Charles Erickson and incumbent Larry Millender are vying for one open council seat in Waconia – Ward 2 (seat is 4-year term).
1) Why do you want to serve on the Waconia City Council? (100 words)
Erickson: It has been an honor for me to serve my country in the Army Reserve for the past 25 years, including four overseas tours. I have acquired a great deal of experience in leadership and in working with local government and community leaders. I have extensive experience in business finance and economic development. I would like to use my experience and skills to serve my own community here in Waconia. I believe that the City Council exists to serve the people of Waconia. If elected, I will be committed to doing the best job possible for the people of Waconia.
Millender: Waconia continues to need council members who listen to the public. I continue to be concerned that the current lack of growth will make it exceedingly difficult to afford the infrastructure and buildings that the city has recently constructed. My focus will continue to be on offering municipal services that are affordable for Waconia residents.
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)
Erickson: The budget items that most need attention are the funding for the Ice Arena and Safari Island. It is not possible to cut them at this time, since the city still owes money on the bonds – in the case of the Ice Arena, until 2020, and for Safari Island until 2022. We do, however, need to look at ways to get them to operate more as stand-alone businesses, so they will not continue to draw money from the city budget.
Waconia is a growing city, so we will need to spend more on infrastructure development, particularly roads, over the next few years in order to sustain that growth. We must also continue to fund the ongoing maintenance of roads, sewers, and water lines.
Millender: We can reduce administrative staff and provide a high level of services within this community; I also feel until we stop having large inner-fund transfers from our General Fund to support existing non-essential services, there is really no money to support any area that might need additional funding without raising taxes.
I feel our taxes are too high already and I would not support a tax increase.
3) What ideas do you have to help promote residential, business and job growth in Waconia? (250 words)
Erickson: Business and job growth are particularly important issues. Much of our current tax base relies on residential property taxes. We need more businesses here, to grow the percentage of city revenue that comes from business taxes. This will also help to provide jobs for Waconia residents. One thing we should do to encourage business growth is to put a business park area on the map in Waconia. We should begin preparing and marketing the business park to encourage the growth of businesses here. Additional businesses will diversify our tax base, and will promote residential growth as well.
Keeping our taxes low is also important to promoting growth in Waconia. We all rely on the services that the city provides, but we need to maintain efficiency in the way that services are delivered, to ensure that we get the most value at the lowest cost.
Millender: The City Council should expand the membership of its economic development authority (EDA) so that a dedicated group of residents will spend more time on this topic. We need to focus on creating additional tax base in this community so that the cost of our existing services are reduced through efficiency. Expanding the membership of the EDA would bring more focus to this important topic and engage more members of our community in addressing this issue.
4) What is the most pressing issue facing Waconia? What would you do to address this issue? (250 words)
Erickson: Waconia is positioned to grow rapidly in the next 10 to 20 years. The most important thing for the City Council to focus on is not what happens this year or next year. We need to think ahead and plan ahead, for what we want the city to be 20 years from now. Planning for future growth, attracting new businesses here, and maintaining the high level of services we have at the lowest possible cost, will ensure that Waconia remains a great place to live in the years to come.
Millender: I believe that the most pressing issue facing the city of Waconia is the need to increase the tax base of the community so that we can more efficiently spread the cost of government and reduce taxes.
I would also like to see the city council work sessions aired live and re-broadcasted like regular council meetings. In my opinion this could be a great tool for keeping the residents up to date on issues that affect them.
5) Why should voters consider you for Waconia City Council? (100 words)
Erickson: I have a strong background in business finance, so I understand the financial issues facing city government. My military service in the last several years was focused on working with local populations and their leaders. I worked with the city government in Baghdad, Iraq, advising them on planning and managing their infrastructure projects. I also advised local government leaders in Afghanistan on the budgeting process, and have worked on a number of economic development projects. I have the experience, commitment, and proven record of service, to be an effective leader on the Waconia City Council.
Millender: I have proudly served the citizens of Waconia since 2008. I entered the election in 2008 to hopefully try and make a difference because I truly care about the future of Waconia and its residents. I’m not a politician, just a common sense guy that wants to try and make Waconia a great place to live and work.
Over the past four years, I have demonstrated that I haven’t always been just a “yes” vote. I have tried to take the input of citizens into consideration when voting, always keeping in mind the past, present, and future of Waconia.
6) Please tell us about your background and or experience. (100 words)
Erickson: My wife Naomi and I have lived in Waconia since 2000. I have over 15 years experience in business finance, including positions with TCF Financial Corporation and Hutchinson Technology. I have an MBA in Finance from the Carlson School of Management (University of Minnesota), and I am a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA). I am a Major in the Army Reserve, and have served two tours in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan, working with local government and community leaders.
Millender: My wife of 27 years Leanne and I have lived in Waconia since 1999. She teaches fourth grade at Southview. We have two sons, Austin, a 2012 WHS graduate currently attending MState playing football for the Spartans and Will, a second grader at Southview.
I’m City Councilman for Ward II. I have served on the following: ACCEL, Commission on Aging, Park & Rec Board, Safari Island Advisory Group, Community Education Advisory Board, and District 110 Liaison. I’m a member of the Waconia Lions Club and have served as club president. I’m a local businessman with a Bachelor of Science degree.