Lake Elmo candidates talk growth, budget priorities

The Nov. 4 general election is less than two weeks away, and Lake Elmo has two city council seats set to expire at the end of the year.

Incumbents Mike Reeves and Wally Nelson have filed for re-election, and are being challenged by Julie Fliflet and Jill Lundgren.

 

Julie Fliflet

Julie Fliflet

Julie Fliflet, 45, is married to Todd Fliflet, and has a bachelor's degree in accounting and a CPA license from St. Cloud State University. She is the director of finance and administration for the Freshwater Society.

Fliflet said she has over 20 years of fiscal management experience as a CPA and finance director. She served eight years on the city's planning commission and currently serves on the finance committee. She was also a member of the Village Area Planning Workgroup and was a selected participant in the Citizens League national study of citizen involvement in local development decisions.

She said the city should review its expenses to ensure tax dollars are being used wisely and look for efficiencies.

"We should be creative in our approach and use collaboration with other cities when possible to keep expenses low while at the same time providing for our citizens," she said.

Fliflet believes Lake Elmo needs to do a better job locating grant funding for special projects, and said she has the knowledge and experience to do just that. She said the current council had increased taxpayer debt from approximately $10 million to over $20 million in the past two years -- spending she called "irresponsible."

When asked about the city's current rate of growth, Fliflet responded that the current rate is "incomprehensible," and "not manageable." She said the current council has approved approximately 2,000 new housing units since the appointments of council members Wally Nelson and Mike Reeves.

"We must take a breath and look to a more reasonable, staged growth plan to ensure quality development, and ability to manage growth and its impacts on our current residents," she said.

 

Jill Lundgren

Jill Lundgren

Jill Lundgren has a nursing degree and has worked as a registered nurse for 30 years. She is married and has four children. Lundgren serves on the city's planning commission and is a member of the Tri-Lakes and Lake DeMontreville/Olson associations.

She said her experience as an RN has taught her to be a critical thinker and "a fearless advocate" for those she serves. She believes the city of Lake Elmo needs someone on the council like her, who will listen to residents' concerns and respond to their requests.

"I will be a tireless and compassionate advocate for our citizens," she said.

She described herself as a person who is organized and able to think outside the box for solutions. She added that if elected, she would not tolerate bullying "in our city officials."

She said as a council member one of her priorities would be informing the public about the current debt "in relationship to unprecedented development." She said the city needs to cut down on spending and take a closer look at where money is being spent.

"We need to invest in preserving what is best about Lake Elmo and what will benefit residents the most-its open spaces, schools, natural resources, downtown businesses, and library."

Lundgren said she is "appalled with the current council's recklessness" in regards to development. She said the council has approved 2,000 new housing units without adequate planning for open space and parks. Similarly, she said the council has ignored the educational needs of children in Lake Elmo.

She said the council has largely ignored the phased approach to development as part of the city's 2013 comprehensive plan, and is "concerned with developers' and LLCs' (limited liability companies) ability to meet their financial obligations."

 

Wally Nelson

Wally Nelson

Incumbent Wally Nelson, 52, is married to Karen Nelson and was appointed to serve on the council in January 2013, when former council member Mike Pearson was elected mayor in the middle of his term.

Nelson has a bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and owns the real estate company, Morrow Partners, LLC.

Nelson said his 25-year background as a small-business owner and accountant have trained him to be a logical thinker and have given him the ability to look at all sides of an issue.

"City successes over the last two years validate my efforts. I am a respectful and responsive individual and this is exactly what Lake Elmo needs at this time," he said. He also noted that city staff voted him the "2013 Guardian of the Taxpayer" award winner.

He said his priority if elected would be to protect residents' tax dollars and to provide an "efficient cost effective government."

The council member said the city should continue to provide essential services, while ensuring taxes and expenses are kept in check. He said the city operates on a "growth pays for growth" policy, which has been recognized by bond rating agencies and allows the city to borrow at lower interest rates.

Nelson said the city has managed growth by adhering to its comprehensive plan, which will still allow the city to keep much of its "charm" and open space.

He said the council has kept taxpayers' risk low through projects by creating solid developer agreements "that compel developers to both pay for their activities and finish them as initially presented." In contrast, he said, previous developments "had been finished" with taxpayer money.

 

Mike Reeves

Mike Reeves

Incumbent Mike Reeves, 65, is married to Kathy Reeves, and was appointed to serve on the council in July 2013, following the resignation of council member Nicole Park.

He has a bachelor's degree in business administration from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. Prior to his recent retirement, Reeves worked as an executive for Deluxe Corporation and worked with the Minnesota Wild hockey team.

Reeves said he has proven business and leadership skills, which are an asset to the council. He said he always tries to understand all sides of an issue, demonstrates fiscal accountability, treats people with respect and focuses on getting things done.

"Residents, business leaders, and other government representatives have told me they appreciate my collaborative approach to city government, my organizational experience, and my respectful communication style and feel these attributes are making a difference in the effectiveness of our government," Reeves said.

He added that the city's budget priority moving forward should be to balance all categories of expenses with projected revenues. He noted that the city's credit rating received a recent upgrade due to its financial policies and stated Lake Elmo has one of the lower property tax rates in the metro. He said infrastructure costs will be increasing, and a priority for the city should be ensuring new revenues cover those costs, while continuing to manage the cost of ongoing government.

Reeves said the termination of the memorandum of understanding with the Metropolitan Council -- which mandated Lake Elmo grow to 24,000 people by 2030 - was dependent on the installation of sewer lines in specific areas of the city. Now that the MOU has ended, he said, the city would avoid "potentially millions of dollars in penalties and fines, which would have certainly impacted taxpayers." He said he supports a managed rate of growth, which can pay for infrastructure over time.

Joshua Nielsen can be reached at jnielsen@lillienews.com or 651-748-7822.

 


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