. I was approached by Ann Lenczewski to run for this seat in the hope that I would use my experience to maintain balance and cooperation on the city council. As board president of a national nonprofit, I helped navigate the organization through a CEO change and retain fiscal health from 2009-12. In my current role with the Child Neurology Foundation, I collaborate with advocacy organizations, business and doctors. I have the skills and attitude necessary to help the council remain bipartisan, avoid gridlock and monitor our city finances.
Many candidates bring single agendas or angry rhetoric that Bloomington is broken. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have lower taxes than many of our surrounding cities. That being said, other cities have been able to freeze tax increases. I think we can freeze taxes while striving to balance real world changing conditions with our specific neighborhood needs.
William “Bill” Reichert:
1. I am a Bloomington small business owner, member of Mt. Hope Lutheran Church Governing Board, Jefferson Class of 1974, and a husband, father and grandfather. I have lived, worked and worshipped in Bloomington nearly all of my 56 years.
2. Bloomington belongs to us, its taxpaying citizens, not city hall. I am running for Bloomington City Council District 3 to ensure your voices are heard and respected. Our city government is the management team we hire to maintain our city’s essential services of police, fire, sewer, water and roads. It must be efficient, responsive and as cost effective as possible. It exists to serve you, not itself. When city government is managed properly, the laws of economics will lower the cost of operations and reduce the burden on taxpayers. The city must respect your private property rights. If you want to be represented by someone who will really listen, and is not a city hall insider, I will be your voice on the Bloomington City Council.
District 4 (northeastern Bloomington, 4 years)
1. Karen and I have been married 49 years. We have lived in east Bloomington 48 years, graduated from U of M, taught high school for one year then started our own business.
Substitute-taught for six years when I neared retirement. I like working with children. Served in the Army Special Forces Airborne during the 1960s. Have authored two U.S. patents. Both were approved. Both products are sold internationally. I have served as both a BAA boys soccer coach and a girls volleyball coach. Presently operate an Internet business selling products worldwide. I attend Cedar Valley Church.
2. Several times I have been asked to run for public office and with Vern Wilcox retiring this seemed the time to do it. If elected I hope to form relationships with other council members to strengthen the voice of the residents in east Bloomington. East Bloomington has too long been treated as the ugly sister. Too long we have been only a revenue source for west Bloomington. I feel other districts feel the same. Uniting with these districts, I will work to improve all services the city provides: police, street repair and park maintenance, to name a few. With your vote we came make this happen.
1. My husband and I purchased a home that was rental property in 1986. It wasn’t our dream home but we chose to buy it and fix it up because we enjoyed the neighborhood. We added an addition and replaced the garage and just about everything else while raising our children; Danielle, Jayson, Dylan and Justine. Before moving to Bloomington, I took classes at the University of Minnesota, I was an accountant for Norwest Mortgage and I also worked at Win Stephens Buick and Metals Joining Lab.
2. One of my main objectives in running for city council is to create neighborhood associations; to communicate issues to and educate residents about matters that are before the city council. Neighborhood associations will allow residents to voice concerns and communicate back to the council in a unified manner. I’m also concerned about the city finances. There is literature from the city and it appears the city is financially sound while information from outside the city states differently. Residents deserve to know and understand. If the city is not financially sound, I’m not opposed to paying taxes if needed but I am opposed to taxes that are too high; it drives businesses away or prevents homeowners from investing in their homes. If the city is financially doing well I would like to see it reflected within the city; more parks and green space and more jobs for citizens of Bloomington.
1. My wife Sandy and I moved to Bloomington in 2003 shortly after I retired from a 33-year career as a public school teacher and principal. I then formed a conflict management business. We enjoy time with our 5 children and 13 grandchildren. Volunteering and yard work also keep me busy. I serve on the Bloomington Planning Commission, served on Bloomington United for Youth’s board, tutored at Valley View Middle School, am active in the Bloomington Chamber’s Community Outreach Committee, help with Heritage Days and am active in our church. Degrees: BA (Concordia, Moorhead), MEd (UMD) and PhD (University of Arizona).
2. Sandy and I are happy we moved to Bloomington. I want to participate in keeping our city a good place to live, work and enjoy life. City council needs to make sure our government is financially sound and that residents have the opportunity to enjoy a secure, fulfilling life. I want to help Bloomington maintain its excellent financial management ratings – we taxpayers deserve to get a good bang for our buck. I want to help plan our future: transportation, health, housing, fine arts, learning, physical activity. We need a business-community partnership that provides good jobs, good shopping experiences and contributes to a healthy community and environment.
Serving five years on the Planning Commission has given me insights into how Bloomington operates. If elected I will use that experience, combine it with the knowledge I’ve picked up as a volunteer in Bloomington, and promote common sense problem solving and long-range planning.
At-large (4 years)
Cynthia Bemis Abrams:
1. Lifelong Bloomington resident, attended Bloomington Public Schools K-12, as did our children Grant and Alison. Married to Dave Abrams. We’ve owned homes in east and central Bloomington and currently reside near Dred Scott Playfields. Self-employed public relations and leadership consultant; member of Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. Past civic activities: elected to the Bloomington School Board, chair of Bloomington Parks, Arts and Recreation Advisory Commission; community co-chair of Bloomington Schools Neighborhood Renewal Task Force; board member of Bloomington Arts Center. Coached BAA volleyball. Our family has hosted Japanese students through the Bloomington Sister City Organization.
2. For as long as I can remember, our city council has governed with values of efficiency, service, thoughtful growth and sound fiscal planning. I’m a lifelong Bloomington resident who intends to remain here another 30 or 40 years. I want Bloomington to continue to offer the great quality of life my family and I have always enjoyed. As a council member, I will make decisions based on a deep knowledge of our neighborhoods. Having served in many community leadership positions over the years (including election to the Bloomington School Board), I have a strong background in decision-making and neighborhood outreach. My priorities include continuing to provide quality city services efficiently and cost-effectively, promoting a broad range of good housing options and preserving our parks and open spaces.
1. I am 28 and I have been a resident of Bloomington for 15 years. My wife Sarah and I live one block southeast of Normandale and Old Shakopee with our rescue dog Mac, a black pointer/lab mix. I graduated from Bloomington public schools in the class of 2002. I hold a bachelor’s degree in business and an A.A.S. in accounting and tax from Minnesota School of Business. My career experience consists of new business development in the insurance and investments industry and I was also a college admissions representative specializing in helping recent high school graduates.
2. I submitted my candidacy for Bloomington City Council to fill a void and voice for liberty on the council while offering less coercive and more voluntary solutions to city governance. With the right leadership we can provide these solutions in a positive light and show we can still have a well-ordered prosperous community without the heavy hand of government to give them to us. There are many in Bloomington that believe in individual liberty and know that it is good not only for the individual, but for the community as well. When the city focuses on what it does best – police, fire, sewer, public works – while keeping our taxes low, we the people can focus on what we do best, and that is pursue happiness. Bloomington is a good city to live in, and together I believe we can make it a great city to live in.
(Editor’s note: As we did during the last election cycle, we will allow comments on this story until 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 9, the last Friday before the Aug. 13 primary election.)