Primary brings out seven hopeful Coon Rapids mayoral candidates
With current Coon Rapids Mayor Tim Howe not running for re-election, it has opened the floodgates for candidates who will vie in the Aug. 12 primary election. Hoping to be one of the two top vote-getters, ensuring a spot on the Nov. 4 general election ballot, are: Ronald Bradley, Jerry Koch, Ron Manning, Jerry Pierce, Phil Rosar, Ted Schmolke and Eric Sykes.
ABC Newspapers asked the candidates to respond to a couple of questions so voters get to know them better in advance of the primary. Candidate Sykes did not provide a photo.
RONALD BRADLEY: Age: 55; married to Terri Lee Cogger Bradley since 1985; two adult children, Quinn and Asha, both students at University of Minnesota, Duluth. Work history includes being a judicial law clerk, attorney since 1989 with experience in criminal prosecution and defense, probate and mental health, residential and commercial real estate, and civil litigation and appellate matters. Education: B.A. – UW River Falls; M.B.A. – UW Oshkosh; J.D. and L.L.M. (taxation) – William Mitchell College of Law.
JERRY KOCH: Age 57; married to Sue; one daughter, four sons, one daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. My mom and dad, Gene and Alma, moved to Coon Rapids in 1952, and I am the fourth of five sons; this has been my lifelong home. Mississippi Elementary, Epiphany Parochial, Coon Rapids Junior & Senior (’75), Anoka Vo-Tec, University of St. Thomas, political science, computer, real estate, hundreds of hours of continuing education. Prior experiences include bridge construction, home construction and remodeling.
RON MANNING: Married; three children and one grandchild; 36-year resident of Coon Rapids; Bachelor of Science and master’s degree from St. Cloud State University; extensive post-graduate work from the University of Minnesota and St. Thomas University; retired Minneapolis School District guidance counselor; current small business owner; former Anoka-Hennepin school board member, served on following committees: ECSU, District 11 Community Education, Minnesota High School League, Highway 10 Corridor, Schwan’s Super Rink; volunteer work: at church and coached CRAA basketball, soccer and baseball.
JERRY PIERCE: Wife Pauline, married 54 years, came to Coon Rapids in 1964 from Northeast Minneapolis.
Six sons, five daughters, 22 grandchildren, three great grandchildren.
Wife employed at Majestic Oaks Country Club 40 years.
I started as a construction laborer in 1952 and as a bricklayer’s apprentice in 1965. Was a foreman three years later.
Jobs in Coon Rapids: Cook Ice Center, Target, liquor store on Foley, music hall at high school. In Minneapolis: First National Bank City Center, Radisson Hotel on Seventh Street, I.B.M. Towers.
PHIL ROSAR: I moved to Coon Rapids 41 years ago after marrying my wife, Karen. We have three children, seven grandsons and two great-grandchildren. I am proud to have served my country as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam and received decorations including the RVN Cross of Gallantry and the Purple Heart. I am a member of the American Legion, VFW and Military Order of Purple Heart. I am a member of six town home associations and on the board of directors on three.
TED SCHMOLKE: Age 54, is a retired contractor and small business owner of 30 years. Together, he and his wife, Mary, raised Ted’s two sons, Justin and Cameron, in the city of Coon Rapids. Ted is an active volunteer of 25 years with the Coon Rapids Athletic Association, serving as president for the past six years. Ted and Mary recently joined the North Star Lions organization, a volunteer group dedicated to serve the needs of our community.
ERIC SYKES: Eric Sykes, 49-year-old resident of Coon Rapids, for the last five years. I remarried a year ago and now have a wife, Jean Kaspar, and an 18-year-old stepson named Aaron. My business is Appliance Parts Inc., a national appliance parts distributorship. I graduated from a private high school in Brainerd and attended St. Cloud State University to obtain a business management and engineering degree.
2. What qualities will you bring to the council if elected?
BRADLEY: My broad experience and education relate directly to the skills needed to help the citizens of Coon Rapids as we develop infrastructure and continue to improve our quality of life. My bachelor’s degree included majors in political science, economics and metropolitan region studies, each of which are pertinent to the position of mayor. The business administration degree, as well as being an independent businessman, help me to relate to the needs and issues of our local businesses.
As a lawyer, I have worked as a contract attorney for a metro city to handle some of its issues. My advanced legal training in taxation and representation of individuals and businesses with the state and federal agencies have made me sensitive to the needs of government and its citizens.
Part of my life is dedicated to giving time to some worthy nonprofit organizations. I am a legal adviser to a local educational nonprofit, and my wife serves on the board of directors. I am also the president of the board of trustees for a metro fraternal nonprofit organization and am currently assisting the organization pro bono with regard to litigation for a tax matter. I also participate in fundraising activities for another nonprofit for a chain of hospitals that provides free medical care to children in North America. I have lived in Coon Rapids in our home with my wife since 1992, and my wife has lived here her entire life, graduating from Coon Rapids High School. I have personally experienced the changes to our city and look forward to our future.
My education, experience and skill set make me uniquely qualified to serve the needs of our citizens as we work to provide the services and infrastructure that improves the local quality of life.
KOCH: Leadership, integrity, experience with building consensus and a history of getting results. I’ve been honored to serve over the years in many leadership roles, including president of the North Metro Realtor’s®
Association, (current) president of the Anoka Ramsey Community College Foundation Board, president of the Coon Rapids Rotary Club, den leader and Cubmaster. I served on the board of directors for the local, state and National Association of Realtor’s® and as chairman of the MLS Committee. Prior to joining the Coon Rapids City Council, I was involved with both the original Port Riverwalk and the original Northstar Station (transit oriented) development plans as a local real estate businessman. Additionally, I serve on both the Twin Cities Gateway Visitor’s Bureau Board of Directors and Executive Committee, and have been involved in protecting private property rights during the Mississippi River Critical Corridor Area rulemaking process.
The boards on which I’ve served over the years have been made up of folks from every political viewpoint, and I enjoy listening to the varied perspectives and finding the common ground. I’ve learned how to become an effective listener and have an ability to draw folks into the conversation to reach the best outcomes.
MANNING: I will bring years of experience to the office of mayor. More than that, I have learned a great deal about what the people of Coon Rapids want in their representatives.
My goal will be to keep an open line of communication with Coon Rapids citizens, the city council and staff members. I have always responded to any concerns that are brought to my attention and that will certainly continue. Also, I have been successful in having an amicable relationship with the rest of the council. It is extremely important to respect and trust each other in order to get things accomplished. After being elected to the city council, I respectfully expressed my concern about the prepay at the pump issue. I helped to overturn that ordinance without alienating anyone. That is the type of leadership needed in a mayor.
PIERCE: I have the great knowledge of commercial construction, which a leader needs to put together a city building.
Because of my being president of the Bricklayers Local #2 Minneapolis 1954-69 and knowledge of Roberts Rules, Fred Derrichek and myself we were able to get the amendment at the 1972 caucus passed is why Cook Arena was built and has served Coon Rapids very well.
When groups don’t know what to do with a building, the first thing they do is call in consultants and charge their fees to the tax rolls. The Cook Arena was estimated at $2 million to repairs and good for 30 years. I talked to one of the candidates and he was interested in purchasing Cook Arena for a “historical” building.
When he showed interest in buying Cook Arena the leaders demolished it.
I will start Aug. 14 to show the residents who want a “city center” what has to be done. If not successful I could still be voted out in November. I have been fighting “open mic” for the past 12 years. Candidates have publicly said they would back “open mic” with changes. Now members want to change the 1st Amendment of the U.S. “Freedom of Speech.”
I believe we have the right to question the employment of highly paid city staff.
I would like for the residents to realize their rights and that their tax dollars are better spent.
ROSAR: I truly care about the city and the direction it is going.
I have over 40 years experience in running a business. I understand costs vs. benefit ratios. I understand that
employees that are good should be valued and rewarded and employees that are not, should be phased out (i.e. private sector, corporate or government).
My knowledge in real estate and foreclosures gives me a perspective in dealing with problem properties. I understand problem properties are not the same as problem people. I have knowledge in the laws governing real estate and determining values.
SCHMOLKE: Ted’s strength as a leader includes his ability to generate energy and work collaboratively with others to gain support for any project. He is a motivated
individual with a strong desire to want to help others and to help build a community of which Coon Rapids residents can be proud. His leadership experience and the volunteer programs for which he serves have afforded him the opportunity to get to know many of the residents and leaders in our community. Through his dedicated
efforts Ted has grown to understand and appreciate the many challenges facing the city of Coon Rapids today.
SYKES: I am a proven leader. I have held public office in the past in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I am not afraid to stand up for what is right and fair. As a business owner, I am always accessible, either at my store or by cell phone or email. I believe that the taxpayers are the people in charge. It is your tax dollars that pay the city employees, and it should not be the other way around.
As a city, we need to welcome and encourage small businesses to establish themselves in Coon Rapids, not chase them away with so many rules, restrictions and lengthy waiting to get up and running. This way our children and loved ones have additional places to locate a job or career and earn an income. It would add more to the current mix of businesses offering goods and services to our citizens and the general public.
The Coon Rapids curb and gutter projects results are awful. The patchwork appearance that you see as you travel the streets looks ridiculous. If it is time to replace them, then replace all of the curbs and gutters, one area or section at a time. So many of these road elements are approximately the same age. I checked and found out that the cost per lineal foot would be less if each area had the entire curb and gutter removed and replaced with new.
This brings a question to my mind: If the street, curb and gutter projects are part of the city’s general budget, then why must we be assessed and pay for it? The current council is spending $21 million on the biking and walking trails. It is true that a decent percentage of people may use the trails, but I would have spent that money on the street, curb and gutter work. I guess it all depends on one’s priorities.
3. What is the main emphasis of your campaign?
BRADLEY: I hold dear the image of the citizen-statesman, where the people share the responsibility of leadership and each is willing to assume those duties. While our current leadership has done a fine job, I believe that new blood should be introduced where a fresh perspective and insight may be a catalyst to a bright future.
The ongoing needs of the citizens will bring challenges. Cities are facing increasing pressures to maintain and improve the quality of life of its citizens, all while the budgets do not grow as fast as the demand. I believe that I have the skills to help the city move forward and meet these challenges.
KOCH: Let’s get moving on the vacant land: Over the last dozen years, Coon Rapids has purchased many acres of developable land, at a cost of millions of dollars, which is still waiting to go back on the tax rolls. The real estate market is recovering well, and it is time to get these parcels moving. We have an opportunity to have new neighborhoods develop we wouldn’t have dreamed of 10 years ago, and we as a community need to partner with and tap into the collective knowledge of our development community. Particularly in Port Riverwalk (the old Coon Rapids Shopping Center area), we will be able to leverage the proximity to trails and transportation and the amazing amenities in the area, such as the Coon Rapids Regional Dam Park, to create a home development the city can be proud of.
We need to institute a ‘how will this impact …’ process when we are considering ordinances; we need to dig deep to investigate unintended consequences before enacting something; and we need to remember that just because we may not like something, doesn’t mean there should be an ordinance against it.
MANNING: My top priority will be working to complete unfinished areas of development. This process has been started in the area next to the commuter rail station near Riverdale. We have met with developers and have a good plan, which includes high-end housing, affordable senior housing and a small of amount of neighborhood retail. Next, the Riverwalk area has been sitting empty for years, and I have expressed a concern several times about this. It is time we get more aggressive in marketing this development-ready area. A third area for future development is the Foley Park and Ride area. This is a little further down the road, but it has great potential. We also have room for more industrial development in Coon Rapids. The development of these areas will go a long way in keeping taxes in check. This is something that is absolutely necessary.
PIERCE: My main emphasis of my campaign is to get the people to realize that over $3 million has been spent on consultant fees with no results. Residents, let’s get together and design and build what we want.
ROSAR: My first priority is to get the city into the real estate business by working with developers to sell and develop the real estate the city acquired and removed from the tax rolls . If that property were on the tax rolls, it would lessen the burden on the taxpayers.
The commercial industrial property the city acquired, if developed, would provide much needed jobs. This would be one of my goals. Jobs create money and opportunities and lessen the tax burden.
Second, create an environment with the private sector that is conducive to creating business and that relieves tax burden on our citizens without cutting essential services. Finding ways to run the city efficiently by eliminating waste, not spending money on things we don’t need and then passing the debt onto our grandchildren.
Currently, the city council and mayor are one body. Another body, the housing and redevelopment authority, is made up of 100 percent of the members of the city council. The economic development authority is also made up 100 percent of city council members. Therefore, when the ECA or HRA recommends something to the city council, it’s the same people recommending to themselves. I would support the separation of these bodies by having members of the community serve on these boards.
In our city, we have several town home associations that are dysfunctional and can be easily remedied, but are not being addressed by the city staff. This would be one of my priorities. I feel these are catastrophes waiting to happen.
The mayor’s job is not a Democrat or Republican issue. It is what is best for our city
The city is nothing more than a business providing essential and non-essential services and should be run like a business.
I am running for mayor because I care about this city and its citizens.
SCHMOLKE: The main emphasis of Ted’s campaign is to take a good look at the vacant land owned by the city and find ways to market it for development and get it back on the tax roll. We as taxpayers have owned these properties long enough, and it is now time that we get to work and build some kind of a return on our investment. Ted will use his leadership skills to facilitate discussions and ideas that can bring these projects to reality and not just plans on paper.
Ted Schmolke is defined through his passion and energy to do what is best for the residents of the city of Coon Rapids. As mayor, Ted will provide strong leadership that is reflective of his commitment to represent our community.
SYKES: I will hold department heads accountable. I will have balanced budgets. We will have a streamlined city hall that will run efficiently. With me as your mayor, Coon Rapids will be managed for the people, by the people; more freedoms and less local government.
This is what I believe in. Here is my campaign promise: Half of my mayoral salary will go to a local charity right here in Coon Rapids.