Q & A with New Brighton City Council/Mayoral candidates

Joshua Nielsen
Bulletin staff

The city of New Brighton will hold an election for the open city council and mayor seats in November.

Incumbents Gina Bauman and Char Samuelson are vying for two open council seats, as are challengers Mary Kunesh-Podein, Brian Strub and Graeme Allen.

Incumbent mayor Dave Jacobsen and current City Council Member Mary Burg will face off in New Brighton’s mayoral race.  

Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 5. Find your polling place at www.co.ramsey.mn.us/elections/ or contact Ramsey County Elections at 651-266-2171.

City council candidates


Char Samuelson

Char Samuelson

Incumbent Char Samuelson, 68, is married to Jerry and has two adult daughters. She was first elected to serve on the city council in 1994 and served two consecutive terms. She then served back-to-back terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and was reelected to the city council in 2009 after not seeking a third term for state office. Before starting a career in politics, Samuelson was a health care administrator. She holds a master’s degree in religious leadership from United Theological Seminary. 

Q and A with Char Samuelson  

Q: After speaking with community members on your campaign trail, what do you feel are the most important issues facing the city of New Brighton?

A: The most important issues in New Brighton are maintaining a safe city for all who live, work or play here; to insure quality housing that meets the needs of persons of different ages and economic status, and continue maintaining a balanced budget. I will work to continue focusing on these issues always striving to maintain the highest quality of life we can for all residents of New Brighton.

Q: What do you feel are the best ways to maintain valued city services while keeping a balanced budget?

A: During the last four years we have not increased the city property tax. Through focusing on need-based services rather than want-based services the department directors have been able to manage their departments well without an increase in the budget. In the future we should continue focusing on providing the style of leadership that promotes a realistic service based community. We also need to maintain and improve our infrastructure and sense of community that makes New Brighton a great city we can be proud of.


Gina Bauman

Gina Bauman

Incumbent Gina Bauman is married to her husband Corey and has a daughter, Cassie, who is currently enrolled at the University of Minnesota. She has served on the city council for eight years and is employed by Cargill, Inc. as a reliability excellence administrator.

Q & A with Gina Bauman

Q: After speaking with community members on your campaign trail, what do you feel are the most important issues facing the city of New Brighton?

A: One issue continues to be the New Brighton Exchange. It has been exciting to see development on the west side with The View apartments, and soon the API expansion and Pulte Homes, but there will be many more issues and concerns to be addressed on the east side for years to come. My understanding of Tax Increment Financing and bond issues will help avoid additional taxpayer debt. Another issue is property taxes. This is a concern for many home and business owners who are struggling to make ends meet. They do not want to be taxed out of their homes.

Q: What do you feel are the best ways to maintain valued city services while keeping a balanced budget?

A: This year the council, mayor, city manager, and staff have taken a proactive approach when working together. In addition to our teambuilding meeting, we also meet quarterly to discuss city services and the budget, building better relationships when addressing issues that may affect the citizens of New Brighton. I have the necessary financial experience, and have been an effective voice making sound decisions when budgeting taxpayer dollars. There has been a zero levy increase for many years and in 2014, with my leadership, there will be a 6.77% levy decrease. This has been accomplished with no services being cut.


Mary Kunesh-Podein

Mary Kunesh-Podein

Challenger Mary Kunesh-Podein, 52, is married to Tim Podein and has three adult children. Her husband has three grown children as well. She works as an elementary school library media specialist in the Robbinsdale Area School District. She has 17 years of experience as an educator. Kunesh-Podein has a master’s degree in information media from St. Cloud University.

Q & A with Mary Kunesh-Podein 

Q: After speaking with community members on your campaign trail, what do you feel are the most important issues facing the city of New Brighton?

A: The greatest challenges and greatest opportunities that will face New Brighton in the future are similar to those that face other local cities: managing demographic and economic growth while maintaining diversity and affordable housing; considering environmental and social sustainability; protecting public safety; and maintaining and improving our infrastructure. As a city council member I will examine existing economic development strategies developed by the city, seek out regional partners, ask for additional information if necessary, and examine New Brighton’s ability to compete in the local metro economy of the 21st century in terms of innovation, human capital, regulatory process improvement and measuring success.

Q: What do you feel are the best ways to maintain valued city services while keeping a balanced budget?

A: Proper budgeting and planning will enable our city to continue its prosperity. Fiscal responsibility and governance that puts the community first is important to me. New Brighton needs a leadership structure that will move us forward by monitoring the operation and performance of city divisions, make sound land use decisions, and approve a fair, conservative city budget. The mayor and council must be informed and unbiased in land use issues and zoning changes, housing, urban renewal and community development. A positive working relationship with local legislators is vital to ensure a strong voice and steady connection with decision makers at the State Capitol.


Brian Strub

Brian Strub

Challenger Brian Strub, 44, is is married to Lisa and has two daughters  who attend Bel Air Elementary School. He is a physician outreach manager for the Minnesota Medical Association and has a master’s degree from the American University of Washington D.C.

Q & A with Brian Strub

Q: After speaking with community members on your campaign trail, what do you feel are the most important issues facing the city of New Brighton?

A: People want leaders who listen to them and to their ideas. We need jobs here in New Brighton, and we need to continually attract new families to maintain the vibrancy of our schools and neighborhoods. People want city leaders who can work together and get the job done.

Q: What do you feel are the best ways to maintain valued city services while keeping a balanced budget?

A: The fiduciary role is one I take very seriously. It means more than a budget or balance sheet, it is about integrity, relationships, and what is best for the future of this city. Anyone can say they are for the taxpayers. Leaders work to bring jobs and growth to our city.


Graeme Allen

Graeme Allen

Challenger Graeme Allen, 35, is divorced and is a community and political organizer for the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Minnesota Morris.

Q & A with Graeme Allen

Q: After speaking with community members on your campaign trail, what do you feel are the most important issues facing the city of New Brighton?

A: Folks I have talked to really like living in the city and believe we must maintain our public safety, our parks, our sense of community and our quality of life. People want to see development in the New Brighton Exchange that is going to add retail and affordable housing for seniors, not just housing for the wealthy. They want a council that will actually listen to residents and staff. Residents want to trust that the council is motivated to serve, not just money in their personal pockets and repeal taxpayer-funded healthcare for council members.

Q: What do you feel are the best ways to maintain valued city services while keeping a balanced budget?

A: Folks want a balanced approach to the city budget that isn’t just about cutting services. They want to see a city that is investing in the community. With additional state money, we should lower property taxes and restore programs for seniors and kids. We need to continue to move forward on development but should pursue affordable senior housing and more retail space. They want a council that will actually listen to residents and staff. Residents want to trust that the council is motivated to serve, not just money in their personal pockets and repeal taxpayer-funded healthcare for council members.

Mayoral candidates

Incumbent Dave Jacobsen has been New Brighton’s mayor for the past four years and is seeking a third, two-year term. He is married to Kathy and has two grown daughters, Susan and Sara. Jacobsen works for Osseo Bus doing data entry for inventory and cost control. He has completed four years of study at both St. Thomas and the University of Minnesota as well as two years in the Navy “A” school and two years at Dunwoody for class “A” Master’s Electrician. 


Dave Jacobsen

Q & A with Dave Jacobsen

Q: After speaking with community members on your campaign trail, what do you feel are the most important issues facing the city of New Brighton?

A: Development is still a major concern because of the large amount of debt left to the city. The council and staff got on a bus to tour developments and to talk directly with developers about the advantages of building in the Exchange. Development is moving ahead at a good pace. Waiting for the economy to get better was not a good plan by past councils. An action plan has again proven it can provide positive results even in a tough economy.

Q: What do you feel are the best ways to maintain valued city services while keeping a balanced budget?

A: In the last four years we  have worked with city staff on long term financial planning. We now have a fully funded, 15-year fleet/non-fleet (capital) budget as well as a 15-year plan for infrastructure. The city is in the best financial position it has ever had. Without raising the levy we have had a surplus and paid down debt. What better way to provide for the long-term health of our city.

Mary Burg has served on the New Brighton City Council since January of 2004 and is challenging Jacobsen for the mayoral seat. She did not respond to the questionnaire by the Bulletin’s deadline.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824.

 

 

 

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