Q & A’s – New Germany City Council

Steve Van Lith is running unopposed for Mayor of New Germany (seat is 2-year term).
Incumbent Shirley Jaeger, Cathy Ruschmeier and incumbent Ty Turnquist are vying for two open seats with four-year terms and Nick Hartwig and Heather Wright are running for one open seat with a two-year term.
Reasonable efforts were made via mail and/or email and/or phone to contact all candidates about participating in the Q and A’s. Responses were not received from Van Lith or Wright.

1) Why do you want to serve on the New Germany City Council? (100 words)
Hartwig: My interest to serve was sparked in the past couple years after dealing with the city on several issues. Even though the issues were handled professionally, there seems to be a noticeable disconnect between the people of town and some of the elected officials. In a town this size, I feel you should have a good relationship with the people that elected you and be part of all functions in the city, not just the politics. It’s easier to make good decisions when you really know how the people feel and the right steps to take to get things accomplished.
Jaeger: I have been on the city council for about 14 years so I feel I have had some experience in city government. Also, I have been a member of the community for most of my life and have a “feel” for what New Germany is all about. I care about the people living here and what happens in our little town.
Sometimes it does mean we have to raise taxes or rates but we are looking ahead to long term solutions not just what will happen in the next year.
Ruschmeier: I would like to serve on the New Germany City Council so the citizens have a council member who has their best interest in mind. In a small community like New Germany, a lot of the citizens have pride and integrity in their community. With this pride and integrity, good things can happen with the right leadership.
Turnquist: As a resident, I appreciate living in New Germany and experiencing all it has to offer. It was an enjoyment and an honor to see and be a part of a large group of both residents and nonresidents planning and executing a successful celebration of our city. Throughout the year, I have enjoyed participating in the various events that bring the residents together. As a parent, I appreciate the opportunity to expose my children to New Germany’s friendly and welcoming atmosphere. As a result of all that, being on the city council is my way of giving back.

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? (250 words)
Hartwig: New Germany operates a little different than other towns because of its small size. The budget is already fairly tight due to its limited tax base and low population so that doesn’t leave a lot of areas that are overfunded or could stand cuts.
There are many areas of New Germany that could benefit and are in need of additional funding. The city hall, parks, public works equipment and various other town amenities are in need of repair and improvements. With that being said; I recognize that this would require a large amount of funding that we just don’t currently have. These needs leave the city with the job of preserving what we do currently have and presents the opportunity to get creative with options, budgeting, fundraising, grant solicitation and any other means available before the necessity to raise taxes occurs.
Jaeger: I really don’t see where we can make any more cuts, we run a really tight ship and every dollar spent is considered carefully.
Right now we have just purchased some snow plow equipment, that has cut our savings down to nothing so possibly some added dollars for public works equipment.
Right now we are going through major infrastructure projects, water treatment plant, and new roads, so this will already add to peoples expenses, therefore, we are trying to keep taxes flat or even drop a little if at all possible.
Ruschmeier: The budget of a small community is always challenging. As I am a first time candidate for city council, I am eager to learn the city’s budget to be able to address what cuts need to be made. I would like to see the parks system receive additional funding. Our parks are in need of improvements that would benefit the kids in our community. I would not support a tax increase. The reason I would not support an increase is due to our recent water and sewer infrastructure improvements. The infrastructure improvement project added costly assessments to every household in New Germany.
Turnquist: After recently being involved in the 2013 budget process, I have to say that I believe past council members have done a good job of streamlining the city’s budget to cover operational expenses while planning for future expenses. At this time I do not believe there are areas of the city budget that need to be cut. I intend to continue in the mind set that the council has a responsibility of developing an efficient budget while maintaining a plan for preventative maintenance and replacement costs. I believe that good budget planning eliminates the situation of having to find lump sums of money to cover replacement expense. Are there times when taxes need to be raised? I do believe there are times when, after the council has fulfilled its responsibility to the residents to ensure all other options have been exhausted, raising taxes is the only option.

3) What ideas do you have to help promote residential, business and job growth in New Germany? (250 words)
Hartwig: The best option the city has right now to help promote residential growth would be to work with the developer that is in control of the existing unfinished areas of Black Forest Estates. We would need to come up with a financially sound plan and incentives that work for the builders and homeowners to come to New Germany.
The ability to promote business and job growth is pretty tough for New Germany due to constraints in both size and budget. A solution (however not currently feasible) would be for the city to purchase land for more commercial/industrial development to promote and offer growth incentives. Another option would be for a private party to come in and purchase land within the city and solicit more industry interest in New Germany.
Jaeger: It is hard to encourage new business with such a low population; however, with the new Carver County Trail coming through this year and the new infrastructure projects possibly this will generate more traffic through town if only for a Sunday afternoon bike ride and someone may just think, this would be a great spot for me to live or better yet, open up my business. We are always ready to listen to new ideas.
Ruschmeier: In reference to residential growth, we will need to wait for the economy to regain some strength before we see new home activity in our area. For business growth, Carver County is in the final stages of completing the Dakota Regional Trail through New Germany. The trail will bring opportunity to our city for someone to open a small business that would offer products or services to individuals using the trail. Also, the trail will offer increased traffic to our existing businesses. Once a new business is established or existing business traffic increases, then possibly new jobs will follow.
Turnquist: Upon completion of our current infrastructure improvement projects, the city will have an increased capability of providing water and sewer services. I believe there are areas of exploration to develop city incentive programs that aid in reduction of construction costs. In conjunction with well-designed incentives, the city can promote our infrastructure improvements to attract new residents and businesses. Completion of the Dakota Rail Regional Trail could also draw new businesses and offer opportunity for existing businesses to expand, as more folks visit New Germany to take advantage of the trail. As I contemplate the future of our community, I believe that one of the council’s responsibilities is to devote time to developing and executing various plans that result in growth.

4) What is the most pressing issue facing New Germany? What would you do to address that issue? (250 words)
Hartwig: At present and in the near future, the city’s biggest issue is the completion of the infrastructure update project to the street and water treatment system. After the work is complete, the task of keeping up with the loan payments while addressing the normal budget issues will be a challenge, but manageable. The project was a necessity, but as typical in small towns, it will be tough for some to deal with the added expense of residing here so the city will need to deal with those situations properly. Until elected and placed on council – I don’t feel that I have adequate information at hand to make a recommendation on how to specifically address this issue.
Jaeger: Again, the most pressing issue is lack of growth, the major projects that we are now doing is spread out between so few. Also, with high gas prices, it is hard to have people move out to quiet communities and drive to the Twin Cities area to work. Again with new infrastructure, it may encourage a new business to start up here. We have the small town atmosphere, where everyone knows their neighbor and CARES about them.
Ruschmeier: The most pressing issue is the infrastructure improvements taking place now and into next summer. This has been a challenging project for the citizens to navigate through town. I will make it a priority to make sure the project flows smoothly to completion.
Turnquist: In my opinion, the most pressing issue facing New Germany is the completion of our infrastructure improvement projects on time and within budget. We are a small town with few roads, so tearing up roads has a great impact on residents as well as business owners. In addition, these projects carry a large price tag, so budget overruns would only amplify the financial impact that we are currently feeling. I believe good communication, good supervision, and accountability are key factors in ensuring the completion of the projects on time and within budget.

5) Why should voters consider you for the New Germany City Council? (100 words)
Hartwig: I feel it is time for some fresh faces and ideas – not necessarily new to town, but new to council. I’ve lived here long enough to understand how a small town works and have tried to be involved as much as I can working or volunteering around town on all sorts of projects and functions. I believe that if your elected officials take part in all aspects of the city, it only makes for better decision making and a better relationship with the residents.
Jaeger: As I stated before, I have lived around here most of my life so therefore, must be accountable to the people that know me. I am not just a name to check on the ballot, I think everyone knows I stand for small town New Germany and will always work to improve things going on in this city.will work for what is best for the majority of the people that live here.
Ruschmeier: I would like the voters to consider me for city council so I can help New Germany move forward on issues that are important to the quality of life in our community.
Turnquist: It’s important for voters to consider all candidates. During the council’s interview when I was appointed to my current seat, I stated that my only agenda was to do what is best for the city and its residents. During the past seven months, while participating in community events, working on committees, talking to residents, reviewing council items, and listening to the discussions at the meetings, my only desire has been to make good decisions that assist in developing a strong and stable New Germany today so that we will have a strong and stable New Germany tomorrow.

6) Please tell us about your background and/or experience. (100 words)
Hartwig: I have lived in small towns my whole life. At the age of 16, I started working in New Germany. I have been a member of New Germany Fire Department for 13 years. In 2003, I bought a house and became a permanent resident of New Germany, where I live with my wife and three kids. I have been a member of the Planning Commission for two years.
Jaeger: I’ve had 13 years in the banking world, owned my own business for 13 years in town and have worked at Econo Foods at NYA for 17 years. I’ve been on city council for 14 years, involved in the New Germany Commercial Club for 17 years, managed the concession stand at Lindstrom Park for years; also have been involved with St. Mark Church Council for several years. I was the secretary of the New Germany 125th Festival which was a great success this past summer and lots of fun. I’m always here to listen to YOUR concerns and am just a phone call away.
Ruschmeier: My family moved to New Germany in 1988. My parents live on a farm on the north edge of town. I’ve enjoyed being part of this community for the past 24 years. My husband Dan and I have three children that are active in the community. We bought our house in 1993 and attend St. Mark Lutheran Church. I had the privilege to work at the New Germany Bank for five years and served on the St. Mark School Board for three years. I am currently employed in Chaska as a Staff Accountant.
Turnquist: I have occupied a city council seat since March 6, 2012. Since 2005, I’ve been employed by a company that provides building code compliance services to various communities. My position includes attending and participating in council meetings in those communities as well as working with numerous people to assist in ensuring compliance with the State Building Code. Prior to my current position, beginning in 1999, I was employed by a school district as their transportation administrator. My duties included attending and participating in school board meetings, budgeting, employee and student supervision, and working with the public to ensure safe and efficient transportation services.