Incumbents in cities across Dakota County generally held on to their seats in last week’s election — though often not by much.
Council members in Burnsville, Eagan and Lakeville came away with slim majorities. Eagan council member Gary Hansen scraped by with 38 more votes than his opponent, and in Lakeville Bart Davis pulled out a victory with a margin of just 76.
The lone exception came in West St. Paul, where concerns over a major streetscape led to the mayor’s ouster.
West St. Paul
A massive renovation of South Robert Street in West St. Paul could shift gears after a change in the city’s leadership.
Mayor John Zanmiller was ousted by David Meisinger, a former mayor who has repeatedly denounced the current plan for the project and said he wants to trim ballooning costs by eliminating a long, landscaped median and the trees planned every 50 feet.
“I campaigned on the fact that we don’t need a Cadillac. The Chevy will get us by,” he said.
Meisinger, who owns a general contracting company, is returning to West St. Paul politics after a decadelong hiatus. He was the city’s mayor and a City Council member in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
He defeated the incumbent by 3,574 to 3,220 votes.
Zanmiller supported beautification of the street and said at a candidate forum that he hoped it would attract businesses to the street, which has numerous empty storefronts.
“I hope that the project is not abandoned,” Zanmiller said, adding that a lot of work needs to be done to the street.
“I regret nothing in terms of the work I’ve put in for this city,” he said, noting that he has tried to focus on policy rather than parochial projects.
Concerns over spending have been a focal point in all the West St. Paul races. Incumbent council members Ed Iago and Richard Vitelli ran unopposed and John Bellows beat John Ramsay for another open seat.
Iago, who has been on the council for eight years, said he expects “lively discussions” between council members and the new mayor over the future of Roberts Street, and other expensive projects such as renovating City Hall and expanding Harmon Park.
The council is not hard-set on any one option for the street project, he said. When the lowest construction bid it received was about $8 million more than anticipated, “that kind of put us back to square one,” Iago said.
“The only way it’s going to get done, and get done correctly, is if we all take a deep breath and respect what others’ opinions are,” he said.
Political newcomer Tim Pitcher edged close to incumbent and front-runner Jason Bartholomay, trailing by less than two dozen votes and snatching one of two open seats.
“I was really shocked that I got that many votes,” Pitcher said.
In a city plagued by millions in debt and an unattractive business climate, the three candidates — including challenger David McMillen, who came away with about 1,800 votes — agreed through election season that there’s a lot of work to be done.
Pitcher, who said he knocked on more than 6,000 doors, heard a lot of financial concerns from residents — namely, their worries about the city’s debt and the resulting high property taxes.
Bartholomay, a member of the council that paid off about $10 million of the city’s $42 million in debt over the past four years, said he heard similar complaints on the campaign trail. He said he’s looking forward to working with Pitcher, a fellow fiscal conservative.
“He seems like he wants to continue down the path that we’ve put in place,” Bartholomay said.
In Burnsville, first-time candidate Cara Schulz gave incumbents Dan Kealey and Bill Coughlin a run for their money. Coughlin, who won the primary but came in second in the general election, at times led Schulz by just a few hundred votes.
“Of course I’m disappointed that I wasn’t elected, but I’m extremely pleased with the results,” Schulz said. “It’s incredibly difficult to take on incumbents.”
Challenger Jake Nelson trailed the other three, with fewer than 3,700 votes compared to about 7,100 for Schulz and about 8,000 apiece for Coughlin and Kealey.
“I’d hoped it would be closer,” Nelson said. “I wasn’t expecting to win, but there was always that hope in there.”
Mayor Sandra Krebsbach retained her position after defeating opponent Neil Garlock, a recently retired sergeant on the city’s police force. Krebsbach garnered 61 percent of the vote, compared to Garlock’s 38 percent.
Only two votes separated council incumbents Ultan Duggan and Liz Petschel, who were both re-elected Tuesday night after capturing just under 32 percent of the vote each. Their efforts were enough hold off challengers Joel Paper (24 percent) and Mark Misukanis (11 percent).
Mayor Mary Hammann-Roland will return for a fifth term after winning a landslide victory over challenger Gene Rechtzigel. Hamman-Roland garnered 72 percent of the vote while her opponent received 27 percent.
City Council incumbents John Bergman and Clint Hooppaw easily won re-election, receiving 42 and 39 percent of the vote, respectively. Newcomer Juan Montoya III received 17 percent.
Council incumbents Paul Bakken and Gary Hansen were re-elected on Tuesday, despite a tight race by challenger Gale Anderson.
Bakken, a veteran council member of 12 years, garnered 32 percent of the vote. But Hansen beat Anderson by only 38 votes; each candidate hovered just above 25 percent.
Mayor Mike Maguire ran unopposed in Dakota County’s largest city.
City Council member Colleen LaBeau, a business owner and fiscal conservative, led the polling with nearly 40 percent of the vote. Fellow incumbent Bart Davis, narrowly escaped defeat from challenger Ron Robinson in his first run for office.
Both men received 23 percent of the vote, but Davis edged Robinson by 76 votes.
Mayor Matt Little ran unopposed.