This year’s Savage City Council race pits political experience against the promise of change.

Three candidates vying for two open seats on the governing body made their pitch to about 15 residents at City Hall Tuesday night. Incumbent Gene Abbott, who has served on the council since 2006, is being challenged by Bob Coughlen, an 11-year veteran of the city’s Planning Commission, and political newcomer Carl J. Boudreau.

During a one-hour forum moderated by the Savage Chamber of Commerce, candidates had two minutes to discuss topics ranging from municipal liquor sales, the demand for affordable housing and how to implement police body cameras.

Abbott, a civil engineer running for his fourth term, said he would focus on the city’s debt reduction plan that has shaved off 40 percent of $100 million owed since 2010. He also expressed strong support for equipping every police officer with body cameras, but he has funding concerns.

“Body cameras improve public safety, increase transparency and accountability,” Abbott said. “It provides a means of capturing more convincing proof for use in criminal cases and protecting officers against most claims of wrongdoing.”

Coughlen, an architectural designer and retired Army reservist, stressed the need for lower-income housing options that can accommodate more seniors and working-class adults.

“My own children cannot afford to live in Savage because there are no apartments they can [afford],” he said. “We need more diversity in our housing.”

Boudreau, a retired U.S. Coast Guard chief and self-described computer nerd, advocated for more efforts to attract developers to the city.

“The city of Savage is competing with Prior Lake, Shakopee, Burnsville,” Boudreau said. “If we don’t pay attention to what their marketing tactics are and how they’re attracting new business and growing, then we’re going to be left in the dust.”

Longtime Savage residents Mary and Bob Hilpisch attended the forum because they’re concerned about managing the town’s rapid growth.

Savage’s population has increased tenfold — from 3,000 to 30,000 — since the Hilpisches built their family home in 1984. Now they have growing concerns about stalled traffic in the town where they raised eight children.

“This time around, I wanted to be better informed than I have been in the past,” said Mary, a retired nurse. “With all this growth, I want to make sure there’s some oversight.”

She declined to say for whom she’s voting, but said experience will factor heavily in her decision.

Savage is the only municipality in Scott County with open City Council seats during the Nov. 7 general election. For those unable to attend Tuesday’s forum, a recording will be available on Savage TV.

For information on polling places and times, visit