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Filing opens for Cottage Grove, Newport city council races

Two south Washington County city councils could see some new faces next year as both Cottage Grove and Newport have two open seats up for grabs in the November election.

Candidate filing for the four seats opened Tuesday and runs through Aug. 12.

Cottage Grove

In Cottage Grove, incumbent Dave Thiede has confirmed he will seek a second term. Thiede, who was elected in 2010, said he wants to finish what he has started.

“I’m having fun helping the city improve and so forth, and there are some different things that I feel we have started and I want to see those through,” Thiede said in an interview.

Thiede said during his first term he focused on bringing in more manufacturing and distributing jobs to the Business Park. And as the vice president of the Cottage Grove Economic Development Authority, he said he is committed to recruiting long-term companies to the city.

“I’m really trying to network and find out what type of business is right for the Business Park,” he said. “We need to establish a theme or what exactly we can do to entice these companies to come (to Cottage Grove.)”

First-time candidate Steve Dennis, owner of Dennis Brothers Liquor in Almar Village, began campaigning for one of the two open seats earlier this year. A Cottage Grove resident for over 25 years and liquor store owner for 11 years, Dennis said he wants to bring his business-minded knowledge to the table.

“I could be the only local Cottage Grove brick-and-mortar business owner on the panel,” he said in an interview. “To me, the biggest issue our community currently faces is the empty spaces. That’s a substantial thing.”

Dennis highlighted the available land within the Business Park and the two anchoring buildings — the former Home Depot and Rainbow sites — in the Gateway North district as an opportunity for the city to bring in a wide variety of business.

He also said he wants to focus on road and infrastructure repairs, building a community center and lowering homeowner taxes.

Incumbent Derrick Lehrke did not return calls for comment or say whether he would file for re-election.

Newport filings

At least one Newport City Council member doesn’t plan to run again.

Steve Gallagher, who was elected in 2010, said he will likely not seek a second term on the council.

“I think there needs to be turnaround all the time to bring in new ideas,” he said in an interview. “I don’t think it would be a bad thing for me to step away.”

Gallagher said his involvement in helping create a vacant home registration program was a strong accomplishment in his time on the council.

“The houses that were vacant or abandoned have to pay a fee to register, which spurred a lot of foreclosed homes to be sold faster by the banks,” he said. “There have been quite a few homes in the city to be sold because of this.”

He cited several items he will continue to work on as his term winds down, including monitoring an open investigation with the Newport Police Department and keeping the city’s bond rating high during upcoming budget conversations.

“I still have some work left to do,” he said.

Longtime Newport resident Dan Lund filed for one of the two open seats on the Newport City Council Tuesday, the first day of the filing period.

Lund, who is currently the chair of the Newport Planning Commission, said in a press release that his top priorities include ensuring the city fosters a welcoming business environment and expanding the public’s access to the Mississippi River.

“Businesses are a vital part of any community,” Lund said. “They need to know they have a partner in city hall.”

He has lived in Newport since 2005 and works as a patent attorney for a law firm in Woodbury.

Incumbent Tracy Rahm did not return calls for comment or say whether he would file for re-election.

Candidates can file for election at both city halls between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., and until 5 p.m. on Aug. 12. All open council seats are four-year terms.

There is a $5 fee for candidates who file for the Cottage Grove City Council and a $2 filing fee for the Newport City Council.