O’Connell, TeWinkel vie for open District 4 council seatThree City Council seats are up for election on April 3, but there is a contest for just one of them. In the remapped District 4, former alderperson Dennis O’Connell and businessman Kurt TeWinkel are vying for an open seat on the council.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Three City Council seats are up for election on April 3, but there is a contest for just one of them.
In the remapped District 4, former alderperson Dennis O’Connell and businessman Kurt TeWinkel are vying for an open seat on the council.
Both responded by email to questions emailed to them by the Star-Observer.
They were asked first to tell what their priorities would be if elected to the City Council.
O’Connell, a 54-year-old post office manager, listed repairs to Vine and Locust streets first among his objectives.
“This is something that the city needs to take care of now,” he said. “It has been an ongoing issue, going back to when I was on the council.”
O’Connell represented District 2 on the City Council from 2002 to 2008. He didn’t seek re-election after taking a job as postmaster in Caledonia, Minn.
He and wife, Dusty, didn’t sell their house at 1352 Carriage Drive in Hudson, however, and he returned here to live after a year at Caledonia. He’s now the acting postmaster at Northfield, Minn.
O’Connell also said he supports funding the police department to the level required by the city.
“We need to have our detective back. Police protection is the last thing we should be cutting when we make cuts,” he said. The reference was to a decision by the current council not to hire an officer to replace Lt. Paul Larson when he retired last summer.
Instead, Eric Atkinson was promoted from detective sergeant to the lieutenant position and the department went from having four sergeants to three.
“As a City Council member, I would place a high priority on the responsible spending of tax dollars,” TeWinkel replied to the same question put to his opponent.
“Just as many households and businesses have been forced to curtail their spending in these tough times, so should every government body,” he said in his email reply. “As with any budget — household, business or other — I would like to find expenses that may not be necessary in order to fund projects that are more crucial or in demand.”
TeWinkel said he also favors “responsible growth” for Hudson.
“In slower economic times, it becomes tempting to bite on any opportunity presented, but I feel that any future growth and development needs to fit the city and its residents properly,” he wrote.
The 40-year-old TeWinkel is a real estate broker and licensed auctioneer. He operates the online business Choice Realty & Auction.
He said he has the “level-headedness and common sense” to serve on the City Council.
“Having been born and raised right here in the St. Croix Valley, I understand the dynamics of what Hudson was, what Hudson is now, and what Hudson will be in the future,” TeWinkel said.
He added that he and his family (wife Heidi and two daughters who attend E.P. Rock Elementary) live here for a reason.
“We love Hudson and all it offers,” he said. “Having a true and complete interest in keeping Hudson vibrant, unique and beautiful, while also affordable, is the main motivator for me seeking elected office.”
O’Connell, in his reply to a question about the qualities he has to serve on the council, said he does his homework and listens to the people he represents.
“I can compromise on issues,” he added.
The main challenge for the council is finding revenue sources to maintain city services, O’Connell said.
“I believe there are some sources out there that we need to be looking at,” he added.
School site issue
Both O’Connell and TeWinkel said they oppose the school district’s plan to purchase the St. Croix Meadows dog track as the site for a secondary school, but would vote for the necessary rezoning if city residents approve the purchase in the April 3 referendum.
“With the Stillwater bridge going through, the growth in the district is going to be in the north. The district should be looking north to build a new building,” O’Connell said.
TeWinkel said he agrees that the school district is in need of additional space at multiple grade levels.
“What I cannot agree with is the thought of making a large investment in a parcel of property without a solid plan in place, for a second time,” he said. “I certainly wouldn’t expect blueprints of a physical building to be completed, but instead a plan for what type of school will be built….”
Bernard and Yacoub
Questions were also sent District 3 Alderperson Lori Bernard and District 2 Alderperson Mary Yacoub even though they don’t have opponents in the April 3 election.
Both reserved judgment on how they would vote on rezoning the dog track property from commercial to public use.
Bernard did comment on the issue, however.
“The election is one month from now and it would be unwise to do anything but remain open-minded to any further information that may materialize,” she replied.
“I have been elected to serve the residents of the city of Hudson, not the entire school district, which includes residents of Troy, Town of Hudson, Village of North Hudson and Town of St. Joseph,” Bernard added. “I will need to look at the results within the city, weighed against the impact in lost tax revenue for city of Hudson residents. Clearly, city residents have much more at stake if the property is rezoned, as the dog track property is a significant percentage of the commercial property left in the city.”
Yacoub said she would refrain from taking a “premature” position on the issue, and would make her decision when all the information is presented.
“Keeping taxes low to attract businesses to Hudson will always be a top priority, along with important infrastructure needs such as road repairs,” Yacoub said in reply to the question on the subject.
She said the city’s budget has been reduced because of the economic downturn over the past few years, requiring the tough decisions to be made on wants versus needs.
“Dealing with traffic congestion and improvements to our parks should also be given attention,” Yacoub said. “In my next term, I will continue to work to keep Hudson a safe community, as well as ensuring smart, economical community development. It is, of course, impossible to meet all expectations, but with some balancing we can keep Hudson a vibrant city that not only attracts businesses, but also families.”
Bernard said she will continue to focus on “making Hudson an excellent place to live, work and do business.”
She said she also will promote policies that help make Hudson a great tourism destination for entertainment, leisure and recreation.
“All these things must be accomplished while keeping our fiscal house in order,” Bernard added. “Until the economy turns around, things will continue to be tight on the revenue side. We can’t spend more than we take in. We should keep borrowing to a modest level and take care of our infrastructure investments. Good fiscal management is about setting priorities, having a plan, and sticking to that plan.”