Diverse group of candidates run for seats on Payne-Phalen Planning Council

The newly elected board members, from left to right, are Maychy Vu, Mark Dawkins, Charles Dexter, Marny Xiong, Athena Hollins, Ploua Yang, Eric Foster and Valentine Awasom. (Marjorie Otto/Review)

The community room at Arlington Hills Community Center was packed at the Payne-Phalen District 5 Community Council annual meeting on April 26. Twenty-one candidates were on the ballot for the board elections. (Marjorie Otto/Review)

The number of candidates far exceeded the expectations of many of the staff and board members of the Payne-Phalen District Five Planning Council at the April 26 annual meeting held at the Arlington Hills Community Center.

The annual meeting is held to review the council’s achievements throughout the year, discuss goals for the coming year, and to elect new board members.

This year there were eight spots to fill, with 21 candidates on the election ballot.

Former District Five executive director and longtime East Side resident Al Oertwig said this was the most diverse group of candidates the council has seen. He said diversity of color, age and gender has been a concern for the Payne-Phalen council and that he was glad to see such a large turnout of candidates.

The newly elected board members are:

• Valentine Awasom, who has lived in St. Paul for two years and recently moved to the East Side. 

• The Rev. Mark Dawkins, an associate minister at Progressive Baptist Church and five-year East Side resident. 

• Athena Hollins, a three-year East Side resident who is a lawyer and works in community relations.

• Charles Dexter, owner of Judy’s Kitchen restaurant.

• Eric Foster, co-owner of Ward 6 restaurant. 

• Marny Xiong, who grew up on the East Side and is a board member for the Neighborhood STAR program. 

• Ploua Yang, who works for Dakota County Corrections and grew up on the East Side. 

• Maychy Vu, director of Hope Community Academy.


Many of the candidates said they wanted to work on making the district council more visible to residents and connecting with youths to ensure the future and safety of the East Side. 

The meeting also included remarks from John Lozoya, St. Paul police senior commander for the eastern district, state Sen. Foung Hawj, state Reps. Tim Mahoney and John Lesch, Ramsey County commissioners Janice Rettman and Jim McDonough, and St. Paul City Council member Dan Bostrom.

The Payne-Phalen council said projects for the next year include the continuation of guiding the proposed Rush Line Corridor transit project, the planning of the Changsha Garden project at Phalen Regional Park, the Village on Rivoli housing development, and to hire a new executive director after the recent resignation of longtime executive director Leslie McMurray.

The District 5 Community Council is bounded by Larpenteur Avenue to the north, Bruce Vento Regional Trail to the east, Interstate 35E to the west and Grove Street to the south.


Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto.

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