NYA City Council Q&A
The NYA City Council race features three incumbents and two challengers this fall.
Incumbent Mayor Tina Diedrick is unopposed in this election, but current council members JR Hoernemann and Richard Stolz face challenges from Mike McPadden and Chad Pederson.
Attempts to contact all known candidates with the following questions were made by mail, email and phone. Responses were received from all candidates with the exception of Pederson.
1. Why do you want to serve on the NYA City Council?
Diedrick: It has been an honor to work with the residents, businesses, city council and city staff over the past two years. I would like to continue serving NYA to build on the knowledge and experience gained during my first term as mayor. I will continue to build relationships within the community. I also feel there is an important role to fill as an advocate for our community by promoting and working with our locally elected officials at the county, state and national level. It is equally important to communicate effectively our concerns and issues with DEED, MNDot, and the Met Council.
Hoernemann: After almost four years on the council, I found it interesting of all the different types of situations that come before the council. Some are easy to address, and others can be months or more to come to a reasonable solution. You would be surprised what all comes before the council. I would like to serve another term to the best of my ability, and to help our community in any way it can.
McPadden: I served the City of Norwood and the City of Norwood Young America for a total of 14 years either as a council member or mayor. I took a break from that service eight years ago to give myself more time to do other things that I like to do. I now feel like I have a renewed energy, and I am ready to tackle the issues facing our community once again.
Stolz: I want to continue to make a difference. The city is facing a situation where revenues do not support the functions of the city. In an effort to reduce taxes the city has been using savings to seek dollars to balance the budget. This works for only so long. Unless financial goals are set and a path determined how to reach those goals the city will continue to experience reduced services. Without this planning the city will face outcomes that will negatively impact the quality of life our citizens deserve. I want to put in place new budget planning ideas.
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?
Diedrick: Each account is being scrutinized to ensure adequate funding for necessities or cuts if possible. The General Fund, Capital Improvement Fund, and the Enterprise Funds have all been subject to cuts in the past four years. In addition the council has utilized and transferred funds between accounts that had excess balances to offset costs. During difficult economic times, the council has made short term budget decisions to minimize the tax impact on our community. The council is committed to being efficient and transparent with your property tax dollars.
Our streets are in definite need of funding. The council has been working toward getting more streets fixed by doing mill and overlays, versus reconstructing smaller portions of the streets at three times the cost. Unfortunately, all these projects add to the city’s debt levy. Adding to the amount of debt the city accumulates should always involve careful consideration and accurate information. The council is currently weighing and discussing the construction options, financing available, and the impact this will have on the residents and businesses.
The reality of our current economic condition is that as home and business values have decreased, the council has cut taxes to minimize the impact on our community. Without economic growth through business or residential investments, any additional items added to the budget may result in a tax increase. The council is committed to examining every aspect of the city financial situation to make sure tax dollars are being used efficiently and effectively for the necessities.
Hoernemann: Areas that may be cut is a very difficult decision. The same old comment you hear is, why cut me, or not our project or funds. This I feel is something that I can’t decide alone, this is why we have a council of five members to work this out in the most reasonable manner.
McPadden: I don’t believe we should single out one or two areas of the city budget for cutting until we take a hard look at all items on the city budget to determine where our tax dollars can be best spent. I do, however, think our city streets are in need of a lot of attention. We need to get back to a program of repairing / replacing streets on a regular basis so that you don’t get to that point where so many streets are in disrepair that it becomes unmanageable from a budgetary standpoint.
Stolz: Cuts to the budget must be done carefully. Currently in the proposed budget no money is budgeted for larger equipment or street projects. In addition, $272,000 is being used from savings to balance the budget. This is with an 8.2 percent increase in property taxes. Not a pretty picture. So cuts to the budget are difficult to arrive at given our current situation. There are few areas of city government where spending is so out of control that it must be removed. Currently the city does not have employed a properly licensed sewer operator. $100,000 has been budgeted for this position. I believe this is too much and should be reduced.
The condition of the city’s roads is a definite concern. We must keep up our infrastructure or we will face a situation where deterioration will be overwhelming. We are nearly at this point. Therefore I can see additional funding for streets. Currently no money is budgeted for street projects.
No one likes to see increases to city spending. However, if we are to keep our city in a position to attract new business and housing we must provide dollars to improve the image of our city. If the city has an opportunity to attract an operation that is job producing and it will require a tax increase to do this I would support it depending on the cost benefit ratio. Fixing our infrastructure is another area where a tax increase will see important benefits
3. What ideas do you have to help promote residential, business and job growth in NYA?
Diedrick: The City’s Economic Development Commission has worked with the economic development director in order to develop programs to assist current businesses. The city development director assists with business expansions, as well as working to bring prospective business to Norwood Young America. The economic development website promotes Norwood Young America’s great attributes such as two major highways and a railway, the parks and trails, and a dedicated workforce. In addition, the website provides real estate and business information.
Norwood Young America is a great place to raise a family, work, start a business, and enjoy small town life, while only being minutes away from the metro area. I want to continue to promote this wonderful community to people and businesses throughout our county, state, and the Midwest. A recent business study identifies the businesses and services needed in our community. I think the city needs to be actively and aggressively engaging these identified business clients until we find and secure the investors and developers that will invest in our town. We need jobs and it is the private sector that provides jobs. Norwood Young America also offers incentives such as TIFF to bring businesses to town. We need to continue to promote and market our town, so no one ever again asks, “Where is NYA?”
Hoernemann: Residential and job growth in our city is slow due to the economic times we are in now. For a few years we had zero growth in home building. In the past year things are looking better. We have had five or six new home building permits. The city is also offering a reduced cost of water and sewer hookup charge when you purchase a building lot. Business and job growth is very difficult for NYA when 15-20 miles east of NYA we have large retail and higher paying jobs. It is hard for small towns and communities west of the metro area to compete.
McPadden: I don’t have any specific ideas to help promote growth in Norwood Young America, and I don’t believe there is only one answer. But I have seen that there are areas around Minnesota that seem to be growing and expanding at the same time that many other areas are just trying to hang on to what they have. I believe we need to open a dialogue with these growing areas to find out what is working for them, and to decide if some of these ideas could fit our community.
We also must enlist our citizens to participate in brainstorming sessions to come up with our own ideas about the specific assets we have here in NYA. In addition, we could work with other nearby communities to create a “regional identity” of some sort to try to attract people and businesses to this area.
Stolz: The city must present itself as a modern, up to date municipality. People base their decision to locate their home or business in a particular area on a variety of reasons. Our schools must be first rate, tax ratio acceptable, great internet access, and in general a high quality of life. This takes in a variety of issues such as education, health care access, open space, infrastructure and attitude of the citizens. I want our students to have the opportunity to do their best. I want parks where people can go and enjoy. I want a place that the natural beauty can be preserved and our environment kept clean. We want to avoid a place where people are depressed and “everyone for themselves” is the norm. These items can be a positive or a negative depending on the willingness of the decision makers to enhance their community. The general appearance of the city goes a long way to attract new citizens. This is something the city can address and constantly work on to improve.
4. What is the most pressing issue facing NYA? What would you do to address that issue?
Diedrick: Clearly the recession is a significant issue in our community. Businesses have closed which results in job losses, in addition to loss of services and productivity in our community. Many houses have been foreclosed upon, which is an obvious hardship on our families. The increased cost of basic items like food and gas has limited investment in other areas of people’s budgets. Residents and businesses have been significantly impacted by these economic conditions. The slow recovery is apparent in our community as businesses continue to struggle and residential growth has been slow to rebound.
The council continues to prioritize and budget within our means; while providing the basic services of government. Maintaining roads, infrastructure, parks and trails, providing fire and rescue, police, and planning / zoning / inspections, are essential city services that should be prioritized. The city government’s role is to create an environment where businesses and residents can prosper, while paying sufficient property taxes to support these services.
In addition to these budgeting objectives, I would like the council to study and develop a comprehensive economic development plan that would define our identity as a community and then market that within the county, state, and nation for business and residential development. I would start by looking at our assets, strengths, and priorities and begin aggressively recruiting businesses and services; as well as developing a positive business retention program within our community. We need strong businesses to bring jobs into our community and to encourage entrepreneurs within our community.
Hoernemann: In the past years NYA has completed some major projects such as water systems, a water treatment plant and senior housing. When citizens come to me the most I hear is about the bad condition of our city streets. I believe this is one of the highest concerns to be faced. I would like to see this looked at and completed.
McPadden: I think the most pressing issue is loss of existing businesses and the inability to attract new ones. This is not only the most pressing issue, but also the most difficult one to address. Let me start with the loss of existing businesses.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, and because of forces out of our control, a business has to close its doors. The city, however, must do everything it can do to create a vibrant business community, so all our existing businesses have the opportunity to grow and expand. We need to work with the business community so we can provide the type of help they need. We need to assist businesses grow, not put up stumbling blocks and create more red tape. We must look at even more ways to provide incentives to businesses to stay in our community. If we don’t, we could see even more businesses close their doors.
So, how do we attract new business to our community? I am sure that city staff is working hard every day to do just that. But so is just about every other community in the State of Minnesota. What does Norwood Young America have to offer that other communities either can’t or don’t offer? Are there things we could bring to the table, but aren’t currently doing so? I think we need to spend a lot more time and effort looking at our current strategies to determine the best course of action for the future.
Stolz: Infrastructure deterioration is the most pressing issue. Some of our streets have not been addressed for 40 years. This cannot continue. Some of the streets are so bad that returning them to gravel may make a better road. Street projects cost more money than can be raised in one year without borrowing. Currently our debt load is higher than it should be. The city has borrowed heavily on projects in the recent past — city hall, water tower, water treatment plant, industrial park, and numerous major street projects involving fixing sewer, water, and storm sewer. Therefore future street projects must be carefully weighed and analyzed prior to commencing on any new projects. Accurate estimates of cost and an analysis of where the revenue is going to come from must be done.
5. Why should voters consider you for the NYA City Council?
Diedrick: The desire to represent the will of the people is my strong passion, alongside honoring God and this great country that we are most fortunate enough to live in. I want them to vote for me knowing that I am here to serve them. I love this community. I’ve enjoy volunteering alongside the wonderful people that serve others in the community at school, church, parks, Stiftungsfest, etc. I will also continue to work to resolve issues and concerns that come before the council. Providing leadership as their mayor for the wonderful town of Norwood Young America has been an honor.
Hoernemann: In the past four years I tried to be a council member to the best of my ability. Some people liked my decisions, and there are others who let me know I was wrong. But everyone has the right to their own opinions. No matter what the difference is in our opinions, I hope we can discuss it and come to a reasonable solution.
McPadden: I have always and will continue to take a commonsense approach when making decisions for our community, whether it be budget or policy related. I don’t try to make the “right” decision, I try to make a good decision based on all the information presented.
Stolz: I really care about this city and its future. I believe it has untapped potential and the future will be what we make it. My family has been in this community since the 1800s and I am very familiar with its heritage and its growth. I have served on the council for less than a year and find it very rewarding. I have been involved in government processes for nearly my entire life and I fully understand how government impacts the lives of our citizens. I will do my best to make this city one we can be proud of now and in the future.
6. Please tell us about your background and/or experience.
Diedrick: My husband, Brian, and I have lived in NYA for the past 17 years in the old “Wilson House.” We have five children: Mason, 16; Morgan, 15; McHayl, 13, Monte, 9; Max, 7. I have run my own business providing licensed family childcare since 2001. We also cared for children in foster care from 1996-2001. I have always had a passion for politics and current events. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Minnesota, majoring in Political Science and Criminal Justice. I thank all the community for the past and continued support while serving as mayor of NYA.
Hoernemann: My background and serving communities in the past are: I was a township clerk in Benton Township for 13 years; I was treasurer for Carver County Township Association; was chairman of the board at Zion Lutheran Church in Cologne for a number of years; and now I have almost completed four years on the NYA City Council.
McPadden: I have spent most of my life living and working in the Norwood Young America area. My wife Deb and I have two adult children, Chris and Wendi. I care about this area and its people, and if elected to the council I will work hard to represent you, the citizens, while trying to develop a plan for the future of Norwood Young America.
Stolz: Born and raised in NYA. Graduate of Central High; Undergraduate and Master’s Degree from Mankato State; Mini MBA Degree from University of St. Thomas. Taught junior high for 11 years, enlisted U.S. Army from 1968 through 1970, Town Clerk six years, Carver County Auditor six years, Carver County Administrator 17 years. Currently Commander and life time member of American Legion, life time member Disabled American Veterans, member All Saints Lutheran Church and NYA City Council