Voters guide: Richfield City Council Ward 1

Voters on Richfield’s west side will pick their next city council member Tuesday, May 23, in a special election for Ward 1.

Four candidates are vying to replace Pat Elliott, who vacated the seat when he was elected as Richfield mayor in March. Elliott replaced Debbie Goettel as mayor after Goettel won election to the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners. The current Ward 1 term runs through 2020.

The Sun Current sent a questionnaire asking the city council candidates to summarize their views on some of the biggest issues facing the city they wish to serve.

Gordon Hanson
Address: 6311 Sheridan Ave.
Age: 59
Family: Wife, Jeanne; Son, Jeff (19)
Education: Masters of Science in Journalism, West Virginia University.
Occupation: Work at 3M in marketing
Years residing in the city: 25
Community/civic organizations involvement: Friends of Wood Lake Nature Center Board, Chair; Open Streets at Penn Fest/Penn Central of Richfield Organizer; Richfield Planning Commission, nine years of service, two of those years as chair
Previous campaigns for public office: Ran for Richfield Ward 1 council in 2008, have never served in elective office
Contact: www.ElectGordonHanson.com, [email protected], 612-798-1927

Why are you running for Richfield City Council?

I have served in a variety of leadership and grassroots positions within Richfield, from having chaired the Richfield Planning Commission to having assisted students planting trees on the grounds of Sheridan Hills Elementary. I receive a great deal of satisfaction from pitching in to make Richfield a vibrant community. I see being on the city council as an extension of that service. I promise to be a public servant with an emphasis on service.

What priorities should be emphasized as the city of Richfield crafts a new Comprehensive Plan that will guide changes in the community for decades to come?

I would like to see continued emphasis on housing options that serve all generations, from young families with children to seniors. I believe the best community is one in which all generations can feel at home. Life-cycle housing gives people options to be a part of the community throughout all stages of life.

As a citizen who has been working to enhance the Penn and 66th business district, I would like to see the area remain a place where small independent businesses can thrive. I’ve worked to support the local businesses on Penn Avenue, and I would like to see the city market the area to attract other independent businesses. A few years ago, I organized an event called the Avenue of Opportunities to showcase available storefront and office spaces to entrepreneurs. Several spaces were leased through that effort.

As developers look to purchase aging apartment complexes and renovate the properties, potentially displacing low-income residents as part of an ongoing housing trend, what should be the city’s role in preserving naturally occurring affordable housing?

As the only candidate who served on the Richfield Housing Visioning Task Force, I am experienced in working to draft policies for market-rate, affordable and senior housing. Our task force recommendations were adopted by the city council a few years ago.
While recently attending a city council work session on the topic of affordable housing, I learned Hennepin County is operating a “Natural Occurring Affordable Housing” fund. I believe resources such as this one can help upgrade housing stock while making housing attainable for lower-income residents.

Because the ever-shrinking inventory of affordable housing is reaching crisis proportions, Richfield needs to be a partner in working toward a solution. But Richfield cannot solve the problem alone. Resources will be needed from regional forms of government such as Hennepin County and the Metropolitan Council. Neighboring municipalities will also need to act as partners.

In adopting housing policy, Richfield must also be cautious so as not to discourage private investment in housing stock. Private investment is the source of millions of dollars of housing stock upgrades. It is essential to help us refresh and renew housing inventory.

Brandt Krueger
Address: 6304 Russell Ave.
Age: 43
Family: I’ve been married to my wife Barbara for over 12 years, and we have two daughters: Samantha (almost 10) and Fiona (8), who attend Sheridan Hills Elementary.
Education: BA
Occupation: Freelance meeting and event technology consultant and educator
Years residing in the city: 12
Community/civic organizations involvement: Richfield Public Schools Fiscal Planning Advisory Committee (FPAC), District Technology Advisory Committee (DTAC), and volunteer work for Richfield Citizens for a Quality Community
Previous campaigns for public office: Richfield School Board in 2015
Contact: [email protected], 612-293-9304, or Facebook Messenger.

Why are you running for Richfield City Council?

I’m running because I believe we can make local politics more accessible to all, with a focus on communication, transparency and accountability. I believe in increased coordination and cooperation between the city and the schools, working hand-in-hand to make Richfield a desirable place to live and raise a family. I have a strong background in technology, and can help prepare for the technological challenges and opportunities to come. Finally, I’m running because I’m “all in” on Richfield – we live here, we work here, and our girls go to the public schools. I want us to keep moving forward as a community, and I’d like us to do it together.

What priorities should be emphasized as the city of Richfield crafts a new Comprehensive Plan that will guide changes in the community for decades to come?

Part of accountability is making a plan, and sticking to it. Part of transparency is making sure we all understand the plan, and the reasons behind the decisions being made. If too many variances are being given out, we might need to change parts of the plan to be more realistic. We need to be looking forward at long-term technology trends, including what transportation will look like 20 years from now. Then there’s Penn … Every candidate for the last 15 years on the west side has run on Penn Avenue redevelopment, yet progress has been slow. We need to lay out a timeline to address the major problems preventing development on the Penn Avenue Corridor, and start developing concrete strategies to overcome them.

As developers look to purchase aging apartment complexes and renovate the properties, potentially displacing low-income residents as part of an ongoing housing trend, what should be the city’s role in preserving naturally occurring affordable housing?

Affordable housing is obviously a very hot topic right now, and rightly so with the enormous potential for disruption in our community. We need to make sure we have a good mix of naturally affordable housing of all kinds, while still providing opportunities for market-rate development. The 80/20 split on new development gets talked about a lot, but I can’t help but wonder if we’re missing an opportunity to help people move upward as they get better jobs, with something more along the line of 70/10/10/10. The lowest 10 percent would be reserved for those with the greatest need, with the remaining levels acting as a path toward being able to afford market-rate housing without any assistance at all. While we can support nonprofit redevelopment, we also have to be prepared for the realities of the market. We won’t be able to save every building, and we need to be ready with community, city, and school resources that can be spun up on short notice to help those that might be displaced.

Zack Olson
Address: 6824 Russell Ave.
Age: 35
Family: Wife, Nicole, (of 11 years); Daughter, Audrey (8); Son, Myer (5). Audrey and Myer attend Sheridan Hills Elementary School and Fun Club. Nicole is a teacher with a Masters in Education.
Education: University of Minnesota-Duluth: Bachelor of Fine Arts, Graphic Design
Occupation: Founder and CEO, Forward Slash Marketing. (Marketing analytics and reporting services for businesses.)
Years residing in the city: 10
Community/civic organizations involvement: Member House of Prayer Lutheran Church, Former Member Richfield District Technology Committee
Previous campaigns for public office: Candidate for Richfield School Board in 2011, was not elected.
Contact: https://zackforrichfield.com/, [email protected], 612-642-1393

Why are you running for Richfield City Council?

I truly view civic duty as a necessity to American life and am honored for the ability to serve my community. I saw an opportunity to step forward. Richfield has an opportunity to usher in development and growth that can solidify an identity for future generations living and working here. There is an identity crisis for Richfield that I would like to address, which can help build awareness and attract not only new residents but new businesses. We witnessed a transformation that brought investment into our community, a significant drop in police calls, and a newfound zeal for living in Richfield only to see our current city officials adamantly oppose it, this is the Concierge Apartments. Either we can continue to oppose this progress or embrace it. I choose to embrace it.

What priorities should be emphasized as the city of Richfield crafts a new Comprehensive Plan that will guide changes in the community for decades to come?

1) Safety. This has and should continue to be the primary focus for years to come. Safety breeds confidence.
2) Business Growth. When the city includes a vibrant business community that is supported and that attracts investment, it is a source of future economic security.
3) Homes. We need to stop ripping homes from this city. We need to protect the limited number of single-family homes we have and work to allow our growing families and young residents places to thrive for years to come.

As developers look to purchase aging apartment complexes and renovate the properties, potentially displacing low-income residents as part of an ongoing housing trend, what should be the city’s role in preserving naturally occurring affordable housing? 

I believe the city’s role is to represent our current and future residents while respecting private enterprise. I like the 80/20 rule for affordable housing, but I do not want affordable housing to be a victim of poor quality or safety. This is a case by case issue, but I would like to improve outside interest in investments here in Richfield and be open to ideas for addressing the broad housing needs for our city.

Simon Trautmann
Address: 6618 Humboldt Ave.
Age: 36
Family: Jennifer Melendez Trautmann, Justice Trautmann, Leander Trautmann
Education: University of St. Thomas School of Law, Juris Doctor
Occupation: Attorney/Business owner
Years residing in the city: 22
Community/civic organizations involvement: Richfield Foundation, board member; Richfield Human Rights Commission, commissioner; North Central University Alumni Association, president
Previous campaigns for public office: None
Contact: Twitter @ simonatlaw, 612-205-6822

Why are you running for Richfield City Council?

Richfield is at a pivotal moment of generational change. I am part of the third generation of Trautmanns living in Richfield, and I am raising the fourth generation in the same home where I was raised. I am running because I love Richfield. I have a track record as a business owner who pays my workers above-average (and living) wages. As a small business attorney, I know the pain-points local small business owners feel and am uniquely qualified to recruit and cheer on our local businesses in the Penn Central corridor. As a nonprofit leader, both on the Richfield Foundation and the North Central University Alumni Association, I have championed diversity and inclusion. I am running to see Richfield accelerate its path towards becoming a prosperous, equitable and diverse community.

What priorities should be emphasized as the city of Richfield crafts a new Comprehensive Plan that will guide changes in the community for decades to come?

1) We need commercial development that creates and magnifies the best of our community, especially in the Penn Central corridor. That means more phenomenal restaurants like Lyn65 and Aida, and recognition of longstanding gems like Fireside Foundry and CaDao Express. Further on development, we need to place density wisely and where it fits with adequate buffers.

2) Public safety is a priority. In addition to making sure our police and fire departments are well funded, I specifically will work to implement the Law Enforcement Training Opportunity (LETO) program that will be one tool to help us recruit excellent professionals, especially those with diverse backgrounds.

3) Smart, safe, beautiful, walkable transportation solutions. I will work diligently and judiciously to see that as roads and sidewalks are updated we: invest smartly, increase safety and walk-ability, and show consideration for residents and business owners in Ward 1.

As developers look to purchase aging apartment complexes and renovate the properties, potentially displacing low-income residents as part of an ongoing housing trend, what should be the city’s role in preserving naturally occurring affordable housing?

1) As a city, we should cast a clear vision where Richfield continues to grow and improve our housing stock, but maintain and codify inclusionary affordable housing solutions.

2) I am mindful of the ways housing policy at various levels of government has created significant inequities especially along racial lines. Even if the council cannot address every facet of federal and state policy, we must recognize that this is the context of our housing discussions.

3) Encourage partnerships with developers like Aeon (who recently agreed to purchase Seasons Park).

4) We must maintain a mixture of affordable housing. We can do this by ensuring new developments include a healthy mix of affordable housing.