Audubon has five candidates for two city seats
This Tuesday, voters in the Audubon City Council elections will have five candidates to choose from to fill two council seats, while incumbent Mayor Terry Johnson was the lone candidate to file for that position.
In the council race, incumbent Gary Bakken will be seeking re-election, but he will be challenged by Donald Holm, Bob Renney, Carol Bergerson and Jason Leucuta, all of whom are seeking their first term on the council.
Here is a look at the council candidates and their views on various municipal issues:
Gary Bakken, incumbent
Bakken, 64, is married with one daughter.
An 18-year veteran on the city council, he feels his experience will help the city through difficult financial times.
"I think the main thing right now is to keep the city going financially," he said. "We're having a little trouble with budget cuts, trying to live within our budget."
The loss of state funding has certainly not helped that situation.
Bakken said the city has seen some positive changes in residential development, with three EDA-owned apartment buildings bringing more people into town, and some new houses going up on the east side of town as well.
"We have some lots with city services on the south side of town where we'll hopefully get some building going too," he added.
The city also owns some land that might be used for future business development, if the money could be found to make the necessary infrastructure improvements, Bakken said.
One thing that he would like to see resolved in the next few years is the need for a new community center and fire hall facilities.
"It's desperately needed," he said.
Donald Holm, challenger
Holm, 32, who is seeking his first term on the city council, is married with five children.
He said he decided to seek city office because "I think we just need some change. I think we need to try to move in a forward direction and that doesn't seem to be happening."
Holm, who has provided snow removal services to the city in the past, feels that Lake Park "is behind on a lot of things like equipment and maintenance of roads."
He said he thinks that there need to be "fundamental changes" to how the city manages its budget.
"I'd like to see a better budget than what we've got, it doesn't seem to be working the way it's set up right now," Holm said. "If they had a better budget they'd be able to better maintain some of this stuff and keep up with the basics."
Once the city's budget woes have been taken care of, Holm said, they will be better equipped to work on things like economic development.
"They've really undermined themselves with this 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' mentality... it's a tight economy, and no one wants to raise taxes, but we have to do stuff to keep the town operating because state funding is not like it used to be."
Holm "would like to see more business coming into town," but is pleased that the residential development seems to be picking up.
"We've got a nice little community here, a lot of youth moving in and families starting out," he said. "I think there's a chance for a great future here."
Bob Renney, challenger
Renney, 59, is a retired Navy serviceman who works part-time at Ace Hardware. He is married, with three children and seven grandchildren.
A past manager of the Detroit Lakes VFW, he is also an ex-Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus Council 3166, and a life member of both the VFW and Disabled American Veterans.
Though he has not held city office before, Renney said, "I like being involved in the community I live in."
If elected, he said he "would like to continue the good work that the city council and the mayor have been doing here in Audubon."
He said he feels there is "plenty of room" for new business development in town, and some lots that are available for residential development as well.
He's pleased with the recent work that has been done to make badly-needed improvements to city streets, and with plans to expand the Lake Park-Audubon Elementary School's nature area, which is located near where he lives.
"We have a pretty good chief of police here," Renney added. "He seems to be doing a pretty good job."
A native of Detroit Lakes, Leucuta, 35, now makes his home in Audubon. He is married, with one two-year-old child. The owner of American Appraisal Company, which is involved in real estate appraisal, he is also a member of the Audubon Fire Department.
Leucuta said he decided to seek his first term on the Audubon City Council because he is "a concerned business owner and resident of the city of Audubon." He feels that if elected, his experience in running a successful business during troubled economic times and "positive outlook toward new ideas" can help strengthen the community as a whole.
Leucuta said he "would like to see our tax base grow. I'd like to bring in some more businesses, which would create a larger tax base, and ultimately lower taxes for the people as a whole.
"My main objective is to bring more business into the community and also bring in more people and homes and housing to let this city grow," he said.
With updated and expanded school facilities in the works, now is the time to create those opportunities and expand the city's possibilities for future development, Leucuta added.
Though she is seeking her first term on the city council, Bergerson is a familiar face to Audubon city residents, as she just retired in 2009 after more than 20 years as the Audubon city clerk.
Bergerson, who is married and has three grown daughters, said she decided to run for city council now because she's concerned by the city's continued losses in Local Government Aid (LGA) funding. In addition, she feels her experience as clerk and familiarity with all aspects of city government would be an asset on the council.
"We as a city have got to look for other ways to increase our revenue and make up for the loss of LGA, without just saying we'll tax the people (to make up the difference)," Bergerson said. "We've got to come up with a conservative, alternate approach to keep decent city funding coming in."
With work on remodeling and expanding the elementary school already underway, Bergerson said, "This is an exciting time for Audubon... I have a vested interest in the community and would like to see it grow."
The new elementary school facilities have the potential to bring many new, young families into town, she said, adding, "We've already seen some of that happening."
Three EDA-owned apartment buildings in the city, with lower-income housing benefits, have also expanded the city's opportunities for residential growth, she continued.
With that potential for population growth, Bergerson said she would like to see the city bring in some new businesses and "find ways to keep the town active and thriving."