UPDATE: Eight candidates file for Northfield City Council election - Northfield MN: Local

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UPDATE: Eight candidates file for Northfield City Council election

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Posted: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 6:00 pm

(Update: This story has been updated to reflect that Jeremy Bishop filed for Ward I while Aaron Reuvers withdrew from the at-large race.)

So far, eight Northfield residents have filed for the upcoming Northfield City Council election this fall.

Councilor Suzie Nakasian is running again for the Ward 1 seat of the Northfield City Council. Nakasian has served on the council since 2010, participating in the Downtown Parking Subcommittee, the Northfield Grass Roots Transit Initiative and the Rice/Steele County 911 Joint Powers Board.

She said her main priorities are economic development and job creation.

“I’m excited by what we’re doing to attract new businesses into the community,” she said. “It’s a privilege to serve on the city council, and I’m eager to continue what we’ve started.”

Fellow councilor Rhonda Pownell has also filed to run for her at-large seat. Pownell was first elected to the council in 2008 and has been involved in the Economic Development Authority, the Fire Service Study Group and the Northfield Fire Relief Association, as well as acting as a board member for the League of Minnesota Cities.

Pownell said her main priorities are economic development and core city services such as the Police Department, Fire Department, streets and sewers. She added that many projects have already been started that she wants to continue, using the experience she’s gained working on the council so far.

“It’s important to have people on the council that are committed to seeing work get done, for the good of the community,” she said. “It takes a long time to move some of those initiatives forward, and we still have a lot to do. I’m committed to doing the work.”

Running against Pownell is Dale Gehring, who has lived in Northfield with his family for the past 13 years. He works in insurance, sits on the Economic Development Authority and is chairman of the Northfield Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. He recently ran against Patrick Ganey for the Ward 4 council seat in 2010 that Peterson White now occupies.

Gehring said he has thought about running for some time, after watching how inefficiently the City Council currently functions.

Gehring has several areas he hopes to focus on if he’s elected, he said, such as expanding jobs and the tax base, following the city charter more closely, staying more on track when it comes to city budgets and encouraging more citizen involvement. The most important part of his platform, though, is ensuring councilors are better at working together, compromising and getting things done in Northfield.

“Something needs to be done, and nothing’s getting done right now,” he said.

Another candidate running for the at-large seat is Jon Denison, who served on the council from 2006-2010. Denison has lived in Northfield his whole life and works as a nursing assistant at the Northfield Care Center.

He said he’s running because he’s disappointed with how the council has behaved recently, especially regarding its decision to hire an out-of-town attorney for its legal needs.

“The council and Rhonda Pownell are out of touch with the community,” he said.

He said if elected, his biggest priority would be addressing the questions of hiring the city’s attorneys and its new City Administrator, since he said he doubts an administrator will be hired any time soon.

The final at-large candidate is Neka Sharp, who filed last Tuesday.

Councilor Jessica Peterson White has also filed for fall’s election as the Ward 4 candidate. She was appointed as the Ward 4 council representative in November 2012 and was elected in a special election last year to fill the one year remaining in the term. During her time on the council, she has been involved on the Convention and Visitors Bureau. She also has experience as a Rice County commissioner, planning commissioner and community organizer.

Peterson White said her main priorities are creating strong financial policies for the city, investing in public safety and infrastructure, and helping Northfield’s CVB board, Chamber of Commerce and Northfield Downtown Development Corporation work together for a stronger city.

“I’m running because I continue to be committed to helping move Northfield forward in a positive way,” she said.

In addition, Joe Gasior has filed as a Ward 1 candidate. Gasior ran for the at-large position in last year's election but didn't make it past the primary. He is an electrical engineering manager at MOM Brands (formerly Malt-O-Meal) and has experience on the City of Waite Park Parks Board and the Northfield Family YMCA Site and Facilities committee.

Another Ward I candidate is Jeremy Bishop, who filed Tuesday.

At-large candidate Aaron Reuvers announced his withdrawal from the race Tuesday as well.

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  • Discuss

Welcome to the discussion.


  • Northfieldtad1 posted at 7:19 pm on Tue, Jun 3, 2014.

    Northfieldtad1 Posts: 50

    How come Suzy N gets a bunch of attention at the top of the story and her opponents are mentioned as an afterthought at the end? Hardly seems fair. Really, all candidates should be mentioned at the very beginning. That seems most fair.

  • steakholder posted at 10:45 am on Wed, May 28, 2014.

    steakholder Posts: 1370

    By the way..I'm still encouraging all candidates to publicly state that the LWV tries to hold debates this year.....they will boycott them

    It appears that the Local Chapter is run by relatives of Jessica Peterson White, and that they even cherry picked questions, and the moderator was anything but neutral.

    Isn't there some other less biased group that can run the debates? Or, maybe we should let one of the other candidates have their mom run the debates this year?

  • steakholder posted at 9:15 am on Wed, May 28, 2014.

    steakholder Posts: 1370

    Good point,, so far..Peterson White is unopposed.

  • isthereprogress posted at 8:25 am on Wed, May 28, 2014.

    isthereprogress Posts: 35

    Joe Gasior is an intelligent guy and an engineer at MOM Brands. He deserves to be

    supported in ward 1. Rhonda Pownell is in trouble for the at-large seat. They seem to

    be lining up to run against her. Personally, I would like to see Mr. Gehring run in

    ward 4 against Peterson-White. I think he could beat her. Tiger Trail is THE issue!

  • steakholder posted at 7:39 am on Wed, May 28, 2014.

    steakholder Posts: 1370

    By the way, did anyone notice that Jessica Peterson White's father is now on the Charter Commission?

  • steakholder posted at 7:37 am on Wed, May 28, 2014.

    steakholder Posts: 1370

    My understanding is that she goes to every NDDC meeting. Her actions suggest that she's much more concerned about the NDDC than she is about our actual boards and commissions, which no longer have council liaisons.

    Apparently we don't have time to include the parks board in a bridge square remodel, but we have time to be in cahoots with the NDDC.

    Peterson White is a "downtown" councilor, and that's pretty obvious in her actions.

    Regarding financial policies...she's up to her neck in the TIger Trail, and that project has been the poster child for bad financial policy.

    But this is what politicians do. They do whatever they want for four years, then when an election comes around, the elaborate on what they've supposedly done, and they start throwing around all the buzz words....

    financial policies, core services, job creation, economic development, the same things they said before the last election...after which, they went off and did something completely different

    How are we supposed to believe the pre election claims of a councilor who says that it's unethical for her to make promises?

  • Hopeful posted at 6:38 am on Wed, May 28, 2014.

    Hopeful Posts: 220

    "Peterson White said her main priorities are creating strong financial policies for the city, investing in public safety and infrastructure, and helping Northfield’s CVB board, Chamber of Commerce and Northfield Downtown Development Corporation work together for a stronger city."

    1) Strong financial policies is not spending millions of dollars on a small section of bike trail that only a few people want.
    2) The CVB, Chamber and NDDC are not city commissions therefore Ms. PW should not have her nose in their business as a council member. If she wants a say on how those organizations are run then she should join their boards.

  • steakholder posted at 8:46 am on Tue, May 27, 2014.

    steakholder Posts: 1370

    I feel sorry for the candidates who supported the tiger trail and now have to run for office this fall!

    Especially in a city wide race?

    85% of Northfielders don't support spending any money on the TIger Trail (according to college student)

    That means 17,000 northfielders think the project is a waste.


  • steakholder posted at 5:25 pm on Fri, May 23, 2014.

    steakholder Posts: 1370

    Rhonda Pownell says her priorities are economic development, and core services.

    During at least two council meetings where there were long discussions regarding myriad issues with the TIger Trail, she expressed her frustration that there were other important issues for the council to get to.

    In both cases, she subsequently voted with the other 3 Tiger Trail supporters on the council to keep the Tiger Trail project moving.

    If Ms Pownell really wants to focus on other things, the answer to her dilemna seems obvious.

    Simply vote against the Tiger Trail, kill the project, and move on to these things that she keeps claiming are her priorities, and which she so desperately wants to get to.

    By not taking this action, she forces me to assume that either she considers the Tiger Trail to be a core city service or economic development, or that she really does not want to focus on economic development and core priorities, but is in fact happy to just be trying to advance the Tiger Trail.

  • steakholder posted at 3:35 pm on Fri, May 23, 2014.

    steakholder Posts: 1370

    I think we need to continue to point out the discrepencies between what candidates say, and what they do.

    Jessica Peterson White says she wants the city to have sound financial policies?

    Then she votes to add the Tiger Trail to the city budget after public comment, and totally in contradiction to the city's long established standard operating procedures.

    She sits at a meeting and says she's shocked that people would think the council would spend more than the .7 million the city has budgeted, but then at the last meeting, she says it would be unethical for her to promise, and it appears also to even give us any assurance, that they aren't planning to spend another million dollars on the Tiger Trail next year.

    Lastly, that after having lengthy discussions about selling the key property to a private business, she is part of a sudden about face to build a public plaza with no discussion or rationalization for any need for that expenditure.

    My opinion is that even if she could identify or create a sound financial policy, there seems to be question as to whether she would follow it.

    I assume that she could not promise us that she would follow the city's financial policies, because she said making a promise to us would be unethical?

    Kind of a conundrum huh?

  • steakholder posted at 7:30 am on Fri, May 23, 2014.

    steakholder Posts: 1370

    Am I mistken, or wasn't Suzy Nakasian one of the architects of our lovely 300+ page Land Development Code, which is so restrictive that it arguably restricts job creation and economic development.

  • Hopeful posted at 6:38 am on Fri, May 23, 2014.

    Hopeful Posts: 220

    "She (Suzie) said her main priorities are economic development and job creation."

    Typical campaign speak - tell em what they want to hear and don't follow through later. Her track record doesn't match her words. What has she done in her last term to create jobs or economic development? Instead she wastes taxpayers money and staff time on a munlt-million dollar boondoggle called Tiger Trail.

    In order for the City as a whole to move forward, build a reputation for being open for business and getting the work of the people done, we must see a turn-over of people on the council. There are four members on the council who can not see past one issue (Tiger Trail), do not listen to the masses when they say they don't want this project yet they push it forward anyways.

    I had high hopes for her when she initially ran for the council but am have come up disappointed time and time again.


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