There are two candidates running for mayor and four candidates running for three City Council seats in the city of Le Sueur.
The mayoral candidates are Shawn Kirby and David Scheiber. The council candidates are John Favolise, Scott Schlueter, Dave Swanberg and Nick Loose. The Le Sueur County News asked the candidates where they stand on some important local topics and issues, and their responses are recorded here. Nick Loose did not respond to the questionnaire by the deadline for this article.
Why are you running?
Shawn Kirby (mayoral candidate): I’ve been a member of this community for 35 years and have raised my family here and have sent my children and grandchildren through the private and public school programs. I enjoy this community and believe in it. I’m an Eagle Scout, have served on many community groups and organizations and have been an officer in many. I also served as president of the Minnesota Funeral Directors Association and have been a tested leader my entire life. Over the past couple of years, I have served on the Le Sueur City Council and we have seen some exciting changes and improvements to the community. CSAH 22 road project through Le Sueur, new sidewalks in fall 2019. We are in the beginning of a revitalization project with our mall and Main Street. I want to continue this growth and revitalization into the next four years serving as your mayor.
David Scheiber (mayoral candidate): I am running because we need a change in leadership in Le Sueur. There are a lot of things that need to be addressed.
John Favolise (council candidate): I am running for a second term on City Council to continue the work started in 2017. Over the past 4 years City Council has achieved many of its goals. We have updated our city code to reflect the Le Sueur Comprehensive Plan, created and implemented the following plans; Le Sueur Downtown Master Plan, Parks & Trails Plan, Capital Improvement Plans, Capital Equipment Plans, Street Plans, Downtown Master Plan, and Water Plan. These plans guide the Council and Staff in timelines for accomplishing goals that are covered in our cities Comprehensive Plan. These plans are active and running, however, there are many decisions to be made to further progress toward these goals and I am passionate about want to continue be a part of Le Sueur’s revitalization process.
Scott Schlueter (council candidate): Serving on the Planning Commission from 2008-19 gave me the opportunity to be involved in many aspects of short and long term planning, goals, and projects and activities for the City of Le Sueur. That included the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, updating zoning codes to meet that plan, and many proposed and some implemented developments. It also caused me to get involved in City Council and other Commissions and Boards activities. That in turn led me to serve a one year term on the Airport Commission, and then to serving on the City Council when a vacancy needed to be filled at the beginning of this year. I believe I have a qualified background in where the city has been in the past; knowledge of what our activities, strengths, weaknesses and goals are now; and the ability to help lead the city forward in what are going to be challenging times.
Dave Swanberg (council candidate): To serve the needs of the citizens in the city of Le Sueur. I’m at a chapter in my life where I feel a need to give back and I have the time, energy and experiences to contribute to local decision making. I moved here in 1986, newly married with my wife Deb and we’ve made Le Sueur our home for the past 30-plus years. It’s been a great place to raise a family — location, education, amenities. I want Le Sueur to continue to be a place where young families choose to live.
What do you consider to be the biggest issue facing the city and how would you address it in office?
Kirby: The immediate challenge to our community is the same challenge we face at the state, federal and international level. How do we keep business vibrant, productive, and profitable during this pandemic? How do we keep our schools safe and productive for our students, teachers, parents and administrators? How do we keep our public buildings running safely and economically, (particularly the Community Center)? First, we need our community to feel confident and safe doing business, going to school and using our facilities. We can do this by making sure everyone has the proper equipment, resources and supplies to do safe tasks. Second, during the pandemic, we need to continue to encourage our citizens to patronize businesses in a safe manner, use our restaurants and use our recreational facilities in a safe way. Third, our city can be a tremendous resource for questions and solutions for the uncertain and apprehensive times.
Scheiber: I would say money or finances. The budget is going to have to be looked at, maybe rather than increase property taxes, trim the budget and staff. There also needs to be communication with the state and non-profits to receive finances to complete projects in Le Sueur.
Favolise: I believe that housing is the biggest issue Le Sueur faces at this time. Increasing housing will add to the city’s tax base over all and will help spread out the tax burden. Every house built and sold helps increase the city’s tax base and spread the tax burden across a larger population. If re-elected I would petition the Mayor and City Council to let me keep my positions on EDA, RPAC and P&B. Being a City Council liaison to these three key boards and committees helps facilitate decisions and recommendations to the rest of City Council.
Schlueter: Growth in affordable housing. We need to support growing a population base that will get more students in our public schools, create a larger more diverse tax base to support our budgetary needs for City services, and get more people living in town to support our local businesses. I would address it by working internally with the Economic Development Authority (EDA), the Planning Commission, and City staff to create those opportunities; working externally with the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, Region 9 Development Commission, and our State Legislative representatives to help secure the funds and grants needed; and also working externally with developers and landowners interested in helping to fill that need for affordable housing.
Swanberg: Finding a balance between raising taxes and continuing to make improvements. Obviously, no one wants to see their taxes increase so it will be important to approach all issues with a fiscally responsible mindset. Having a clear vision and a long-term plan in place to ensure that Le Sueur remains a viable place to run a business, live and raise a family.
Housing shortages remain an issue in the city. How can the city best promote affordable housing?
Kirby: All though there are some promising things happening in the rental and leasing market. Generating some traction in the housing market continues to be a challenge in our community. First, we need to continue to offer tax and utility hook up incentives for our builders and/or buyers. Second, buyers will be attracted to our community with continued improvements in our roads, services, recreational facilities, schools and vibrant downtown business. This will help create a demand side of housing that will work to the advantage of our community.
Scheiber: Put more publicity about it out there to inform the citizens and also try to inquire interest into outside parties for funding.
Favolise: Housing was a major topic during the 2016 elections. City Council and staff identified and have implemented changes to our city code with special attention to zoning and planning to attract more residents and businesses. Some additional changes include enforcement of rental property licensing, hiring a full time building inspector, selling EDA owned property to local builders and supporting a deal that ultimately sold the downtown mall to a developer who will help bring more retail to our town and adds 14 second floor apartments. If re-elected I would continue the roll of a City Council Member in setting policies and making decisions that support Le Sueur’s Comprehensive Plan. As an EDA member, I would continue to support the wishes of the Council to increase housing by supporting the acquisition of land for development, fostering relationships with home builders that can build 6 or more homes a year.
Schlueter: Affordable housing not only is a benefit for those looking for housing, it is a benefit to the city in being an optimal use of city infrastructure and other resources. Affordable housing creates a broader tax base, allows the city to design and utilize the water and wastewater systems more efficiently, and gives families with school aged children an affordable place to live in our community. The Comprehensive Plan is the guide the city needs to follow in housing development, and as a living document, we need to assure that as it is updated affordable housing stays in the forefront. While the temptation in the past may have tended to be more lenient in allowing desires for more lucrative higher end developments to proceed, we now have an implemented document to be followed. Having that information and guidance upfront will promote that proposed future development plans include affordable housing.
Swanberg: Continue to work with local contractors to try and provide a variety of housing options to retain and attract families. I imagine the issue is more complex and I look forward to learning more about it and working towards a solution.
What does the city need to do better to promote future growth?
Kirby: I feel this was addressed in the previous question. We live in a community that can grow but it needs two things so they can work together. If we make our community attractive, inviting, and charming. It will enhance the growth of our community. We need to collaborate with our local Economic Development Authority, Chamber of Commerce, our businesses, and our community and civic organizations. We need to work together with our schools and churches and together promote our community and promote our youth activities, after all these are our future business and community leaders.
Scheiber: Better city management.
Favolise: Housing is again my answer to future growth in Le Sueur and is extremely important to the school district and its enrollment. Increased tax base will increase opportunities for our youth. Retention is key to growth. If we support families and their children with interests though our parks and trails, Community Center, neighborhood connectivity and programs and provide the best quality of service that we can afford we will have retention. Anything beyond retention is growth. It is easier to market to those that know you than to those that don’t providing you are presenting quality service.
Schlueter: Over the past few years the city has begun putting in place the things that will allow us to successfully promote future growth. The Comprehensive Plan approved in October of 2016 is a living, working document setting forth the strategic vision for the future of the city. The Zoning Code is updated, the downtown master plan is underway and Main Street is set to connect both sides of our downtown in the near future. When we have the transportation and future land use plans finalized and adopted, everything should be in place for the Planning Commission to work with private developers and their plans, and the EDA to implement or support plans that a private developer couldn’t do on their own. The final piece that we will need in promotion of future growth of the city is continued public participation in keeping the Comprehensive Plan relevant.
Swanberg: I would go back to the importance of having a clear vision and long-term plan in place to guide the decisions a city government faces. Work on strengthening partnerships with current industries, business owners and the school district, which are important aspects of a healthy and thriving community. And then market the many positive assets the city has to offer to prospective businesses and families.
What do you see as the top infrastructure needs in the city and what should be done to solve them?
Kirby: First, the roads and sidewalks in our community needed to be addressed for years. In the past few years, we have replaced city sidewalks in the school areas and other areas of the city; CSAH 22 project is almost completed within the city. Our city does have a detailed comprehensive plan, objectives and goals. This plan also includes a 10-year city road maintenance and replacement program. Second, Le Sueur Community Center has been a landmark of this community for almost 50 years. Finding the right metrics for charging memberships, admission fees and subsidies from the city is a tough balancing act. As our facilities get older, more maintenance needs to be addressed. Even with COVID-19 shutting down this facility, it’s put us in a financial challenge. We have received stimulus assistance from the state but will be continuing to market, promote and spotlight this community treasure as we move forward.
Scheiber: I would say the streets. There is going to be a need to secure funding and there needs to be better engineering involved.
Favolise: Over the past four years, City Council and staff have identified our infrastructure needs and created plans and implemented action on the following: 10-year Streets Plan full replace, repair, maintain. Sewer plan, water plan (new well, new water tower, etc), Sidewalk plan, Electrical Plan (convert above ground to below) and waste water treatment plan and the Le Sueur Airport expansion plan. If re-elected I would continue to support decisions and policies that would further these plans and stay on our projected schedules for each item. Each of these items are in support of the Le Sueur Comprehensive Plan.
Schlueter: Of the infrastructure that is under the city’s control plans are in place, or in the works, for the infrastructure relating to streets, water, electricity, and storm water retention. Appropriate funding and adjustments to timelines to meet the funding for those projects is feasible. Wastewater treatment, and the cost associated with it, is going to be one of our most pressing issues in the near future. Unlike the other infrastructure where we can schedule workarounds or delays to projects, this one needs to be addressed as it happens. Additional non-traditional revenue streams are going to need to be found to fund wastewater treatment going forward. One other top infrastructure need that is not under the city’s control is broadband access. The Blandin Foundation has an ongoing Broadband 2020 Annual Conference during the month of October — please participate if you can contribute knowledge or time.
Swanberg: In my opinion, our streets are the most visibly obvious concern. It appears that we have started the process of addressing our streets. I believe there is still more to do.