Two fields of Bloomington City Council hopefuls are seeking a chance at November’s ballot, and the key to that ballot is advancing in next month’s primary election.
Four candidates in each field will appear on the Aug. 8 primary ballot, with the top two contenders in each race advancing to November’s general election. Voters across the city are asked to cast a ballot in the council’s at-large primary election, while residents in the southwest precincts of the city will also be asked to narrow the field for their District 2 representative.
The at-large candidates are Michael Arulfo, Nathan Coulter, Kim Vlaisavljevich and Susan “Hofmeister” Woodruff. Vlaisavljevich was appointed by the council to fill the vacant seat last year, and the winner of November’s election will serve four years, as Vlaisavljevich is completing the current term.
The District 2 candidates are Lenny Klevan Schmitz, Cheryl Lewis, Shawn Nelson and Eldon Spencer. Spencer was appointed by the council to fill the vacant seat earlier this year, and the winner of November’s election will serve the final two of years of the current term.
Primary election candidates were asked to submit biographical and platform information to the Sun Current.
Arulfo, 44, said the mission of local government is to create a community where all families feel safe and children can succeed.
“I believe in a Bloomington that flourishes through strong schools, vibrant community gathering places, renewed commitment to affordable housing and fierce protection of our green spaces,” he said.
“I understand what robust civic services, strong schools and an engaged community can mean for residents. When I was 7 years old, I immigrated to the United States to escape the poverty of the Philippines. My family lived in subsidized housing until my parents could get better paying jobs and buy our first modest home. The public school system and great teachers enabled my success in school, and later, in business,” he explained.
“I believe in listening before speaking when finding solutions to difficult problems. My experience as a senior product owner in the health care industry has shown me the success a commitment to innovative and pragmatic solutions brings. I have hands-on experience working closely with a team to create responsible budgets and realistic timelines,” he noted.
If elected, Arulfo said he will listen to and represent everyone in the community, including seniors, young families and immigrants. “Together we can rise to the challenges ahead of us and find creative solutions. We can create affordable housing without putting an undue traffic burden on any one neighborhood. We can preserve the environment while growing small business. We can meet this century’s struggles without displacing those that have called this community home for generations,” he said.
Information about his candidacy is available online at mikeforbloomington.com.
Coulter, 31, is a lifelong Bloomington resident who attended the city’s public schools. “I work for and with our Bloomington legislators in St. Paul, and I also serve on the boards for the Bloomington Housing and Redevelopment Authority and the Perpich Center or Arts Education,” he noted.
“I’m running because I think we can do better than the status quo leadership we have currently. It’s not that Bloomington isn’t well run, but I just don’t see priorities that are really focused on moving us forward, and making progress for those who live here now, and those who will live here as we look five, 10, or 20 years down the line,” according to Coulter.
“For me, those priorities include our transportation and infrastructure systems, affordable housing and a more open, accessible and responsive government,” he explained.
“I’m going to keep working hard for our city because I value Bloomington as my home and as a community, and I believe when you value something, you prove it by working hard to make it better. My roots in Bloomington coupled with a fresh perspective, my experience working with our city and state officials on policy and budget matters and my belief in the strong potential of Bloomington would bring forward-looking leadership to the city council,” he said.
“I’m always happy to have conversations and answer any questions you have, and I’d be honored to earn your vote,” he added.
Information about his candidacy is available online at neighborsfornathan.com.
Vlaisavljevich, 37, has been a Bloomington resident for more than five years. Vlaisavljevich and her partner have two grown sons and two grandchildren.
She was born and raised in Eveleth, Minnesota, and has been involved in local politics since her youth. “My father served as the mayor of Eveleth and continues to serve today. I was involved in his campaign for state senate, my own city council run in 2009, and now,” she said. She cites promoting diversity through the INROADS mentoring program, WomenVenture business consultants and Bloomington Noon Rotary among her civic participation.
“I hold a bachelor’s degree in economics from St. Cloud State University and a master’s degree in banking and financial services management from Boston University,” she noted.
“Over the past 14 years I have consulted for a variety of companies with significant engagement in driving both short- and long-term business strategy. Currently, I am the director of strategy execution and global business process for Entrust Datacard, a Shakopee-based company. I am known as someone who get things done,” she said.
“My qualifications and background provide me with the knowledge and experience to be an effective leader and advocate for the community. For more information on Bloomington’s strategic priorities, budget and my involvement, please visit kimforbloomingtonmn.com,” she added.
Susan “Hofmeister” Woodruff
Woodruff, no age given, is a lifelong Bloomington resident.
“I have witnessed many changes over the years and most all of them good. We are now at a time in history when we have to question how much more change we want. Our community is full, and we have fully matured. Any more growth might be a tight fit,” she said.
“We elect city council members to work for us, to help us understand our options and to act on our behalf. This city council has stopped listening to us. When 200 people show up to express their concern about the development of 10 acres of our land and most of the council does not even acknowledge any of the points made, the council members are no longer interested in our input. We want a city council that makes its decisions after considering our concerns, not before. Remember the trash issue?” she noted.
Woodruff does not support the development of park land for any reason except park enhancement. She supports a multi-use senior center to replace Creekside Community Center, but “I would not support a $75 million-plus-interest community center as I am very concerned about the future of retail businesses, the resulting vacant buildings and the potential economic impact,” she explained.
“If elected, I will listen to and respect you. I will bring all of your concerns to the table. I will make myself available,” she added.
Lenny Klevan Schmitz
Schmitz, 40, grew up in East Bloomington, attended Bloomington schools and graduated from Kennedy High School. He earned a bachelor of science degree in recreation resource management from the University of Minnesota. He lives in Bloomington with his wife, Rebecca, and two daughters. Both daughters attend Bloomington Public Schools, and his wife is a teacher in the district. Both girls play hockey and softball.
Schmitz has worked in the public sector for nearly 20 years, including the areas of parks and recreation, public health and, most recently, financial services. He currently volunteers as chair of the Bloomington Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission. He has also served as a member of both the community center and Hyland Greens task forces. He has also been active in the Bloomington Fastpitch and Bloomington Girls Hockey associations. He was integral in rallying community support for the 2017 Kraft Hockeyville USA contest, which resulted in a second-place win and $75,000 of improvements for the Bloomington Ice Garden, he noted.
If elected, he will work to ensure the city is meeting the needs of an aging population, the families of today and the children of tomorrow. He noted that Bloomington has one of the highest median ages in the metro and recognizes that the wants and needs of this population is a current issue that Bloomington faces. His goal is to make Bloomington a destination community where people want to work, live and play, he explained.
Information about his candidacy is available online at klevanschmitz4council.com.
Lewis, 67, has lived in Bloomington for 38 years. “I have served on the Bloomington Planning Commission for six years and was an at-large member of the Bloomington Fine Arts Council, serving several years as president. I’m currently serving on the Bloomington Housing and Redevelopment Authority, and I represent the HRA on the Forward 2040 Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee,” she said.
“I’m committed to keeping our property taxes fair, encouraging a strong business community, renewing our aging neighborhoods, preserving our parks and expanding our walking and biking trails and working to ensure fairness and equity for all of our citizens. I firmly believe our diversity makes us stronger,” she explained.
“One of my strongest commitments, however, is tackling the growing problem of affordable housing. Bloomington, as a fully developed city, faces some special challenges. Not only do we need to preserve our naturally occurring affordable housing, but we need to find ways to increase affordable housing as areas redevelop,” according to Lewis.
“Often affordable housing is perceived negatively – people assume property values will decrease or the crime rate will rise. In reality, we’re looking at housing for working class citizens – young families just starting out, new teachers at the beginning of their careers, the policeman who protects our streets or the single parent working two jobs to support their family. Bloomington needs these people, but if we can’t provide an affordable place for them to live, they’ll move somewhere else, and we’ll be the poorer for it,” she added.
Lewis may be reached at [email protected]
Nelson, no age given, is an 18-year Bloomington resident. “I am excited for the opportunity to represent the residents of District 2 on the Bloomington City Council,” he said. “My wife Ann and our daughters, Stasia and Emma, made our home here because of the wonderful people, schools, parks and community groups. Bloomington is a great place to raise a family and grow a business,” he added.
“I am running to be a voice for our neighborhoods and our families. I am running to ensure that the city has the same focus on our core neighborhoods as it has on the areas around the mall and along 494. As our homes, stores and infrastructure get older, it is time to look forward with a focus on our neighborhood residents and businesses,” he explained.
“Bloomington should be at the top of every family’s list of places to live. We can attract local restaurants, business and recreation into our neighborhoods. We can plan for housing to meet the needs of our diverse community. We can protect and enhance our parks. We can maintain our transportation infrastructure,” Nelson said.
“I am a small business owner and have been actively engaged in the business community and housing industry for nearly 20 years, helping families achieve the opportunity to own their own safe, efficient and affordable home. I believe that I have the experience to be the voice of our neighborhoods on the city council. I will bring focus. I will bring passion. I hope to earn your vote,” he added.
Information about his candidacy is available online at nelsonforbloomington.com.
Spencer, no age given, was appointed to the city council in March. “I was honored that the city council appointed me from 13 applicants to fill the District 2 vacancy until November’s election. Now it’s the voters’ turn to choose,” he said.
“I have attended every council meeting and worked hard to represent you, while continuing to learn every day about city needs and your ideas. My broad background in law, teaching, economics, natural resource study and enjoyment and public service – along with a lifetime of private business sector work and service as a volunteer with a variety of nonprofit organizations – helps me develop pragmatic approaches to city problems and citizen needs,” he explained.
“I do have strong priorities such as preserving green space and neighborhoods, spending carefully within a thoughtfully developed budget and avoiding special city rules in areas left to statewide regulation,” he noted.
“I will not sign or make any inflexible pledges except one: To honor my council member oath of office. I believe strongly in forming public-private partnerships to address cost-effective community betterment programs and initiatives. This involves engaging with our city’s businesses and its numerous nonprofits, including service clubs, faith communities and youth and senior organizations. I pledge to continue exercising my best judgment, informed to the greatest extent possible by your concerns and real facts,” Spencer said.
“For over 29 years, Ann and I have been blessed to raise our family in this city with its strong neighborhoods and great neighbors. With your ideas and support, we will continue working to keep Bloomington that way for all families,” he added.
Information about his candidacy is available online at eldonspencerforcouncil.com.
To be eligible to vote on Aug. 8, voters must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, a Minnesota resident for at least 20 days as of Election Day and maintain residence at the address on the voter registration application. Voters who have moved to a different address, changed their name or have not voted once within the past four years must re-register.
Election Day registration is available at primary polling places with proof of residency. Proof of residency can be in the form of photo IDs as well as utility bills due within 30 days of Election Day, a rent statement dated within 30 days of Election Day, which itemizes utilities, or a current student fee statement.
Polling places are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and a map of precincts and polling places is available through the city’s website, which includes a link to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s polling place finder.
Election information is available online at tr.im/2017vote.
Follow Bloomington community editor Mike Hanks on Twitter at @suncurrent and on Facebook at suncurrentcentral.