Two residents are seeking to be the mayor for the next two years while four are vying for the two four-year councilmember seats on the East Bethel City Council.
Incumbent Mayor Richard Lawrence, 455 Sims Road N.E., is opposed by Tanner Balfany, 19172 East Front Blvd. N.E.
Ron Koller, 18461 Jackson St. N.E., Brian Mundle, 24159 Pierce St. N.E., Randy Plaisance, 715 192nd Ave. N.E., and Tom Ronning, 20941 Taylor St. N.E., are on the ballot for the two open councilmember seats. Incumbents Bill Boyer and Steve Voss are not running for re-election.
Election day is Nov. 6.
Tanner Balfany: I have lived in Anoka County the majority of my life and been an East Bethel resident for five years.
I’ve been working as an insurance agent at Associated Insurance Agents specializing in personal and commercial insurance. In my 10 years in business I have served on the Minnesota Independent Insurance Agents Young Agent Committee for eight years in the capacity of Legislative/ InsurePac chairperson positions and others. I have enjoyed traveling to Washington D.C. in that capacity and meeting with elected officials to discuss important topics related to the insurance industry and how they affect the consumer.
I currently serve on the Planning and Zoning Committee and over the last three years have worked on the Road Committee, GRE Work Group and Web Site Committee for East Bethel. In my time serving our city I have learned that our community as a whole has a great sense of pride for where we come from, where we want to live and what that looks like.
Richard Lawrence: seeking a second term as mayor of East Bethel.
My wife, Sharon, and I have four married children between us and six grandchildren. For 17 years I have been operating my own machine shop business, and I have been a resident of East Bethel for over 20 years. I have served on various committees: Parks Commission, Booster Day Committee, Fire Relief Association, the Economic Development Authority (EDA) and the GRE Transmission Line work group.
Ron Koller: My name is Ronald Koller and I have been a resident of East Bethel since 1990 where my wife Dawn and I have raised our family. I have two children, Nicole, an accountant, and John, who is starting his first year in college to be a diesel mechanic.
I enjoy local activities such as hunting, snowmobiling, riding motorcycles with friends and family, and rebuilding machinery to enter in threshing shows. I have worked as a tool and dye maker for Graco for the last 35 years. I have also had a small excavating business.
Having children who were involved in many activities has kept me aware of what happens in the community. This has allowed me to become more involved in activities.
I was president of the St. Francis High School Chopper Booster Club, raising money for students at St. Francis High School to develop their trade skills while building and motorcycles. I am also involved in the Beaverbrook Sportsman’s Club and enjoy trap shooting competitions.
My education involves attending Metropolitan Community College and two-year certificate from St. Paul Tech.
Brian Mundle: I have lived in or been involved with East Bethel for most of my life.
I am the seventh descendent of James Cooper who named what would become East Bethel, and the fourth descendent of Ralph Gardner, who was on the town board when East Bethel became a village.
I am an Eagle Scout from East Bethel Troop 733 and have volunteered with the East Bethel Seniors. Currently I am the chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission and serve on the East Bethel Website Committee.
My entire grade school education was through ISD 15 and I went on to earn a bachelor’s of science in construction management from MSU-Mankato. I also have a certificate in web development, I am a certified aging in place specialist and have been trained in Lead renovation for pre-1978 homes. Presently I am a construction manager for BDM Construction building custom residential homes in the East Bethel and surrounding areas.
Randy Plaisance: I was born and raised in the city of Minneapolis, graduated from West High School, attended Hennepin Technical College in Eden Prairie for printing.
I joined the family business in printing for close to 15 years until the market made selling our business the best financial option. Shortly after this, I was offered a position with Target Corporation in their printing division where I have been happily employed for 13 years.
I settled in East Bethel with my wife, Sue, and our three children 18 years ago and have been involved in Scouting, 4-H, church, sports and school events that have shown me that our community has many opportunities available. Most recently I have been involved in revamping the city’s presence online with the city’s website.
These experiences have given me the chance to work as a team in committees with management, employee negotiations and technological educational training. Through this process I have gained an understanding for the need of a measured and balanced approach to decision-making, and the importance of listening to all constituent groups.
Tom Ronning: My wife and I have lived in East Bethel for eight years this month. We relocated from the Detroit, Mich., area following retirement.
My civic and community involvement is rather limited. I have attended and participated in many, if not most, of the city council meetings for the past six plus years. I am active in Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church. I have participated in Booster Day planning meetings for the past four years.
I am a graduate of Spring Lake Park HS.
I have been retired since October, 2004 after 37 years with Ford Motor Co., however, my last 17 years were with the United Autoworkers International Union while on union leave from Ford. My experience with the UAW involved about three years working with consultants and training groups in problem solving methods. The next 10 years I was an arbitration advocate for the Ford Department of the UAW.
I was an assistant director of the Ford Department the remainder of my time, with oversight (and participation) in the health and safety, job security and outsourcing in addition to several other responsibilities. My outsourcing experience taught me cost analysis of products and components at Ford and Visteon.
2. What can the city of East Bethel do to attract developers to the community?
Balfany: East Bethel can help attract developers by having positive leadership on the city council as well as having a strong and aggressive Economic Development Authority.
As mayor it would be a goal of mine to serve on this authority helping in all areas from contributing new ideas during discussions to following through on polices adopted by the authority. A vital part of the process is having a solid image for the city when promoting that we are here to work with developers that are willing to continue to make East Bethel a great place to live.
We can achieve this image by showing we are friendly to our existing business, offering benefits like sewer and water, tax increment financing district and providing the data that shows a demand for goods and services that are residents and neighboring cities are looking for.
Lawrence: East Bethel is providing much needed services for water and sewer for new companies to build in East Bethel. Future plans are to provide a force main north to Castle Towers mobile home park and Whispering Aspen housing development. This will open up the Highway 65 corridor for additional commercial development and at the same time saving East Bethel the cost of repairs to the current water treatment plant.
Koller: I believe East Bethel should be keeping a tighter control on development. I would like to see developers building on larger lots for residential, so we can keep the atmosphere we all moved here for.
I think the city should work with any developers in order to keep the spacious and private community we have. The city is currently too obsessed about getting developers in to realize that it may drive its current people away.
I believe the business development should be limited to the 65 corridor. We need to encourage industrial companies into East Bethel, to provide higher paying jobs. This way the businesses can bring in jobs, but not as much traffic as retail businesses, which would congest our roadways.
We have a prime area for attracting industrial companies because of the close proximity to the Twin Cities, and the miles of available highway frontage. I feel the best thing for East Bethel is to slowly develop so we can provide the best quality assistance to the new businesses and the old businesses to ensure that they will be able to establish a permanent presence.
Mundle: East Bethel needs to be aggressive and proactive to attract developers.
The EDA has been doing a good job of laying this ground work. We need to form relationships with people, companies and government entities that help start-up businesses, relocate businesses and business expansion. We need to advertise the fact that we have great infrastructure, we are in a great location for transporting goods and we have an untapped customer and workforce base.
We need to be business friendly, not just towards new businesses, but also to our existing business community. East Bethel also needs to gain more community involvement, to inform our citizens of events, activities and business that East Bethel has to offer, to encourage them to explore our community. The more our citizens enjoy and know about their city, the more they will talk about and promote it.
Plaisance: We need to provide an atmosphere of a can do attitude. Provide a clear and transparent means of communication and collaboration.
Most of all we need to be accessible. There is no easy solution to create this type of engagement; it will require a hands on approach to providing the needs of our community.
We need to be considerate of all plans and options for our business community to succeed including providing incentives providing it makes sense for our city.
The idea is simple; the enactment will require dedication and hard work. Only by working together and listening to all will we succeed. The potential for success and benefits to our community will follow in their own course.
Ronning: The city has developed an Economic Development Authority within the past two years. While I don’t know specific details of the EDA, I believe the council and EDA were actively involved in Aggressive Hydraulics locating in East Bethel.
The city has a reputation of not being particularly business friendly. Perhaps these kinds of things will bring others to East Bethel.
3. Do you think the council should start raising taxes to potentially cover future debt payments for the sewer and water project in case enough development does not come?
Balfany: No, I do not think we should start raising taxes at this time for potential future debt in case development doesn’t come.
We must give the utilities project an opportunity to succeed; if we do not then we are simply giving up on it and ultimately would not be working in the best interests of East Bethel and its residents.
This project should be looked at in two-year increments and at this time are focus should be on making it a benefit to the city and any new developers or business looking to move in to our area. If in the future the position and focus of the city changes, we will have to reassess where are at with the project and make the necessary changes at that time knowing it will still be in the best interest of East Bethel and its residents as a whole.
Lawrence: My goal for the next two years is to continue looking for ways to lower property taxes. We successfully lowered property taxes for nearly all residents for 2012.
Keeping a lid on spending creates the business climate that will attract future commercial development as well as assist our residents as the economy continues to improve. Increasing the tax levy at this time will stall our potential new business interest in East Bethel – it is not time to be raising taxes.
Koller: In my opinion, I think the burden of repayment should not be put on the businesses. Times are tough and the businesses are already struggling with the high taxes. The need to retain the businesses in our community is priority because they bear much of our current tax load.
The bond will be due in a few years and unfortunately I can’t think of a way to pay that big of a debt off without raising taxes. I think what we should do is take the amount that needs to be owed and increase taxes by a small amount that get stored in an account. This account will not be touched.
If we can encourage businesses to come to East Bethel, then we will use the money from the businesses first to payback the debt. If we cannot encourage businesses we use the money from the account to pay off the debt. The remaining money in the account gets dispersed equally back to the residents who paid in.
This way if we can get businesses in, the residents of East Bethel will get their money back. I despise taxes, but our former city council pushed us into an unfortunate situation.
Mundle: East Bethel should not start raising taxes to cover potential future debt that the city may incur. In doing so it could disinterest business and developers from coming to East Bethel.
The council must have a positive attitude towards this project and to the future of the city. The sewer and water is an enormous opportunity for the city, it will take hard work and perseverance to see it through, but the benefits to East Bethel will be magnificent.
Plaisance: Looking out for our future concerns is important, and the impact on our residents and business community are at the forefront of the responsibility of the city council.
When I consider this view I have to conclude that at this time to consider an increase on a potential is not necessary. We have the opportunity and a bright outlook in the possibilities. Looking at raising taxes should be our last resort; having looked at all other mechanisms to find solutions.
I know from hearing from many residents of their concern for the future of our city. I personally have never been as exited or optimistic in my view for the bright shining star that is East Bethel, the heart of Anoka County.
Ronning: During the last two months of their term, the 2010 council passed general bond issues. Further, it approved contracts that have bound the city and its residents with final responsibility for the debt.
As much as none of us likes to even talk about raising property taxes, I believe it’s not a question of “if” but rather a question of “when” due to the ill conceived and ill timed sewer and water project.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]