Maplewood council candidates highlight experience, city issues

Bob Cardinal
Bob Cardinal
Bryan Smith
Bryan Smith
Diana Longrie
Diana Longrie
Tou Xiong
Tou Xiong

On Nov. 3, Maplewood voters will select two of four candidates running for city council to serve alongside Mayor Nora Slawik, and council members Marylee Abrams and Kathleen Juenemann.

Former mayor and incumbent council member Bob Cardinal will be running to keep his seat, while council member Marvin Koppen has decided not to seek another term.

Three additional candidates have their sights set on the two open seats: primary front-runner Tou Xiong, Bryan Smith and Diana Longrie.

The League of Women Voters is sponsoring a candidate forum Thursday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at Maplewood City Hall, 1830 County Road B East. The forum is free and open to the public. It will be taped by cable television for later broadcast.

The Review asked the candidates to identify the skills and experiences they think they'll bring to the office, the top challenges they see facing the city, and what issues or projects they would prioritize if elected.

Bob Cardinal

Cardinal, 63, is a business broker for Calhoun Companies. He is married to Sharon and has a bachelor's degree in liberal arts from the University of St. Thomas.

He began serving on the city council in 2012. Formerly, he served two terms as mayor, from 1999 through 2005.

Cardinal also served on the Maplewood Planning Commission and remains active in the St. Paul Rotary, the St. Paul Business Review Council and the Maplewood Area Historical Society. He served three years of active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps, obtaining the rank of captain.

Asked to identify a top issue the city faces, he says Maplewood is the seventh highest-taxed city in the metro area. He notes this is a collective tax rate, which includes city, county, school district and special taxing districts.

"We need to address these taxing authorities and make them aware of this burden on Maplewood citizens and property owners," he says. "Stabilize fiscal sustainability is my highest priority, followed by the tax ranking issue."

He adds, working to establish Internet access in all private residences would be one of his top priorities as well.

Diana Longrie

Longrie, who declined to give her age, is a self-employed attorney at law at the Longrie Law Office. She is married to Kevin Berglund and has a juris doctorate from Hamline University School of Law.

She was elected to serve as Maplewood's first female mayor in 2005.

A long-time Maplewood resident and attorney, she says she is an advocate, negotiator, skilled communicator, hard worker and problem-solver.

She also highlights her teaching experience in China as a touchstone for cultural diversity and credits her experience with local politics for making her a "champion of transparency."

Asked to identify top challenges the city faces, she listed family affordability, economic development and protecting greenways and public green spaces to preserve residents' quality of life.

"Do not compromise the Vento Trail with the Rushline," she says. "The correct route is along Highway 61, a commercial transit corridor, where economic development can occur."

If elected to serve the city again, Longrie says her top priorities would be promoting and encouraging economic development, and diversifying the city's commercial and residential tax base.

Bryan Smith

Smith, 39, is a marketing manager for Tennant Company, a manufacturer of cleaning solutions. He is married to Jennie and has an MBA from the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Business, with a focus on marketing and finance.

He has held management roles at three leading companies in the Twin Cities, including Thomson Reuters, General Mills and his current place of employment.

He's rounded out his professional experience by working as a downhill ski instructor, performing with the VocalEssence Chorus, and spending time with his wife, 7-year-old son and dogs.

Smith says the city's top challenge is finding a way to proactively attract both economic and residential redevelopment.

"Besides jobs at 3M and St. John's hospital, there aren't many employers offering good full-time jobs with benefits," he says. "Further, the housing stock is aging and is not in step with what millennial singles and families are now seeking."

Overall, he says Maplewood has been "on a good track lately," and he'd prioritize keeping the city on a "path of sensible government."

Tou Xiong

Xiong, 25, is an urban planning organizer for Harrison Neighborhood Association, an organization promoting racial and economic equity.

He has a juris doctorate from William Mitchell College of Law, with a focus on government relations. He also has a degree in economics from St. Cloud State University.

He currently serves on the Ramsey County Library Board, an experience he says will serve him well if elected to serve as a city council member.

"I believe I have been able to help the Board move forward discussions and proposals by being able to ask the right questions and understanding the nuances of complex policies and circumstances," he says.

Xiong also says he has strong communications and analytical skills. He says the city's top challenges in the upcoming years are civic engagement, local economy and infrastructure.

If elected, he says he'll place a greater emphasis on supporting the elderly.

"Seniors' issues would be an area I would like to make a priority if elected," he says.

Erin Hinrichs can be reached at 651-748-7814 and ehinrichs@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/EHinrichsNews.

 

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