Inver Grove Heights candidates discuss reason for running

In a Review questionnaire, candidates hoping to represent the residents of Inver Grove Heights as city council members were offered a chance to discuss why they're running for office, what important issues their cities are facing and what skills and experience they have making them fit to lead.

Four candidates, only one of which is an incumbent as Dennis Madden didn't file to fill his seat, are vying for two spots on the Inver Grove Heights City Council.

Current Mayor George Tourville is running unopposed. Look for an article in the next edition of the Review about what he envisions for the city.

The general election will be held Nov. 4. Polls will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Find polling places and election information at http://pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us/. For more information, contact the county election official at 651-438-4305 or election@co.dakota.mn.us.

Paul Hark

Paul Hark

Bill Klein

Bill Klein

Rosemary Piekarski Krech

Rosemary Piekarski Krech

Paul Hark, 50, a product developer, product manager and attorney at West Academic, has been married to Beth McInerny for 22 years. He earned a juris doctorate at Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul.

As a member of the Inver Grove Heights Planning Commission, Hark says he understands land-use issues and how they will affect the city's future. He's also on the board of directors of the city's B.E.S.T. Foundation, and has served on the Inver Grove Heights Aircraft Noise Abatement Commission.

"I am an active member of the Inver Grove Heights community," Hark says. "I have the energy, ability and temperament to focus on the future of Inver Grove Heights, and all of its projected demographic changes."

Hark says the council could benefit from a pair of fresh eyes — a new outlook he claims he could offer.

"I have not been on the Inver Grove Heights City Council for 20 years, and therefore am not captive to the 'this is how it's always been done' mindset," he says.

As far as the most important issues and projects affecting the city, Hark points to the city's growing constituency. He says the population is expected to reach 50,000 residents by the year 2030, and the number of senior citizens in the city will jump from 12 percent to 20 percent of the population in the next 15 years.

"These changes will affect development, roads, police and fire, and the parks," Hark explains. "Inver Grove Heights needs to manage these changes and plan for the future."

The city must also work on boosting its tax base to "Keep taxes as low as possible," Hark says.

Relatedly, he says: "We need to spend every tax dollar as efficiently as possible."

The city must draft a plan to re-energize its retail and business environment, Hark asserts. 

As to why he's running for office, he says the reason is tied to the city's anticipated rapid growth.

"Inver Grove Heights is at a crossroads," Hark says. "Development is taking off after a hiatus during the Great Recession. This growth must be managed by leaders focused on the future, not the past."

He says he's the only candidate running who has also pledged to serve only two terms.

"I will work with a sense of urgency and only focus on what is best for Inver Grove Heights," he continues. "My past experiences have clearly shown me the importance of respect, civility and listening to all viewpoints when making decisions."

Bill Klein, 66, is a retired teacher and school administrator. He is married to Rhonda, and has a master's degree in elementary administration from the University of St. Thomas.

Klein says his past experience on the council, a total of 20 years, is an asset he could bring to the elected office. During his time on the council, he says he helped balance 20 city budgets and increased the city's bond rating four times.

He says he was part of the council that developed and finished the Rotland project, which now encompasses nearly all of precinct 4. With the next big housing development just beginning with as many as 1,200 new single-family homes, Klein says he knows "what needs to be done."

Part of that is drawing businesses to the city, avoiding empty storefronts and bolstering the city's tax revenue, he says.

"Two years ago, Rainbow and Walgreen's were open. Today, it will be a challenge to fill these buildings," Klein says. "I will work very hard to make sure they do not stay vacant."

As far as what projects or issues are affecting the city, Klein says they're numerous.

"Development will occupy much of the council's time in the next year with how do we pay for water and sewer for the northwest quadrant?" he says. "Municipal bonds, perhaps host community fees from the landfills, connection fees from developments, water and sewer funds, or a combination of two three or all four."

Approval of planned unit developments in this area are also important to the city's future, according to Klein. "Budget planning will take months to complete and many other issues," he continues.

Being retired offers Klein an opportunity to devote his extra time to the city, he says, helping him stay "involved and busy."

"I love Inver Grove Heights," he says. "I am very proud of what has been done and I am looking to the future to make Inver Grove Heights the premiere South Metro city.

"We are a gem and I wish to keep Inver Grove Heights a gem," he adds.

Incumbent Rosemary Piekarski Krech hopes to keep her seat on the council, one she's held since 1999. The 64-year-old is the widow of the late Allan V. Krech. She's the head weeder at PPK Acres, more than a full-time job, she says, and has a bachelor's degree in social work from the University of Minnesota.

Piekarski Krech says her work and life experiences have prepared her for another term in elected office, representing "our diverse and evolving community."

"As an educator, urban farmer, child-care provider, daughter, sister, wife, caregiver, widow, lifelong learner, former mayor and current council member, I have developed a balanced approach of process- and people-oriented problem-solving skills," she explains.

She has seen Inver Grove transform from an agrarian area with all dirt roads to a growing suburban community with 130-plus miles of paved streets, she continues.

"As we continue to grow, I feel my knowledge of our history and my concern for the changing needs of our citizens and how that shapes the city's future make me an excellent candidate for city council."

As to what projects or issues are important to the city, she says finance is a continuous one, where the council must balance "the needs versus wants of a growing community without burdening the taxpayers."

Growth in the northwest area of the city, developing a sustainable plan for repair and maintenance of infrastructure and capital goods and addressing the variety of needs of the city's businesses and residents are also significant.

Regarding why she's hoping to be re-elected, Piekarski Krech says she cares about her community.

"I feel cared for here," she says. "The people who live here are what makes Inver Grove Heights the special place that it is and I want to be a part of keeping it that way."

Candidate Paul Tuschy did not respond to the Review's request for comments.

Kaitlyn Roby can be reached at 651-748-7815 and kroby@lillienews.com. Follow her at twitter.com/KRobyNews.

 


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