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Three vie for two Audubon City Council seats

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Three people will be vying for two seats on the Audubon City Council when the general elections are held on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Incumbent council member Jason Leucuta will face off against challengers Tony Gordon and Joshua Heibel for one of the two open positions. The other seat was held by Robert Goodrich, who resigned from that position in June.

Each of the three candidates was asked to provide answers to a series of six questions. An overview of their answers is provided below.

Jason Leucuta

Jason Leucuta and his wife Sarah have been residents of Audubon since purchasing a new home in the city in 2005.

Appointed to the Audubon City Council a year and a half ago, due to a resignation, Leucuta said he first decided to seek office because, "As a business owner, my concerns were strong pertaining to the infrastructure of my home town.

"Now that I have been a part of the decision making for our city, my interests have doubled. I am currently head of streets and parks. I have been a part of some wonderful changes to our current park and would like to continue to push forward in finding resources to repair-replace the street, keeping all costs limited towards the homeowners.

"My overall knowledge, contacts, and level headed decision making skills have always benefited me throughout my successful life and those near me. I know my actions can only benefit the future of this strong community.

"Due to my recent experience on the council, my knowledge will be very key in making some extremely important decisions within the next few months," he continued.

"The decision will have everything to do with Audubon's ability to grow in the future. These decisions could be overwhelming to a new council member. At this time, Audubon truly needs council members that have been knowledgeable of its current status and aware of its ongoing events that make this wheel turn.  It has been many months of long meetings, research, and phone calls that are going to help this council make the right decision for our future.

"I have spent the past year and a half devoting my time towards these immediate problems and would like to see this project through. Since my limited time on the council, I have been instrumental in saving taxpayers thousands of dollars, by utilizing resources we already had, instead of outsourcing jobs such as snow removal and lawn maintenance at our city-owned properties. With rising costs and less income for the city, I also have many other ideas to use resources we have to help cut the budget and stop use of taxation to make up for these differences.

Leucuta has been the owner and operator of American Appraisal Company since 2004.

"I have been licensed and working full time in this division of real estate for almost 15 years," he said. "This successful company has recently doubled in employees throughout a tougher economy.

I have been married to my loving wife Sarah for just over 11 years, and am a proud father of two beautiful girls, Makenzie, 3, and Hollie, 1," he added.

After graduating from Detroit Lakes High School in 1993, Leucuta completed over three years of college, starting at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and currently holds the highest level of license for residential appraisers. He is also a member of the Audubon Fire Department, and his wife currently works for St. Mary's EMS in Detroit Lakes.

Leucuta feels that some of the challenges facing the city in the next five years include the following: "A very important decision involving city water immediately faces the council. Its aging streets and lack of payment plan are soon to be another large project at hand.

"With the lack of federal/state funding and the nonexistent support from our own city developments, the elected  candidate will have to be very creative to come up with plans of rebuilding a system without taxing its population. As a successful business owner with many contacts, I can be a great part of helping throughout many decisions to come.

"Not only have I been an impacting part of my own department in the city, but I have been helping other departments when possible, giving 100 percent towards this council."

"When I first joined the city council I thought I could move mountains overnight," Leucuta said. "Although these plans still exist, I now understand there is much more than just bringing in new ideas to change the world.

"The infrastructure of this city has its flaws like many, and must be dealt with. But they can't all be changed at once, I now understand this."

As for his goals if elected, Leucuta said: "The tough decisions to be made within the next few months will affect the future for all residents. I believe I have been a strong part of these necessary changes that have come upon the council.

"My own personal goals are slowly becoming addressed with the future outlook of Audubon. With a new school system already in place, it is up to us to provide a welcoming community to make this town grow. With some ideas to bring in outside industry/commercial employment and real estate knowledge to understand what makes a town grow and succeed, my goals are to keep this town moving forward into a brighter future for all to enjoy.

"Offering stronger community awareness and participation from within, will be very key in allowing this town to survive the years to come.

Tony Gordon

A 10-year resident of Audubon, Tony Gordon decided to run for the City Council because, as he put it, "I just felt after 10 years of living in Audubon, it was time for me to contribute to the community."

Though he is a first time candidate for city office, Gordon says, "I plan to use common sense and make decisions based on what the residents of Audubon want and what I believe is best for the city."

A graduate of Ridgewater College in Willmar, Gordon has been employed in the insurance industry for over 13 years. He is currently working as a field adjuster for Midwest Family Insurance Company.

Gordon and his wife Kristina, a second grade teacher at Lake Park-Audubon Elementary School, have one son, Brian, who graduated from Lake Park-Audubon High School and is currently a junior at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

He feels the biggest challenge facing the City of Audubon in the next five years is "getting Audubon back into great financial shape.

"Another challenge would be to get more families moving into town," he added.

If elected, Gordon said that one of his goals would be making the city more self-sufficient, "by adding more commercial businesses that would employ our residents and bring more great people into our community.

"I would love to see a wind tower for our own electrical power and electrical power that we could sell to other communities," he added.

Joshua Heibel

Having lived in the Audubon area for over eight years, Joshua Heibel became a resident of the city seven months ago.

He decided to run for city council, Heibel said, in order "to be a productive citizen and to help move the city forward with sustainable growth of the needed services for residents and businesses alike."

Heibel believes he is the best candidate for the position because: "My dedication and commitment to this community is very strong. I possess the values and ethics that are needed to be a strong voice on City Council. I will work very hard to tackle the challenges and goals facing Audubon, now and for our future."

After graduating from Indus High School in 1998, Heibel moved to Alexandria and graduated from the welding program there in 1999. Since then, Heibel's career has been focused on welding, and he has completed a dozen welder certifications, American Welding Society welding inspector/educator certifications and has completed other professional development in education and business.

Since 2005, he has been the owner and operator of Audubon Metalworks, a local small business providing welding, fabrication, training and consulting services. He has also been a member of the Audubon Fire Department since 2005.

In addition, Heibel has been a Minnesota Army National Guardsman with A Co 2/136CAB, based in Detroit Lakes, since 2002. He is also a life member of the Audubon VFW Post 6033.

"I am the proud husband to Keri Ann and father of six-year-old son Austin, who is an LP-A first grader," he added.

Some of the key challenges that Heibel sees the city facing in the next five years include: "Project development and funding for the infrastructure necessary to the services provided by the city to the community, including a supplied water system (the most immediate challenge), street maintenance (ongoing), fire/rescue hall, community center, maintenance shop and offices."

If elected, Heibel said his goals would include evaluating and improving the city's infrastructure, facilities and services based on the needs of the community.

"With addressing those areas, long and short term budgeting structures must be developed in order to achieve sustainable growth for our community."

Other goals include "promoting a more attractive community for business and residential development; encouraging more public involvement and being focused on a smaller government providing only the services necessary for the community.

Follow Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 17 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

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