Elections are coming up, and one of the elections taking place this year is the Watertown-Mayer school board. There are four seats and five candidates this year.
Darrel Bimberg, is an electrical engineer for Seagate Technologies and a graduate of the University of MN, and lives in Watertown with his wife and three children.
Jim Burns, programmer, farmer, and local business owner with a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from the University of MN, lives in Hollywood Township with his wife and three children.
Katy Jo Danielson, works as a home manager with a degree in HR Management from St. Thomas, lives in Watertown with her husband and three children.
Heidi Guetzkow, incumbent and National Program Director of Health Risk Solutions at Lockton Companies with a B.S. in Therapy, lives in Watertown Township with her husband and two children.
Finally, there’s Josh Guetzkow, owner of West Metro Shuttle and graduate of the University of MN, lives in Watertown with his wife and two children.
Question 1: What prompted you seek election (or re-election) to office?
Darrel Bimberg: It has been something I’ve considered for several years. When I heard that 3 of the incumbents opted not to run for re-election, I wanted to step forward. I have typically approved of the direction the School Board has taken, and want to ensure we remain on that path.
Jim Burns: Last year, the voters in our school district approved an operating levy and a facilities referendum. I think it is imperative for our school board to make the right decisions now to properly spend those funds. The direction that we set in the next 24 months will have a lasting impact on our district, and it is important that we get headed in the right direction. My experience in local government and small business will help me provide that direction to make sure we are being good stewards of our taxpayer’s money.
Katy Jo Danielson: My involvement with the schools has evolved over the years and I feel that my time now can best be served as a member of our school board. As an advocate for the referendum/bond that recently passed, I want to stay committed to seeing the entire project through to its completion. I want my time that I volunteer to the school to now be at a scale where I can assist in decision making that will affect our district positively.
Heidi Guetzkow: For the past two years, I have had the pleasure of supporting our students and community as a school board member and I would welcome the opportunity to continue serving in this capacity. I am proud of our accomplishments in passing funding referendums, stepping up to the demands during the pandemic and hiring a tremendous new superintendent. I look forward to seeing our projects come to fruition and create a great place for our students to learn, grow and thrive. All of this while making sure we remain good stewards of our community’s dollars.
Josh Guetzkow: With two young daughters in our school district (2nd grade at WMES and Young Royals Preschool), I was looking to become more involved with the behind the scenes aspects of supporting our school district. I spoke with several current and past school board members before filing to get a feel for what it entails. I want to keep Watertown-Mayer a strong and healthy school district while maintaining and improving communication between the board and administration and parents, students, and our community, making smart fiscal decisions and ensuring oversight of the implementation and prioritization of projects funded by the 2019 referendum.
Question 2: What separates you from your opponent(s)?
DB: I have a history of volunteering and being involved. I am not afraid to roll up my sleeves and get to work to get the job done. Through both my time as a youth soccer coach, on the Crow River Soccer board and in my professional employment I have faced many situations where someone needed to step up and become a leader for a specific project or problem. I have been able to do that and in turn work with others to resolve conflicts.
JB: I have over 23 years of experience in computer technology and business management, and I have nearly 10 years of experience in local government leadership. I am also a strong believer in Career and Technical Education (CTE), I will continue to work to improve our CTE programs.
KJD: I pride myself on the relationships that I have already established with many of the school staff and with members of our community. My commitment to helping my children achieve an excellent education is one of my top priorities. I want that for all students in the district. I believe that strong schools make strong communities. And having a strong school and strong community, will make Watertown a desirable place to live.
HG: School districts are complex organizations to manage with a wide variety of stakeholders and complicated regulations to navigate. My experience of the last two years serving as a school board member has provided me with key insights to understand these complexities and help shape informed decision making for our district. I am new enough to the board to bring a fresh set of eyes to the districts vision yet experienced enough to recognize the barriers that exist and what needs to be addressed.
JG: As a 1998 graduate of Watertown-Mayer High School, I bring a unique perspective as not only a parent and community member, but also a past student.
Question 3: What is the most pressing issue facing the constituency you hope to represent? How would you address that issue?
DB: Coronavirus is obviously a big issue, and navigating it to the best interest of all will continue to be a challenge. Thus far, I think the district has done a reasonable job meeting the needs of the students while watching out for the safety of all. I would look to continue this reasonable approach. Further, it is always a challenge to provide a quality education opportunity for all types of students, but to remain within budget.
JB: As stated above, the facilities improvements are a very important project facing our district. We need strong leadership on the school board to ensure that we are making the correct decisions related to the improvements and future operating expenses. The current situation with COVID-19 and distance learning is also a pressing issue. My experience in computer technology can help regarding using technology to support our distance learning needs.
KJD: Currently the most pressing issue facing the constituency I hope to represent is the completion of our referendum and bond that passed this past fall. I participated as a co-chair to the community group, Say Yes to Invest, to help spread the information regarding the needs of our school district and encouraging our community members to vote in support of our students and the growing needs of the school district. By being part of the school board, my goal would be to make sure the promises made to our student body and community will be upheld.
HG: Strong schools are the life blood of our communities. Now more than ever, we need to build our infrastructure and technology to bring the best opportunities for our students to learn, grow and thrive in a safe and healthy environment. Maintaining enrollment numbers is crucial to our district and dependent on these resources and opportunities being available to all students. We can get there by allocating the appropriate funds, maintaining and hiring the right staff and connecting deeply with the communities we serve.
JG: Advocating for our students to achieve and maintain as normal of a school experience as possible (in light of COVID-19 and state mandates) is my highest priority in the immediate future. This means not only pushing for in-person learning (while providing strong distance learning options for families who need that option), but ensuring all students are engaged and challenged academically while working hard to support and facilitate strong athletic and extracurricular programs. Apart from these unique immediate circumstances, we need to ensure our school board and administration is engaged in an ongoing open dialogue with parents, students and the community.
Question 4: What in your background/experience best qualifies you for this office?
DB: In my professional employment I am most often working as part of a broader team to resolve complex problems that often have conflicting goals. A key part of being on a team is to listen to the other members. No one person can be the expert on everything. From this we are able to reach mutually beneficial decisions.
JB: I have served two terms as a Township Supervisor in Hollywood Township, and three terms on the Carver County Planning Commission. I am a local small business owner, providing computer programming and IT consulting services to businesses across the Twin Cities. It is the broad experience that I bring to the table from my various roles and work history that best suits me for the school board.
KJD: My involvement in our school district began when our oldest daughter was six months old. We enrolled in ECFE classes. Looking to make connections with other parents and be more involved with the community, I joined the Advisory Council. My role as treasurer allowed me to help grow the program. As our children have grown, I have onto the PTO organizations in the elementary and middle schools holding executive officer positions, as well as joining the Boosters Club. I have volunteered many hours at each school, helping in classrooms with programs and fundraisers.
HG: The last decade, I have been working as a consultant in population health management and employee wellbeing. This role relies on my ability to digest a wide variety of data sets, understand the culture and demographics of a workforce and align employee health strategies to meet my client’s business goals and budget constraints. These same skills have been exponentially helpful in the various committees I participate in as a school board member today. I am thankful for the support this community has provided to me as a board member and hope to continue to represent all of you if re-elected.
JG: As a small business owner, I hear a variety of perspectives from not only Watertown and Mayer, but also surrounding communities like Waconia, Delano, and Mound. I enjoy communicating with a wide range of people and listening to different points of view. We need to ensure our school board and administration is engaged in an ongoing open dialogue with all stakeholders including parents, students, and our communities. These groups need to be informed of what is happening, but also know they are heard and their voices matter in the decision-making process. With more input, we can make better decisions.