Education is important to District 43 candidates


Chris Belflower

Chuck Wiger

Bob Zick

State Senate District 43 has a busy race this election cycle, with three candidates vying for the seat. Candidates include Independence Party-endorsed Chris Belflower, DFL-endorsed incumbent Chuck Wiger and Republican-endorsed Bob Zick. Wiger has held the seat since 1997.

District 43 is made up of part or all of Maplewood, White Bear Lake, Mahtomedi, Willernie, North St. Paul, Oakdale and Birchwood Village.

The Review asked the three candidates, via email, what skills and experiences they think they’d bring to the Legislature, what they think are the top challenges facing the district and what issues or project they’d prioritize if elected.

 

Chris Belflower, 46, lives in Mahtomedi with his wife Shannon and their three children. He is a construction safety trainer with an associate of applied science degree in fire science and administration from Lake Superior Technical College. 

Belflower describes himself as a public servant. He said that in his 22-year firefighting career he always had the best interest of the community in his mind. 

“As an officer in the departments I served, I always led my men and women with integrity and purpose.  They trusted me, and I trusted them.  I will do the same with the residents of not only my district, but Minnesota as well. Minnesota deserves better and I will make it better,” Belflower said.

He added that he will work to inspire Minnesotans not only to trust their elected officials once again, but to become leaders in their community.

Belflower said he believes one of the top challenges in the state is the education gap, and he said his first priority is to reform the education system.

“Currently, Minnesota leads the nation with one of the highest achievement gaps. All due to the failed policies of the incumbent,” Belflower said.

He added that he plans to “develop and put in place a program that not only will allow kids to learn at varying levels, but will empower our educators to be able to teach their students, and at the same time, we will inspire kids to want to become teachers and leaders in their communities.”

He explained that this plan will also eliminate the major social and economic issues Minnesota is facing.

“Every other issue begins to resolve themselves with a successful education system.  My plan is already proven to improve a broken system,” Belflower said.

Belflower’s second priority is economic improvement.

“We will develop legislation that will be able to cut income and property taxes, putting more money into our families’ pockets. Within the education plan comes a stronger and better workforce, ready to contribute to the economy,” he said.

Following education reform and economic improvement, Belflower said his third priority is full support of police, firefighters, first responders and veterans.

 

Charles “Chuck” Wiger, 65, is the incumbent candidate and has held the position for the past 20 years.

He works part-time for Securian as an attorney and senior compliance coordinator and holds a juris doctor degree from Hamline University.

Wiger is divorced, has five grown children and currently lives in Maplewood.

Wiger is a lifelong and third generation resident who has been actively involved in the community since college. He said that his community involvement and experience in leadership roles have led to successful experiences and fostered trust and respect from his constituents. He served as chair on the school board, chair on the Ramsey Soil and Water Conservation District board and Metropolitan Council.

He added that it is an honor to now serve as state senator.

“I know and respect my community roots. I actively seek input from citizens and consensus on issues. As a former youth sports coach, school and parks volunteer, and more, I enjoy working with people. I am dedicated to making our area a great place to live, work and recreate,” Wiger said.

Wiger said that he believes some of the top challenges the district or state will face in upcoming years will be student achievement, jobs and water sustainability.

He said that successfully preparing students for college/vo-tech/career is crucial for our area, state and nation, and that as a former school board member and current Senate Education Committee chair, he is a strong advocate for our schools. 

Wiger said that students are our future, and we need to retain and recruit high quality teachers and staff. He added that school funding and opportunity shouldn’t be based on zip code; additional reforms are needed to provide resources for our schools so they have sufficient tools to succeed.

According to Wiger, education achievement and equitable school funding are very high priorities. 

“I will continue to address education achievement and accountability. I will again be the chief Senate author on legislation reforming school funding, which helps reduce property tax burden and is supported by District 622 school board, the Association of Metro School Districts, and more,” Wiger said. 

On the topic of jobs, Wiger said that it is imperative that businesses and the Chamber of Commerce work together with K-12 schools in addition to colleges, vo-tech schools, trade programs and adult education programs so that opportunities are explored. He added that is it important to recognize that we compete in a global economy and encourage collaboration and incentives. 

“As a former Chamber of Commerce director, I know how important it is that we work together to accomplish more,” he said.

Wiger said that the region and state need a comprehensive plan addressing water sustainability. He added that the lowered lake level at White Bear Lake has drawn state attention to this challenge and numerous proposals are now being studied to address this.  

“I now serve on the Legislative Commission on Water (was chief Senate author). I’m working with many groups to address this important challenge,” he said.

 

Bob Zick, 70, is divorced and currently lives in North St. Paul. He did not provide any additional biographical information.

For 25 years, Zick has reported on local government, which consisted of state, county, city, school district and court news. He is the anchorperson for the Inside Insight News Hour, which can be seen online at www.bobzick.com. 

According to Zick, he had attended, spoken at and reported on all the city councils in Senate District 43 as well as school board meetings, county board meetings, the state legislature and the courts.

“Attending all these meetings has given me a true understanding of the actual working of our elected officials.  Our founding fathers directed us to be ever vigilant of our government and to hold them accountable,” Zick said.

Zick said that the primary challenge he believes the people of the state will face in upcoming years is “the protection of rights from the government’s incremental erosion of those rights and liberties.”

He explained that when government takes our money it takes our freedom, and the question becomes, “how much freedom of choice are we willing to give up?”

Zick believes that the Metropolitian Council and unelected government regulatory agencies need to be “reigned in” and that local control at the city council and school district level need to be protected.

“We need to implement initiative and referendum at all levels of government, let’s give people a real voice,” Zick said. 

Similar to the other candidates, he also feels strongly about the education system. 

“School districts have to be free to protect both teachers and the students that are there to learn, and most of all we need to protect the family from government redefinition,” Zick said.

Bob Zick said he is about “exposing, stopping, and replacing the destructive partisan gridlock engaging incumbents.” 

“The incumbent has stripped the taxpayer’s right to vote on bonding, kill parental notification, and promote your funding of lifetime benefits for fellow bureaucrat and family,” Zick said. “The incumbent and his local state representative cohort present phony campaign literature while accepting tens of thousands of dollars from special interest groups for their campaign war chest.”

“I, Bob Zick, want all legislative bills heard and voted up or down and all legislators held accountable.  I am asking for your vote so your voice will be represented at the capitol,” Zick said.

 

To vote for your favorite candidate, visit your local polling site Nov. 8. To find your polling place visit the secretary of state website at http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

 

Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com

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