Inver Grove Heights candidates focus on expanding the tax base

In Inver Grove Heights, the three council incumbents whose terms are up at the end of the year are running this fall to hold onto their seats.  

Incumbent Mayor George Tourville is being challenged by Jonathan Weber. There are two council seats on the ballot and council incumbents Paul Hark and Rosemary Piekarski Krech will face Brenda Dietrich and Todd Kruse.

The Review asked the candidates via email why there are running, what skills and experiences they will bring to the office, what they believe to be the top challenges the city faces, and what issues or projects they would prioritize if elected.

Weber did not respond to the Review’s questionnaire.

 

Mayor

George Tourville, 68, is married to Barbara and is serving out his eighth two-year term as mayor. He attended the University of Minnesota and Inver Hills Community College. 

Tourville said he grew up in South St. Paul and attended the University of Minnesota before being trained as a medic in the U.S. Air Force. He worked as a paramedic at Divine Redeemer Hospital and served on the Inver Grove Heights Fire Department for 26 years. He worked in the telecom industry for over 20 years and has lived in Inver Grove Heights for 44 years, is a member of the River Heights Chamber of Commerce and chair of the NDCTV Cable Commission and Dakota County 9-1-1 Board.

Tourville said he is running for re-election because of the challenges the city faces and the rewarding experience the job offers. He said his experience as a former council member prepared him to be a better mayor.

“I love this city and want to continue to work hard together with citizens, neighborhoods, businesses, schools, county and state government, and our bordering cities to make this a better place to live, work, play and learn,” he said.

Tourville said a challenge facing the city, as always, is balancing growth and demand for services with keeping taxes affordable. He added it’s important to reduce spending where possible.  

“We also need to help existing business to grow and prosper while attracting new quality development that can bring jobs and an increased tax base,” he said.

Tourville said his plan for the next two years includes continuing to provide the correct staffing, training, facilities and equipment for the police and fire departments. He added infrastructure and facilities are the backbone of the city. He said city streets need to be safe and sustainable, and there needs to be spaces that provide programs for all ages and needs. 

A priority in the next two years if he’s re-elected, Tourville said, is finishing the dog park and securing park land in the northwest portion of the city.

 

Council

Brenda Dietrich, 48, is the general manager of Hardline Concrete and Masonry Inc. She is married to Jonathan and has an associate’s degree in management from Alexandria Technical College. 

Dietrich said her skills and experiences include having business acumen, understanding financial documents/goals, planning, and being a mentor of high school students, which gives her listening and problem-solving skills.

She said her goal of earning a seat on the council includes creating open communication between city staff, business owners and residents. She said a healthy community is dependent on a stable relationship between these groups.

“I believe in smart city growth, being transparent in objectives and long-term planning for the city. I want to hear from residents and be your voice serving Inver Grove Heights,” she said.

Dietrich said a challenge facing the city is “consistency in smart business growth for new companies to start up here and existing companies to expand.”

“We need to have the business tax base to keep residents’ home taxes from shouldering the burden,” she said.

Other challenges include long-term infrastructure planning and how to be financially responsible with plans that are already on the table, and into the future.

If elected, Dietrich said she would prioritize transparency, adding that free and open access to information is important. 

“The key to democracy is a government in which we all take part,” she said. “All issues can be approached with this in mind.”

 

Paul Hark, 54, is married to Beth McInerny and is finishing his first term on the council. He is a contracts manager/attorney for Entrust Datacard. He earned his Juris Doctor from Hamline University School of Law. 

Hark served nine years on the city Planning Commission and said he understands land-use issues. He serves on the IGH BEST Foundation Board of Directors and added he understands the city budgeting process and is fiscally conservative. Hark said he has the ability to listen to all sides of an issue before making a decision. 

He said he is running for his second and final term — saying he advocated for the creation of a municipal customer service policy, which was passed. 

Hark also said he advocated for “the most comprehensive police chief search in the history of Inver Grove Heights,” and that the city ended up with five extraordinary candidates.  

“I excel at constituent service and helped many residents resolve issues both large and small. I am an effective council member and I am honored to serve Inver Grove Heights,” he said, adding he wants to serve the people for one more term.

Hark said the city is fast growing and that growth needs to be managed. He added the council needs to ensure it keeps an eye on the budget so “we are not taxed out of our homes.” Other challenges include promoting development and the business community while respecting existing neighborhoods. 

If re-elected, Hark said he would prioritize actively managing the spending side of the budget, creating a “more effective Economic Development Authority to create a more development-friendly reputation for Inver Grove Heights,” and continue insisting on first-class customer service.

“We have initiated a new customer service policy and we need to insist that it be followed,” he said.

 

Todd Kruse, 52, works as a trainer for Target Corporation and has a master’s degree in international business from the University of St. Thomas. 

Kruse said he has public policy experience at the local, state and federal levels due to his past career in government relations. Other skills and experiences he said he would bring to the council if elected include networking and promotion ability/event planning, research and budget planning, strategic planning and teaching at the college level in various cultures. 

Kruse said he is running to “bring my non-Inver Grove Heights/out of Minnesota global perspective on the proper role of government and quality of life issues based on my travel around the USA and 65 countries.”

He said the 9 percent poverty rate in the city is a challenge, and high compared to neighboring comminutes. Kruse added the tax base and revenue streams “seem increasingly [dependent] on mobile home parks, senior living centers, and landfills.” He said another challenge is the lack of a “customer service” culture in the city government. 

If elected, Kruse said he would prioritize restructuring the Economic Development Authority and other various committees and commissions to better “reflect our challenges, gather more citizen involvement, and avoid group think.”

 

Rosemary Piekarski Krech, 68, has been on the council since 2000. She has a B.A. in social work from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked for St. Paul Public Schools and now farms.

Piekarski Krech said if re-elected, she would bring experience gained from working for more than 30 years in inner-city schools.

“I know how to balance people-oriented problem-solving skills with process. I understand the need for change and respecting history. I am a lifelong learner and care deeply about sustainable land and water,” she said.

Piekarski Krech said Inver Grove Heights is her community and “being a part of city government is one of the ways I can give back.”

She said the biggest challenge facing the city is always funding. 

“Providing the things residents are asking for along with the mandated public services (water, sewer, streets, fire and police protection) without taxing everyone out of town is always a delicate balancing exercise,” Piekarski Krech said, adding another challenge is maintaining a vibrant and safe community. 

If re-elected, Piekarski Krech said she would prioritize the completion and equipping of the new fire station, “something that has been in the plans for many years.”

 

Election Day is Nov. 6. To find your polling place visit www.pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

 

– Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com

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