As a newcomer to Burnsville city politics, Suzanne Nguyen said she was surprised to even get her name on the ballot in November’s City Council election.
Surprise gave way to reality Tuesday, when Nguyen was sworn in for a four-year term on the five-member council.
After surviving the first cut, an August primary that halved the council field from eight candidates to four, Nguyen polled second among council candidates in the general election.
She finished behind incumbent Mary Sherry, who won re-election to a second term. Nguyen outpolled former Council Member Steve Cherney and Bruce Johnson to win a seat vacated by the retirement of two-term Council Member Dan Gustafson. The election also returned to office Mayor Elizabeth Kautz, who defeated challenger Jerry Willenburg.
“I thought the council had always been doing a good job,” said Nguyen, a 12-year Burnsville resident, “but seeing there was an open seat, I thought maybe I had something to contribute.”
Nguyen (pronounced “Win”) said she and her campaign volunteers worked hard for the victory.
“I personally hit every single precinct” before the Nov. 6 election, said Nguyen, 50. “I made sure that I got out there to talk to everybody that I could.”
Nguyen said she also sought campaign advice from some old pros – Kautz, Gustafson and former Council Member and current County Commissioner Liz Workman.
Nguyen said her campaign preparation included watching archived meetings, reading documents on the city website and contacting City Hall staffers with questions.
“You have to get out there and do your research,” Nguyen said.
She says now, as she did during the campaign, that she has no axes to grind.
“I really come to the table without an agenda,” Nguyen said. “I’m just here to serve the people of Burnsville the best I can.”
Big tasks ahead for the aging city are property maintenance, park maintenance and attracting new families and businesses, Nguyen said.
She’s a classroom and Art Adventure volunteer at Echo Park Elementary in Burnsville, where her daughter Anna is in third grade. Nguyen is married to Son Nguyen, a physician at Park Nicollet Clinic in Burnsville.
Son is a Rosemount High School graduate whose parents also live in Burnsville, said Nguyen, who grew up in Minneapolis and lived in Edina before coming here.
“We’ve always enjoyed Burnsville,” she said. “There are a lot of parks here, which are great when you’re raising a family. We’ve enjoyed the school system (District 196). And most recently, I’m happy that we have some arts to offer – we have the Burnsville Performing Arts Center.
“We have the ice rink. A lot of the things we do are family-oriented. We love Buck Hill Ski Area. I think we have great businesses, and everything’s conveniently located.”
Nguyen is a Minneapolis Washburn High School graduate and one-time nightclub singer who works as a speech and language pathologist at alternative schools in the Minneapolis School District.
She’s new to city government but at home before an audience. Nguyen said she started singing professionally after high school, traveled a bit, sang with Top 40 bands in the Twin Cities and finished her career singing jazz standards.
“After I had my daughter, I more or less retired, I guess you could say,” Nguyen said. “But I did it for many, many years. It put me through college.”