[Editor’s note: Sam Husnik was not able to submit a questionnaire response prior to deadline.]
Name: Mara Bain
Occupation: Technology Consultant
Previous political/community experience: City council: 2016- 2017; mayor: 2019 - current
What is the biggest issue facing Forest Lake in the next few years and how would you deal with it? Safely navigating the challenges of COVID-19 and the resulting health, economic, and social challenges is the biggest near-term issue for Forest Lake. COVID-19 has forced us to transform nearly every aspect of day to day living. The City of Forest Lake initiated our emergency response in mid-March to ensure a proactive, thoughtful response to the pandemic. We have transformed city operations (remote meetings, safety protocols), have reduced red-tape to assist Forest Lake businesses (for instance, allowing expanded patio space for restaurants), and have allocated $300,000 in our Federal CARES Act Funding for a grant program for Forest Lake businesses. Our partnerships with Washington County, the Forest Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, community organizations and businesses have been key to navigating this precedented time. We will continue these types of proactive, diligent activities until we are successfully on the other side of this threat.
What do you think you would offer to the city if you were to be elected? The last two years have been a time of transition for the City of Forest Lake. We are a community with rapid growth and transformation. We have defined a strategic plan and 2040 Comprehensive Plan. We are in the process of implementing a ten-year financial plan (the first plan of this duration in the City’s history), which will be used to guide future growth, infrastructure, and financial decisions. We initiated the Downtown Committee to focus on reenergizing our historic downtown. We joined the Minnesota Technology Corridor to promote Forest Lake as a destination for future businesses. We completed a comprehensive street assessment and identified a plan to start closing the gap on deferred street maintenance. We continue to maintain an enviably low tax rate and I am committed to fiscally sound and conservative decision making. I look forward to the opportunity to continue this important work.
Name: Eric Langness
Occupation: College Administrator (HR / Financial Aid)
Previous political/community experience: I have been an active participant with local government for almost 20 years regularly attending meetings, participating in dialogue, serving in appointed roles and making our community a better place to live, play and work. Currently I am the chairman of the Forest Lake Planning Commission and am a member of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan Committee. In these roles opportunity to dig into much of the minutia of city business and long-term planning has occurred. As chairman, I have taken an active role to listen to our community and mitigated concerns as best possible when developments have been proposed in pursuit of advocating for both our residents and business community. I promise to take a similar approach with regard to the wider scope of business that council is presented.
What is the biggest issue facing Forest Lake in the next few years and how would you deal with it? The first priority at this time is to mitigate assistance where possible to those that have been affected by coronavirus. We need to assure our business community will thrive and that we minimize the amount of empty storefronts we have when this challenge has passed.
Secondly, a balanced conservative and forward-thinking budget. Planning for large expenditures in future years by building funding mechanisms to support a pay-as-you-go plan is good for both administration management and fiscal responsibility. In many ways current and past councils have done this and I’d like to expand in items such as city road and trail improvements.
Third, to listen to our public with an open-mind. I have a consistent history of doing this on our planning commission and it includes being responsive to those that reach out and then working to mitigate concerns brought forward by those whom are on the side you ultimately disagree.
What do you think you would offer to the city if you were to be elected?
Conservative fiscal leadership from a position of experience. I have a solid history of supporting taxation/spending in a reasonable manner prioritizing matters most - public safety, roads and infrastructure such as sewer and water. Colleagues have twice appointed me to be the chairman of our city Planning Commission because I am well researched, treat members of the public with respect and conduct open, fair and transparent processes in our meetings. I have a history of actively engaging with residents on social media, at public events and when projects come forward that affect them I regularly reach out and visit to best understand their support and concerns. My record repeatedly shows I’ve worked to mitigate resident concerns - even when I am in disagreement. I will add a voice of the people to our city council.
Name: Hanna Valento
Previous political/community experience: My experience with the Forest Lake community starts with me attending and graduating from Forest Lake High School in 2013. I continue attending Forest Lake High School’s career day twice a year. Last, I previously volunteered as a Teaching Assistant with Metro North Adult Basic Education where I taught English as a second language at the FLAS Central Learning Center.
What is the biggest issue facing Forest Lake in the next few years and how would you deal with it? The biggest issue facing Forest Lake in the next few years (and currently) is the effects from COVID-19. I do not have current or projected information regarding the effects from COVID-19 for the community of Forest Lake, but I would like to research such information, research best practices of recovery, and of course, speak to community members.
What do you think you would offer to the city if you were to be elected? If I were elected, I would offer the city my legal perspective which can benefit the community for years to come. I currently work as the Legislative Staff Attorney for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe’s Legislative Branch, I draft legislation, orders, and resolutions for the elected body, and in that process I research federal law, state law, and tribal law to ensure compliance. Also, since I am younger, I am able to offer the city the perspective from a generation that is not currently being represented in our local government. If elected, I would create an environment where our younger community members would feel more comfortable voicing their concerns and being active in decisions made by the local government, which is the goal of any government, to hear from all community members.
Name: Tim Miller
Occupation: Construction Project Manager
Previous political/community experience:
I have been on the Parks, Trails, and Lakes Commission for the last 2 ½ years and currently serve as Vice Chair. I previously ran for Forest Lake City Council in the last election placing third in voting.
What is the biggest issue facing Forest Lake in the next few years and how would you deal with it?
I think that one of the biggest issues we are facing is the need to improve our infrastructure and to extend it where possible. The need for commercial development is paramount to the long-term fitness of the community. Commercial development will help to provide the tax base needed to continue capital improvement projects that the community desires and will help decrease the burden placed on residential taxpayers. I would look for ways to encourage commercial growth, by building relationships with developers and ensuring that the restrictions they face are fair and equitable. Growth brings a certain excitement to the community which would encourage a greater involvement in the community by residents and businesses alike.
What do you think you would offer to the city if you were to be elected?
If elected, I will offer a conservative voice for the citizens of Forest Lake. I believe in a fiscally responsible government that will be wise with tax dollars. I will work to build relationships with the local business community to encourage growth and development that will be spearheaded by the private sector. Even more importantly, I promise to be a conduit from the community to the local government.