Little Canada council candidates prioritize quiet zones, road conditions

Little Canada has two open city council seats on the ballot this year. Current council member John Keis is running unopposed for mayor, and his term is set to expire at the end of the year. Council member Shelly Boss is not running for re-election.

Seven candidates have filed for the two seats: Tom Fischer, Jeff Heikke, Andrew Henderson, Jon Joriman, Kevin Keenan, Christian Torkelson and Rocky Waite.

The Review asked candidates to elaborate on the experience they would bring to the council, upcoming challenges the city may face, and any priorities they may have if elected.

Tom Fischer

Tom Fischer

Jeff Heikke

Jeff Heikke

Andrew Henderson

Andrew Henderson

Jon Joriman

Jon Joriman

Kevin Keenan

Kevin Keenan

Rocky Waite

Rocky Waite

Fischer, 50, is an engineering program manager at Medtronic and has a bachelor's degree in business administration, with a focus on leadership and management, from the University of St. Thomas. He currently serves as the chair of the city's planning commission.

Fischer says his experience as a 21-year employee at Medtronic has made him able to meet deadlines and project budgets. "My success in these roles has come from my willingness to listen to people, sort through the facts and opinions, and make logical decisions based on operational goals," he says.

Providing quality city services and fostering a flourishing business district are among the challenges Fischer foresees in the near future.

"My focus will be on the quality of life issues affecting our residents," Fischer says of his priorities in the position, including stepping up rail quiet zones, addressing dangerous road conditions, supporting crime prevention and filling vacant commercial properties.

Heikke, 39, is married to Marsha, and is the owner of H&D Flooring, Inc. He is a member of the parks and recreation commission and the Little Canada Recreation Association, and has served on the St. John's School board of directors as well as the St. John's School Men's Club.

Heikke describes himself as "a natural leader" who uses common sense to make decisions. He says one of the biggest challenges facing the city is the transition from an "aging community" to a younger population of residents and proposes working with neighboring cities to provide programs and services to accommodate the change.

Public safety will be among his top priorities if elected, including the installation of additional signage and street lighting, as well as coming up with long-term projections for street improvement projects "to help us better budget in the future."

Henderson, 30, is a welder at Bermo, Inc., and has a welding certificate from Saint Paul College. Henderson came to local attention in 2012 after he was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and interfering with an ambulance crew while filming an arrest made by Ramsey County sheriff's deputies outside his apartment building. He was acquitted in February.

Henderson, who was a member of the State of Minnesota Youth Advisory Council when he was in high school, says he will bring a "fresh voice" and perspective to the council. "I regularly attend city of Little Canada council meetings and follow community issues," he adds.

He says the city should be focusing on making home improvements easier for homeowners and promoting local businesses by reviewing its tax and regulatory policies.

Henderson believes neighborhood stability and economic prosperity are the two most important issues facing the city, and says now is the time to "review systemic structures, reduce barriers, seek community input and add an open forum segment to [the] city council meeting agenda."

Joriman, 39, has been married to Jodi for 14 years. He is a senior chemist at Interplastic Corporation in St. Paul, and has a master's degree in technology management from the University of St. Thomas.

As a product developer and engineer, Joriman says he has "the ability to take tough complex concepts and turn them into easy to understand tasks to get to a salable product." Effective communication is needed in government, he adds.

He calls himself the leader the city needs in order to continue to thrive, and says he will focus on building more walking paths and "maintaining businesses." Because the city is "divided by highways and roads," Joriman says pathways are necessary to connect the community.

Keenan, 45, has been married to Kerry for 20 years. He works full-time as a senior project manager at Becker Commercial Flooring, is a lieutenant with the Roseville Fire Department and a captain with the Little Canada Fire Department. He is a Hill-Murray School graduate and spent two years studying business at Century College in White Bear Lake.

Keenan says his more than 19 years working as a firefighter have made him a quick thinker in critical situations, and is good at managing many people on multiple projects. Additionally, he says, he is proud to have lived in Little Canada his whole life.

"I have 45 years of experience living in a city that I love and I just want to see us keep on the path of making Little Canada a safer and  better place for us to live and raise our families," Keenan adds.

Lowering property taxes for residents and businesses, as well as increasing police presence in the city and improving road conditions are among Keenan's top priorities, if elected. He also notes rail quiet zones and connecting city trails as important city goals.

Torkelson, 25, works full-time in the IT department for the Minnesota House of Representatives. He dropped out of high school during his senior year, opting instead to pursue self-directed study in technical skills, and earned his GED in 2008. He is currently working on a degree in information technology, having taken classes from Normandale and Century community colleges.

Torkelson says he is "proud to be a young, first time candidate running for public office," adding that he will bring a "fresh new perspective" and "big ideas" to the council. He adds he will volunteer his time and services to "help save on costs the city might have otherwise incurred."

He believes the one of the biggest challenges facing the city is working with multiple agencies to establish rail quiet zones. Additionally, accommodating "growing pains" associated with an influx of younger families and fostering business development, particularly in the Rice Street corridor, are important city issues.

Torkelson says his main priority, if elected, is being open to communication from residents. "I want to focus on being an active messenger keeping folks informed of what is happening in the city," he says.

Waite, 68, is married to Nancy and is retired. He is the chair of the city's Veterans Memorial Committee, which broke ground on the project in July. Waite was self-employed for 40 years after returning from service in the Vietnam War.

Waite says he wants to "bring a new look" at businesses within the city, adding that if elected, he will make it a priority to ensure an address is visible on each house and business in Little Canada, a necessary precaution in emergency situations.

He notes that he would like to continue improvements at Savage Lake.

Election Day is Nov. 4. Most polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Find your polling place and sample ballot online at http://xnet.co.ramsey.mn.us/elections/precinct_finder or by phone at 651-266-2171.

Johanna Holub can be reached at jholub@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow her on Twitter @jholubnews.

 


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