Millennial wins an Oakdale City Council seat


Kevin Zabel

Kristen Cici

Stan Karwoski

Mayor Karwoski moves on to county commission seat

There is no doubt things will be different in Oakdale's local government after the Nov. 8 election.

Kristen Cici retained her city council seat, and will be joined by the first millennial council member, Kevin Zabel.

In addition, Stan Karwoski, who has been mayor since 2015 and a city council member for 12 years before that, will be leaving in early December after winning a seat on the Washington County Board of Commissioners. The special county board election was to fill the seat that became vacant following the death of Commissioner Ted Bearth in March.

City council

Zabel, 26, was elected to fill Paul Reinke's seat. Reinke did not seek re-election.

The 32-year-old Cici has already served two years on the council, and won 28.61 percent of the votes. Zabel received 18.79 percent of the votes, and Mark S. Landis trailed him by only 278 votes with 17.34 percent.

The others were Dallas Pierson with 14.87 percent of the votes; Brian Ritchie with 13.93 percent; George Schire with 5.88 percent, and write-in votes accounted for .58 percent.

This was Zabel's first run for city council, but in a post-election interview he said that he has always believed that it is important for residents to be involved in their community and offer their time and talents to improve it.

This, he said, was also on his mind two years ago when he pursued a seat on the Oakdale Planning Commission.

Zabel may be the newest and youngest person on the Oakdale City Council, but he has accomplished a lot before joining.

He is the director of political affairs for the Minnesota REALTORS and has been with the real estate association since May 2014. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of St. Thomas and has a master's degree in professional studies from George Washington University. He is also the chairperson of the Oakdale Planning Commission.

On Election Night, Zabel watched the results at home with close friends and campaign volunteers. He said that he was filled with "overwhelming joy" when he found out he had won one of the two available council seats.

He said his primary campaign goal was to have as many conversations with Oakdale residents as possible.

While campaigning, he said he learned about the issues facing people every day and even their opinions about city government.

"This information will be a big influence on how I serve the people of Oakdale for the next four years," Zabel said.

He added that because city government is involved in many different capacities of residents' lives, it will take him a certain amount of time to get up to speed on all of the city's current projects, but he is fortunate to have had his time on the planning commission and experienced council and staff members who have offered to help.

In a pre-election questionnaire, Zabel said that one of his top priorities as a city council member will be to update the city's housing stock.

"City government functions the best when we have constant input from the people of Oakdale. My policy as city councilor will be 'My door is always open and my cell phone is always on.' I want Oakdale residents to feel free to contact me with anything," Zabel added.

Cici owns Cici Events, an event rental company and Tierra Encantada, a Spanish immersion daycare and preschool with locations in Eagan and Minneapolis.

She has a master's degree from the University of Minnesota in advocacy and leadership and lives with her husband Phil and their two children.

After the election, Cici said that she was happy about her win, and surprised she won by such a large margin. She received 1,892 more votes than Zabel.

Cici noted that based on resident feedback while out campaigning she felt fairly comfortable she would be elected, but with a field of six candidates, anything was possible.

Looking ahead to 2017, she said, "I plan to continue to work hard to fulfill the requests that residents make of me. I have been doing that since I have been on the council and so I just encourage them to give me any feedback they have for the city and I really appreciate their support."

Washington County Board of Commissioners

Karwoski, 59, will soon be leaving his current position as Oakdale mayor after winning a rare open seat on the Washington County Board of Commissioners on Nov. 8.

Karwoski said that he believes Zabel, as the newest city council member, will do well on the city council team.

"Kevin's a talented individual who has been serving nicely on the planning commission, so he's definitely been involved with our city government for a few years.

"I'm sure he will serve the city well, and council will welcome him; I welcome him, too," Karwoski said.

As for the mayoral position he's vacating, Karwoski explained that the current city council has already discussed all of the logical possibilities and formulated a plan.

"A candidate from city council will be appointed. Everybody on council feels comfortable with that, so the council is going to be considering who that person is," he explained.

He added that when the council votes on this in upcoming weeks, he will not be a part of the decision because the group of four that's left will have to be able to work together after the decision is made.

Karwoski won the Washington County District 2 seat with 55.38 percent of the votes. His opponent, Cheryl Anderson, received 44.06 percent of the vote and write-in votes accounted for .56 percent.

Washington County's District 2 is made up of Birchwood, Pine Springs, Willernie, Landfall and Oakdale in addition to parts of Mahtomedi, Woodbury and White Bear Lake.

It is interesting to note that though Karwoski was favored going into the election, his popularity was primarily centered in the eight Oakdale precincts in the district, which is made up of 17 total precincts. Anderson outpolled him in Birchwood, Pine Springs and Willernie, in addition to the only Mahtomedi precinct and the three Woodbury precincts.

Karwoski retired in June from Graco Inc., where he worked in product development for 38 years. He holds a bachelor's degree in business management from Metropolitan State University.

Anderson, who lives in Birchwood, is a licensed social worker and owner of Social Service Solutions, Inc.

"I thank those that voted for me, and I fully expect to represent everyone whether they voted for me or not," Karwoski said in a post-election interview.

"I never ever take getting a vote for granted, so now I've got to earn the people's trust serving them and I fully expect to do that."

Karwoski noted that campaigning for this position was a little different than campaigning for a city council seat because the county district is much larger.

"Even though I knocked on a lot of doors ...you have to rely on more assistance to get your literature out," he said, adding that although it was a "good solid win" he had a "worthy opponent who was running for the right reasons."

Because the seat has been vacant since Bearth's death, Karwoski will be sworn in this December, and will fill the remaining two years of Bearth's term.

Karwoski noted that as soon as the day after the election, he began preparing for his new role.

"I think I'm kind of prepared to hit the ground running with my experience in elected office, but I have a lot to learn ... in the county role.

"I think I've got the foundation for that and I really look forward to working hard not only for Oakdale residents, but also [the district's other cities]," Karwoski said.

He added that his focus in office will be quality county growth, protecting the environment and park systems, and promoting public transit and quality roads.

 

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

 

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)
Comment Here