Lakeville voters have the unusual opportunity of being able to choose from three sitting council members who are running for mayor this fall.

Incumbent Mayor Mark Bellows and veteran Council Member Laurie Rieb have both served 12 years. They face Matt Little, 27, just finishing his second year on the council.

Little is a second-year law school student at the University of Minnesota and has been working as a law clerk.

Rieb, 54, has worked three years as development director, raising funds for 360 Communities, a social service agency providing food and other assistance.

Bellows, 58, is finishing his first two-year term as mayor. He is the city's police chaplaincy director and pastor of Hope Community Church in Lakeville.

Here are the trio's paraphrased responses to three questions:

QWhat do you see as the main issues facing Lakeville?

BellowsHe wants to flesh out the "Positioned to Thrive" branding statement the city has adopted and continue to see the community and businesses prosper. He supports the "community visioning" process that will survey residents to gauge what they want the city to look like in the future, including roads and other city services.

LittleHe says the challenge will be serving about 25,000 more residents expected by 2030. That means ensuring police and firefighters have adequate resources and that roads keep up with growth. The city should work to keep taxes low by funding needed services with revenue from an expanding tax base. Technology can also save money. Little said he pushed to get iPads available to council members so meeting agenda packets no longer have to be printed.

RiebBecause of the slow economy, she says the city will be very careful with taxpayer money. She has pushed for community visioning to get a cross-section of residents' opinions on what they want the city to become. She noted demographics are changing as the city resumes growing, raising issues she has dealt with before on the council.

QThe City Council has been divided over the $1.1 million renovation of a vacant police station into the Heritage Center opening Monday for seniors, veterans and historical society members. Do you think it's worth the more than $500,000 allocated from city park dedication and building funds?

RiebShe was part of a 3-to-2 majority favoring the project. The city has provided an arts center and parks, athletic fields and an ice arena for the younger people. The senior population is growing, as demonstrated by two senior housing projects going up. The center is an amenity that is part of Lakeville's quality of life. "It is a good repurposing and use of that building to put three groups in there," she said.

Bellows"It is not about seniors, or the historical society or veterans. It's about the taxpayer," he said. The city should have sold the building and gotten it back on the tax rolls after the new $15 million police station was built about four years ago. "I think we could have worked with a developer and gotten a facility with more amenities that served seniors better. It is a terribly inefficient way for government to operate," he said.

Little"The center is a great benefit to the city" that doesn't increase taxes, he said. "This benefit will be with us for the long term. ... This is also for the Historical Society and the Yellow Ribbon group." He said the old senior center is inadequate for the large seniors group. The three groups will have space to expand.

QWhy would you be a better mayor than your opponents in dealing with difficult issues such as the Heritage project?

Little"There's been a lot of negativity the past two years. We need a leader who can create an environment for staff and the council that allows you to disagree with people without fear of retaliation. We need to have open discussions without the use of anger or pressure. We need to have civil discussions. A hallmark of my council time is being calm and using facts in argument and persuasion instead of blunt force." He said he is accessible because he attends many city events and has a post office box, a website, Facebook and other online options.

Bellows"In these economic times, I think I am the most fiscally conservative candidate. I was asked to run because many in the community thought Lakeville was not business friendly. I tried to address that." He said past council members viewed each other as colleagues, but Little has referred to other council members as his opponents in social media. "That sort of language divided this council. ... I would say in the past the council were policymakers. We have lost that. I am trying to regain that."

RiebShe cited her policy experience as a former planning commission member and involvement in many community groups and boards, including boards of the Dakota County Communications Center and the Downtown Lakeville Business Association. She noted that as acting mayor she led the council's discussion on decorum last year, adding: "I bring civility, respect, collaboration."

Jim Adams • 952-746-3283