Seven people are running for two open seats on the Apple Valley City Council in this fall’s general election.

Incumbents Tom Goodwin and Ruth Grendahl are seeking reelection. The challengers are Ben Baglio, Michele Florin, Linda Garrett-Johnson, Joe Landru and Christian McCleary.

Each of the City Council seats are four-year terms.

Early voting has already started and more information about voting is at www.ci.apple-valley.mn.us/168/Elections-Voting and sos.state.mn.us.

Following are responses to the Dakota County Tribune’s election questionnaire.

Ben Baglio

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Ben Baglio

Age: 29

Address: 176 Walnut Lane, Apple Valley

Occupation: Director, Governor’s Workforce Development Board

Education: Masters in advocacy and political leadership from Metropolitan State University, Bachelor of Arts in political science from University of Minnesota-Morris, and a graduate of Apple Valley High School (Class of 2009).

Previous elected, appointed or volunteer positions: Various work with community groups and political efforts over the years. Previously served as policy liaison for Association of MN Counties and as an intern for the U.S. House of Representatives.

1) Why are you running for City Council?

Residents deserve more opportunities to engage with city officials, and City Council members have a duty to utilize technology to make that easier in the 21st century. If given the honor of serving our community I would be committed to fostering a more open, consensus-building environment and work to better equip existing city advisory committees so that they’re more accessible and efficient – in turn helping make the council more responsive. I love this community, and I’m grateful for the leaders that got us here, but sometimes a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective is just what we need.

2) What are your thoughts about how the city has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you believe more needs to be done?

I would have liked to see how we could do more to utilize the parks and other open spaces we have here in our city to somehow help the businesses in our community over the summer, but looking forward (as I prefer to do) I probably worry most about the city’s restaurants and bars, especially our locally-owned community staples, who might face serious hardships as outdoor seating becomes harder to pull off as weather gets colder. The city needs to explore every partnership possible to protect the locally-owned community staples that so many of us love. Additionally, I wish our local elected officials on the City Council would have done more to be vocally supportive of the necessary efforts taken to stop the spread of COVID-19. Strong, vocal leadership at the local level is one of the best ways to combat the unnecessary polarization this pandemic has brought on.

3) Over the last year, residents have approached the city about building new pickleball courts and creating an inclusive playground in Apple Valley. What parks and recreation initiatives would you support?

We as a community invest a lot in our public parks - it is one of the many reasons some of us love to call this city home. Surely we as a city can find a way to make sure that all children are able to do what every child should be able to do in the neighborhood: to play at the park. I support building an inclusive playground and I support continuing to fund the parks, programs, and facilities that make our city’s public parks system as strong as it is today. An inclusive playground will only make it stronger.

4) Several apartment complexes, senior housing and other developments have been constructed in recent years and much of the usable land in Apple Valley has been built on. With Orchard Place, south of County Road 42, being the largest area of undeveloped land left, what should be the city’s approach to new development and redevelopment in the future?

With existing plans at Dakota County to assess their development planning along County 42, the city has an opportunity to work closely with the county to maximize resources for development. I would like to see more thoughtful planning for what open spaces remain in the city and I think the residents are often the best ones to turn to here. As more employers are rethinking their physical locations I think the city should consider investing in infrastructure to support shared workspaces, which could help families with children who might’ve commuted to an office prior to COVID but may not return.

Michele Florin

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Age: 56

Address: 12164 Grandview Terrace, Apple Valley

Occupation: Small business owner

Education: Interior design degree – DCTC

Previous elected, appointed or volunteer positions: Chair for Wigs Without Worry; chair for Tesseract School Fundraiser (two years); numerous volunteer positions with my children’s school and extra activities – Girl Scouts, sports, etc.

1) Why are you running for City Council?

Being on City Council would be a way for me to give back to my community that has been home for me and my family for the last 25 years. I believe my experience as a small business owner provides me with insights and skills that could prove useful on the council and in serving the constituents of Apple Valley. I pride myself on my work ethic, my commitment to tasks and my integrity. I intend to be true to those values while serving on the City Council.

2) What are your thoughts about how the city has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you believe more needs to be done?

I believe that navigating the current situation that is affecting our country has been a challenge for all. These were all uncharted waters for those in charge and with the narrative changing frequently that made these times even more difficult. I believe at this time strides are being made to further our knowledge base so that decisions that need to be made are being handled better moving forward.

3) Over the last year, residents have approached the city about building new pickleball courts and creating an inclusive playground in Apple Valley. What parks and recreation initiatives would you support?

I am a firm believer in addressing ways in which we can continue to make our community more encouraging for all to use. I think Apple Valley has done a good job in finding balance with certain projects but I believe that more green spaces are needed.

4) Several apartment complexes, senior housing and other developments have been constructed in recent years and much of the usable land in Apple Valley has been built on. With Orchard Place, south of County Road 42, being the largest area of undeveloped land left, what should be the city’s approach to new development and redevelopment in the future?

This tract of land has an opportunity to give back to the community in ways that could benefit all. Keeping it as a green space, in my opinion, would be the best use of that space. I have seen many projects that add population to our community but not many that add more balance.

Linda Garrett -Johnson

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Linda Garrett-Johnson 

Age: 62

Address: 15681 Finch Avenue, Apple Valley

Occupation: Recently retired organization development consultant, certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt/Business Process Improvement consultant and entrepreneur

Education: Minnesota State University – Bachelor of Arts (organization development/business management) New York University – Associate in Applied Science (computer science/business management) certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement methodology)

Previous elected, appointed or volunteer positions: 360 Communities Board, Center for Intersectional Leadership, Regatta Manor Townhome Association president, Neighborhood Development Alliance Board, Westside Citizens Organization District Planning Council, MN Academic Excellence Foundation, St. Paul Public Safety Advisory Council, Umbrella Rule Advisory Committee DHS/DOC, Restorative Justice Youth/Family Committee, Saint Paul Schools Racial Harassment Policy Committee.

1) Why are you running for City Council?

I am running because I believe it is the City Council’s responsibility to authentically engage residents in planning the city’s future, bringing awareness to situations and issues. A thriving community creates spaces for all voices to influence key decisions that impact their life. As a city council member I will work with my colleagues to authentically engage residents in city planning. The City Council should reflect the voice of its residents. The demographics of our city have changed, yet the composition of our City Council does not reflect that change. There are voices missing and I want to represent those voices.

2) What are your thoughts about how the city has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you believe more needs to be done?

Yes, I believe we can do more. The council was allocated $4,025,355 in CARES Act funding, received on July 28, 2020. During the first application period deadline, 36 applications received a total of $267,950. Funds were spent on improved telework capability, PPE, and public health measure expenses in August for a total of $129,271. The city will cover an additional $31,000 for election-related expenses due to COVID-19. The city is authorized to use funds to go directly to individuals and families through a consumer grant program to prevent eviction, assist in preventing homelessness, and for the loss of income for payments to provide direct emergency financial assistance. Social service agencies in Apple Valley are expecting a severe amount of foreclosures and evictions due to families experiencing job loss due to COVID-19. Our city needs to allocate money towards individual families to prevent this disaster.

3) Over the last year, residents have approached the city about building new pickleball courts and creating an inclusive playground in Apple Valley. What parks and recreation initiatives would you support?

First, I want to point out that any plans involving the city should be done through continuously and authentically engaging residents in long-range planning for the city. This is important to the success of the city, so it is important for me to point this out before answering this question. Along with the two initiatives in the question, some residents expressed redesigning the Apple Valley Community Center to be a student focused place to help youth thrive, and include homework help, sports, mentoring, and more flexible hours, modeled after or possibly partnering with the YMCA or Boys and Girls Club. The redesigned center could be state-of-the-art offering something for everyone (youth, families and individuals). We could secure public/private funding, but need to ensure the center remains financially accessible to all, with no one turned away. I’d also like to see an off-leash dog park for fur babies.

4) Several apartment complexes, senior housing and other developments have been constructed in recent years and much of the usable land in Apple Valley has been built on. With Orchard Place, south of County Road 42, being the largest area of undeveloped land left, what should be the city’s approach to new development and redevelopment in the future?

This question is another opportunity for me to say that the approach to development needs to be grounded in an authentic, continuous community engagement model bringing together residents, local leaders, business and local politicians to envision the future for the city’s land use. From conversations with residents, some would like to see financial incentives and/or development subsidies for small, locally-owned businesses. Many would like to start a small business in our city, but need these incentives to make it work. There are multi-generational families who would like to live together in what are called “Next Gen” homes, so it would be nice to have this as an available option, living together maintaining privacy. Finally, we need to address the affordability of rental units. According to the ACS 2014-2018 survey, renters pay 48% of their gross income towards rent and utilities, the national suggested average is no more than 30%.

Tom Goodwin

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Tom Goodwin

Age: 76

Address: 13015 Garvin Brook Lane, Apple Valley

Occupation: Retired

Education: University of Wisconsin Whitewater – B.S. Political Science Northern Illinois University – Masters of Public Administration

Previous elected, appointed or volunteer positions: Did not provide

1) Why are you running for City Council?

I have lived in Apple Valley for 41 years. On my time on the council I have seen Apple Valley continue to develop into a great place to live. I would like to continue this work. Also, COVID-19 will have an impact on Apple Valley’s finances for at least the years 2020 and 2021. Experience with the city’s finances by council members is needed more than ever at this time.

2) What are your thoughts about how the city has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you believe more needs to be done?

I believe Apple Valley has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically to the restrictions as enumerated by the federal and state governments. It is important to note that Apple Valley did not add any additional restrictions.

The following are examples of things the city has done:

• Valleywood Golf – The city responded immediately to the governor’s direction and limitations on golf course openings.

• Youth athletics – The city followed all the governor’s directives on when and how youth athletics should start and be conducted.

• Personal protective equipment – The city made sure we have PPE required for public safety departments (police and fire).

The city worked closely with our restaurants to create outside dining where possible.

Apple Valley created a Small Business Assistance Grant Program with federal money. Businesses could apply for up to $10,000. We are presently looking to expand this program.

Nothing more needs to be done.

3) Over the last year, residents have approached the city about building new pickleball courts and creating an inclusive playground in Apple Valley. What parks and recreation initiatives would you support?

I support both projects and they both can be done if the council chooses. The biggest difference is pickleball has been a vexing issue for pickleball players, neighbors, and the council for three to four years, while the inclusive playground just came up this year. At the Aug. 13 council meeting, comments from council members were that they wanted to resolve the pickleball issue by this year. I agree that this issue be settled before taking on the other project.

4) Several apartment complexes, senior housing and other developments have been constructed in recent years and much of the usable land in Apple Valley has been built on. With Orchard Place, south of County Road 42, being the largest area of undeveloped land left, what should be the city’s approach to new development and redevelopment in the future?

The city should stress more commercial development in Orchard Place. The southern part of the old gravel pit has already been developed into housing. Commercial development has a higher taxing rate than housing, so more commercial would relieve tax pressure on housing. For example, the two Target stores in Apple Valley paid $800,800 in property taxes in 2020. This is equivalent to the amount of property taxes paid by 261 median priced Apple Valley homes. Lunds and Byerlys are set to be part of the next commercial development in Orchard Place.

Ruth Grendahl

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Ruth Grendahl

Age: Did not provide

Address: 13685 Pennock Ave, Apple Valley

Occupation: Board of Dietetics and Nutrition Practice executive director

Education: Master of Arts – public administration; Bachelor of Science – urban and regional studies; Bachelor of Arts – Political Science

Previous elected, appointed or volunteer positions: Minnesota State Colleges & University Trustee - gubernatorial appointee/Senate confirmation; MVTA commissioner; Minnesota Grant Evaluation & Review of Metropolitan Transportation Projects – elected county representative by Dakota County Cities; Minnesota Livable Communities chair - Metropolitan Council chair appointee; Perpich Center for Arts Education - gubernatorial appointee/Senate confirmation; Great Lakes Governors Biomass Council – chair

1) Why are you running for City Council?

Residents and businesses continually express support for the quality of life we enjoy in Apple Valley. Maintaining that quality of life is why I am asking to be reelected. Contributing factors include: strong financial management with two Triple A bond ratings, well-funded police/fire services, robust park/trail system, safe drinking water, road replacements with no special assessments and the list goes on; yet at the same time our spending per capita is lowest of major Dakota County cities - Apple Valley $763, Eagan $964, Lakeville $1,057.

Dedicated people serve on committees and fulfill an important process for citizen input.

2) What are your thoughts about how the city has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you believe more needs to be done?

The city is in a very stable financial position to weather this crisis, as we did the 2008 downturn. Our budget does not rely on any state local government aid that could be cut with large deficits looming or sales tax receipts from hotels/retail sales, similar to other cities. We maintain two Triple A bond ratings with Standard & Poor’s citing “strong management, with good financial policies” and Moody’s stating “The credit position for Apple Valley is superior,” resulting in significant saving when borrowing monies for city projects. Homeowners and businesses will see only nominal increases proposed in next year’s budget, with no increases due to COVID-19.

We were nimble in quickly tweaking city ordinances to support our businesses when state restrictions were placed on them due to COVID-19.

I serve on our Economic Development Authority subcommittee, setting program guidelines to distribute federal CARES monies to help businesses.

3) Over the last year, residents have approached the city about building new pickleball courts and creating an inclusive playground in Apple Valley. What parks and recreation initiatives would you support?

Currently we have budgetary constraints to overcome in the funding of new pickleball courts and an inclusive playground. The city has many residents who love the sport of pickleball and some neighbors that do not appreciate the resulting noise. I have consistently supported moving the pickleball courts to Johnny Cake Ridge Park. The current City Council budgeted $250,000 to accomplish this goal. Unfortunately, the first bid came in at $382,000, resulting in an unfunded difference of $132,000. We tried again to get better numbers, but the second bid process came in at $318,000, once again well above the budgeted amount. Not to minimize this issue, as I too do not appreciate unwanted noise, but am grateful these are the issues we are working on to resolve with everything else going on around us. Depending on funding, plans and location I would support an inclusive playground.

4) Several apartment complexes, senior housing and other developments have been constructed in recent years and much of the usable land in Apple Valley has been built on. With Orchard Place, south of County Road 42, being the largest area of undeveloped land left, what should be the city’s approach to new development and redevelopment in the future?

Crystal ball time! Government has to be mindful that land is privately owned and marketplaces are always evolving. We can encourage a certain land use by providing a business-friendly environment, but ultimately if the project is consistent with its zoning, the development will be market driven for that intended use.

There are approximately 400 acres of undeveloped land left, of which 40 acres have been reclaimed from active gravel mining operations and zoned commercial, where development will be occurring soon. The current council has always envisioned a medical campus in Apple Valley. This may or may not happen, and will depend on the property owner’s timeframe of reclaiming more land for development and attracting such development to plant, grow and prosper here.

I have consistently advocated for more Apple Valley businesses that provide family-sustaining jobs, resulting in less commute time and alleviating traffic congestion on Cedar Avenue and 35E.

Joe Landru

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Joe Landru

Age: 49

Address: 7036 142nd St. W. Apple Valley

Occupation: Sales and local business owner.

Education: B.S. in business from St. Mary’s University of MN.

Previous elected, appointed or volunteer positions: I have been a volunteer firefighter since 2001.

1) Why are you running for City Council?

I have had the privilege of being a volunteer firefighter for over 19 years, where I have helped in the public arena, where I have been able to help friends, neighbors and fellow citizens in their time of need. I wish to continue doing so, albeit in a different form, on the City Council.

2) What are your thoughts about how the city has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you believe more needs to be done?

Initially, I was OK with the response but as we learned more about COVID, the draconian lockdown was and is not justified. Businesses were forced to close, some for good, people lost their livelihood. We can’t celebrate weddings, we can’t attend church, we can’t hold funerals for our loved ones and we had to cancel July 4 celebrations, but it’s OK to shop at the major retailers.

I believe that city officials could be pushing back on the governor’s peace time emergency declaration. It’s been over six months, time to end the declaration. Societal and economic shutdowns are not good, they lead to disaster.

The people of Apple Valley are educated, we are smart enough to navigate this time of COVID-19 and still be able to live our lives.

3) Over the last year, residents have approached the city about building new pickleball courts and creating an inclusive playground in Apple Valley. What parks and recreation initiatives would you support?

Look into partnering with Life Time or other fitness centers to develop city wide programs that would include citizens of all ages. Sometimes, these public/private partnerships can help reduce costs and yield great rewards.

I would support building multiple-use courts. That could include pickleball, bocce ball, tennis, volleyball, etc.

4) Several apartment complexes, senior housing and other developments have been constructed in recent years and much of the usable land in Apple Valley has been built on. With Orchard Place, south of County Road 42, being the largest area of undeveloped land left, what should be the city’s approach to new development and redevelopment in the future?

The approach has to consider what will be best for current and the future citizens of Apple Valley. Look to combine smart business growth with single family housing.

Considering the recent events of the past four months in Minneapolis and St. Paul, look to attract some of those businesses that may want to relocate to a more stable city.

Apple Valley should be looking to attract manufacturing business as well as retail businesses.

The aim is to grow the city in a responsible way, where we can increase the tax base for the city, helping to ease the tax burden on all tax payers.

Christian McCleary

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Christian McCleary

Age: 24

Address: 6568 157th St. W. 112A, Apple Valley

Occupation: Program assistant for three agencies: Literacy MN, St. Paul Community Literacy Consortium and Council for Black Male Success in St. Paul.

Education: A.A. degree in liberal arts with an emphasis in psychology, minor in women studies

Previous elected, appointed or volunteer positions: AmeriCorps member direct service and literacy administration; Conservation Corps and Water restoration projects as a crew leader; Council for Black Male Success member offering housing, mental health and wellness, mentoring, employment and educational services; Minnesota Department of Education High School Equivalence Standards; mentored Latinx children with after school enrichment

1) Why are you running for City Council?

I am running for Apple Valley City Council because I always wanted to serve in and learn more about the community in which I reside. I have been involved in many community projects and wanted to extend my support and growth by engaging with all residents and stakeholders of the city. I enjoy problem solving and working in team settings. I am a young candidate who is open minded, listens, productive, energetic and always willing to learn new information through research and experience for the betterment of serving with community. I care about the city of Apple Valley.

2) What are your thoughts about how the city has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you believe more needs to be done?

Leadership has done the best they could during this time of hardship for the world. No one knew what to expect and or how to navigate. I believe some things were great for the city. Allowing pools to open, parks to be open with social distancing parameters, businesses to operate, and identifying essentials. These are all difficult things to manage. The city has done lots, however there is more support needed for residents rather than just city needs and businesses. There have been threats of evictions, loss of income, accessibility to electronic devices and broadband access, increase of individuals who are homeless in our community, social justice inequities around the city, and lack of resources for people we pledged to serve. In emergency situations like this a Guaranteed Based income (GBI) for Apple Valley residents will be completely logical to help through financial hardships in times of need.

3) Over the last year, residents have approached the city about building new pickleball courts and creating an inclusive playground in Apple Valley. What parks and recreation initiatives would you support?

I would support a new initiative that would support elders, young adults, residents, physical activities and pickleball. It would be a city dream to have longtime members of pickleball and game organizers to teach the younger community how to play, strategize and most importantly have fun being active. It would work best for a designated area away from residential properties with sound blocks surrounding the courts. Our city popularized it and the game could be played regularly with tournaments, if more people learn how to play and see value in physical activities. I know this have been a popularized sport in Apple Valley for years. Most of the residents had concerns of noise and central location rather than the game itself and we as a city should accommodate and progressively expand the game as this is a plan already in place.

4) Several apartment complexes, senior housing and other developments have been constructed in recent years and much of the usable land in Apple Valley has been built on. With Orchard Place, south of County Road 42, being the largest area of undeveloped land left, what should be the city’s approach to new development and redevelopment in the future?

Personally, I would recommend increasing young adult transitions into further education by building a university with affordable student housing, paraprofessional assistance for learning/physical disabilities, study halls and young adult hangout areas, reasonable tuition/scholarships, hybrid learning options and allow non students access to full campus benefits. We have lots of gems such as Wild Bills, Wings Financial Credit Union, Senior Living Centers, Minnesota Zoo, Cobblestone Lake, amazing city staff etc. We have all the essentials accept a college that we host for our residents and to attract new ones.

It was recorded between 2014-2018 Apple Valley had 94% high school graduation of residents age 25-plus and a bachelor’s degree or higher rate of 43.2% according to the (United States Census Bureau). We can continue our uptick in near flawless education by engaging our young adults in post secondary education programs for better odds of stability and security.

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