In St. Paul Park, incumbent Mayor John Hunziker is seeking his fifth term in the Nov. 8 elections, but he's facing his first challenge and he's under fire over development issues.
Franke said he'd more aggressively market the city to developers, beef up a fledgling Economic Development Authority (EDA) and throw fundraisers to feather city coffers. He wants to bring in business, such as a manufacturing plant, to create housing and jobs for this river city.
"We have a lot of different opportunities and tools we can use that aren't being used," he said, adding that beyond his push for a stronger EDA, he could not provide specific details until after he takes office.
Hunziker said St. Paul Park is built out, save for three parcels and 600 acres annexed from Grey Cloud Island Township before the real estate market collapsed and national home developer D.R. Horton backed away. When the economy recovers, Hunziker said, he hopes the city can build more senior housing, and he'd love to attract more business.
Hunziker, who has 30 years' experience as a council member and mayor, said St. Paul Park simply has no more buildable industrial land for a new manufacturing plant. He asks of his challenger: "Where are you going to find the real estate?"
Franke said he wants more aggressive recruiting of developers for the annexed land, which is mainly cropland and riverfront property.
"Development depends on the market, and we just don't have a market," Hunziker countered, noting that other cities have found themselves with projects delayed or postponed as well.
"Nobody is developing at this point," he said.
And, the city doesn't have the seed money necessary for development, he added.
Hunziker said he's grateful, amid declining state aid, to keep providing adequate police, fire, administrative and other essential city services through budget cuts and modest tax increases.
He laughed at his challenger's suggestion that local fundraisers can help offset declining state aid and the nation's ailing economy.
Although Franke, 40, has never served in local office, he said the cafe and the bar that he runs in St. Paul Park and another establishment in Prescott, Wis., have given him the experience and business contacts to attract developers and to run the city. He said he's kept up on city issues by watching council meetings and talking to people in town.
Hunziker said that's not enough. "To come in completely cold to the mayor's position is going to be a rude awakening," he said.
"I've been involved with 16 budgets for the city of St. Paul Park. I know where we can cut. I know where we shouldn't cut. And you don't gain that by being on the outside looking in. You get that by being in the trenches every day."
Hunziker served from 1983 through 1991 on the City Council and then as mayor, before deciding not to run again. In 2003, he returned as mayor, campaigning against what he called "the over-development" of St. Paul Park, which covers 2.5 square miles.
"We didn't want to lose the small-town feel," he said. "Some development would be welcome, but when you're trying to stuff five pounds of beans into a four-pound bag, it just doesn't work."
In other Washington County races:
St. Paul Park: Incumbent City Council Members Tim Jones and Jennifer Cheesman are running unopposed for re-election.
Mahtomedi: Incumbent Mayor Judson Marshall is running unopposed. For two City Council seats, Timothy Deans is challenging incumbents Richard Brainerd and Daniel Soler.
Joy Powell • 651-925-5038