St. Anthony council candidates consider Castile shooting, Lowry Grove

ELECTION 2017


Philando Castile was killed by a St. Anthony Village police officer on July 6, 2016, in Falcon Heights.

That same summer, residents were told they’d have to leave their homes when Lowry Grove was sold. The RV park, which was finally shut down this past June, was St. Anthony’s only manufactured housing community, and one of the most affordable housing options in the city. 

The suburb has experienced these events, their repercussions, and more over the last year and a half. They have sparked dialogue, caused protests,  caused the formation of activist groups, and packed city council chambers with residents calling for transparency in the city’s government. 

On Nov. 7, voters will have the opportunity to fill two seats on the council, either supporting the city’s current leadership structure — two incumbents are seeking to hold onto their seats — or voting for what the challengers bill as change. 

St. Anthony’s last election carried no challengers for incumbents seeking re-election. This year, however, six candidates are vying for a spot on the council, which has been made up of its current members through a number of election cycles.

Council members Jan Jenson and Randy Stille want to keep their posts on the council. They are being challenged by Christopher Clark, Dave Colling, Thomas Randle and Nancy Robinett. 

The candidates were asked via email why they are running, what skills and experiences they would bring to office, what they think are the top challenges facing the city, and what issues or projects they would prioritize if elected. Randle did not return the candidate questionnaire.

 


Clark, who did not provide his age, is a senior building and grounds worker at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus. He has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts, with an emphasis in pottery and sculpture, from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. 

His spouse, Douglas Rank, passed away this past June. 

Clark is no stranger to being a candidate; he ran for political office in Minneapolis four times between 2005 and 2013.  

He was a union steward for three years, where he said he gained experience negotiating between union members and management with a “common sense approach to the problems.” He said he was able to sustain a “neutral point of view as we needed to come to common ground.”

Clark said Lowry Grove and Castile’s death inspired him to run for the council.

Regarding Lowry Grove, he said he feels the council operated too much “behind closed doors.” As for the police killing of Castile, who was black, Clark blamed the media for over-playing race in the situation. 

“The media played a big role with shooting incident,” he said. “The officer was Hispanic, not Caucasian ... one person’s action should not doom the whole police department. I fully support fire and police services here in Saint Anthony Village.”

Clark named “transportation, safety and diversity” as the top challenges the city faces. 

If elected, he said he would specifically want to to bring better bussing services to the city, review traffic lights at intersections, and “entice Amazon into our community as the old Apache site of Walmart appeals to any big business with a conscience.”

 


Colling, 48, is married to Sarah Steil and is the executive director of The Harrison Neighborhood Association. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and is obtaining a master’s degree in nonprofit management at Hamline University. 

Colling said he has experience building community engagement programs, leadership in crisis situations, as well as in planning and goal-setting. He said he has managed multi-million dollar projects with hundreds of staff and has “years of marketing and communications experience.”

“Over the past year our community has felt a lot of pain and heartache,” Colling said. “But I’m not running because of all the things that happened, I’m running because of things that didn’t happen. The events that have rocked our community show the need for more community engagement, for more dialogue and truly proactive policies.”

Colling said the growing divide in the city is one of its top challenges, and with that is a need for trust-building and bridging the gap of discontent and opportunities. 

“We’ve missed too many opportunities to create real community dialogue and engagement with the housing crisis that forced hundreds of our neighbors from their homes and the shooting death of Philando Castile.”

If elected, Colling said he would aim to engage the community — that would be his number one priority. 

“No longer can we create our policies using an outdated top down model, we must turn that system on its head and build a grassroots system driven by the people.”

 


Jenson, 67, is married to Marilyn and has been on the St. Anthony City Council for eight years. He has worked at Honeywell Aero for the past 36 years and holds two bachelor’s degrees. He studied industrial engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and business administration at the same university’s Madison campus. 

He said he has experience in operations management and “31 continuous years of community engagement within St. Anthony,” by way of “leadership roles in sports boosters, Y-Guides, and church committees.”

Jenson called himself a problem-solver, good at “creating strategic actions to lead technical deployments.”

“The past year has been difficult; our community experienced a police shooting and the sale of a mobile home park,” he said. “We need to continue a strong dialogue that empathizes with one another.” 

According to Jenson, better dialogue will help enhance policing, racial equity, the fire department, public works and administration. 

He said the city’s top challenge is ensuring the implementation of recommendations the U.S. Department of Justice has for the St. Anthony Police Department. 

He said he would make it his top priority, if re-elected, to bring “21st century policing” to the city.

“New developments need careful evaluation to ensure they meet our community needs,” Jenson said. “Together, we can cultivate and grow as a safe progressive community, sustainable and secure.”

 


Robinett, 54, is married to Jenifer McGuire and has been self-employed as an attorney for almost two decades. She holds a juris doctorate from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. 

Previously, she sat on and chaired a city commission on GLBT rights issues in Tucson, Arizona, from 2002 to 2006. Robinett also has experience serving on numerous nonprofit boards.

Recently spearheading a community project of rehabbing a mobile home in New Brighton for a homeless family who previously lived at Lowry Grove, she said she has “skills in bringing community groups together around common volunteer goals.”

“This project included about 20 to 25 St. Anthony residents volunteering time and skills to make a house a home,” she said, noting she also helped form a “Police Advisory Committee” in the aftermath of the Castile shooting.

She called the group’s efforts a “precursor” to the council agreeing to some police audit and review activities, and ultimately asking the U.S. Department of Justice for assistance to review the police department.

“I believe that we have a great community, filled with many good-hearted people,” Robinett said. “I can be a leader who brings out the best in our community. I am willing to work hard, and I am willing to be as open and transparent as possible in the process of city government.”

She said the city’s top challenges include continuous maintenance and updates of infrastructure, to better integrate transportation and accessibility with the larger metro. Affordable housing, policing and new developments are also on her priority list, she said, if elected.  

 


Stille, 56, is married to Donna and has served on the city council for nearly 14 years. He is a vice president and relationship manager of commercial real estate at Wells Fargo. 

He has a bachelor’s degree in agriculture business from Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa.

Stille said his professional work experience, along with his years on the council, have prepared him for another term. He also served on the city’s planning commission for five years. He’s been a resident of St. Anthony for 28 years.

“St. Anthony is a great community, and deserves strong and stable leadership,” Stille said, noting he has “skill sets that greatly enhance my ability to continue to be a strong city council member.”

He said he is proud of St. Anthony’s sustainability accomplishments, but said one big challenge he sees in the community is a lack of unity. He expressed concerns that partisan politics are being introduced into the suburb’s government.

“Ideology in St. Anthony has historically been formed in a nonpartisan way, keeping the interest of the entire community at the forefront and resulting in many broad-based, well-rounded initiatives.”

Such initiatives can “continue to move forward only if we all practice civility that brings residents together, rather than tear each other down,” he said.

If re-elected, Stille said he would focus on what he called the “largest issue before council,” the redevelopment of Lowry Grove. 

“It is important to balance input from residents and manage the process in a thoughtful and fair manner that also protects the city,” he said.

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815.



 

Rate this article: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)
Comment Here