St. Paul Park Mayor John Hunziker: Experience key in tough times“I have the experience and I have the time to do it,” Mayor John Hunziker said as he seeks re-election to another term.
St. Paul Park Mayor John Hunziker remembers door-knocking during one of his first campaigns for local office in the early-1980s, when he met an elderly woman getting by on her Social Security checks and little else.
“It’s those people that remain in your mind,” Hunziker said in a recent interview.
Seeking his fifth, non-consecutive term as the small city’s mayor, Hunziker said it is residents like the woman he described that help guide him in his philosophy toward governing St. Paul Park. That meeting, more than 25 years ago, came as he knocked on 2,000-odd doors in one of the first of many successful campaigns Hunziker has run over the past three decades.
It is a local political career that the retired cabinet maker started as a city councilor in the early-‘80s before serving six years as mayor from 1986 through 1991, and again from 2004 to present. Experience, Hunziker said, is one of his main advantages as he faces an election opponent – local businessman Keith Franke – for the first time since defeating then-mayor Don Mullen in 2003.
“I have the experience and I have the time to do it,” Hunziker said, noting Franke’s lack of experience in local government and ownership of two bars and a restaurant. “My time is my own.”
Amid Franke’s calls for more aggressive leadership in attracting businesses to St. Paul Park, Hunziker has repeated his belief that the city’s focus should be on maintaining the services it has now in the face of challenging budget cuts and the continued decrease in state aid dollars to the city.
With a city budget that has remained essentially flat since 2008, St. Paul Park has already cut its budget “to the bone,” he said. And Hunziker said he has selectively – but actively – sought new business for the city’s Broadway Avenue commercial hub, but said he believes much of what the city needs to grow is out of its hands.
“Development is market-driven,” Hunziker said, a point he made repeatedly during a mayoral debate last week at St. Paul Park City Hall. “If the market demand increases we will see business increase… It’s all driven by the economy.”
Despite those challenges, Hunziker said he wants to serve another four years at St. Paul Park City Hall and help steer the city out of turbulent economic times.
“I enjoy it. I enjoy people,” he said. “I’ve always been a kind of Mr. Fix-It and if I can be a conduit between city government and the people, I will.”
Video provided by South Washington County Telecommunications Commission.