Spring Park city council members asked Mark Chase to take a seat beside them at City Hall after selecting him from a pool of three candidates just minutes before they convened their regular session Nov. 4.
Chase, who moved with his wife to Spring Park from Minneapolis three years ago, was appointed to fill the vacancy left by former council member Catherine Kane Palen. Kane Palen had announced her resignation early in August and left the council mid-September when she and her husband moved to Minnetonka.
No special election was held for the vacancy because there were fewer than two years left in Kane Palen’s term.
“We’re part of this small community, and I wanted to find a way to get more involved,” said Chase.
Chase grew up in the small town of Yankton, S.D. where he said his family was heavily involved in that city’s politics.
Chase graduated from St. Louis University in 2006 with a degree in business entrepreneurship. He later went back to college and completed a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Minnesota, graduating in 2010.
Chase joins the council at a time when the Spring Park is facing issues of densification and an old versus new dichotomy that has often made change in this city a hard sell.
Among the larger projects that Chase will now have a hand in is the redevelopment of West Arm Road West, a residential section behind City Hall that hasn’t seen any road work since its construction in 1968 and which has proved to be a divisive issue on all but the utility improvements.
In the coming months, the city will also have to make a decision on whether to allow short-term rentals and whether to regulate it’s many long-term rental properties.
But Chase focused on the city’s core identity last Monday and how Spring Park, despite being small in size, still feels a little “disjointed.”
“We need something in Spring Park to bring the city together, bring the community together,” said Chase, who talked about nearby cities’ festivals and community events. “Where’s Spring Park’s version of that?”
At the same time, Chase also recognized the biggest challenge this city has in hosting a festival: Spring Park is crunched for space.
“Land is very limited in our community, and there’s not anywhere to expand outward,” said Chase. “But I think there’s something we could do to really dress it up and make it feel like you’re in a really special community when you’re driving through on Shoreline.”
The city has long struggled with being a pass-through city, split in two by Shoreline Drive and lacking its own church, school and even grocer.
And business development hasn’t come easily. Spring Park is in the unenviable position of seeing its land values rise rapidly while its home values continue to decline; Mayor Jerry Rockvam has said that land costs on the north side of Shoreline in particular make it “prohibitive to operate there.”
Chase has worked for the past 10 years as a product developer for Target Corp. and seemed unfazed by the challenges ahead of him. “I like to be an ideas guy,” said Chase.
Chase, along with Rockvam and council member Megan Pavot, will be up for reelection during the November 2020 general election.