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Jennifer Cheesman said her move to the council is a natural progression. Bulletin photo by Jon Avise

St. Paul Park City Council candidate profile: Jennifer Cheesman

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Truth be told, St. Park City Councilwoman Jennifer Cheesman is a tad disappointed to be running uncontested for re-election next month.

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Cheesman, appointed by the council over the summer when former council member Steve Hunstad moved out of the city, is seeking her first full term in a field void of challengers to her and fellow incumbent Tim Jones.

"I think that while it was wonderful to be appointed by the city council, and I respect them all as residents and leaders in the community, there is something to be said for having the community choose you against someone else," Cheesman said in an interview.. "It validates, in some ways, your reason for being there and shows the people want you there - or at least a majority of people who vote."

But while Cheesman might be a newcomer to local government and re-election campaigns, she already has gained plenty of experience at St. Paul Park City Hall. The Target Corp. employee wasted little time in diving into community service after moving her family from Minneapolis five years ago, joining - and then chairing for two years - the city's Parks and Recreation Commission before being appointed to the council in July.

Cheesman earlier this year was named the city's volunteer of the year for her work on the commission, where she pushed new programs like Unplugged August, a summer program aimed at getting families unhooked from electronic forms of entertainment, and Movies in the Park.

Now, she is turning her attention to the council, a move she said was "a natural evolution."

She says she'd like to see increased transparency from the city by doing things like posting the city's bills on its website. Cheesman said she would also like to conduct a periodic community survey to get a better idea of how residents feel about how the city is run.

Despite the economic realities facing St. Paul Park - falling state aid, rising property taxes and difficult budgeting decision - Cheesman said there isn't really a contentious issue facing the city at present.

The uncontested council race, she said, does have its benefits - in addition to the lack of an opponent - allowing her to learn the ropes as a St. Paul Park City Council member without the worry of a first campaign.

"It has really been to my advantage so I can learn," she said. "I have the time to really dig in."

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