Nowthen council candidates answer questions

There are three candidates for mayor and five candidates running for two open city council seats in Nowthen.

Mayor candidates are Randy Bettinger, Matt Lendt and incumbent Bill Schulz.

Mayoral candidates were requested to answer three questions to give voters more information about themselves. Lendt did not respond to the questionnaire.

Council candidates include Dale Gene Ames, Robert Mahutga, Mary Rainville, Paul Reighard and Jim Scheffler.

Councilmember Laurie Olmon is not seeking re-election. The council earlier this month declared a vacancy on the council because Orval Leistico has not been able to attend council meetings since June due to illness.

Both seats are on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Council candidates were requested to answer three questions to give voters more information about themselves.

Reighard did not respond to the questionnaire.

Mayor candidates

1. Biographical information, including address, education, experience, family, etc.

Bettinger:Randy Bettinger, 5550 210th Ave N.W., Nowthen.

Randy Bettinger

Randy Bettinger

I grew up on a dairy farm in Nowthen and have lived in the area all my life. I’m 54 years old, married to my wife Josie for 34 years and have two sons, a daughter and six grandkids. I have worked for Anoka County for the past 23 years. I am a graduate of both St. Francis High School and St. Paul Technical College (civil engineering). I have served 17½ years on Burns Township Town Board of Supervisors, Planning and Zoning Commission, Park and Recreation Committee, Road and Bridge Committee, past emergency management officer, past board member of the Upper Rum River Watershed Management Organization and past chairman of the Nowthen Heritage Day committee. Member of St. Patrick’s Church. Past president of the Nowthen Lions Club. Worked with the city of Ramsey to establish the Nowthen Fire Department. Directly involved with the incorporation of Burns Township into the city of Nowthen. Assisted with the development of the Twin Lakes and Nowthen parks.

Schulz:I am married, with four children and four grandchildren.

Bill Schulz

Bill Schulz

I grew up on a farm near Sebeka and was drafted into the Army during the Vietnam era. After graduating from Moorhead State, I taught technology education 32 years in the Osseo School District. My wife and I farmed in Otsego 16 years, and I served 6½ years as a town board supervisor and chairperson in Otsego Township, working to design and secure federal grant money to create the Great River Road Park in Otsego. We have lived in Nowthen for 28 years, where I farm 80 acres with my son. I am an active member and elder of Nowthen Alliance Church, a Gideon, member of the American Legion and a charter member of the Nowthen Lions Club. While teaching I coached girls’ softball and served several years as 4-H club leader. I have been on the executive board of the Nowthen Heritage Festival for four years. Before being elected mayor I served over 14 years on the Burns Town Board, on the Planning and Zoning committee as well as chairperson of the Park and Recreation Committee. I have worked to provide open space and community parks for future generations.

2. If elected, how will you balance the sometimes conflicting needs of constituents and/or the city’s best interest?

Bettinger: I try to never take or make anything personal when making a decision. You need to be a good listener and be able to make good sound decisions based on facts. Sometimes it can be really hard because you really want to help people get a variance or whatever it is they are asking for. But sometimes you have to make tough decisions based on local ordinances and state laws. State statue doesn’t allow the city to grant a variance based on who you are. The city council may grant you a variance from regulations contained in the ordinance only if there is special circumstance or condition affecting said property. Right now the current city council is in the process of reviewing and changing city ordinances. Some of the changes are duplication of other branches of government and being more restrictive of our property rights. You need to treat people with respect and in return they will respect the decision that you have made. When the election is done it’s time to put our differences aside and work together for the greater good. Working together will keep Nowthen a rural city and a great place to live.

Schulz: Residents have individual needs that differ greatly. When these needs and the city’s best interests conflict, the situation should be discussed with the city council and residents to get the necessary input for a fair and equitable decision. I am a taxpayer just like every resident, and my number one concern is to keep taxes affordable while living in these economic times. A good example would be the way we made the decision on the sheriff’s contract. The council discussed many options and then called a public forum including the sheriff where people could ask questions, express their beliefs and have input in the final decision, a two-year contract with the sheriff’s department for 2012 and 2013. As a city we are working to find solutions to improve our road system, both hard surface and gravel. It is a challenge to bring the roads to a standard of high quality maintenance so that they will provide the service our community needs. Neither the council nor I have advocated that individual home-owners pay for rebuilding residential development roads. Again, we need to make decisions together. Ultimately, the city council is responsible for all decisions concerning the welfare of the city’s residents.

3. Given today’s economic situation, what are your priorities when it comes to the city’s budget and property tax levy?

Bettinger: During these tough economic times we need to stay within budget and stop buying things that we can’t afford. Nowthen has had a history of large lots, no police department, low property taxes and a little relaxed on the ordinances. Things have changed since we became a city. We now have a police contract with the Anoka County Sheriff ($216,000 for 2013); the city took the money from the 2012 payment on the maintenance building bonds and refinanced these bonds that will add to the overall cost of the maintenance building by $82,497 over the life of the bonds. The city sold bonds for a new Cat road grader at the cost of $290,700. Ordinances have been rewritten and as you have all noticed our taxes have gone up (proposed 5 percent increase for 2013). As a rural township if you wanted to blacktop your street or when you called the fire department you paid for it. The sheriff would respond when called. This is part of being a rural community. Let’s try not to be like all the other cities.

Schulz: My priority for the city’s budget is to keep each designated department operating with funding to cover essential needs and avoid unnecessary spending. Presently, all state local government aid and homestead funds have been eliminated for all cities; therefore, all money to run the city must come from local taxes. I have always worked with the city council to make your government open and honest, and I want you to know what is going on. At the request of the city employees, many hours were spent with both a labor attorney and our own city attorney to draw up a union contract, which clearly and fairly delineates all city jobs, compensation, vacation times and health benefits which, when ratified, will provide stability for the city and employees for the next three years. We are constantly working to be as efficient as possible and to use our tax dollars wisely. I want you to have all the facts, and to make sure you are getting the truth. I value and encourage citizens and business owners of Nowthen to give me your input in planning the future of our great city.

Council candidates

1. Biographical information, including address, education, experience, family, etc.

Ames: I have been on the Planning and Zoning Committee for 36 years and have been the chairman for the last seven years. I have volunteered on the Nowthen Heritage Day committee for four years. I have been on the Nowthen Pioneer Baseball Board and have helped volunteer for many activities that have taken place in Burns Township and the city of Nowthen. I have been involved in the development of the first comprehensive plan for the future development of Burns Township in 1980 and all the revised plans since 1980. I was in the NG 47th Division Headquarter, Headquarters (SRF) as a sergeant and a radio teletype team chief. I have been on two different church boards when I was a member of each church. I was president of the St. Francis Christian School Board when my daughters went to the school. I have been the chairman of some of the political causes and also a delegate. I worked for Cargill Nutrena Research for six years and 35 years at Federal Cartridge in Anoka and retired from Federal Cartridge. I have been married to my wife, Rose Ann, for 48 years. We have two daughters and three grandchildren.

Mahutga:I grew up on a farm near Elk River and now farm in the Nowthen area.

Robert Mahutga

Robert Mahutga

My residence is 7560 Viking Blvd. N.W., Anoka, and I have been a journeyman diesel mechanic for 35 years. I am presently employed by the city of Elk River as a mechanic department supervisor. My wife, Debbie, and I have been married for 40 years and we have two wonderful sons, Matthew and Eric.

I have served on Nowthen’s Road and Bridge Committee and presently serve as a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission since 2006.

Rainville:My husband, Scott Babcock, and I have resided at 6633 191st Ave. N.W. since 2004 and treasure our neighborhood, the country atmosphere and have truly enjoyed becoming part of the community.

Mary Rainville

Mary Rainville

We are the proud aunt and uncle of 21 nieces and nephews and 14 great nieces and nephews.

Professionally, I’ve worked for US West as well as a residential concrete contractor where I handled all administrative and estimating functions. I’m currently employed by the city of Minneapolis. My employment with the city has included positions as a 911 operator and police support technician and I currently serve as the administrative assistant to the chief of police.

Since moving to Nowthen I’ve been active in the community and am currently serving a second term on the Nowthen Planning and Zoning Commission. I’ve also served on the Nowthen Heritage Festival Executive Board and have done so since 2008. In 2011, I joined the Nowthen Lions and currently serve as a vice president.

Scheffler:My name is Jim Scheffler. My wife of 30 years and I have lived at 20323 St. Francis Blvd. for 16 years. We have one daughter.

jim Scheffler

jim Scheffler

I have served as a Burns Township supervisor previous to Nowthen’s incorporation as a city. I am currently a member of the Nowthen Planning and Zoning committee and have been for over 10 years.

2. If elected, how will you balance the sometimes conflicting needs of constituents and/or the city’s best interest?

Ames: If elected to serve on the city council I would work to have open communication and input from residents and work to meet the needs of the city as they arise and do what is the best for the citizens and the city of Nowthen according to the ordinances and comprehensive plans we now have and make changes as needed when they arise. My experience from the last 36 years of being on the Planning and Zoning Committee and working to make up the ordinances as needed and the comprehensive plans, made up in 1980, and living in the city of Nowthen for 48 years will be a big help. My attendance at most of the town board meetings and city council meetings over the past 36 plus years has given me the knowledge and back ground of what has gone on in Burns Township and the city of Nowthen, and I have seen the many changes that have taken place in the past and am looking to the changes that will need to take place in the present and for the future growth and development of the city of Nowthen.

Mahutga: I would balance the sometimes conflicting needs of constituents and/or the city’s best interest by being aware of what the city needs or what is best for the city as a whole and what is best for the residents – trying to meet in the middle towards a common goal.

Rainville: Elected officials are responsible for acting in the best interests of the city, which will at times be in conflict with a resident’s request. As a councilmember, it will be my responsibility to maintain open communication between residents, city staff and other councilmembers to ensure all parties involved understand the underlying facts and information that are considered when making a decision. People often don’t understand decisions because they are unaware of the underlying process that must be followed, local ordinances or state laws that dictate certain actions. Openly communicating this information to residents will help bridge gaps between the council and its residents with varying interests.

Scheffler: I think all elected officials should take the time to listen to concerns of constituents. This helps to educate and enlighten you to other viewpoints, preparing you to make decisions for the greater good of all residents and the best interest of the city.

3. Given today’s economic situation, what are your priorities when it comes to the city’s budget and property tax levy?

Ames: I would work to continue to maintain a rural life style and policies and ordinances to balance agriculture, residential and commercial growth during these difficult economic times. I will work to spend your tax dollars wisely by keeping spending down and yet meet the needs of the residents when it comes to the city budget and property tax levy. Each issue will have to be dealt with as it comes up and then a decision would have to be made as the information was presented for the best interest of the city of Nowthen and its citizens.

Mahutga: Government is about the people being part of, not government deciding for the people. With the economic slow down it is important to look at all expenses going out, if they are necessary or if other options can be checked into. I want the residents to be safe and able to flourish in our small rural city without high taxes and setting an affordable budget for all.

Rainville: The primary responsibility of the city council is to provide public safety, zoning enforcement, road and park maintenance and comply with mandates imposed by other levels of government. Nowthen has a history of low property taxes and my goal is to continue that tradition. Nowthen does face challenges in the coming years including funding of law enforcement and an adequate method of maintain city roads. With a limited city budget of just over a million dollars, as a councilmember I will scrutinize each expenditure to ensure residents get value for their tax dollars. My goal is to ensure that all policies focus on providing quality services at a reasonable cost. Looking to the future, I would focus my attention on attracting new business that reflect our values while increasing our commercial base and provide employment for our residents. I have attended the majority of the city council meetings and have been very active in the community. I have a strong understanding of the issues that resonate with Nowthen residents.

Scheffler: My thoughts regarding the city’s budget and property tax levy have to do with the city itself. Nowthen is unlike any other city in Anoka County in the fact that we are such a rural community. Many residents want less local government and want to keep their property taxes low. With this in mind, the city needs to live within its means and not take on expenditures we have never had before just because other cities offer the same.

Kelly Johnson is at kelly.johnson@ecm-inc.com

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