Cottage Grove council challengers want new voices at City Hall, unhappy with previous decisionsA crowded field of candidates will compete for two Cottage Grove City Council seats in November.
A crowded field of candidates will compete for two Cottage Grove City Council seats in November.
Tina Folch, Michael Fouts, Matthew Kowalski and Lisa Meyer have filed to oppose incumbents Justin Olsen and Jen Peterson, both of whom are seeking re-election to a second council term. Five candidates sought a pair of seats in 2010.
Here’s a brief introduction to each of the new council candidates. Log on to swcbulletin.com to find profiles of Olsen and Peterson.
Folch:‘A passion for serving’
It sounds cliché, Tina Folch says, but it’s not displeasure with a decision made by city leaders or an ideological drive that has her running for Cottage Grove City Council.
Instead, she said, “I honestly have a passion for serving the citizens of our state.”
A long-time state employee who currently works in the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and a former Cottage Grove planning commissioner, Folch, 41, is making her first run for city office this fall.
Her background of managing an array of state and local issues in her current position and a past job with the state Department of Public Safety give her a great background for helping lead the city, Folch said. Concern about the future of federal and state budgets — and their trickle-down impact on local governments — is a big reason she wants to be involved in city government.
“It’s not a particular issue that has a fire in my belly,” Folch said, “but a reflection of what’s going on globally in our nation and why it’s important to get involved now.”
Fouts: City spending ‘significant chunks of change’
The Cottage Grove City Council’s “willingness to spend money” on big projects concerns first-time candidate Michael Fouts.
The middle school English teacher and Senate District 54 GOP chairman said he took issue with the council’s decision to build a $15 million city hall and public safety facility last year, criticizing the process that led to that choice as “not an effective one.”
“I’m not terribly disappointed with how the council has done recently but the primary issue is the willingness to spend money and consider proposals that are significant chunks of change in this economy,” Fouts, 42, said.
A Cottage Grove resident for seven years and an active member of the St. Rita’s parish council, he said his roles as the chair of a local political outfit and as a candidate for nonpartisan municipal office are “totally and completely separate.” But, he said, skills he puts to use in that position would be useful in the role he hopes to inhabit next January.
“It’s about being able to work across ideological lines and really putting the interests of Cottage Grove citizens ahead of any political bickering,” he said.
Kowalski: Lower taxes would be draw
Cottage Grove prides itself on its middle-of-the-road property tax rates that fall at the Twin Cities metro area median.
Matthew Kowalski doesn’t think that’s good enough. Lower, he believes, is better.
A resident of the city since January, Kowalski, 30, said lower property taxes will attract the development the city desires.
“If you’re trying to attract businesses and residents to the area, why not shoot for the best?” he said. “Why not have property tax values that attract people to the area.”
The House District 54A GOP chairman and salesman for the Walser Automotive Group, Kowalski said he has received feedback from residents upset with the decision to construct a new city hall.
He said he will focus on “promoting individual freedom, and freedom to grow businesses and the city.”
Meyer: Community’s ‘voice isn’t being heard’
Lisa Meyer decided she needed to run for Cottage Grove City Council after feeling her voice had been ignored.
A resident of the city’s rural River Acres neighborhood, Meyer and many of her neighbors were upset by the city’s decision to complete a $600,000 road maintenance project that, because of the small number of homes in the area, led to assessments of more than $5,000.
Many residents vocally, vehemently opposed the project. But the city went ahead with it, saying the neighborhoods roads were deteriorating and would require more investment in coming years.
“They had already made up their minds,” Meyer said of the council. “When they’re representing the city, you really need to hear what they’re saying.”
And, Meyer said, she doesn’t think she’s alone in the community with her displeasure.
“I’m hearing across the community that people needed another voice,” she said recently. “A lot of constituents [are] upset that feel their voice isn’t being heard.”
Meyer, 43, a former private sector employee who is now a stay-at-home mother, said she had considered running for the council in 2010.
“I think I really come into this with a clean slate,” she said. “I’m not coming in with any political agenda.”