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Candidates file for open Cottage Grove, Newport city council seats

A number of candidates are stepping forward for two seats on the Cottage Grove and Newport city councils.

Both incumbents and first-time candidates will be on the ballot in November. The candidate filing period opened July 29 and closes Tuesday, Aug. 12.

Cottage Grove filings

Both incumbents from Cottage Grove — Dave Thiede and Derrick Lehrke — have filed for re-election.

Thiede, who was elected to his first term in 2010, said he has more work to do as a councilman.

If re-elected, he said he wants to focus his second term on bringing more manufacturing and distributing jobs into the Cottage Grove Business Park.

“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.)”

Thiede works as a manager at ProActive Solutions and as a principal at Assembly Partners. He has served on several city boards including the Public Works and Planning commissions, and currently serves on the Economic Development Authority and is the coordinator for the Strawberry Fest Business Expo.

Lehrke is also seeking a second term on the Cottage Grove City Council. He did not return multiple calls for comment.

Local business owner Steve Dennis, who began campaigning earlier this summer, has also filed for one of the two seats. It is Dennis’ first time running.

A Cottage Grove resident for more than 25 years, Dennis said if elected he would be the “only local brick-and-mortar business owner on the panel.”

Dennis said the biggest issue in the city is the empty retail spaces. He highlighted the opportunities for job growth in the Business Park and two anchoring buildings — former Home Depot and Rainbow Foods — in the Gateway North district.

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

Dennis has owned Dennis Brothers Liquor in Almar Village for 11 years.

First-time candidate and lifelong Cottage Grove resident Matt Erickson filed for election with three priorities in mind: environment, economy and neighbors.

A 2005 Park High School grad, Erickson said his candidacy comes after years of wanting to be more involved in his community.

“I want to be more active in politics and with the community, and I thought this would be a good time to get involved officially,” he said.

If elected, Erickson said he would emphasize the importance of creating a “clean community” by eliminating litter and providing clean drinking water. He said he wants to build up the Cottage Grove economy by encouraging the city’s “Shop Locally” motto and would like to see a stronger relationship between neighbors.

Erickson works as a security officer at Universal Protection Services and runs a photobooth at weddings.

A fifth Cottage Grove resident, Tasha Steinmetz, has also filed. The stay-at-home mother of one has lived in Cottage Grove for nearly eight years and said she wants to be part of facilitating the city’s current mission statement.

“I decided that I wanted to get more involved in the community and everything and Cottage Grove has become a more family-based city and I want to have more of a say in some of the decisions being made,” she said in an interview.

Steinmetz applauded the current City Council for approving the splash pad, adding she wants to help bring in more family-friendly opportunities for residents.

“I want to help keep the city a happy, family place,” she said.

Newport filings

Newport City Council incumbent Tracy Rahm plans to file for a second term, at the request of supporters, adding that “it has been an honor and a privilege to serve (Newport residents) these past four years.”

Rahm cited major infrastructure improvements to the ravine drain and upgrading water meters, installing new financial management practices and approving the Newport Transit Station, among others, as positive actions alongside the council throughout his term.

He also noted the council’s work to conduct strategic analysis work to discover “the major issues affecting Newport” and incorporating the results into policies and strategic plans as gains for the city.

If re-elected to a second term, Rahm said he wants to continue working with City Council members to improve the image of the Highway 61 business corridor to attract new business and “improve city communications to better explain city strategies and engage residents.”

Rahm is a project and IT service management senior manager at Harris Corporation. He is currently the liaison to the Newport Library Advisory Committee.

Incumbent Steve Gallagher, who is wrapping up his first term on the council, said he will likely not seek a second term.

“I think there needs to be turnaround all the time to bring in new ideas,” he said. “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.

While he is uncertain if he will file, he said there are several items he will continue to work on as his term winds down, including keeping the city’s bond rating high during upcoming budget conversations.

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

Longtime Newport resident and first-time City Council candidate Dan Lund filed for one of the two seats July 29, the first day of the filing period.

Lund 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.”

Lund has lived in Newport since 2005 and works as a patent attorney for a law firm in Woodbury. He is currently the chair of the Newport Planning Commission.