St. Anthony residents will elect a mayor, two city council members and three school board members on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
Three candidates filed for three open positions on the St. Anthony School Board. Incumbents Mike Volna and Don Siggelkow filed for re-election. Incumbent Jane Eckert did not file for re-election. Andrea “Andie” Scamehorn also filed for election to the school board.
Barring a successful write-in candidacy, Volna, Siggelkow and Scamehorn will be elected Nov. 8.
Incumbent Mayor Jerry Faust will be running for re-election, against one challenger, Todd Roepke. Incumbent City Council Members Hal Gray and Jim Roth are also running for re-election; one challenger, Steffanie Roepke, has filed to challenge them.
Faust has been mayor for seven years. He served 23 years in the U.S. Army and is a retired Anoka County manager. He told the Northeaster that “people are pleased” with the way the city operates. “They like that we’re continuing to work on the roads,” he said, and that the city has its “financial house in order…we were able to get a AA bond rating, which is the highest possible rating” for a city the size of St. Anthony.
He said that residents and visitors were “wowed” by the changes in Silver Lake Road when it was reconstructed, with new street lights and sidewalks. Another positive change, he said, is the water re-use project, which treats storm runoff water so it can be used for irrigation in the parks.
The city, he said, has received “rave reviews” of Emerald Park (a city renovation) and Silverwood (a Three Rivers Park District project). “The number of people that use both parks is phenomenal.”
Top priorities for the future, Faust said, include dealing with the Mirror Lake flooding issues. “We will address that,” he said, using the “best science available…find out how it happened and how we can prevent it from happening in the future.”
Challenger Todd Roepke said that as he has been out campaigning, he has found “a lot of surprise and a lot of relief” among St. Anthony residents, as they learned that people other than incumbents were running for city offices.
He said he has met “a lot of dissatisfied residents,” who are unhappy about taxes and concerned that the city isn’t operating as efficiently as it can.
“We have great police and firefighters, and public works,” he said. “The city is beautiful, and maintained.”
He is concerned, however, about “the amount of money invested in the flooding issue,” and he’s concerned that helping some residents might be hurting others. “All the people getting saved, it’s ‘Hallelujah,’” he said. “All the people who got the water, it’s ‘What happened?’”
A top priority, he said, is “getting a handle on the city’s spending, at least until we ride out the…whatever [economic condition] we’re in. I don’t think the status quo is responsible government,” he said, and “I don’t think people realize how much debt we’re in.”
Roepke is married to Steffanie Roepke, who is running for city council. They have operated Artists Choice Custom Picture Framing and Tile Art at 3901 Foss Rd. for the past 12 years. They decided to run for city office, he said, when they saw that only incumbents had filed for election. “Nobody was going to have a voice,” he said. “We decided we wanted to give people a chance to vote.”
Steffanie Roepke, and incumbents Hal Gray and Jim Roth, are running for two available city council positions.
Hal Gray has been on the City Council since 2005, and is a senior manager at FedEx. He said that people “seem to be pretty happy with the way things are going in the city.”
“People bring up taxes,” he said, “but then they’re quick to say they expect to pay a little bit more here in St. Anthony because of the standard of living.”
He said the city “did a pretty good job of absorbing” the cuts in state aid that came from the 2011 Legislature session.
He cited the water re-use project also, saying it’s a “very positive thing, toward our goal of being self-sustaining, and being more of a green city.
“We accomplished several road re-construction projects,” recently, he said, “including Silver Lake Road, which was a really big change. Hennepin County picked up most of that.”
“The big priority right now is to develop a solution to the flooding we saw. Several businesses and residents were affected.” The solution, he said, will require cooperation with other communities. “It’s kind of a regional problem,” he said. “It affects more than St. Anthony.”
The economy has not recovered, he said, and the city needs to “keep looking for ways to be more efficient,” and for ways of “being good environmental stewards.”
Steffanie Roepke said that going door to door she is getting a “pretty good response. People are happy to see that there’s somebody new” running for office.
“A lot of people don’t really know what the City Council does,” she said.
People “have their own pet concerns,” she said, and don’t always realize the city can help. “Our goal if we get elected is to have those people come forward and communicate their concerns,” she said.
City officials are “trying to fix the flood problems,” she said, and she’s concerned that they’re “taking the water from one area and putting it into another.”
The Silver Lake Village development is “a very positive change,” she said. “I would like to see more shops in that area.” She said she saw six or seven vacancies there recently, and that she “would like to see them full.”
She noted that several municipal buildings have been replaced in recent years, and that such projects are expensive. “I would like to see a little more fiscal responsibility on the part of the city,” she said.
She noted that the city has more than $33 million in bond debt, and that the city’s general fund expenditures, including police and fire protection, are only about $5.3 million. That much debt “is a lot,” she said. “That concerns me.”
Jim Roth has been on the City Council for four years, and is a marketing representative for U Care. He said that people he meets on the campaign are “happy with the direction of the city. They’re happy to live here.”
He said the city’s increased bond rating and redeveloped parks are among the positive recent changes he has seen.
The city has experienced some flooding, he said, and officials are working with neighboring cities to understand why it occurred and to find ways to prevent future problems. “That’s probably number one on my list in the next 12-24 months, if I’m re-elected.”
Other priorities, he said, include “continuing to re-build our infrastructure” and “providing quality service to the residents.”
“A vote for me is a vote for a common sense approach to the problems that come before the city,” he said, and he is committed to “making this the best city to live in in the state.”