With the Aug. 14 primary three weeks away, candidates running in Ward 2 to replace Micky Cook on the Stillwater City Council sat together Monday at the Stillwater Public Library and discussed why they entered the race.
Tom Corbett, Ted Kozlowski, and Cassie McLemore held a joint news conference for two hours Monday afternoon at the library. The trio all cited their love of Stillwater and a need to give back to their community as their motivations to run for city council.
Corbett is a business attorney and is in-house counsel at Target. He is a Stillwater Library Board member and helps with Outreach St. Croix.
“I had a friend once tell me that you should remodel your house while living in it. And that’s what I want to do here because you can see the outcome,” Corbett said. “It’s also exciting to get involved in the prime of your career and see the impact of what you’ve done going in to the future.”
Kozlowski, an entrepeneur at the Minneapolis-based marketing institute DemandQuest, serves as a vice chairman of the Valley Outreach board of directors and said he’s served as a sounding board for residents in the past and wants to put himself in a position to help on a different level.
“A job requirement of this position is that you have to have a passion for Stillwater,” Kozlowski said. “You’re not going to get paid a lot but you have to have a passion for the residents and the town.”
McLemore, a freelance web designer, said she was encouraged by Stillwater business leaders to run. She is an organizer of Summer Tuesdays and strives to bring people in the community together.
“I’ve lived and worked in the ward. I’ve created events to bring the community together,” McLemore said. “I have a lot of insight into what we’re facing and I feel there’s a disconnect between the council and the residents and what I want for Stillwater is to hear the community’s issues and come together to solve them.”
The main issues the three cited were the development of downtown, and fiscal responsibility.
“Stillwater is going through a change with this new bridge and it will change the way that our car and bike traffic comes through Stillwater,” Corbett said. “For good or bad is yet to be determined. It’s important that we keep the riverfront an important part of our town.”
“Right now we have the opportunity to expand on what other cities have done in the past to make downtown more user-friendly,” McLemore said. “Everyone loves downtown when you move here but after you move here you don’t want the hassle of going downtown.”
Kozlowski had said that the level of control that city council has had in the past on deciding how downtown will be shaped worries him and he feels that deciding what will go where should be left to the business owners. He wants to make sure that future plans put in by the council should have sensible public development. He does believe that a lot of the reason people live here is because of the downtown area.
In the area of fiscal responsibility, the proposed National Guard armory and new central fire station and other services slated at that site were mentioned by all the candidates.
The candidates said the Stillwater Fire Department’s service area is massive and that another fire station will have to be added. They expressed concern that so much money might be poured into the armory and didn’t know how that would affect taxpayers.
“The service area is huge and at some point we need to add another fire station but we need to determine the geography and build need,” Kozlowski said.
“We need to make the most fact-based decision we can to improve safety,” Corbett said. “I’m not convinced that we need to add basketball courts and an ice arena. I grew up in Lakeville when it had a population of 18,000 and we didn’t have any of those. Do those really need to be funded by public dollars?”
“I know that the fire department is effected by ease of access out of downtown,” McLemore said. “The armory needs to utilized and money needs to be recouped. We can’t just sink money into what we’re doing if it’s not going to be utilized and make sure we’re not tossing money away.”
When it came to events the candidates agreed that a summer festival would be important to keep the community relevant. They said that council’s role would be to get feedback from the community but didn’t know if a $15,000 survey was the way to get that information although they all felt public input on some level was important.
“The city council’s role in planning an event is to listen to the community and give voice to individuals in the community and keep your personal opinions out of it.” McLemore said. “Hold an open forum for the residents and serve as a proper voice for the community.”
Kozlowski and Corbett believe that the council’s role in the event planning is to establish criteria that groups organizing events should follow and make sure that the cash flow going through the organizer stands up.
“The city has to do their diligence financially to have the wherewithal where they don’t bounce checks to youth sports teams,” Corbett said. “We need to take those checks and frame them and put them on the wall to make sure that something like that never happens ever again because it’s completely ridiculous.”
Stillwater Residents can cast absentee ballots for the Aug. 14 primary:
- 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays to Aug. 13, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 11 at the county Government Center
8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays to Aug. 10; 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 11, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 13 at Stillwater City Hall.