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Continued: Rich field of candidates for Minnetonka position

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: January 31, 2012 - 4:25 PM

Minnetonka voters can spend part of their Valentine's Day at the polls.

The city is holding a special election on Feb. 14 to fill an at-large City Council seat vacated in December. Former Council Member Amber Greeves resigned after her husband was transferred to Colorado.

Seven candidates are vying for the spot, an unusually large number, said City Clerk David Maeda. "As long as I've been here we've never had this many," he said.

"The thing that makes this even more unusual is that our city charter says that if we have a special election, we don't have a primary," Maeda said. During regular election cycles a primary narrows the field to two candidates per position. In this case, the top vote-getter will fill the seat.

Eight names will be on the ballot, but one candidate, David Webb, decided last week not to run for the job.

Minnetonka has six City Council members -- two elected at-large and four from wards within the city -- who serve four-year staggered terms. They are elected in odd-numbered years and appear on the ballot without party affiliation. Greeves was halfway through her term, which expires in January 2014. The mayor chairs the council and serves as its seventh member.

The candidates were asked the same questions, and their responses were edited.

PATTY ACOMB

 Patty AcombAge: 46

Occupation: School naturalist/biologist

Experience: Minnetonka Park Board vice chair, Hopkins School District strategic planning committee, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District advisory committee

Previous candidacy for office: None

Reason for running: I was born and raised in Minnetonka and made a decision to come back to raise my children. Minnetonka is a great city and I want to do what I can to ensure that it remains that way.

Main issues: Minnetonka is a mature city, and it will be important to balance the city's efforts to continue growing and remaining a vibrant community with ensuring that we do not lose the natural charm and character that makes our city unique. I would continue to emphasize managing our limited resources responsibly.

JOE BODELL

 Joe BodellAge: 29

Occupation: Software developer

Experience: Working with clients to understand their needs and solve problems; political and online activism

Previous candidacy for office: None

Reason for running: We need new voices, especially from the generation that's going to be tasked with solving the great challenges yet to come. I know what it's going to take to compete effectively.

Main issues: Minnetonka faces a demographic crunch, with an aging and shrinking population. To keep our small businesses and neighborhoods strong, we must forge policies to attract young families and professionals, update older housing, and offer more dense, village-based housing options.

BONNIE BURTON

 Bonnie BurtonAge: 60

Occupation: Residential real estate sales

Experience: More than 20 years working with municipal governments, including 10 years as finance director for the city of Shorewood; an MBA with finance and strategic planning concentrations from the University of Minnesota

Previous candidacy for office: None

Reason for running: I want to join the effort to find creative ways to address the challenges that Minnetonka faces in trying to do more with less.

Main issues: Maintaining the city's attributes as its demographics change, balancing needs of parks and recreation, shopping and businesses with the rising cost of public services, property tax concerns in relation to housing values.

JOHN KNIGHT

 John KnightAge: 39

Occupation: Manager and vice president at a large financial services company

Experience: Minnetonka planning commissioner, small business owner, volunteer with Minnetonka schools, 13-year Minnetonka resident

Previous candidacy for office: 2002 candidate for Hennepin County commissioner

Reason for running: Minnetonka is a wonderful place to live and run a business. I want to make sure it stays that way by listening to our residents. I am excited and energized about the opportunity to serve the hard-working and talented people of Minnetonka.

Main issues: Being respectful of our tax dollars; ensuring that city services are responsive; preserving our neighborhood character.

PEGGY KVAM

 Peggy KvamAge: 54

Occupation: Software company owner

Experience: Design engineer, small business owner, League of Women Voters state and local board member, Minnetonka Natural Resource Restoration team

Previous candidacy for office: 2011 candidate for Ward 1 seat on Minnetonka City Council

Reason for running: I have lived, worked and played in Minnetonka for 27 years, and know the city well. It is one of the premier cities in the state, and I believe I have the skills to help maintain that status.

Main issues: Minnetonka is very well managed with a high quality of life, but residents are particularly concerned about annual property tax increases despite declining home values, and the impact of redevelopment on their neighborhoods.

THOM LIEN

 Thom LienAge: 40

Occupation: Stay-at-home-dad

Experience: Small business manager, volunteer at Seattle Food Bank and task force on hunger and homelessness

Previous candidacy for office: None

Reason for running: I have strong leadership skills that will allow me to take people's concerns and transform them into planning and decision-making for the city of Minnetonka.

Main issues: We need to make sure we have enough resources for the growing number of retirees in the city, including housing and recreation as well as health and emergency services. We also want to make sure the area is welcoming to other families such as those looking to buy their first home or more affluent ones looking to expand their living needs.

JOEL OLSON

 Joel OlsonAge: 23

Occupation: Civil engineer aide

Experience: Volunteer in park improvement programs, including invasive species removal

Previous candidacy for office: None

Reason for running: I grew up in Minnetonka and will advocate to make it more attractive for youth and young families so we can balance our population.

Main issues: social and physical connections to the city and within the city regarding transportation and points of interest, growing and retaining commerce, improved pedestrian and traffic safety.

Tom Meersman • 612-673-7388

  • HOW TO VOTE

    Voters can cast their ballots on Feb. 14 between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. at their usual polling locations. For information about absentee voting, see the city's website at www.eminnetonka.com.

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