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Dingle takes St. Paul Park mayor's race; Swenson, Zenner wins in council race

Familiar faces will fill the St. Paul Park City Council chambers in January, with Mayor Sandi Dingle and council member Jeff Swenson securing re-election bids, along with former 35-year firefighter Bruce Zenner winning his first term.

Dingle won 60 percent of the mayor vote in the Nov. 7 election. Swenson secured just short of 35 percent, and Zenner pulled 31 percent of the vote.

Dingle ran to keep her mayor’s seat against challengers Andrew Cison and Patrick Downs, who received 22 and 17 percent of votes.

Just over 25 percent of registered voters in St. Paul Park cast ballots for the council elections, which is similar to their previous off-year elections.

Dingle has been mayor for about 10 months. She was appointed after former mayor Keith Franke won election to the Minnesota House.

Dingle was first elected to the city council in 2005, along with Jeff Swenson.

Swenson’s re-election secured him his fourth term as a council member. Though looking to start his first term, Zenner also has his share of city experience. He worked as a St. Paul Park firefighter for 35 years before his recent retirement.

Zenner will fill Gregory Jahner III’s seat on the council; Jahner did not run to keep his seat.

Jeff Haggerty and Dale Roth challenged Swenson and Zenner for the two open seats, taking 20 and 15 percent of the vote.

Zenner, who ran unsuccessfully for the council in 2005, said he was a little surprised by the results, but is looking forward to digging into city business come January.

“I’ll wait and see what’s on the plate when we get up there, and tackle what’s on the plate right now,” he said.

“I think people would just kind of like to see some change,” he added.

Dingle will serve two years as mayor to fill out Franke’s term.

“I’m really excited to be in it for two more years,” she said.

Cison said he was disappointed by the loss, but excited to earn 20 percent of the vote.

“I feel pretty good about it and … wish Sandi the best,” he said.

He said he’ll be back in two years to try for the mayor’s seat again, and will try to retain the Parks and Recreation Commission chair when the commission votes in December.

Downs also said he was encouraged by the number of votes he received as an unknown candidate and that he intends to stay involved.

“My concerns for the direction of the city remain the same and I see my immediate role as a vocal citizen who wants to motivate his neighbors to get more involved,” he said in an email.

Another new council member will be announced at the next city council meeting, Nov. 20, to fill the seat vacated by Jennifer Cheesman in August. Roth, Denise Peterson and Tanya Foote interviewed for the appointment Oct. 16.

Swenson, as a council veteran after 12 years, said he hopes to help usher in these new members.

“I’m definitely going to spend the next four trying to be a senior, mentor type, and … transition that group in,” he said.

“Meanwhile, we’ll just keep doing what we do, running city operations, keeping taxes at a minimum,” he added.

All three winners said they will look toward something beneficial with BNSF Railroad, which has announced construction of an auto-exchange lot that is currently on hold.

“We need to sit down and see where they’re at with it, and we can maybe work out a solution that’s the most beneficial to city and them,” Zenner said.

Dingle said the BNSF plan was the number one concern she heard from residents while campaigning, but hopes it can be a “positive experience” and is encouraged by how they have worked with them so far.