Herald Journal - Voters' Guide '08

Seven have filed for positions in Lester Prairie

Seven people have filed for positions in the City of Lester Prairie.

Two have filed for mayor – Andy Heimerl (who currently serves as mayor), and Stan Ehrke.

For council, five have filed in Lester Prairie. For the four-year council positions, four have filed – incumbent Art Mallak; as well as newcomers Darvin Heldt, Bob Messer, and Travis Schlangen.

For the two-year position open in Lester Prairie, one person has filed – Ron Foust, who currently serves on the council.

Andy Heimerl

Why are you running for office?

Because I enjoy being involved with the city. I like working with a group of people that offer opinions and ideas to make Lester Prairie not only a great place to live, but also a great place to raise a family.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

I don’t think that you can point to just two important issues; there are many important issues to be worked on. The budget is a major issue every year. The council needs to work together with the heads of its departments to find numbers that make Lester Prairie an affordable, yet improving and up-to-date, town in which to live. We also have improvements which need to made to the streets and storm sewers, as well as parks that need to be made to make this a deirable place to live. Working with the people of the community to get thier thoughts and opinions on things that need to be done to improve and mantain our city is always an issue that needs to be handled.

Why should you be elected?

Over the past two years that I have been on council, I have enjoyed working with the council members and many different people we have in place. I like to think that I work hard, and have good ideas for the community. I am always available by phone, or you can quite frequently find me out and about in the city. I am dedicated to making Lester Prairie a desirable place for people to call home.

Stan Ehrke

Why are you running for office?

I am running for office because I like the job. After being on the city council for 20 years, I am ready to be your mayor. My wife, Charlotte, and I grew up in this area; she in town, and me on a farm five miles west of town. I have lived in the same house since I moved to town in 1966. Charlotte has owned and operated a beauty shop on Central Avenue since 1968.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

This is a hard one to pick, because there are so many.

Keeping the public informed. We do a very poor job in keeping the public informed. Sometimes I feel like we run a third world country in Lester Prairie. Don’t tell the natives anything and they won’t know what questions to ask.

So how are we going to change this? First of all, we are going to video the council meetings and broadcast them live and after hours on the community channel.

All councilmen and some employees will have e-mail addresses and these will be published. All councilmen phone numbers will be published.

We will create a web site and publish all information that is appropriate. This will include all councilmen e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and their areas of responsibilities. So, if you have a question about snow plowing or street sweeping or maintaining the parks, you will know who to contact. We may even publish the e-mail addresses of all members of all boards.

We will publish all ordinances, resolutions, and minutes in their entirety (no summaries). Financial reports will be published – I just haven’t figured out how much data is appropriate. We will at least publish where we are spending your tax dollars.

All councilmen, members of the park board, fire department officials, police chief, and any other staff that’s appropriate will receive a monthly financial report showing enough information so that they can intelligently manage their budget.

I want only two places where I can go to find out when the next council meeting or special meeting is – a bulletin board or electronically. I don’t want to decide, “should I go to the city hall and look for a piece of paper taped to the front door, or is it on the bulletin board beside the front door (which you can’t read anyway), or should I go to the post office and try to find it amongst the FBI’s 10 most wanted criminals.” With today’s technology, this should be easy.

Quarterly newsletters – if appropriate, we will include these with your utility bill.

Downtown parking. Start doing some realistic planning for off-street parking in the downtown area. Unless you tear down the existing city hall, you will always need more off-street parking for that building, regardless of the use.

City administrator. It’s time we look into the feasibility of hiring a city administrator (and don’t drag this on for six months).

Why should you be elected?

I have been a councilman for 20 years and on the planning and zoning commission for 22 years.

I have been a member of a number of city projects, both owner (project manager) or member of the project committee. My first project was the street naming and house numbering project done by the Jaycees in 1968. We were commissioned by the city council to come up with a naming convention, assign numbers to all commercial buildings and houses, and install the street signs. We even sold house numbers.

As a councilman, the project list consists of: sanitary sewer facility, water tower, and new city hall.

City-owned housing development (Prairie Meadows) (I’ll always be proud of this one). One night, I had this idea of starting a city-owned housing development (that was during the time when we had no development at all). I took an old map of the area, drew in the streets and lots and proposed it to the city council. We then did the math, checked on the legalities, and laid out a two-stage construction plan. As they say, “The rest is history.”

After all the lots where sold, the city had a net profit of $250,000. Now it’s my job to find out what happened to this money.

Art Mallak

Why are you running for office?

I am running for office because after a lot of thought and consideration and talking to a lot of the citizens in Lester Prairie, I have decided to once again run for councilman position. I believe we have a lot of work ahead of us. With the knowledge I have gained over the last four years as councilman, I believe I have the knowledge and the common sense to help us to go forward.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

I believe one of the main issues is spending, as people are cutting their budgets, we need to prioritize and fix what we need to fix now, and maybe hold off on some other things.

Another main issue would be the city infrastructure. Parts of the water, sewer, and road systems are getting bad. We need to start saving for their replacements.

Also, another one would be trying to attract more businesses to town, and supporting the businesses that are now in town so they do not leave.

Why should you be elected?

I believe I have the knowledge and the common sense to help solve some of the issues in Lester Prairie and help the town prosper.

Darvin Heldt

Why are you running for office?

No answer submitted.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

No answer submitted.

Why should you be elected?

No answer submitted.

Bob Messer

Why are you running for office?

I am seeking election to the Lester Prairie City Council to continue to represent the residents of Lester Prairie. Since the last election, I have been actively involved on the planning and zoning commission and park board.

Last spring, I was appointed to fill the vacant seat as a council member and as the park board liaison. I would like to continue the work that has begun, as well as work on new projects for the future. I ask for your vote and your support.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

I continue to believe that community development is an ongoing need for our city. The city council must support local businesses, encourage new business and industrial development, and explore strategies to occupancy of existing homes.

Just as important are the public services that the city provides to its residents. The city council must address public safety needs through support of our award-winning police department, maintain a collaborative relationship with the Lester Prairie School District, and continue improvements of our recreational and outdoor spaces.

Why should you be elected?

I have been an appointed member of both the Lester Prairie Planning and Zoning Commission and the Park Board for nearly two years, until I was appointed to the city council by the current council members.

I have learned, above all, how important it is to listen with an open mind and communicate freely, in order to effectively resolve and find creative solutions to sometimes challenging situations.

In addition, my professional experience has given me an extensive working knowledge of city, county, and state agencies, as they relate to local government.

Travis Schlangen

Why are you running for office?

I am running for office to serve the public. I am currently in the public sector, and have been since 1998. I have a desire to give to the community that I value and care about. I am interesred in the resources Lester Prairie has as it continues to prosper into the future – and for me to have a stronger voice in the process.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

I think one issue is the overall budget. Cities face more levy limits, tougher times, and economic struggles. Ensuring that the leaders and direction we are headed is continued to be managed well.

Another issue is to keep our community growing, viable and liveable, and clean. A community that provides good services to the people.

Why should you be elected?

I should be elected because I care about the community as a whole. I have knowledge of public government and service. I have common sense and will be a logical ear and voice for residents, city management, and others. I am honest and sincere.

Ron Foust

Why are you running for office?

Having been part of the city government for a number of years: participated on the Lester Prairie Park Board for six years, and the last 10 years active on the Lester Prairie City Council. The variety of functions and experience at both levels have given me a wealth of knowledge dealing with annual budgets, functionality, city officials, city employees, and, most importantly, the citizens of Lester Prairie, which has provided a broad vision of what can transpire in local government. With this experience and knowledge, it is very beneficial in providing local leadership for you in city government.

My family has been part of this community nearly 30 years. We have taken pride and joy in all the activities that surround us and have been a part of our daily lives. For generations, the city council has provided the necessary framework in which we live today in Lester Prairie.

I would like to provide my civic responsibilities to carry forth those essentials and necessities for the citizens of this community.

What do you think are two major issues at this time, and what do you propose to do about them?

First and foremost is about “change.” There has been tremendous change in the last 10 years, not only at the local government, but also in our daily lives. Local government needs to evaluate changes, as they become inevitable in our day to day activities.

Today, more and more constituents have Internet access that enables one to do several activities, such as research, work, e-mail, and interaction. With local government, we need to expand our web site to enhance what Lester Prairie has to offer to our constituents, interaction with growth potential – not only from a residential standpoint, but also from a business standpoint.

And, obviously, with change to occur, it could affect how local government spends tax dollars. As part of the local city government, we need to evaluate every step, every move, and every change to make sure that we are fiscally responsible to all citizens of Lester Prairie.

Secondly, high priority would be to develop a “Commercial and Industrial Park.” To entice new businesses to consider Lester Prairie. We need to be pro-active in this area. Having new businesses within our community provides great tax benefits and relieves the tax burden on our residential constituents. Not only have land space available, but to entice new industries/businesses to be a part of this community. Now, it does take some effort on our part to sell our city, our locality, and our infrastructure. By knocking on the doors of future prospects, someday prospects will become a reality.

Thirdly, affordable housing is an important ingredient to the health of our city. We all know that housing costs are escalating at an alarming rate. We need to have a nice balance of housing available within Lester Prairie, to have some flexibility to meet the needs of incoming residents and also residents that currently live in Lester Prairie.

This is all part of the “change” too, as families expand and empty nesters become inevitable. We need to establish some balance in our housing appetite, whether it’s apartment units, four-plex units or similar, town-homes, twin-homes, condominiums, or single family homes of different ranges. There is also a need for senior housing. We will continue to enhance our opportunity with housing developers to ensure dimensional choices.

Fourthly, downtown rehabilitation is very important, too. Obviously, with new housing that has taken place in the past few years – Cedar Drive, Prairie Ridge, and East Park Estates – we need to be cognizance of our downtown area. The need to revitalize our downtown area becomes much more important.

Businesses may need to expand their floor space, possibly a new facelift, or even aesthetics that surrounds our business district. We need to be pro-active in providing leadership roles in solidifying possible grants, TIF programs, and economic development programs, so our new and existing businesses can continue to flourish and be an asset in this community for generations to come.

Why should you be elected?

I will continue to be an active voice for the local city government issues for the betterment of all citizens of Lester Prairie. Not only for the issues as described, but other issues as they surface, to make sound conclusive decisions.

Obviously, the decisions we make today will have long term impact for the wealth of Lester Prairie, for today’s generation and also for future generations. With your help and your vote Tuesday, Nov. 4, we can sustain the momentum, as our future looks extremely exciting for our community.