Bulletin editorial: St. Paul Park mayor's election means change at the topWhen St. Paul Park voters went to the polls last week they had a clear choice in the race for mayor.
When St. Paul Park voters went to the polls last week they had a clear choice in the race for mayor.
There was incumbent Mayor John Hunziker, seeking his fifth non-consecutive term. For his supporters, casting a ballot for Hunziker was a vote for his stable, experienced, low-key guidance and pledge to lead the city through a rough economic period by, in effect, hunkering down amid budget challenges and cautiously awaiting better times.
However, more voters opted for something different. They gave Keith Franke – a first-time candidate but St. Paul Park native and local businessman – a decisive 57-42 percent victory.
Both men have a passion for their city, but voters perhaps saw Franke as the more impassioned candidate this time. The familiarity of the Franke name may have garnered him some votes, but his campaigning proved effective. That door-to-door campaign also suggests he wants to know what citizens are thinking about as he prepares to take office in January.
Franke has much to learn about his new role, even down to grasping City Council meeting protocol. Being new to local government, we hope he reaches out to local civic leaders and volunteers, and looks for ways to have an active voice in issues at the local, county and state level that affect St. Paul Park.
While we are skeptical that Franke alone will be able to significantly change the economic development outlook for St. Paul Park, his proactive approach and stated desire to reach out to developers and potential businesses is to be commended.
At the same time, Hunziker deserves thanks from St. Paul Park citizens for his many years of service to the community.
Under Hunziker’s leadership the city has weathered difficult budget challenges without disrupting the core services citizens expect from their local government. Hunziker also is to be commended for his support of the Red Rock Corridor commuter transit plan. Even if an eventual commuter rail line does not have a stop at St. Paul Park’s back door, the city needs to have a voice in a major transit initiative in its backyard.
There appeared no single issue that drove voters to oust their long-serving mayor. Nobody challenged council members Tim Jones and Jennifer Cheesman in last Tuesday’s election, further suggesting there is no widespread displeasure with the council, whose members seem to work well with one another.
We hope Franke recognizes that and plans to work collaboratively with his fellow council members in the months and years ahead.