Tuesday, November 5 marks Election Day, and here’s what you need to know before heading to the polls:
This year’s election is an off-year election, which means there will be no presidential or mid-term elections on the ballot. Here in St. Ansgar, really the only elections of consequence are for the mayor’s office, city council, and a couple of incumbents running unapposed for school board seats.
St. Ansgar has the mayor’s race and a few city council chairs up for grabs. The mayors race has one challenger running against the incumbent mayor, and three candidates are set to run for council.
Three seats are open on the council – those of Rose Krahenbuhl, Paul Groth and Jason Squier. None of these three are running for re-election, so barring a slew of write-in votes, St. Ansgar will be looking at three new faces on the council in 2020.
Only three people—Sam Heimer, Myrna Jorgensen and Chris Maiers—are running for the three open seats as well, so don’t expect much drama in this race.
Incumbent Mayor Norm Johnson is finishing up his first term in office this year, after getting elected in 2017. Johnson is being challenged by Keith Horgen, a former city council member. The EJ talked with both candidates to get their positions:
Why are you running, and why should St. Ansgar elect you?
Johnson: It takes more than two years to understand what’s going on. That’s the reason I’m running again. Im just finishing my first term, and it was a learning curve so I think I needed to run again. And, I’m getting things done—slowly—and I know there’s a few people questioning why I did a few things, but we need to be fiscally responsible and I think that’s my biggest goal. We want to continue growing, and we’ve got to do it in a fiscally responsible manner.
Horgen: Well, because I’ve never been mayor before. Everybody should be before they die. And I have some ideas that I think would be good for St. Ansgar. Sewer and water has been put off for quite a while, we’ve got street issues, among other things. It’s important to me that we start making plans and figure out how we’re going to do what we’re going to do, and how we’re going to pay for it. Hopefully we can get some grant money, and come up with a plan that’s viable for St. Ansgar’s waste water.
What experience or expertise would you bring to the office?
Johnson: I’ve gained an understanding of the way city government works. You can’t operate a city in the same manner you run a business because of the government rules. I’m understanding more of what they require, and sometimes you have to do things that are mandated whether you want to do them or not. But I think we’ve streamlined a few things, I understand a lot more of how TIF operates — TIF requires a debt. And I’m not anti-debt, but yet I am. We need to be cautious with our debt, so that it’s beneficial to us. Bu I think I’ve gained some knowledge. Even though I’ve had 30 years of business experience, it’s a little different.
Horgen: I sat on the city council for a couple of terms, and I’ve been interested in who’s going on in the city of St. Ansgar—it’s my home town, it’s where I grew up. St. Ansgar is kind of a unique little community and we need to keep it growing. And if we don’t prepare for growth, we can’t grow.
How do you view St. Ansgar’s current direction?
Johnson: I think we’re going in the right direction, but we might have a tendency to get the cart ahead of the horse. We have to continue to grow, but it goes back to “how do we grow properly?”. We can’t just grow for growth’s sake, we have to grow to make things right, and do it right.
Horgen: I think the direction of St. Ansgar has been very good. There have been a lot of good people that sat on councils in St. Ansgar, and came up with good ideas and followed through on them but we need to continue to do that. If we want more families and housing in town, we have to have the infrastructure to support that.
Do you consider yourself conservative or progressive and how will that shape your decisions?
Johnson: Being conservative isn’t a bad thing. I think what a lot of people don’t understand, is that we’re at our limits of our capacity for borrowing, and we have to make sure what we do, it isn’t just borrowing. We have to make sure what we do borrow leads us in the right direction.
Horgen: I’m a progressively conservative person. I’m kind of down the middle of the road. We need to look at what’s good for the majority of the people in the community. I don’t worry about the other factions that are going to be taken care of as well, as long of the majority of the people are getting what they need.
What’s the number one problem facing St. Ansgar?
Johnson: Our number one problem right now is the lagoon, and our infrastructure. The lagoon situation – we’re going to have to do something because we’re at our capacity, and we don’t want to be forced by the DNR to do something, we want to be able to work it out to where we’re going to get it done. And I know it’s going to cost. There’s no way around it — and everybody knows that. The answer for it, I don’t know what it is, but we’ve got to do some research and there are options out there. But we’re going to get a workshop pulled together with some people that understand what’s going on.
Horgen: Number one problem, I believe is sewer and water, and getting on a street repair program. They are the most costly things that are going to happen. As far as things for human development, St. Ansgar has been fairly progressive with that. We’ve been lucky enough to keep the school in town, we do have some things in our small town that make young families want to be here, and that’s the way we need to continue in my opinion.