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Monticello City Council

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Five candidates are seeking election to two posts on the Monticello City Council this election year.

Those who have filed include incumbent Jim Davidson, planning commission chairman Sam Murdoff, Brian Hudgins, Dustin Stahlback, and Aaron Glanz.

In the Monticello mayoral race, City Council member Lloyd Hilgart has filed to follow Brian Stumpf as mayor. He is running unopposed.

Responses from the five candidates to the Times’ questionnaire are published here.

Jim Davidson

6435 82nd St NE

Project Manager, CentraCare

Monticello EDA: 2014-present

Monticello City Council: 2016-Present

1. How will city government improve or be strengthened as a result of the leadership, drive, energy and vision that you will bring to the City Council? I have a few strengths that I feel would continue to contribute to the City Council. I collaborate well with the current council; we are not about agreeing but being respectful and curious about the views it takes to make a good decision. I like to look at the big picture. Every decision has a financial component to it and can impact many other needs of the city with a domino effect. I feel my experience as a City Council member allows me to understand the needs of the city a little better than I did four years ago. It is my drive to make the best decisions I can for our community and the time spent learning over the last six years of service (combined EDA and Council) helps with this.

2. What do you consider Monticello’s most critical issue? Why? Long term planning is crucial to moving a city forward in its planning. One of the largest items for Monticello’s future is the status of our power plant. They currently contribute over 50% of our tax base, and they will participate at that level for a limited time, as they will decommission in the future. We need to aggressively attract industry, housing, and retail to the best level possible to bridge the tax base loss we will see. We will also need to plan our growth in a thoughtful way to support the best future for Monticello.

3.What specific goals do you hope to accomplish if you are elected? Please list at least three.

1. I would like to continue to shift our downtown to a place of destination. We need to recognize how this change supports what the future looks like with less retail and increase destination shops, food, and activity.

2.I would like to see housing growth that supports both current and future workforce needs of our local businesses.

3.We will need to continue to keep our core work of the city a priority. This includes our roads, public facilities, parks, paths, and much more. We must have the functional, clean, and updated city infrastructure that we all expect and appreciate.

4. What is your vision for Monticello’s future in regard to issues of growth and development? What should city Govt do, if anything, to attract new businesses to Monticello and strengthen existing businesses? I believe long term planning is important to achieve growth that suits a city. We are currently participating in the Monticello 2040 plan. This is a 20-year plan that helps us understand who we want to be over time, what resources we have now to achieve this, and what resources we will need to facilitate as we go. We need to grow into this plan so we achieve a desired, thoughtful, outcome instead of a variable plan that does not support our vision for Monticello. This process is taking place now and the vision is forming from community members, local businesses, city leaders, and city staff.

5. What is your view of the city’s use of tax increment financing, planned unit developments and other incentives to assist developers? I support the use of these incentives to spur development. Most cities offer these choices as well as other creative choices of their own. If we do not, we will not see developers interested in Monticello. I would add that each incentive does not fit every project and takes careful evaluation to understand if it is appropriate and useful.

6. If you could change one thing in Monticello’s zoning code, what would it be and why?

I do need see the need for any changes currently. The zoning is getting a thorough review in the Monticello 2040 Plan and will change. The zoning code is part of the intricate planning that helps form the layout of the city and is part of the vision.

7. Is there something that the City of Monticello is not presently doing that you believe would significantly improve the quality of life of Monticello residents and/or strengthen the local economy? There is currently a large volume of work being done to move Monticello forward. I believe the current work and planning includes our needs and is removing any gaping opportunity. I think our biggest opportunity would be in housing. We plan well with studies and we receive information, but we do not place it as a focus or take as much action as with other priorities. Housing is a key element to having a stable workforce for our businesses and it is a great piece to stabilizing the tax base.

8. Wild Card: Writ anything you’d like to say to voters on topics we have already asked about?

I have talked a good deal about planning and need to note that it is useless without action. We have taken action over the past four years, and the results (to name a few) are changes in our downtown (with much work to be done), new housing, and the retention of important business that may have relocated. I have taken time over the past six years to be involved and learn how to contribute to the future of Monticello and what actions we may address in our future. For every piece of information someone may see in communication there are 100 pieces that accompany it to make the most informed decision. Over time you accumulate more pieces to the puzzle that help you make the most informed decision you can. I have been a resident of Monticello 34 years of my life and I really like this town. I am invested in seeing a better tomorrow and hope my experience and drive to serve can continue to move Monticello forward.

Aaron Glanz

342 3rd Street East

Occupation – Production Lead

1)How will city government improve or be strengthened as a result of the leadership, drive, energy and vision that you would bring to the city council?

I feel it will be strengthened through my unrelenting pursuit of the best possible outcome for all parties involved. I have learned to lead with integrity, empathy and a level head at all times. This allows me to find the best possible solution, or compromise, for any problem or situation.

2)What do you consider Monticello’s most critical issue? Why?

I feel that future land usage and our “2040 Plan” is our most critical issue. I have learned, working in a highly technologically advanced field, that you always must keep your eye on the future to ensure constant positive growth. We have such a gorgeous community, so we need make sure we use the land wisely with aesthetics in mind. Nevertheless, this is my opinion, and this is one topic I would really like to hear from the community on.

3)What specific goals do you hope to accomplish if you are elected? List three.

My goals are:

a)Always be accessible to the citizens of our city to hear their questions, comments and concerns.

b)To lead with compassion, empathy and courage.

c)To keep our city beautiful and progressing forward.

4)What is your vision for Monticello’s future in regard to issues of growth and development? What should city government do, if anything, to attract new businesses to Monticello and strengthen existing businesses?

My vision is to keep us on the path of progress and beauty those previously and currently in charge have set forth. With our local assistance incentives and programs, fiber optics through the entire city and access to 94 and 10, we are fairly well setup for success.

5)What is your view of tax increment financing, planned unit development and other incentives to assist developers?

When looking into it, I was pleasantly shocked at all our city does to attract developers and help with blighted structures. I feel that “TIF’s” are a great way to attract developers of all types to our city, while “Greater Monticello Enterprise Fund” is an asset to business looking for assistance with economic development projects. Finally, our multi-stage “PUD” ensures high-quality developments in many varieties while preserving the city’s beauty and greenspace. My view is that these are great programs that help both the city and developers.

6)If you could change one thing in Monticello’s zoning code, what would it be and why?

Based on my initial look, nothing jumped out as something needing an immediate change. However, I fully anticipate keeping residents and businesses in mind if I come across something that could be altered in a positive way.

7)Is there something that the City of Monticello is not presently doing that you believe would significantly improve quality of life of Monticello residents and/or strengthen the local economy?

I would say from what we have accomplished with Bertram, the addition of the Fallon bridge and the arts initiative, we have done an amazing job improving quality of life here in Monticello. As for our local economy, I would like to see some more manufacturing in town, and, if elected, I plan to work hard at attracting more to our city.

Brian Hudgins

9358 Golden Pond Lane N

Monticello, MN 55362

Sr. District Sales Manager – American Honda Motors, Inc.

1) One thing in my professional life is I make sure my decisions are based on fact. Emotions and uninformed decision making more times than not in a professional setting leads to poor outcomes. A good leader must be informed and make decisions based on facts and that is what I will bring to the city council. I will come in seeking all the information on proposals, all the possible outcomes and who is impacted. It is important for ones judgement to not get clouded based on one moment of excitement. Monticello is a city that will see increased growth in the coming years and the members of the city council must be forward thinking and see that vision not only today but also what it will look like in the years to come. I am the type of person that looks at the entire picture and from there I am able to begin my research and form my decision based on facts and figures. I do not like when I am only shown the best possible outcome when it comes to matters of growing a community. I need to know all the scenarios and then be able to make an informed decision.

2)Attracting business is what I feel is Monticello’s most critical issue. There are so many factors in play currently that have businesses and residents leaving the city and the surrounding suburbs of those cities. This will lead to many new opportunities for Monticello to capitalize on growth that attracting new industries to our city will bring. We must implement policies that show we are a city with the infrastructure necessary for a business owner to want to establish themselves in our community. We bring in business and that helps our community grow in many ways from both a tax revenue standpoint and also helps our existing businesses grow.

3)A) Put forth plan to have a structure in place designed to attract new business to our area that highlights all the benefits of opening in our community. Whether that is distribution, manufacturing, hotel and hospitality or retail sector, there are plenty of opportunities for a business to set up in Monticello and grow. We need to put forth that structure that shows why they should do it here.

B) Evaluate all spending happening in the city and look for areas of waste or where tax dollars could be better spent. It is important that residents see not only where the money is being spent but also why it is being spent on something. Residents need to know they are getting a good return on their tax dollars.

C) Put a focus on the downtown Monticello area – many communities are doing big revitalization projects on their downtown areas to make it an even more desirable destination for residents and visitors. We must highlight the restaurants and shops as well as look at bringing in ways to increase consumer traffic in that area. As our downtown grows it will attract more opportunities for new small business in the area.

4) As I have touched on in earlier points, it is imperative that we begin focusing on attracting new business and industry to our community. We need to put together proposals and plans that can be used to lure new business to our area. We have an industrial park area that has resources and assets that can used to highlight why we would be a good area to setup in. We must highlight our location on I-94 as it puts us in a great place between St. Cloud and the Twin Cities and beyond. We must also highlight the strengths of our community with our amazing schools, great neighborhoods, parks and outdoor activity as well as restaurants and shopping. Business leaders are looking for communities that can attract a strong workforce as well as give their existing employees a great place to live and that is what we need to make a focus on as well as other areas to bring in businesses. Communities once considered too far out are now in high demand as more and more people leave the city.

5) Tax Increment financing looks great on paper but once put into practice it leads to more times than not revenues that do not happen and the existing property owners end up having to pay more in taxes. I am not a fan of it but I understand why it exists. When competing with other communities to lure large business opportunities you want to put out a package that gives a company the best benefits possible and you also want to put investment into areas of a community to help attract those businesses to that area. That should not come at the expense of the existing residents and business owners when revenues do not end up meeting expectations or the area does not develop as planned. Unlike large cities that have seen many areas go into complete disrepair and those cities take advantage of TIF as an opportunity to revitalize that area with the hopes of attracting growth. Monticello has the ability to do that without the downsides of TIF and still attract businesses to want to establish here and attract new residents. It might mean giving that company certain tax provisions for an established amount of time but it will still be new tax revenues coming in we were not receiving before. If we are going to use TIF then we must have full transparency and residents must be able to see how all the revenue is being spent.

6) I will leave this to the people and business owners of Monticello to let me know what codes they want changed and why. Codes are in place for a variety of reasons and as times change the need to re-evaluate those codes are necessary.

7) We must do a better job of highlighting what is going on in the different communities within our city. We must do a better job of communicating what we have to offer and why Monticello is a great place for families. We must also look at ways to strengthen the downtown area as a year round location to visit for food, shopping and entertainment. Communicate and highlight and turn that into revenue for the local economy.

8) This is not only one of the most important elections we have faced in our country on a national level but it will also prove to be one of the most important for the local levels. We must put leadership in place that is forward thinking and understands what impact the decisions we make today will have on our community for years to come. I encourage everyone to inform yourself, know the facts and get out and vote. Vote for leadership that is transparent, honest, open-minded and informed. Vote so your community will grow and prosper, your schools will develop young minds into strong leaders and your neighborhoods will be safe. Inform yourself and find out all the facts and get out and VOTE!

Sam Murdoff

9368 Golden Pond Lane N, Monticello, MN 55362

Attorney

Monticello Chamber of Commerce from 2017-2020.

Boards/commission, etc: Monticello Planning Commission Jan. 2015-Present; Volunteer-Wright County Public Defender’s Office 2017-2019

1)How will city government improve or be strengthened as a result of the leadership, drive, energy and vision that you would bring to the city council?

I provide a practical, logical, and new approach toward decision making in the city. I love being chairman of the planning commission and I will bring that same love and excitement to city council.

City government will be strengthened through my leadership because of my experience and training. I have been working with and revising the Monticello Zoning code over the past 5 years. I am familiar with the current code and how things in the code are written. I understand how to revise current codes and how to write new codes. I work with laws, rules, regulations, ordinances, and statutes daily. In addition, I earned an MBA which has helped me to know how to lead in organizations, resolve/reduce conflict, and how to negotiate. I bring all of these skills to help grow Monticello’s future.

Monticello is a wonderful and growing community. I want the rest of Minnesota to see that as well. I picture Monticello with beautiful shops and people walking up and down the downtown for shopping, enjoying our community, and eating ice cream. I see Monticello continuing to grow and provide more jobs for the community. I want Monticello to be the place that people choose to live if they think about coming to Wright County.

2)What do you consider Monticello’s most critical issue? Why?

Monticello’s most critical issue is housing. Monticello has done an excellent job over the past couple of years at getting new apartment buildings, townhouses, and other entry level housing. However, Monticello has a severe problem/deficit/issue at providing step-up housing.

Young families are the building block of Monticello and play a major role in making this city as magical as it is. We attract many young families to Monticello because of the availability and affordability of the entry level housing. As these families grow in size and also in their careers, they look to a larger house with a larger yard, more space, and more amenities. The problem is that Monticello doesn’t offer that type of housing and because Monticello doesn’t offer that type of housing, we are losing these wonderful families that are already here and we are failing to attract families who want to move to this area because they can’t find a suitable place to live. 

Housing is also a major issue in revitalizing the downtown. Our downtown is made up of businesses with significant space in between. It’s not fun/practical to walk from the community center down Walnut to the Cornerstone Café or other businesses on Broadway. To revitalize downtown we need to have people there. To have people there, we need to have mixed commercial and residential projects. The Briggs building is a perfect example of how we have started to get more people downtown. Now we need to get commercial and residential projects throughout the downtown to continue with the progress we’ve made.

3)What specific goals do you hope to accomplish if you are elected? Please list at least three.

1)Increase the number of single-family homes built each year.

2)Increase the percentage of people who live and work in Monticello.

3)Foster a community with more diversity.

What is your vision for Monticello’s future in regard to issues of growth and development? What should city government do, if anything, to attract new businesses to Monticello and strengthen existing businesses?

The work landscape is changing. There is a greater need for skilled labor and manufacturing than ever before. I know that many high school graduates have been questioning whether college and a bachelor’s degree is the right option. Because of this shift in labor needs, I think it will be important for the city to attract more industry, skilled labor, and manufacturing.

I believe Monticello also has a need for a mid-sized company that provides office jobs. Much of our highly educated community members are having to go to other communities to be able to use their degrees. I think attracting a company that provides 50-250 office jobs to the community would be a huge benefit for Monticello.

I also think that it’s important for the city government to be in touch with the local businesses. I’m grateful for all of the people in the community, who have started their own business. It’s not an easy road. I’m glad to hear when businesses are doing well and are expanding. I think it’s important for us to help those businesses grow when we can. There are many resources out there for small businesses and the city can be a great way to help educate small businesses on ways to get connected to those resources.

4)What is your view of the city’s use of tax increment financing, planned unit developments and other incentives to assist developers?

I believe that tax increment financing can be a useful tool in getting a project accomplished but needs to be used with caution. As with any incentive or help with a project, I believe that it’s vital for a developer to show that there is a specific need for the incentive making the project/site unusable without that special financing.

I have worked on many requests for planned unit developments. I know Monticello’s zoning ordinances and building standards and that helps me to know where some flexibility in the standards can provide an overall better project than strict adherence to the normal standards. In turn, I also know on what aspects of a project I can ask a developer to provide more than the code/standards require.

5)If you could change one thing in Monticello’s zoning code, what would it be and why?

One aspect that I believe should be reviewed is a home’s lot size compared to the size of house that can be built on it. This type of a review needs to be done in conjunction with staff, city council, and the planning commission. I believe that Monticello’s main issue is the lack of step housing within the city. It will take a concerted effort and plan for the city to attract builders that are willing to build that type of housing in Monticello.

For other issues related to the zoning code, I address problems immediately. Earlier this year, a business came forward requesting a variance on the structure height in a light industrial zone. At the end of the variance request, I immediately asked staff to have the planning commission review the height standard in the zoning code at the next meeting. After reviewing the information presented by city staff, we updated the standard.

6)Is there something that the City of Monticello is not presently doing that you believe would significantly improve the quality of life for Monticello residents and/or strengthen the local economy?

I love the Monti Arts Program. It has been a significant benefit to our community already. I would like to see that program expanded. Using it to provide more sculptures and art throughout the entire city would benefit the community tremendously.

I also believe that the city can promote physical well being through adding bicycle lanes to the roads and continuing to complete trails/pathways throughout the city.

Dustin Stahlback

114 Marvin Elwood Road

Principal Engineer for Abbott Laboratories, Electrophysiology & Heart Failure Division

Monticello Lions, Monticello Robotics Prior Civic Service: None

1. With my running for the Monticello City Council seat, I feel my educational and employment background would help strengthen city government. I am a person who will drive assigned tasks and projects to completion. I am not afraid to take on challenging tasks.

2. I believe Monticello’s most critical issue at this time is adequate, affordable housing to enable our employers continued access to employees. I feel this is a critical area because it affects tax base and a strong tax base is what helps keep the city healthy and strong.

3. If I were to be elected to the Monticello City Council, I would have three specific goals as a first time council member. The first of my goals would be to provide a sound, logic driven voice who is willing to listen and help the residents of Monticello. The second goal would be to learn and observe the inner workings of Monticello and see how I could apply ideas from my career with regards to efficiency improvements. The third goal of mine would be to provide the people of Monticello an ethical representative looking out for their best interests.

4. I believe it should be the city’s charter to invest in and provide solid infrastructure in order to attract new growth and development. Such infrastructure is communications, safe and optimal functioning streets and roadways, and reliable, cost conducive utilities.

5. I believe the city would do better to invest in its infrastructure instead of offering incentives such as TIF for single developers. I do believe if the city is fair as a whole with regards to taxes, services and regulations to everyone, external investment will follow.

6. I feel Monticello’s current zoning map is well thought out and would not currently change anything.

7. In my personal experience as a Monticello resident of 17 plus years, I believe the current quality of life in Monticello is very good. Monticello is a safe, clean city with opportunities to work and live. I do not believe there is something that would significantly improve quality of life of Monticello residents at this time.

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