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 Mayor - Peter Leo, Tim Litfin and Nicole Waldron.
Question 1: What prompted you to seek election (or re-election) to office?
While serving on the city council the last three years I have enjoyed reaching out to members of the community and trying to be a voice for the individuals of Waconia. Whenever there was a major decision, I made sure to get as much feedback and input from the community as possible. If elected, I will continue to listen to the community while making important decisions. One of my plans to keep the community engaged is to follow the lead of former City Council member Carl Pierson and start sending updates by email.
Service to the community is a core belief of mine and it has been my entire life. I am a great fit for the position of mayor because the diverse set of skills and qualities I already have is what is needed. My resume speaks clearly to my passion for connecting with the community to make positive things happen. Waconia has given my family and I fantastic memories for almost 30 years. I want to keep that dream alive for everyone that lives here now or will in the future. I am ready to be the next Mayor of Waconia.
I have always had a desire to serve my community and I have been honored to be part of the City Council for four years. It has given me the opportunity to learn from the variety of committees that I have sat on. Serving as the Acting Mayor for the past two years has encouraged my desire to lead. In August my husband Scott and I became empty nesters. Knowing that I have the ability to invest that “extra time” in the community confirmed my decision to run.
Question 2: What is your long-term vision for the community?
My vision is to keep Waconia a special place to live and the community spirit strong. My wife and I have 4 children and we plan to live in Waconia for a long time. Seeing members of this community come together for events like the Polar Plunge is something special. The people, businesses, and schools are what make Waconia a great place to live. We need to work with ISD 110 to build a strong partnership to do what’s best for the individuals of this community. One of my top priorities is to build a strong partnership with ISD 110.
Today, things are going well in Waconia. However, we can do better, and that mindset must be present in our everyday work. No city can rest on their past successes. This city is growing and will continue to grow. We need more industrial partners, better roads, and more recreation opportunities. As we grow, we cannot lose sight of what makes Waconia great – it’s people. I am energized about Waconia’s future. I want citizens of this city to enjoy our parks, shopping, schools, businesses, and our way of life. Waconia is where people need to live freely, work and play. That is a vision I believe all can share.
My long-term vision for our community is a city with balanced growth that retains its small-town charm. The downtown area remains the heart of Waconia. I envision well maintained roads and trails that lead us where we want to go, thriving schools, and beautiful parks. I want to see our city continue to flourish, support a balanced budget, and use fiscal common sense. When asked this question four years ago, that was my answer. Today I see the same city, however I have gained experience and better understanding as to what it will take to maintain and achieve that vision.
Question 3: If elected, how would you handle balancing development with maintaining a sense of community?
The most important thing I can do if I am elected is communicate with the business owners and the citizens of this community. One of my main goals is to build strong partnerships within the community. At the end of the day, being Mayor is not about what I want the city to look like, it’s about listening to the community and developing a plan together. There is going to be a lot of growth in the next few years and it’s important we develop a plan to grow the right way.
I live and breathe community. I promote community with every word and step. I lead to make a positive impact and have for 34 years as a professional executive director of community education. Waconia will continue to grow. We have a comp plan and are mandated to have a comp plan by the Metropolitan Council. That plan consists of possibilities for development. It is a living and breathing document. Community is you and I living here long after a developer moved on to another city. Balancing the Waconia that we all love with the pressure for growth takes planning, and smart conversation with citizens by its leaders.
Balanced development comes from thoughtful planning. Laying out a strategy for growth will allow us to be prepared for future growth. Connecting our neighborhoods through the trail system, keeping our downtown accessible and vibrant, and supporting our local businesses are all ways to maintain a sense of community. Offering events, such as music and movies in the park, can also bring us together in our common space and remind us that we are all one community.
Question 4: What do you believe is the best way to address aging infrastructure and the funding to replace/update that infrastructure?
The most important thing we can do to deal with aging infrastructure is develop a forward-thinking plan of what needs to be fixed and when it needs to be completed by. Having a strategy and a plan will allow the city to apply for state funding and allow staff to apply for different grants. Another thing we need to start thinking about is when we hire a city engineer to work full time on our staff. In the next couple of years, we need to start having conversations and developing a plan for when this change might happen.
Addressing aging infrastructure is a journey, not a quick fix. Improvements and maintenance are necessary to supporting a healthy city so that it can survive and thrive into the future. We need to continue to plan long term and I am proud that Shane and Craig (Waconia leaders) are doing this now for our benefit. Investment in the downtown, like the project beginning next year, is needed to achieve our goal of a healthy downtown. 100% taxing to drive revenue for projects like this is dangerous and unrealistic. We do not want to push businesses and residents away. Grants and partnerships are necessary. Smart city technology also exists to support cities like ours.
I believe that the best way to address aging infrastructure is to continue to monitor systems and create a planned maintenance and replacement schedule, helping to mitigate costly repairs. We are also conscience of directing growth where infrastructure has already been put in place. Especially for water and sewer, getting users on those lines is important, as growth funds growth. In addition, keeping healthy fund balances is vital to plan for the future and be prepared for any unexpected expenses.
Question 5: What in your background/experience best qualifies you for office?
I feel my ability to build relationships and bring people together are important. In my previous position at Emerson, I would negotiate contracts with vendors to get price reductions and cost savings. I was able to do this by building strong partnerships. Also, my time on the inclusive playground fundraising task force has allowed me to build strong partnerships with businesses and members of our community. The last 3 years I have been on the city council in which I have shown people of Waconia that I will listen to them and make sure they have a voice.
A mayor needs to have a strong resume and check many boxes. Over the course of my life I have garnered a diverse set of skills and qualities from my position as an executive director of community education, firefighter, high school sports official, and worked in a family owned construction business. I can relate. Communicator – I have been collaborating and presenting to staff, city councils and school boards for over 30 years. Positive Attitude – a consultant recently referred to me as “an instigator of good will.” I created major community events in four different communities, including Waconia.
My past experience as the Assistant Director of a child care center, owning my own business, and the numerous volunteer roles I have played, have all allowed me to work with the public and develop my leadership, organizational, and problem-solving skills. Working on large event planning projects has also given me the opportunity to collaborate with numerous organizations throughout our community. I bring hard work, dedication and a willingness to listen. These abilities, along with the experience of having already led a council meeting, best qualifies me for this office.