OBPA hosts mayoral candidate forum


The Oakdale Business and Professional Association held its annual Eggs 'n Issues breakfast last week at Oak Marsh Golf Course. This was the first year the OBPA has hosted a mayoral forum. City council members Paul Reinke, left, and Stan Karwoski took turns fielding questions -- each made his case as to why he should be Oakdale's next mayor. (Submitted photo)

Oakdale candidates talk issues with business community

Last week, the Oakdale Business and Professional Association hosted its annual Eggs 'n Issues breakfast at Oak Marsh Golf Course. The OBPA has hosted council and county board forums in the past, but this is the first year the OBPA has hosted a mayoral forum, moderator Marc Cove of Platinum Bank said.

Longtime mayor Carmen Sarrack has decided not to run for reelection.

Vying for the mayor's seat are city council members Paul Reinke and Stan Karwoski, as well as vice chair of the city's planning commission, Marty Jurgensen. Jurgensen, who is an educator and volunteer firefighter, was unable to attend the forum held the morning of Thursday, Sept. 18.

Look for a more detailed description of all three candidates in an upcoming edition of the Review.

Reinke and Karwoski touched on a number of issues, from budget and mayoral priorities to economic development and redevelopment strategies, as well as personal attributes each feels they possess that make them uniquely qualified to be Oakdale's next mayor.

Both candidates introduced themselves and responded to questions submitted by local residents, business owners and those in attendance at the forum.

Reinke, who won the coin toss for the right to speak first, said he was running for mayor to continue Sarrack's legacy.

The city council member is in the middle of his third term on the council.

Karwoski, currently serving on his fourth term on the council, also noted that the city has had "an outstanding mayor" for 16 years. He said he wants to continue the progress made under Sarrack's leadership.

Both men were asked to name a quality or two that separates them from the other candidates.

Karwoski responsed that he has raised a family of six in the community and has been highly involved with the community, from volunteering on the city's planning and parks commissions, to the 622 Education Foundation and Oakdale Fire Department Relief Board, as well as other volunteer roles.

"I've been really involved in the community ... I've lived and breathed it for 28 years," he said.

Reinke responded that his over 30 years of business experience sets him apart from other candidates.

"I bring a skill set that is sensitive to the [overall] community's needs and the business community's needs," he said.

He also noted his involvement with Oakdale's Fire Service Planning Committee and the local school district.

Budget priorities

Both candidates stressed the importance of keeping lean, but smart budgets, and low taxes.

Karwoski said a main budget priority for the city should be a continued commitment to public safety. He said the city should be working towards improving commercial and residential neighborhoods, as well as parks and other natural areas.
Reinke agreed, and said he believes the city should focus on improving commercial and residential neighborhoods that are showing signs of age, such as the Tanners Lake area. He added that developments in areas like Tartan Crossing are also a priority.

Priorities as mayor

Reinke said his priorities would include creating and maintaining great neighborhoods, both commercial and residential; low and reasonable taxes, with the acknowledgement that it takes money to pay for services; well equipped police and fire departments; and a focus on improving roads and transportation.

Karwoski listed his top priorities as: strengthening neighborhoods, youth and senior community engagement, improved economic development and improving parks and enhancing natural areas.

Economic development, city's role in business community

The mayoral candidates acknowledged the need for a highly qualified city administrator to help guide future development and redevelopment efforts in Oakdale. Craig Waldron recently retired from his job as the city's administrator after over 20 years on the job. 

Reinke and Karwoski seemed to agree the best approach is to work with the business community to create a favorable environment in which to operate, while allowing the private sector to conduct business operations as it sees fit.

"I think we're in an envious position," Reinke said. "We are fortunate enough to have a highly impactful and involved business community."

Reinke said the city should continue to work with the business community to help them grow, and did not see the need for a drastic change in action. Karwoski said he would like for the city to hire a marketing firm to create a more concise business marketing strategy.

"I see the relationship as a partnership," Karwoski said. "[We work to] keep our businesses here and be loyal to them and help grow them. I think we can recruit more."

The OBPA board has met since the forum and will soon decide whether to endorse a candidate for mayor.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.

 

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