Four candidates vie for Coon Rapids Council at-large seat

The open at-large seat on the Coon Rapids City Council has attracted four candidates who will be on the ballot for the Tuesday, Aug. 14 primary election.

They are Ethan Campbell, Roger Johnson, Sean Novack and Steve Wells. Incumbent Councilmember Scott Schulte is not seeking re-election.

The top two vote-getters in the primary election will advance to the Tuesday, Nov. 6 general election. A questionnaire was sent to all four candidates and following are their responses (in alphabetical order).

1. Biography.

Ethan Campbell
Ethan Campbell

Campbell: My parents are from Marshall and Plymouth. They were stationed in Panama when I came into the world. We moved around a lot while my dad was in the Army. I spent most of my younger years living in Massachusetts. When my parents got divorced my dad and I moved back to Minnesota.

I met my wife, Mary, and we bought a house in Coon Rapids. I went to school to be a mechanic at Hennepin Tech in Brooklyn Park. That career has opened up a lot of doors, including my current job with General Electric. Currently I work 40 hours a week and make $35,000 a year. It’s not a lot, but we get by.

My wife is pregnant with our first child; she will be born around the time you are reading this. I am very excited to meet her.

Johnson:I am a 38-year homeowner in Coon Rapids. I was born, raised and educated in Minnesota. Joined a labor union at age 15 and am a lifetime member of the AFL-CIO and endorsed by major labor unions in this election.

Roger Johnson
Roger Johnson

Married to wife Vicki Johnson, we raised two grown sons, both Eagle Scouts, who played all sports through the CRAA and were educated in Coon Rapids public schools and MnSCU colleges. I have been involved in Y-Indian Guides, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts as an adult leader and troop committee chair. CRAA activities included assistant coach in hockey, baseball and soccer. Our three grandchildren continue to deserve our attention and they receive it.

I have a number of graduate degrees and certificates from several colleges (bachelor of physics, masters in science education, certificates in astrophysics and nuclear engineering and a Ph.D. – all-but-dissertation – in educational administration). I taught college-level physics and engineering in both public and private colleges and have a long list of volunteer experiences. These include roles and leadership positions in a city commission, Anoka County Ambassador, school district task forces, area community colleges and chamber of commerce.

Novack: Married with two children, I am a 1989 graduate of Coon Rapids High School and hold a BS in business management and an MBA in economics.

Having grown up in Coon Rapids, I chose to move back to the city 10 years ago to raise my children. I work at Ameriprise Financial as a financial adviser and FINRA Series 7 and Series 63 licensed brokerage equities specialist, I am also a firearms instructor teaching Minnesota permit-to-carry and basic handgun safety.

Previously I was a security specialist and worked for various private firms, the Minnesota Senate and the Department of Defense. I was the operations officer for Shamrock Investigations, a business started by my father after his retirement from the Minneapolis Police. We contracted out to Defense Security Service, a division of first the Department of Defense and then Homeland Security after 9/11.

Wells: My wife Paula and I are 32-year residents of Coon Rapids. Our two children, Matt and Kristin, both attended Coon Rapids schools and married fellow Coon Rapids grads, Kelly and Paul Perez. We have five grandchildren, Colton, Allie, Brynn, Tori and Wesley.

I have volunteered in the schools, coaching youth sports and serving as a board member for the National Little League, Coon Rapids Athletic Association and Coon Rapids Youth Hockey, where I was president my last five years on the board. I was an original member of Coon Rapids Youth First and one of the city’s representatives to the Schwan’s Super Rink Board. I am currently a Coon Rapids Rotarian, board member of the Emma B. Howe YMCA and member of the city’s parks and trails task force.

I was a member of the Coon Rapids Police Department from 1978-2010. I was promoted to sergeant in 1989 and made captain in 1992 before being appointed chief of police in 1998. I have an A.S. degree in law enforcement from North Hennepin Community College and a B.A. and M.M.A. from Metropolitan State University. I also graduated from the 177th Session of the F.B.I. National Academy.

2. What qualities would you bring to the office of city council member?

Campbell: I will bring an unbiased outlook to the council as a brand new member. I do not have other “friends” in politics; my competitors will tell you that they have participated on other boards. I do not belong to any such boards or special interests and I would offer a new fresh perspective. I also plan on leading the council with honesty, fairness and integrity. I plan to pick up where the current councilman is leaving off. My humble upbringing has taught me the value of a dollar and the difference between right and wrong.

Johnson: I am regarded as a man of deep and abiding principles. My votes on city issues must benefit all citizens – not just a few who stand to make economic gains from developments. My bias is to protect the most vulnerable residents – children and seniors, and the growing senior population has increasing needs requiring city attention.

I will fight for improvements that will not leave taxpayers with large, long-term debt, unless they have had a serious chance to consider and approve such investments. I remain sensitive to the problems of the poor among us, as well as the aspirations of the wealthy.

My tendency is to involve many more citizens in our government, at both the commission and task force levels, because the nature of our weak council/strong manager system demands it. I would advocate a complete review, from the bottom up, of the priorities of people needs, from basic public safety through food and housing, clean water and sewage disposal, abundant jobs and to higher-order needs and relate these needs to the city budget. We ought not skip over the basics just to have the glitter of opulence.

Sean Novack
Sean Novack

Novack: My parents, Patrick and Mary Novack, lived in Coon Rapids until their passing in 2004, and instilled in me the desire to serve my community through organizations and events. I have been active in the Sons of the American Legion, the Coon Rapids Lions Club and the Miss Coon Rapids Pageant. Currently, I sit on the Coon Rapids Safety Commission, am the assistant cubmaster of Cub Scout Pack 518 and am the president of the Patrick & Mary Novack Community Service Scholarship Foundation.

As a financial adviser I specialize in taking a limited budget, finding goals, establishing priorities and working with the numbers to get from where a family is right now to where they need to be. This is exactly what this city needs right now.

While I am a numbers person, like any good financial professional I depend on the ability to communicate. Knowing the right questions to ask and how to ask them so as not to offend is vital when establishing what people want and need. Ensuring that all projects meet with citizen approval helps ensure that money spent is for the greater good and not a pet project.

Steve Wells
Steve Wells

Wells: I have experience in city government in a leadership role. I understand the role the council plays in creating city policy and providing direction to city staff through the city manager. I have managed a budget during difficult times when local government aid was cut to the city. The council has to maintain core services at a high level but make sure it is accomplished in the most efficient way possible.

The most important qualities I possess are my commitment and dedication to the city. I want the same things that all residents want for Coon Rapids, for it to continue to be the great place to live and raise a family. I promise to listen and serve to the best of my abilities.

3. What are the main issues of your campaign? 

Campbell: I want to use common sense with every decision I make on the council. This is easily over looked when people get distracted from their primary goals. I saw this at the last city council meeting. Luckily the clear thinkers prevailed and the city saved $2,500. I want to use common sense and clear thinking to keep fiscal responsibility a high priority on the council.

Public safety is another concern of mine. I am tired of our parks being a haven for criminal activity where our children should be enjoying the features this wonderful city has to offer. I also want to make our streets safer, so the incidents like the one that occurred with Amir Taylor do not happen again.

I also believe residents need increased representation. The city needs to be more proactive and inventive to reach out to area residents for opinions and insight. The citizens deserve the best life the city government can provide; I am the man for the job.

Johnson: Council must review procedures instituted to determine what’s in the public’s interest going forward with developments. Council should develop better methods of engaging the substantial list of non-profits, entire faith community and county agencies in identifying the measure of community needs which should enter council workshop conversations and planning. We must look at the connection between “needs” and budgeting, making certain that secondary “wants” do not supersede primary “needs.”

The issue of city codes and code violations continue to perplex citizens. Lots of codes mandate lots of work for staff. Council needs to ask whether we are creating a better city by the measure of what we encode.

Being able to distinguish between proper government and private business functions continues to bewilder citizens. In a “down” economy the city can facilitate business development, but should exercise caution in trying to replace what private investment does best.

The serious, emerging issue of this campaign is whether or not voters will turn their city government over to a quorum of past city employees. Citizens will regret moving past employees to the council to become the employer.

Novack: There is a need for a person on the council that understands business and how the economy works in order to restore fiscal responsibility and encourage limited government. My mission is to bring businesses and jobs back to Coon Rapids and improve the quality of life for all city residents.

Encouraging home ownership increases personal stake in the quality of the property and helps maintain home values. We need to ensure that the city is an attractive place for people to live by ensuring that essential services are both efficient and effective, providing the best service with a minimum of waste. This helps keep taxes low. Ensuring that all projects meet with citizen approval helps ensure that money is not spent on a pet project.

The city has taken too much land that is still sitting vacant and producing nothing but expenses, rather than lowering taxes on the businesses already here in the city. By removing onerous zoning and permitting requirements that stifle growth and investment, we will create an environment where business can flourish, supply jobs and generate taxes.

Wells: Coon Rapids faces the issues of all aging communities. We have areas that are in need of redevelopment and we need to assist homeowners to maintain their homes as they age. As I meet residents, the Coon Rapids Boulevard area is always mentioned as a major sore spot within the city. The city needs to work with the county, state and the private sector to find ways to fund redevelopment so its beneficial to our residents. We have to map out a realistic plan and stick with it to get the quality development we desire.

The city also has to do a better job of promoting itself. Citizens rate the city high in quality of life surveys. We have a diverse housing stock to attract first-time homebuyers with young families. We have some of the best parks in the metro, a world class golf course and the Mississippi River just to name a few amenities. I also would support a fiscally responsible parks and trails referendum to secure future financing to maintain these valuable assets.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]

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