Five candidates are facing off for two seats on the Mound city council.

Incumbent Paula Larson will try to hold on to her seat and will face planning commissioner Drew Heal, financial adviser Jason Holt, city employee Nichole Spiess and former travel agent Debra Vertnik in the General Election on Nov. 3.

Each candidate was asked the same questions by Sun Patriot Newspapers, and here are their responses:

Question 1: What prompted you seek election (or re-election) to office?

Heal: Having served my country as a Naval Aviator, I felt that serving my community in an elected position was the next step. I constantly hear and partake in conversations throughout my neighborhood which can positively impact our city. The decisions that the Mound council makes will make a difference in our future and I would like to be a voice that represents the great potential of the Mound community.

Holt: My family moved to Mound about 4 years ago. We fell in love with the small-town feel, the schools, and the lake. We did notice Mound’s lack of commerce. I would like Mound to actively encourage and entice new businesses to come to our town. Mound has a lot to offer; we have Lake Minnetonka, access to the Dakota trail, Surfside Park, and Westonka Schools! Most importantly we have a community with smart people with great ideas. Mound needs a long-term strategy that revitalizes the community and reflects the visions and values of our residents.

Larson: I want to continue on the council’s POSITIVE course of action!

Spiess: I want to see Mound be the best it can be. I feel that it needs some zhushing up. I wanted to see what the residents thought and put some of those ideas to better our community.

Vertnik: First and foremost, I decided to run to get the politics out of politics, and a non-partisan Council seat is a great place to start. I feel like we need to re-learn how to talk to one another, especially when we disagree. An “us against them” mentality does no good for anyone. We need to debate issues, listen to one another, ask questions, offer ideas, and compromise to provide solutions that benefit the most people. I would be an asset to the community in implementing that approach to problem solving.

Question 2: What separates you from your opponent(s)?

Heal: I have served on the Mound planning committee for several years now. I understand how Mound works and have built relationships with several councilmembers and city employees that will be helpful if elected. As a member of the planning commission, I was one of two planning commissioners who voted no for the downtown Commerce development project prior to the ground swell of opposition. I have served on a homeowner’s association board as one of the directors. For the past 35 years, I have lead people and formed coalitions to accomplish common goals. I am passionate about listening to our community.

Holt: I have worked in the financial industry for 15 years. I understand and know how to read a financial statement, how to create a budget, allocate funds, and plan for future expenditures. This is important for our city just like it is for each of our families. We can do a better job managing our cities resources and work to develop a long-term strategy to meet the needs of the citizens. I feel my ability to listen, my background and my experiences will help me make common sense decisions on the issues that confront our city.

Larson: Over 60 years as a resident….I have seen our city progress from dirt roads to our present great infrastructure.

Spiess: City employee experience. I’ve had the opportunity to soak up different skills both blue and white collar. I also have a broadcasting and art background that lends itself to new perspectives.

Vertnik: At this time I’m focused on my own campaign and identifying the issues and challenges that are affecting the residents of Mound. In accordance with that, I’ve deliberately chosen to keep myself in the dark regarding my opponents, at least for the time being. I don’t want to be swayed by what my opponents might be saying or doing. I’m running my campaign on my own merit, with my own ideas, my own way. Most likely, that is what separates me from my opponents.

Question 3: What is the most pressing issue facing the constituency you hope to represent? How would you address that issue?

Heal: I see two major issues First is the downtown development of Commerce Place. We need to have community involvement and ensure that our elected city officials stand behind what we want – not what a developer thinks we should have. The second issue is looking at some of the areas that I see as a visual blight. There are buildings that we should determine what can be done to help either improve or rebuild, so that the community can benefit from this- as in community co-op, or an indoor playground for use in the winter.

Holt: When talking to the residents of Mound, some of the issues that they raise are the apartment proposal for Commerce Place, Mound Harbor District and our water bill. I will listen to the residents of Mound and make common sense decisions that would be best for our city. We have some challenges, but most of these are great opportunities. We should make Mound a destination that our residents and visitors will enjoy for years to come. We are an amazing city with a lot to offer!

Larson: Growth for our business community...this is a delicate balance between hungry developers and keeping our lakeshore and community quaint and maintained.

Spiess: Cleaning up the city and focusing on continuing the city’s Infrastructure revitalization plans. Roads and water pipes are afterthoughts for many of us but are so important! I’m going to make smart choices for future growth.

Vertnik: I believe the most pressing issues are the ones that affect the most people, and one that affects literally everyone is the high cost of water. The consensus around town is that this is still a problem, and I personally agree. The residents of Mound pay more for this fundamental necessity than the people of neighboring communities. Why is that? I would address this issue the same way I would address any issue: by asking a lot of questions. I don’t believe you can give qualified answers without exhausting the questions, and you can’t provide reliable solutions without qualified answers.

Question 4: What in your background/experience best qualifies you for this office?

Heal: Serving on the Mound planning commission, homeowners association director, assisting several political candidates, and numerous volunteering hours, I have experience in working with diverse individuals and groups. In my current position, I work daily with diverse individuals’ teams to accomplish common goals. Whether it be small business owners, community volunteers or the local nonprofit organization within Mound, it’s important that we all have a voice in our future and that you feel represented – with your help I can be that voice.

Holt: As a Financial Advisor I work with my clients to achieve their financial goals. I will work with other Council Members as well as the Mayor to achieve our goals for our city, as long as it aligns with the residents of Mound. We need to promote business growth in Mound and improve communications with residents. I will be a strong advocate for our city and be a common sense voice for Mound.  See more about me on my website at www.facebook.com/Jasonholtcitycouncil 

Larson: I am the only candidate that has started a successful Mound business from the ground up! (Larson Printing and now Press Perfect). I know what it takes for our city’s business climate and promoting new growth for our Lake Minnetonka community!

Spiess: Working in ice rinks is a balance between customer service and projects goals as well as time keeping and organization. Plus the long, odd hours it demands for the ice to be ready to rent. The Parks and Rec Departments that I have worked in, all have the same goals and time constraints with their projects. This is similar to what our city has in guidelines of being less that 5 square miles housing nearly ten thousand people- we can work to make Mound an even better place to live.

Vertnik: The only real qualification necessary for a City Council member is a sincere desire and willingness to serve the constituency of the community in which they reside. This is a qualification I possess and take seriously. Beyond that, my career as a travel agent required asking pertinent questions, attentive listening, attention to detail, and effective communication. As a former bookkeeper, I understand budget challenges, and I know that sometimes difficult choices must be made. Further, my current occupations allow me to continue to apply my expertise in customer service. These skills and attributes make me a truly well-rounded, qualified candidate.

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