Blaine Ward 3 council candidates respond to questions
Jason King, Matthew Knutson and Karen Varian will vie to be to be one of the two top vote-getters in the Aug. 12 primary election for Blaine’s Ward 3, securing a spot on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.
ABC Newspapers asked each candidate to submit a biography and answer two questions so constituents can learn about their qualifications and priorities. The responses are in the candidate’s own words.
With Councilmember Kathy Kolb deciding not to seek a fifth term, there will be a new council member elected in this ward. Ward 3 residents are also represented by Councilmember Russ Herbst, who has two years remaining on his term.
To find your polling location and a list of candidates, visit the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website (www.sos.state.mn.us), click on the “Elections & Voting” link and then the “Find Where You Vote” link.
JASON KING: As a proud father of two boys attending DaVinci Academy, and a loving husband to my wife Stacy of 17 years, I am a 40-year-old business leader with 18 years experience in the low voltage/electrical industry. I am the general manager for MTG, based in Eden Prairie. I grew up in Odessa, Missouri, and attended CMSU.
MATTHEW KNUTSON: I’m a senior application analyst and developer for HealthPartners; formerly a health care revenue cycle finance consultant specializing in helping large businesses grow wisely by discovering areas of inefficiency and finding ways to correct those areas without sacrificing service or quality. I graduated from the University of St. Thomas and I am 26 years old. My wife Justine and I have lived in Blaine for the last five years.
KAREN VARIAN: 63 years old; married, husband Tom, two grown children Chad and Anna; 23 year Blaine resident; bachelor’s degree from Metropolitan State University; employed as a human resource consultant with the Metropolitan Council; Blaine City Council Member 1993-2000; member Blaine Park Advisory Board; member of St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral; leader of Carpathy Children’s Dance Ensemble; co-chair Friends of the Immigration History Research Center/Archives; president of the Rusin Association of Minnesota
1. What qualities would you bring to the Blaine City Council?
KING: My experience as a business leader who always had to work within an established budget and make tough decisions, along with my current role as a member of the Blaine Planning Commission make me uniquely qualified to serve on the city council. I have extensive experience managing people and establishing a clear vision that people can get behind.
KNUTSON: As a member of the Blaine City Council, I would bring dedication and resourcefulness to work in collaboration with this city’s residents and businesses to try and find fresh and creative solutions to the city’s issues. I have a passion for problem solving and my background in health care finance and IT has given me invaluable experience in managing large budgets and being fiscally responsible. I am running for this seat for the sole purpose of putting the city residents’ needs first and do not have any hidden or personal agendas. I am determined and driven to serve the residents in an effort to continue to make Blaine the premier suburb that it is.
VARIAN: I have the experience, will work hard, listen, be responsive, make informed decisions and am dedicated to public service. As a past member of the Blaine City Council I have the experience, but since it has been almost 14 years since I was on the council, I can bring a fresh perspective to the issues. I can ask the tough questions and make the tough decisions. I am committed to working hard for the residents of the Ward 3. If elected, I plan to retire from my job and will have the extra time to commit. There is always more than one side to an issue. I will listen to both sides, and weigh the pros and cons before making decisions.
2. What are the main issues of your campaign?
KING: I want to ensure that Blaine remains a wonderful place to raise children, and want Blaine to continue to be a peaceful city environment that provides a great work and life balance. Keeping taxes low, yet maximizing those tax dollars for the residents of Blaine, is paramount. I find it important to attract more local career level jobs to the area so that Blaine does not have to simply be a bedroom community, but can be a great place to both live and work.
As a four-year coach in Blaine sports programs, I want to ensure that there are always plenty of open spaces in Blaine. Equally important is the effort to keep drugs out of our schools, parks and community. To achieve this goal, I will strongly support the Blaine Police Department in any way I can. Additionally, we must support our senior citizens to ensure they have the necessary resources to find the health care and activities needed to stay healthy and lead happy lives.
We also know that as Blaine continues its rapid growth, the challenges that we all see to our traffic flow will only continue to increase. I plan to work with federal, state and county officials and utilize their resources to help Blaine find a way over these hurdles and thereby making our community sustainable for the long term.
As a proud American, Minnesotan, and resident of Blaine, if elected, I will strive to keep city spending limited, and ensure that the rights of landowners are upheld to ensure that Blaine remains a wonderful, livable city for our families. I thank you truly for reading, and I hope I can count on your vote.
KNUTSON: There are three main issues that I support in my campaign that are commonly relayed back to me in my conversations with residents in Blaine: Increased safety, responsible growth and wise investments.
I will work to help keep Blaine residents safe by ensuring that we have an adequately manned and supplied emergency response team. Blaine has great police and fire departments already, but with a growing population we will soon need more staff to cover the additional growth.
Second, I will work to help attract residents and the right businesses to help keep our taxes low and our economy sustainable for the future.
Last but not least, I want to invest our tax payers’ hard earned money wisely. Blaine is the premier suburb of the north and I am very proud of that. We have made great strides to make sure that we have the adequate amenities entailed in acquiring such a status. I feel strongly about investing in roadways and green spaces. However, I want to make sure that we are acquiring such amenities while staying on budget and having sufficient funds in our reserves when we are under hard times. Through these key issues, I feel that we will continue to keep making Blaine a great place together.
VARIAN: I see Blaine as a good place to live and I want to keep it that way. In order to do this there are some things that the city needs to consider.
Transportation – With the growth in the city our traffic congestion has increased. The city needs to work
cooperatively with the businesses in the area to advocate for traffic changes on Highway 65.
Neighborhood traffic issues – Neighborhoods are facing speeding and access issues. Things like speed signs and bumps help, but maybe it is time to get more aggressive and have police officers specifically assigned to traffic control. Access issues need to be addressed before development occurs.
Housing and Economic Development – Development needs to be compatible with our neighborhoods.
Buffer areas between residential and commercial/industrial are needed.
We need to look at new ways of encouraging maintenance and rehabilitation of our aging housing stock.
We need more local jobs that pay living wages. The city still has vacant industrially zoned property. The city should play a role in identifying markets, assembling parcels of land and assisting potential developers in securing funding.
Taxes – Taxes pay for city services. There needs to be a balance between what services the citizens of Blaine want and expect, and what the citizens are willing to pay for. When making budgetary decisions, questions need to be asked – do the citizens want or need this, what are we getting for our money, is it worth it and is it the best deal we can get?