As part of our Election 2022 coverage, the Waconia Patriot and Sun Patriot Newspapers reached out to candidates in contested races for local offices and asked them to respond to the same five questions for each office. Below are the unedited responses from the candidates for Waconia Council - Nick Gleason, Jeff Grengs and Joe Polunc.
Question 1: What prompted you seek election (or re-election) to office?
In large, I want to give back to a community that I love being a part of. I am running to be a voice for those community members, new and existing, that have passion around matters such as improving our infrastructure, economic development, and community relations. Elected leaders working with one another and the public for a common goal is what will contribute to our heathy growth. Waconia is a great community and I’d like to keep moving forward for a successful future.
I’ve always felt a sense of service to this community. After serving on the Waconia Fire Dept. for five years, our family dynamics changed and I resigned 17 years ago. I’ve considered the City Council for many years. Timing was finally right for my family, so I feel now is the time to start serving again.
As a resident and business owner, I felt the need to get involved at a higher level. As a 40-year resident of the area including Waconia, I am a “results oriented” person striving to make improvements. While not a politician, I welcome the challenges of a growing city as we balance our priorities.
Question 2: What is your long-term vision for the community?
I see Waconia as one of the premier places to live and raise a family. We have local attractions and businesses that lure young families to our community. With the inevitable rapid growth, it is important we keep on pace in all sectors. This would include new business development that is right for our community. I would like to see a healthy balance in relation to new community members compared to commercial and industrial business. Let us make Waconia not only a place you want to live, but also want to work.
Continuing to upgrade aging infrastructure, slowing residential growth and expansion of the City’s footprint, while encouraging commercial/industrial growth for both existing and new businesses. As the City continues to get larger, it requires more maintenance, equipment and personnel. These additions add to the budget, increase property taxes and prevent the City from maintaining existing infrastructure.
Waconia will continue to grow and prosper if we plan accordingly. The economy will generally dictate how fast the residential, commercial and industrial growth occurs. School District #110 will add capacity as the population dictates. My goal is to ensure there is a strategic plan that compliments the uniqueness of the area and meets the needs of our expanding population. “Return on investment” is of paramount concern. From recreational opportunities to residential growth and business ventures, we must plan for a wide range of possibilities.
Question 3: If elected, how would you handle balancing development with maintaining a sense of community?
First, I would work collaboratively with our current and future elected officials to identify what our community members see as important. Balancing development, commercial and industrial, will be a critical issue as we grow. Elected officials need to effectively reach out to all community members, new and current, and understand what is important. Discuss those challenges and issues so there can be a balance in growth while still preserving our sense of community.
While residential growth is both necessary and expected, the rate at which we have grown has contributed to Waconia losing the “close knit” feel that drew so many new residents here. By balancing business/ industrial growth with residential growth, people will find new employment opportunities, along with new places to shop, eat, and spend time with their families. This will forge new relationships and rebuild that sense of community. Few available skilled jobs, overburdened restaurants, limited retail and lack of parking downtown forces people to seek those services elsewhere and prevents non-residents from spending money here.
As expected, I have heard a wide variety of views. Some want more amenities while others want to slow down the expansion. In my view, growth shouldn’t imply there is a loss of “community”. A plan that includes citizen input nurtures and maintains the cohesive nature of a town. Brick and mortar doesn’t have to be a barrier. Building consensus is the common denominator for maintaining a sense of community.
Question 4: What do you believe is the best way to address aging infrastructure and the funding to replace/update that infrastructure?
We need to tackle this challenge head on. We do so by prioritizing what part of our infrastructure needs addressing immediately. A few examples include, improving roads, lack of parks and recreation to accommodate our community members, along with education needs for our future growth. We must fiscally understand what is achievable with full transparency to our constituents. To achieve and maintain these goals it’s important our government works in unity to meet the needs of our citizens while keeping a balanced budget.
Upgrading infrastructure is costly and it puts a large burden on affected businesses and residents. I feel the City needs to find ways to expedite these projects while keeping costs at the forefront. The biggest complaints I hear from residents are “Why is this taking so long?” and “Why haven’t they done my street yet?” I will be looking for ways to reallocate current funds to help accomplish these issues.
The best way to minimize the effect of aging infrastructure is to make periodic assessments and repairs. Ignoring a problem will guarantee a budget-busting project that could have been minimized. As such, we must continue to budget for ongoing maintenance. Growth dictates this will become a larger issue. Grants and other resource funding assistance must always be a part of funding. Innovation with construction techniques and materials also should be considered.
Question 5: What in your background/experience best qualifies you for office?
I have been working in the Construction Industry for over 15 years. I understand what it means to meet deadlines and deliver a successful project, whether it is for a client or as an owner/operator. I have sat in multiple City Council meetings discussing future projects in other communities, so I know the extensive time and effort that goes into the due diligence to grow a healthy community. Conflict resolution is an everyday occurrence in my occupation. This is one of many attributes that would contribute to being a successful Council Member.
I strive to find balanced solutions to difficult challenges. As a father of three, a husband of 25 years and a business owner, these skills are constantly being honed. I’ve lived in Waconia for 25 years, in the area for 45 years and have witnessed the City evolve, mostly for the better. I have forged great relationships in Waconia with people from every demographic, and I expect them to hold me accountable. To wrap up, once again this office is about service to the people of this community, and I am ready to serve you.
I have had a longtime interest in problem solving problems wherever they occur. My career in law enforcement taught me the value of being a good listener and to weigh options before acting. We hear words but are we listening? As I have attended the previous seven months of council and planning commission meetings, I am aware of upcoming issues. My current tenure on the Carver County Board of Adjustment has exposed me to a variety of challenges concerning zoning laws, construction options and variance requests. Managing for the economic health of my business of 31 years has also been an exercise in budgeting. These experiences will serve me well.