Payne-Phalen council gets back to the business of taking care of the community

The Payne-Phalen Community Council held its annual meeting on April 24, where the council announced upcoming changes and achievements. 

The meeting also served to elect nine board members and to update the community on ongoing projects like the creation of the St. Paul Comprehensive Plan. 

The meeting was also the last for some council officials, including interim executive director Lissa Jones-Lofgren and board president Eric Foster. 

The Payne-Phalen Community Council is part of the St. Paul District Council system, which includes 17 independent, nonprofit councils across the city. The Payne-Phalen council represents the Payne-Phalen neighborhood, which is bordered by Interstate 35E to the west, Larpenteur Avenue to the north, Phalen Boulevard to the south and the Bruce Vento bike trail to the east.

During the annual meeting, the board announced it will be hiring a permanent executive director in May. Foster, who served on the board for about five years, said he was not running to be re-elected to the board because his family plans to move to Mexico this summer.

Jones-Lofgren will serve through the end of May to help the new executive director transition, and then she will continue her work down the hill at the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council, where in March she was hired as its interim executive director.


Coming out the

 other side

The theme of the evening seemed to be “coming out the other side.” Many of the seasoned board members, such as Bill Zajicek, talked about how half a decade ago, the council was dealing with a series of governance issues and not holding itself accountable to the community. 

The council began a process of reorganization and soul searching, eventually “transitioning” out of its former executive director and hiring Jones-Lofgren in 2016 to temporarily lead the organization. 

While Jones-Lofgren ended up serving longer than she and the council had anticipated, Foster and Zajicek said that the council is in a better place because of it and is back to the role it was intended for — serving the community and the people who live in it. 

Foster mentioned some positive changes, including having a board of directors made up of younger people and a board that better represents the diversity of the area — about half the board is  people of color.  

Zajicek said one of the most substantial changes he has seen has been the creation of a district plan, something he said the council hadn’t had in ages and lead to the governance problems it had years ago. 




To make sure that the board continues to hold itself accountable, Zajicek proposed an addition to the organization’s bylaws. The addition, which is located in section 4 in article VII reads, “The Board of Directors will on an annual basis review the Community Council District Plan during the June or July board meeting.”

The addition passed unanimously, ensuring that the board will continue to evaluate the council’s district plan, which will lead decision making for issues such as housing, parks, roads, and other community issues.

The other voting item on the agenda for the evening was new board members. The board of directors had nine open positions and filled those seats with Britt Kringle, Joseph Kuzelka, Wintana Melekin, Danielle Swift, Stuart Knappmiller, Chris Schweitzer, Eric Saathoff, Bill Zajicek and Krishna Natarajan. The majority of those elected will serve three-year terms; a few are on one- or two-year terms to fill vacancies created by board members who moved out of the district. 


Update on comprehensive plan

The other item on the agenda was a discussion about the St. Paul Comprehensive Plan. Bill Dermody, a Planning and Economic Development staffer for the city, presented the update on the plan. St. Paul has been working on the plan for about three years and is required to update it every 10 years, as are other metro area cities.

The comprehensive plan guides decision-making for the city when it comes to transportation, housing, historic preservation, services through recreation centers and libraries, parks, and other city issues.  

In 2016, when the update first started, the city held a series of community engagement events to find out what issues were most important to St. Paulites. Last year, city staff created a draft of the plan based off the community engagement and now this year the city will release the draft to get feedback from residents. 

Dermody said city staffers want to make sure the draft accurately captured the needs that residents expressed.

He said the entire draft comprehensive plan will be released in late July and residents will have through September to give their feedback. The plan will be voted on by the city council in the fall. 

In addition, the city will hold two open houses to talk about the plan. The first open house will take place on Saturday, June 9, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Rondo Community Library, 461 Dale St. N., in the multipurpose room. The second open house will take place on Tuesday, June 12, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Arlington Hills Community Center, 1200 Payne Ave. in community room A. 

For more details about the values and themes in the draft comprehensive plan, go to

For those interested in becoming more involved with the community council, visit or call the district council office at 651-774-5234.


– Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto.


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