Rosemount City Council 2016 primary election candidates

Vanessa Demuth
Vanessa Demuth
Jeff Weisensel
Jeff Weisensel
Brenda Rivera
Brenda Rivera
Wade Miller
Wade Miller
Heidi Freske
Heidi Freske

Five candidates are running for Rosemount City Council in the Aug. 9 primary election. The top four vote-getters will compete for two, four-year terms in the November general election.

Incumbents Vanessa Demuth and Jeff Weisensel are running against challengers Heidi Freske, Wade Miller and Brenda Rivera.

Here are the candidates’ responses to a Sun Thisweek and Dakota County Tribune questionnaire.

Vanessa Demuth

Age: 47

Address: 13466 Danube Lane, Rosemount

Occupation: Geologist with Dakota County

Family: Married to Brian for 19 years, daughter Shale is a recent honor graduate of Rosemount High School and daughter Monique will be a junior at Rosemount High School

Qualifications: I was elected to the City Council in November 2012. I am a professional geologist with over 25 years’ experience and I work for Dakota County’s Environmental Resources Department. I am a State Registered Environmental Health Sanitarian and a State Certified Water Well Inspector. I was appointed to the Planning Commission and the Board of Appeals and Adjustment serving for four years. While serving on the City Council I served on the Metro Cities Water Policy Committee, Rosemount Port Authority, Rosemount Utility Commission and Dakota Communications Center alternate board member. I am also on the Leprechaun Days Committee.

Why are you seeking a position on the Rosemount City Council?

I am seeking re-election to the City Council because I believe I have the most to offer when it comes to protecting our drinking water. I have worked for 25 years as a geologist in the environmental field mainly on issues related to groundwater aquifers and drinking water quality. We must have a plentiful supply of water to attract businesses and jobs. Providing drinking water is an important function of our city government. We have invested heavily in municipal water wells, our water distribution system and water towers. There are ways to reduce our water use through conservation, alternate water sources and to enhance recharge to our aquifers. I am the City Council candidate best suited to work with staff, engineering companies and state agencies to ensure the future of our aquifers and water supply. I started the city’s Environment and Sustainability Taskforce together we will work on these challenges.

What is the most important issue facing the city? How would you resolve it?

We may be using our aquifers faster than they can replenish, if we don’t solve the problem the Metropolitan Council may consider having us use water from the Mississippi River. I have been looking for ways to use the Metropolitan Council’s treated effluent by industry, which will reduce use of the aquifer. I initiated obtaining a water conservation grant from Metropolitan Council; residents are eligible for a rebate when purchasing specific water saving appliances. Our city-wide water use increases three times in the summer months due to lawn watering. We have also received grant money for a master irrigation system controller that will assist in reducing city use of irrigation water on our green spaces and participating in this will be offered to the HOAs in the future. I am considering, requiring builders to use better topsoil that will reduce the water use for irrigation in new neighborhoods.

Assess the current effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the City Council. What can be done to build off what’s been done? What can be changed?

Good things are happening in Rosemount. Money magazine named Rosemount the 12th in the nation for “Best Places to Live 2015” and the fourth “Best Places to be a Kid.” Numerous new business have come to Rosemount and many others have expanded such as, Fluegels, Marcus Theatre, Flint Hills Resources to name a few. Grants and tax increment financing was used to foster the redevelopment of properties where two senior housing complexes have been constructed this year. We have begun the two-year process of updating our Comprehensive Plan which is a requirement of the Metropolitan Council. Feedback will be sought from residents and business owners through a series of meetings for future development and long-range planning in three study areas: the north rural residential, the southeast rural residential and downtown Rosemount. A vibrant downtown makes our community likely to attract a hotel which a hotel study determined we need.

After the failure of the May 2016 park bond referendum, do you think the city should add softball-sized fields, soccer-sized field and/or an indoor ice rink? Why or why not? If yes, how should the improvements be funded?

The following amenities have been added since I have been on council: three of the seven green fields at the Flint Hills Athletic Complex, two of the four softball fields at the UMore Ballfields, four tennis courts and the splash pad in Erickson Park, the Steeple Center improvements and the activity center addition. These amenities have been added in a fiscally responsible manner, the city portion of our property taxes are lower than they were in 2008. There is a need for more athletic amenities. We need to create a business friendly climate to attract more businesses here that will help fund the completion of our athletic field complexes with park dedication fees that will be paid with development and property taxes. We will need to get creative to meet our needs with partnerships with the private sector and applying for grant funding.

Heidi Freske

Age:  43

Occupation: Technology director with over 19 years of experience

Family: Husband Kyle, three boys: Payne, 15; Hunter, 5; Luke 4.

Qualifications: Earned my Bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in St. Paul. I have worked at BI WORLDWIDE for over 19 years in the technology division. Currently manage a department of 20-plus direct reports delivering technical solutions to Fortune 100 companies. I oversee a multi-million dollar budget and continue to increase revenue and profitability year over year.  I have been recognized for strong leadership skills, ability to work cross-functionally to complete corporate-wide initiatives and innovative thinking.

I have had the honor to organize charitable events for nonprofit organizations and private citizens. Volunteer at Feed My Starving Children, Second Harvest and RAAA.

Why are you seeking a position on the Rosemount City Council?  

I believe the council needs fresh perspective and a new voice that represents families with young children. I grew up here, graduated from Rosemount High School and have seen this community evolve over the past 30 years. The anticipated growth in the next 15 years requires self-promotion for new business opportunities, real progress to meet the city’s goals and continued smart investments for all generations. My goal is to ensure the rich traditions of Rosemount continue, while ensuring we are on the right track for the future. We need to make sure our children have a community they can be proud to call their hometown. My leadership skills, collaborative approach and new energy will be an asset to the city.

What is the most important issue facing the city? How would you resolve it?

Rosemount needs to focus on economic development and planning for growth. We have a lot of open space for new business development. Zoning needs to be evaluated to ensure we are attracting the right businesses with high paying jobs, therefore increasing revenues to the city. As our surrounding neighbors become more land-locked, we should be strategically promoting our city to attract potential suitors. Shakopee is a great example of great growth in the past 20 years, why not Rosemount! As Rosemount continues to grow, we need to make sure the money stays in our city. We should be proactively looking to expand in the area of retail, small business, entertainment and hospitality.

Assess the current effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the City Council. What can be done to build off what’s been done? What can be changed?

The council has done a nice job developing a vision for our city. Rosemount is a great place to raise a family with our schools, neighborhoods and parks and recreation system. Proactively holding planning sessions to share city planning ideas and gain feedback is good. This could be expanded by using online tools. Sending a simple survey is a great way to engage busy citizens and allows for hard data to get a pulse on the community.

We need to better promote ourselves for economic development. Rosemount has a lot to offer with our people, community and improving transit options. There is no reason why we can’t be a destination for businesses.

Finally, continue focusing on growth for all generations. The Steeple Center and senior living facilities are fantastic additions.  We need to ensure there are places for our kids to go to for their youth activities and entertainment.

After the failure of the May 2016 park bond referendum, do you think the city should add softball-sized fields, soccer-sized field and/or an indoor ice rink? Why or why not? If yes, how should the improvements be funded?

Yes, we should be investing in facilities to support our youth. In doing so, we need to be very transparent on what is included, the costs and the impacts to each Rosemount citizen. The need is only going to increase with the growth in our city. We should be investigating potential partnerships with current and potential businesses to help offset costs, as well as engaging the youth organizations. The longer we wait, the more costly it will be for everyone. We owe it to our children and to future generations.  These facilities will result in more local events, which will generate more revenue for Rosemount.

Wade Miller

Age: 43

Address: P.O. Box 286, Rosemount, MN 55068

Occupation: Management consultant

Family: Divorced with two boys: 7 and 12 years old.

Qualifications: I have been a Rosemount resident for the past 8 years. During that time I served on the Planning Commission for six years and currently serve on the Environment and Sustainability Task Force for the city of Rosemount. I also volunteer with the 360 Communities. I have my MBA in finance from the University of St. Thomas and have a solid professional record of helping cities and businesses succeed.

Why are you seeking a position on the Rosemount City Council?  

I am seeking a position on the Rosemount City Council because it is time to have new ideas to create a more livable city with economic growth. Residents in Rosemount still need to travel to neighboring cities to meet their needs and most residents in Rosemount have to commute long distances to work, while others still struggle to find a good job within a reasonable distance. I will work with businesses to help them become a successful part of our community. I will drive policies that will ensure that residents have the green space, accessibility to public and private facilities, and work to ensure that Rosemount becomes a destination place for people and families for sports, recreation, shopping and dining.

What is the most important issue facing the city? How would you resolve it?

Rosemount families are having to travel away from Rosemount to meet their basic needs, from recreation, dining, shopping, and work. Economic growth is too low and the living quality in Rosemount is depressed compared with neighboring towns due to the lack of public amenities and business growth. Seniors need to have the businesses and health care they depend on, while young families need to have recreation facilities and business growth (hotels, stores, pool and ice arena), which leads to families and other sports associations around Minnesota wanting to come to Rosemount. For hockey alone, Rosemount loses approximately $1.5 million per year in economic dollars because families have to go elsewhere to find ice time or play tournaments. Other activities have similar stories: money leaves our community to other cities. We need to invest in our community if we are going to see it grow and keep our dollars in Rosemount.

Assess the current effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the City Council. What can be done to build off what’s been done? What can be changed?

The current City Council is divided between those who do not see a need for investment and those who would take bolder steps to keep Rosemount from stagnating into a relative economic recession. While the focus on lowering property taxes has been pleasant enough for residents, many are seeing increases in costs in having to go elsewhere for youth activities, shopping, recreation, and dining that eat away any savings. We need to be smart about investing in community, but we also need to be willing to seize the opportunities to partner with businesses, youth associations and residents to move the city forward. The City Council has been good regarding financial discipline, but this hasn’t led to financial success. It is only through good investments that financial success comes about and it is time to invest in our community, including more environmentally sound infrastructure and an additional ice arena.

After the failure of the May 2016 park bond referendum, do you think the city should add softball-sized fields, soccer-sized field and/or an indoor ice rink? Why or why not? If yes, how should the improvements be funded?

I was saddened to see the campaign of misinformation used to scare residents into voting against the referendum. The financials of a second sheet of ice show a positive return on the investment. But it wasn’t just the loss of these facilities that hurts Rosemount, it is the loss of businesses who will choose to locate in other cities which have made the investment. It is the loss of family time for people spending more hours on the road to travel to other cities to have their needs met, and it is the loss in the equity of our homes. RAHA wants the city partnership because the lower interest rate means lower costs and because the city already has staff for maintenance and operation of the current ice arena. The city partnership is a better financial position because the infrastructure is in place and the marginal cost is lower.

Brenda Rivera

Age: 51

Address: 2358 Birch Street W., Rosemount

Occupation: Project manager at Progressive Rail Inc.

Family: Married to Rick Rivera for 21 years who is a captain for the Minneapolis Fire Department and first sergeant in the Minnesota National Guard. Three adult children, Chelsea Hammer (son-in-law Nick Hammer), Ciara Rivera, Noah Rivera and two grandchildren, Isabella and Cole Hammer.

Qualifications: I graduated with two Bachelor’s degrees in political science and sociology from the University of Nebraska-Kearney and will earn my Master’s degree in public affairs this spring from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Recently appointed by the city of Rosemount to serve on the Facilities Task Force; Beyond the Yellow Ribbon; League of Railway Industry Women current member; served on the Flint Hills Community Advisory Council; Eagan Athletic Association Board of Directors member prior to moving to Rosemount; mission trip chaperone to New Jersey for Hurricane Sandy Relief; taught Sunday School for several years, and coached youth soccer.

Why are you seeking a position on the Rosemount City Council?

As a resident of Rosemount since 2009, I am running for Rosemount City Council to bring a positive new perspective to the council. My main areas of focus would be to: 1) Provide more economic development needed to increase our tax base in order to pay for future city projects. 2) Engage the community members, let them know they have a voice when it comes to decision making. 3) Create more opportunities for new job growth, allow people to stay local when they seek employment. 4) Promote diversity, we should be representing all of our community members. 5) Limit tax increases on homeowners, there are other ways to allocate resources for the city’s budget. 6) Encourage new visions for the future of Rosemount by listening to what our community members feel is important to them and their families who have chosen to make Rosemount their home.

What is the most important issue facing the city? How would you resolve it?

Growing up in a small Nebraska town I can appreciate why so many residents like that aspect of Rosemount. The Metropolitan Council projects Rosemount’s 2040 population to reach nearly 38,000 people, 62 percent higher than our current population of 23,413. In order to support this type of large growth we need to be willing to bring in additional retail and professional office businesses into Rosemount. Promoting our community could include offering incentives to prospective businesses, ensuring a workforce and a great quality of life. Another strong component is to create a Chamber of Commerce or encourage a regional chamber to start a local chapter here. Chambers provide numerous benefits to local businesses, including a voice in government. In recent conversations with several community members many of them admit they spend their hard earned money in neighboring communities versus in Rosemount due to the lack of choices they have here.

Assess the current effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the City Council. What can be done to build off what’s been done? What can be changed?

As a community member, you realize that not every decision made by the City Council can be voted on by the community or nothing would ever get done. We place our trust in our local government that they are making decisions based on the will of the people they serve and the decisions that are made are based on research and fact finding prior to the final voting process by the council. One of the most important aspects between local government officials and their constituents is communication. If important decisions are going to made by the City Council then educate your public prior as to why it’s important, who is going to be affected by it and how it will make a difference in future years to come. By doing so, the public will have more buy in and trust in City Council decisions and will appreciate the open communication.

After the failure of the May 2016 park bond referendum, do you think the city should add softball-sized fields, soccer-sized field and/or an indoor ice rink? Why or why not? If yes, how should the improvements be funded?

As a parent of kids who participated in sports, I realize all of the positive reasons to keep them engaged; physical activity, social skills, self-esteem and confidence. The community members I have spoken to want more sports facilities for Rosemount’s youth, however, not all taxpayers feel this way and do not want to be forced to subsidize facilities they are not going to utilize. The most expensive item to add is the indoor ice rink. After researching how other communities have been able to offer this amenity, I am convinced we should encourage investors to build a private facility similar to the current “The Pond” ice rink. A private ice rink facility would pay federal, state and local taxes on profits from patrons who voluntarily pay to use the facility vs. a municipal facility which is exempt from paying taxes and consumes taxes if the revenue does not cover expenses.

Jeff Weisensel

Age: 57

Address: 13815 Danbury Court

Occupation: Construction project manager

Family: Kathy (married 34 years), adult children Ashley, Kelsey, Lindsey

Qualifications: Rosemount Council since 2008; vice mayor 2009, 2013; Port Authority since 2008; chair 2010-current; Youth Commission council liaison 2011-current; Downtown Redevelopment Task Force 2016; Planning Commission 1997-2004, Chair 2001-2004; Dakota Communication Center Board of Directors 2010-current; Dakota County 4-H finance director 2002-2012;  Dakota County Extension Committee chair 2000-2004; BS civil engineering, MS project management, UW-Platteville; NLCU Leadership Certificate; American Society of Civil Engineers; Project Management Institute; Dakota County 4-H County and project leader, 33 years; Red Cross-Safety Mobile, blood donor 13-plus gallons; SOTV Lutheran Church Building Committee; Hearts and Hammers, house captain 2009-2014; RAAA coach six years; Eagle Scout.

Why are you seeking a position on the Rosemount City Council?

Essentially, it is to serve our community. Trained as a civil engineer and growing up in the Scouting and 4-H programs has given me a foundation of service oriented skills and activities for my community. Serving in the various leadership roles I currently hold, I enjoy utilizing my problem solving skills and collaborative partnering to build relationships as well as amenities for a stronger community. Much smaller than most of our neighboring communities, we need to be more creative, more diligent and more fiscally restrained at times to live within our ability to pay. Getting more “bang for our buck” rings as true today as it did eight years ago when some friends and neighbors asked me to first run.

What is the most important issue facing the city? How would you resolve it?

Increasing the city’s tax capacity so property taxes used as revenue to provide essential city services, equipment and capital infrastructure are spread across the broadest number and classes or types of properties. Currently, approximately 65 percent of tax revenue comes from residential property with the remaining from mainly commercial, industrial and agricultural property. A strategy to increase the number of commercial and retail buildings is essential to broaden the tax base, increasing its revenue percentage. Additionally, these businesses provide more retail opportunities for our residents, create a stronger job and housing market and sense of community. While market forces have not fully ripened in our local market, we actively work with our state and regional economic development partnerships like Greater MSP for opportunities as well as present a strong online city presence for site selectors. We continue building on a range of successes like Proto Labs, Sweet Harvest, Culvers, and Chipotle/Arbys.

Assess the current effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the City Council. What can be done to build off what’s been done? What can be changed?

During a recent council bike tour of our parks, we were joined by a neighboring community state senator who said he was amazed at our council’s ability to work together and willingness to go out together in the community and engage residents.  Apparently, this was unusual in his experience with councils. You will find our council members in the community, active in various groups and activities that help inform each other and staff of needs and concerns. While I would say the council is effective as noted by our budget results over multiple years, I see our challenges with increasing engagement and communications with residents.  We are working to gather information to address future development needs for the upcoming 2040 Comprehensive Plan. We initiated a data and metrics program to identify trends and performance to assist in communicating with residents on services and meeting expectations.

After the failure of the May 2016 park bond referendum, do you think the city should add softball-sized fields, soccer-sized field and/or an indoor ice rink? Why or why not? If yes, how should the improvements be funded?  

Residents did not want to take on additional debt service to provide or advance the listed facilities earlier than our ability to pay. The youth athletic programs are experiencing higher participation rates creating adverse scheduling and facility impacts.  Currently, the softball and soccer fields are designed as multi-phased installation in the future depending on funding availability and prioritization. Regarding the indoor ice rink, we have one public and one private facility in town. Depending on investors and partnerships, it appears a private indoor ice rink could be a reality sooner than a public funded/city supported facility.  Each of the respective youth organizations, RAHA and RAAA will be exploring additional opportunities in neighboring communities and their facilities as their membership is comprised of youth from those cities as well as Rosemount.