Maplewood mayoral candidates share concerns about economic development, street improvements and quality of living

Maplewood residents face two choices when they determine on Election Day who their next mayor will be.

Incumbent Nora Slawik, who is finishing her first, four-year term as Maplewood’s mayor, is challenged by Margaret Behrens for the position.

The Review asked both candidates via email why they are running, what skills and experiences they will bring to office, what they believe the top challenges will be in Maplewood in upcoming years and what projects or issues they would prioritize if elected.

 

Behrens, 55, who is married to James Behrens, works full-time as a program counselor at Lifeworks, Inc. 

She graduated from North High School and took some college courses and earned a variety of certifications. Her studies were in the areas of business management/supervision, paralegal, psychology and human/social services.

Behrens said that, if elected, she would bring to office her experiences gained from three terms on the Ramsey Conservation District, two terms as president and two terms as vice president to the Ramsey County League of Local Governments, four terms on the Executive Committee for the Ramsey County League of Local Governments and two terms as an appointed member to the White Bear Lake Level Resolution Committee.

When asked why she is running for election, Behrens said that she has never seen the state of Maplewood as bad as it is currently, pointing to “roads, dismantled fire department, increasing crime, declining business district, declining economy, excessive and rising taxes, wasteful spending, censoring of citizens,” and “lack of corrective actions to recover our taxpayer paid Maplewood Community Center.”

“I have served on the original Environmental & Natural Resources Commission and the Parks Priority Task Force for the city of Maplewood,” Behrens said, adding, “I have more than ample leadership and public service experience to fulfill the role as our next Mayor of Maplewood. ... My business management experience is also a great asset bringing our business district up and out of the decline it’s in and into a economic development asset to our community.”

Behrens listed Maplewood’s top upcoming challenges as recovering and enhancing the business district, addressing the escalating crime, addressing roads and infrastructure, rebuilding emergency services, lowering excessive taxes, fees, charges and abatements, making the community center self-sustainable and saving parks and trails.

She added that, if elected, she would prioritize REET, which she described as a one-program package addressing roads, emergency protections, economic development and taxes.

 

Slawik, 55, who is married to Mark Buckwheat, currently works part-time at Slawik Strategies, LLC and holds a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Minnesota, Humphry School of Public Affairs. 

Before she became mayor, Slawik was elected to seven, two-year terms as a state representative for the Maplewood area.

Slawik said that if she is re-elected, she will bring to office her experience “partnering with local businesses to grow Maplewood’s economic base,” “tackling the Maplewood Community Center’s large debt problem by forming a management partnership with the YMCA,” “engaging residents in police/community relations, developing a new city comprehensive plan, and partnering with Ramsey County to open the Fish Creek Greenway.”

When asked why she is running for re-election, Slawik said she wants to make sure Maplewood is “the best place to live, work and play.”

“In the next four years I will focus on what residents really want from our city government — responsiveness, integrity and a safe place to call home,” Slawik said.

Slawik listed public safety, economic redevelopment, transportation and neighborhood quality as the top challenges Maplewood faces.

She explained that Maplewood needs to utilize “community-based problem solving approaches to prevent crimes,” and must “meet emergency medical and fire services industry response times and increase prevention efforts.”

She added that Maplewood needs “creative solutions to reinvigorate the Maplewood Mall, St. John’s and Gladstone areas,” “street improvements need to be accelerated,” transit access needs to be expanded, and the quality of life for residents needs to be increased “by putting in place stronger code enforcement, progressive nuisance penalties, and rental housing ordinances.”

Slawik said that, if re-elected, she will prioritize economic development.

She said that while she has been mayor, there were “major expansions of the 3M Carleton Sciences Center and HealthEast Clinic and Specialty Center” in addition to the opening of many new business and housing options, however, even with this growth there have been challenges, such as Sears and other Maplewood Mall stores closing.

“The city is working with key stakeholders and residents to create a North End Vision Plan and framework that will ensure Maplewood as a hub of vital activity well into the future,” Slawik said.

 

 

Election Day is Nov. 6. Maplewood is made up of 13 precincts, each with its own polling place. To verify your precinct and voting location visit, www.pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

 

-Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com.

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