The Cologne City Council features a number of late-developing races this year.
Mayor Bernie Shambour Jr. is not seeking reelection, and current council member Matt Lein was the only candidate to file for the mayor’s seat earlier this year. However, current council member Scott Williams has since announced a write-in campaign for mayor.
As for the rest of the council, incumbent Scott Williams has filed to retain his seat, and newcomer Jeffrey McInnis also filed for the council. Incumbent Jill Skaaland did not originally file for reelection, but has announced an active write-in campaign.
In addition, Joel Sievers did not officially file, but announced an active write-in campaign for a council seat earlier this year.
Attempts to contact all known candidates with the following questions were made by mail, email and phone. The responses of all but Sievers are included below.
1. Why do you want to serve on the Cologne City Council?
Lein: I have been a member of the Cologne City Council for three years. In that time I believe we made some great strides toward moving Cologne forward. I would like the opportunity to continue making those strides as mayor. I am excited for the future of Cologne and look forward to the opportunity to help the city continue to grow and to stay on the cutting edge of technology.
McInnis: I am seeking a position on the Cologne City Council to help bring a community oriented, common sense approach to decision making, and advocate for the residents; making sure that every voice has a chance to be heard.
Skaaland: I would like to be elected to the council so that I may keep some constancy to a changed council. There have been some and will be more big changes that our community is currently facing; complete resolution will be ongoing. I have been a strong councilor, with a strong financial and business background. I fix things that are broken and support those that work well.
Williams: I have served on the city council for 12 years and have experienced the city’s hardships as well as its prosperity. I believe I have been a voice for the people of Cologne and I will continue that duty.
2. What areas of the city budget need to be cut? Are there any areas that need additional funding? In what cases would you support a tax increase?
Lein: Cologne is a small community that already has a small budget with fiscal restraints. If we were unable to make necessary cuts without cutting services, I would support raising taxes, but only after all options were exhausted.
McInnis: It is difficult to pinpoint a specific budget area needing attention without being involved in the every day dealings within the city. However, city budgets should be approached the same as a family budget. Never spend more than you take in, plan ahead for a rainy day, and ponder seriously the difference between a necessity and a want.
Taxation is a difficult and pressing issue, especially in today’s economy. The philosophy is simple: The needs of few shouldn’t outweigh the needs of many. Any increase should be weighed seriously keeping the City of Cologne as a whole as the main focus.
Skaaland: Budget cuts: the City of Cologne has always run a very tight budget, there are very few areas available for cutting. I would, however, continue to watch suggestions for capital purchases. Sometimes it is just as cost effective to maintain and repair current equipment than to go out and purchase new. Large purchases funding them through bond issues (borrowing) only puts pressure on future budgets and cash needs.
Areas of funding: we have some infrastructure definitely in need of replacement/repair: water lines on CSAH 36, old streets, etc. Close examination of these areas, with funding and assessment options, is due.
Support tax increase? I am never in favor of increasing taxes to the citizens of our community. With decreased state aid and much slower growth within the community than expected, the need to increase taxes may be inevitable during certain years.
Williams: There have been state budget cuts for the city. We need to be smarter about the city’s growth expectations and adjust the budget while prioritizing our spending. I would like to see additional funding set aside for roadwork and sewer systems. In the future they will need updating and maintenance. Generally I would not support a tax increase unless it was absolutely necessary for the infrastructure and growth of the city.
3. If elected, what will your top goal or priority be?
Lein: My main goal, as Mayor of Cologne, is to provide the best quality of life for the citizens of Cologne while adhering to budget constraints.
McInnis: My top priority is making myself available to the community, listening to questions and concerns, and bringing them into the meetings where they can be addressed. Just as a council member should.
Skaaland: If elected, the top priority will be stabilizing the city staff. As you know, there have been some changes in key positions at City Hall. Currently I am working with the mayor on review of resumes and applications for the public works position and the city administrator position. We have some strong candidates for both and hope to have both positions filled very soon. There will be ongoing assistance and support during the current transition. As a member of the personnel committee, my commitment to see that all employees are treated fairly is very strong and a top priority. Additionally, as an accountant, finances are something that I always have an interest in and will continue to monitor. The Cologne iSP needs attention, there have been some stumbling blocks that Matt Lien and I feel we will have addressed before the end of 2012, so continued focus on this will also be a priority.
Williams: If elected my top priority would be to fill the city’s vacant positions. I would like to get a strong team together to work on projects to better the community. Other priorities would be to reevaluate the budget and continue to make cuts and place money where it is needed within the city.
4. What is the most pressing issue facing Cologne? What would you do to address that issue?
Lein: Maintaining fiscal stability in Cologne. I will look at all areas of the City of Cologne to make sure they are running as efficiently as possible. I will keep a close eye on the city’s budget to make sure that we are spending taxpayer money wisely.
McInnis: I think the greatest issue facing Cologne will soon become rapid growth. Rapid development can cause feelings of separation between “the new” and “the old.” The city cannot grow without change, but the change should not take away from its identity. The easiest way to address this issue is to bring this ideology with to every meeting, and have it readily available for recall whenever a decision is being made.
Skaaland: The most pressing issue facing Cologne currently are the vacancies created by the voluntary and involuntary terminations that have occurred in the past month. As a member of the personnel committee, my role is to review, interview and make recommendation(s) to the city council for hiring the right person for each of these key positions. We will get feedback from other employees/council members when appropriate, and fill these positions as expeditiously as possible. The ongoing support of these new city employees will be crucial to their success. The support of the current staff is also as important. Transition is always difficult.
Williams: The most pressing issue facing Cologne is the construction on Highway 212. After the construction is completed we need to bring business back to downtown Cologne. To address this issue I would like to meet with business owners and work with them to help build up the vitality of Cologne.
5. Why should voters consider you for the Cologne City Council?
Lein: I have experience and history on the Cologne City Council and the Planning Commission. In that time I have developed a strong understanding of what our citizens need and what they expect from city government. I feel it is that experience, commitment, and honesty that makes me a strong candidate for mayor.
McInnis: Voters should consider me for Cologne City Council simply put because I will speak loudly for them. I will make informed decisions, and think about the community while doing so. I want to ensure Cologne continues to be a place with an excellent school and a safe environment to raise a family.
Skaaland: I should be considered for continuing as a city council member because I have: (a) 5-plus years of council experience; (b) I have been involved with some pretty tough issues that need continued involvement; and (c) although I was on the fence initially about running, I am committing myself to the city to carry out the mission and goals we have set forth.
Williams: Voters should consider me for Cologne City Council, because I believe I have the experience needed to get things done for the overall good of the city. I have been a voice for the people of Cologne and have always tried to represent their needs and wants in my decisions on the city council.
6. Please tell us about your background and/or experience.
Lein: I have worked for Roberts Automatic Products in Chanhassen for 13 years. I was on the Cologne Planning Commission for six years. I have been on the Cologne Academy School Board for four years, and Cologne City Council for three years.
McInnis: I am currently employed in the field of Rules Instruction for a Class 1 Railroad. I deal daily with rules delivery, reading and understanding regulations, and delivering this understanding to those being trained. Prior to this I was a locomotive engineer, as well as a conductor. Through my experiences with this excellent company I have strengthened my ability to make difficult decisions, problem solve, and communicate with people in both large and small groups. My family is very active in volunteering. From church activities to fundraisers and food donation, community is very important to us.
Skaaland: I have been married to Sean for almost 18 years and we have three daughters, Hayley, 16, Casey, 15 and Lindsey, 10. We moved to Cologne eight years ago and have been active in many organizations. I have made decisions to back off of some because of family commitments. I am the financial manager for Youngstedts, which contributes to many of our community fund raisers. I teach religion classes for 2nd graders. I have a wonderful family and a great life! I use my life experiences in the various “extra curricular” commitments in as positive a way as possible.
Williams: I have been on the city council for 12 years. I was on the planning commission for the city of Cologne for three years. I have lived in for Cologne 32 years and raised my family here. I have been married to Laurel for 32 years and I have two children. My oldest daughter lives in Mayer with her husband and two children and my youngest daughter and her husband live in Cologne. I am also involved in different community activities.
I will be running for Mayor of Cologne as a write in.