West St. Paul candidates tackle city issues

The candidates vying for the Ward 3 spot on the West St. Paul City Council and facing off in the mayoral race tackled city issues and discussed why they’re running for elected office in response to a Review questionnaire.

Incumbents Richard Vitelli and Ed Iago are running unopposed for their Ward 1 and Ward 2 seats, respectively. An article in the next edition of the South-West Review will detail what they envision 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.

Mayor

David Meisinger

David Meisinger

John Zanmiller

John Zanmiller

The mayoral race in West St. Paul pits longtime mayor John Zanmiller against former mayor David Meisinger.

Meisinger, 47, was elected mayor in 2001 for one term. He is single. A full-time construction manager/estimator and owner at D.T. Meisinger Development, Inc., in West St. Paul, Meisinger earned a bachelor’s degree in construction management at Minnesota State University Mankato.

Experience in the position, as well as on the council and as president of the West St. Paul Economic Development Authority, makes Meisinger fit to be mayor once more, he says. Along with being a business owner, he works alongside his family business Meisinger Construction Co., Inc., a union commercial/industrial general contractor. He is also a licensed real estate agent with JH Callahan & Associates in West St. Paul.

“I believe that my 25 years of experience as a business owner and my 25 years experience of managing projects with multiple entities working towards a common goal makes me a more effective leader and mayor,” he says.

The biggest challenge facing the city, he says, is the “lack of control on ‘pet project’ spending by the city council.”

“They need to realize there is a difference between needs and wants, which is what I’m the most qualified candidate to do,” he says. “There is no limit to how much they are willing to spend on their ‘wants’ and pay for by increasing the tax burden on the residents of West St. Paul, while the ‘needs’ of us residents are put on the back burner.”

Once spending is controlled, Meisinger asserts that public safety and public works needs can be more easily addressed.

Meisinger says he’s running for mayor because he, along with many other residents, feel the current mayor has supported “an extreme spending spree,” an excessive and unrealistic tax burden for local property owners.

He says a significant tax increase on property owners to pay for the planned spending is certain.

“I also believe the mayor seat is lacking professional, experienced business leadership,” Meisinger adds. “Anyone can spend taxpayer money, but it takes a true experienced professional to spend it wisely and stand up and say ‘no.’”

Zanmiller, 47, is running to keep the seat he’s held since 2005. A Hennepin County Corrections career probation/parole officer, he also served on the council for two years prior to the mayorship. He is married to Laura, and earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and criminal justice at St. Cloud State University.

Zanmiller says he brings a wealth of experience and a unique background to the table. He says he’s worked well with the council, and many of its members have endorsed his re-election.

“My work forming partnerships has helped our city make improvements without having to carry the financial burden alone,” Zanmiller says.

His time in corrections has allowed him to drum up new ideas and resources for addressing crime in West St. Paul, he says, and he’s “proud” to be a part of the National League of Cities Public Safety Committee.

If elected, Zanmiller says the city will have to address its aging infrastructure, such as roads, water services and facilities.

He says the police department’s offices are outdated and “outgrown,” spurring the need to re-examine the accomodations of City Hall.

He asserts that the city of West St. Paul was built in a relatively short time, meaning the city’s sewer and water services will need attention “in a shorter time frame.”

“Our roads are in rough shape, and the council and I supported a major increase in repair funds,” he explains. “We need to pay attention to these core services; inaction can only hurt our other initiatives.”

As to why he’s running, he says he is not someone who “wants to pass the buck or quit when it gets tough.”

“I believed when I first ran for mayor that West St. Paul is and will be a great city,” Zanmiller says. “I believe that hard work will help us be competitive with other cities in getting quality residents and businesses, and that cutting corners with our future initiatives will only harm our long-term vision.”

He says he will make sure the city spends its money wisely, while keeping in mind the effect spending has on residents.

“I am committed to making smart investments with a keen eye on the tax implications, and making this the best city in the county and beyond,” he adds.

City Council

John Bellows

John Bellows

John Ramsay

John Ramsay

Because David Wright decided to step down from the council once his term expires, John Bellows and John Ramsay will be battling it out for his Ward 3 spot on Nov. 4.

Bellows, 70, is married to Bonnie. A retired attorney, he earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of St. Thomas, and a juris doctorate at the William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul.

He’s been a member of the West St. Paul Planning Commission and Environmental Committee, in addition to his more than 40 years’ experience working with individuals and small businesses to solve problems and build businesses — resume highlights that will assist him if elected, he says.

He’s volunteered in the community, his church and professional and nonprofit organizations. He’s been president of the St. Luke Church Parish Council, a board member of Family Voices of Minnesota, a member of Bar Association committees and elected director and vice present of ARRL, a national nonprofit organization of 60,000 members. In that role, he was responsible for oversight of the $14 million budget and operations organization.

He says the city needs to continue to improve its communication with citizens to help strike a balance between community needs and resources available.

“Capital projects must be evaluated against the need to maintain a safe and secure community with good streets, welcoming neighborhoods, parks and recreation facilities,” he suggests.

He says a project manager could be assigned to large projects to make sure they are completed on time within the budget.

He also hopes to draft a workable and affordable plan for a “safer, revitalized Robert Street,” he says.

Also important to the city? Supporting the efforts of the West St. Paul Economic Development Authority to work with developers and potential and existing businesses, he says.

As to the reason for his campaign, he cites the city’s aging streets and systems that need repair or replacement to keep the city safe, strong and welcoming.

“Finding cost-effective solutions and creative sources of additional revenue is key to maintaining city services and meeting the needs of our community,” he says.

He says his professional and volunteer work has aided him on city committees to address various issues.

“When councilman Dave Wright chose not to seek re-election, I was encouraged to run and undertook the opportunity to serve,” he adds.

Ramsay, 64, is married to Judy. He is self-employed and owns Kodiak Development, LLC, in association with Homes by Kodiak, Inc., a licensed Minnesota general contractor. He is a 1968 graduate of Henry Sibley High School.

His resume is stacked with 45 years in the construction industry, as well as with experience budgeting, coordinating and people skills to assure projects are correct, on time and cost effective, he says.

He’s a board member of the Robert Street Business Association and has had 45 employees at one time; he’s coordinated multi-million dollar projects. He has 24 years of experience in network marketing, creating seminars for groups and learning advanced skills for marketing.

“My skills include creating a balanced budget that works for all,” he says.

Ramsay moved to West St. Paul in 1951. “So, I have seen the growth, good and bad, for my city,” he says.

He suggests there seems to be issues with management, adding that the Robert Street project has turned into a “white elephant.”

“It started out at $14 million and grew to $32 million, and now the cost over-runs has put the brakes on it,” he says. “I believe we need to reevaluate what is prudent and drop the ‘all or nothing’ mentality on such projects, and just make it a safe, affordable and business-friendly project.”

Ramsay says West St. Paul is his city. His family has six generations in town; his father was a firefighter in West St. Paul for 24 years.

“I love it with all its bumps and bruises,” he says. “I am running because we need to create a positive line of communication between our city officials, residents and our business owners.”

He said the city needs to prioritize its needs over its “wish list.”

“We can improve our city, make it pleasing and not put it into long-term debt,” he adds. “Let’s pull together for a better city.”

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

 


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