Q & A’s – St. Bonifacius City Council

Incumbent Rick Weible is running unopposed for Mayor of St. Bonifacius (2-year term). Incumbent Shawn Ruotsinoja and Robert Smestad Jr. have filed for two open council seats (both 4-year terms).
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 Weible and Smestad Jr.

1) Why do you want to serve on the St. Bonifacius City Council? (100 words)
Ruotsinoja: I’ve enjoyed serving on the city council for nearly 12 years, as well as on the Parks and Planning Commission before that. The people of St. Boni are a great group of citizens that care about their town and I believe I represent the interests of many of them. I want to continue to represent those interests.

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)
Ruotsinoja: The city council has done a fair amount of budget cutting over the past few years to lower the tax levy. We’re proud of that. In addition, the city is paying off some bonds so we’ll no longer have to pay the debt service on those bonds which translates into a cost savings for the city. Although I believe nothing in the budget is technically free from being cut, we have to be careful that the council’s actions aren’t driven entirely by simply lowering the levy each year.
At some point, a tax increase may be needed to assure that the most critical services – public safety and fire protection – are adequately funded and, to a lesser extent, that the city is investing in future capital needs such as public works equipment. Right now, our budget seems to have reached a pretty good balance between budget cutting and funding our most-important needs.

3) What ideas do you have to help promote residential, business and job growth in St. Bonifacius? (250 words)
Ruotsinoja: Most importantly, we need to keep the influence of government limited so that those wanting to set up shop in St. Boni don’t feel overly constrained. Of course, compared to the requirements of other levels of government, the city’s part in that may not be as significant. However, the city can do a couple of things. First, based on the city’s vision and the kinds of businesses the citizens desire, we need to seek out and encourage potential developers to consider the benefits of developing in St. Boni. Second, if a developer decides St. Boni isn’t a good choice for them, we need to find out why. For example, maybe it’s the lack of public parking near Main Street. If so, we need to do something about that.

4) What is the most pressing issue facing St. Bonifacius? What would you do to address that issue? (250 words)
Ruotsinoja: If not the most pressing issue, certainly one of the greatest frustrations for the city is the lack of businesses that our citizens desire in our town – whether that be a hardware store, grocery store, or more restaurants. Right now, our dismal economy isn’t helping anyone. Demographics are an important factor, but they’re not necessarily in our control. As I alluded to in my previous response, we have to be more proactive in encouraging businesses to set their stakes here and to determine why certain developers may be reluctant to do so, and then do something about it.

5) Why should voters consider you for the St. Bonifacius City Council? (100 words)
Ruotsinoja: I’ve served on the city council for nearly 12 years and have seen most everything including street reconstruction, developers both starting up and backing out on projects, zoning issues, fire and police contracts, getting properties cleaned up, etc. I strongly believe that in order to preserve our personal liberty, we cannot let the higher levels of government become too powerful.  Consolidating power at the highest level weakens the citizen. Keeping the power with the people begins at the local level and local governments must always remain vigilant of what larger units of government require of us.

6) Please tell us about your background and/or experience. (100 words)
Ruotsinoja: I’ve been fortunate to have had a variety of leadership roles throughout my life. In addition to my time on the city council and Parks and Planning Commission, I’ve been a manager in a couple of consulting firms and have served as the President, Secretary, and Treasurer of a Minnesota non-profit corporation. I’ve worked in both the private and public sector in the environmental field. I’m currently employed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. I have degrees from Luther College and Minnesota State University Mankato and I’m an avid bowhunter and fisherman. I’ve lived in St. Boni for 21 years.