2021 Special Election – HDC At-Large Board Candidates

The HDC Special Election for one At-large Representatives will run online from Thursday, December 9 at 7 pm to Tuesday, December 14 at 10 pm via Survey Monkey. Mail-in ballots will also be accepted and must be received by December 15. If you would like to receive a mail-in ballot, please call Kathy at 651-695-4005 or email info@highlanddistrictcouncil.org.

Watch the HDC Candidate Introduction here.

Vote for At-large Representatives Here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RVY8MZH

At-Large Candidates

There is one (1) at-large position to fill at this time. You may only vote for one candidate.

Jordan M Brunsberg, Grid 1

Tell us about yourself and how you can best leverage your strengths to represent the Highland Park Community.

My name is Jordan Brunsberg and I’m an active member on Minneapolis’ Economic Development Board looking to shift local government participation to St. Paul after buying a home near St. Cate’s this past year. My professional background is 12 years of supply chain, procurement, sourcing and logistics experience at SPS Commerce, Patterson Companies and now General Mills. While I’ve served on other private boards in the past, I became involved in local politics in early 2020. I’ve found my professional experience to be especially helpful in advising on how to best define requirements and success metrics for government-sponsored initiatives, how to identify the best partners to meet them and – when funding is tight – how to strategically award dollars in a way that prioritizes intended results. Lastly, I’ve enjoyed consulting on the best ways to hold third party partners accountable for the results they’ve promised to ensure that we’re being the best stewards of tax dollars as possible. I would love the opportunity to serve on the Highland District Council. This goes without saying, but if afforded the opportunity, I would terminate my current position in Minneapolis.

What makes the Highland District Council mission (below) meaningful to you?

“To engage and connect with neighbors, businesses and local government.” For the last few years, many of us have been living in silos, inside, remote and disconnected from one another. I want to play a part in building connection, open communication and sense of community. Highland community members should feel that their voices are being heard and that they have a say in what’s being done with tax dollars in their neighborhoods. This open dialogue and connection, especially when things may not be going someone’s way, is critical for trust in local government and continued community engagement.

When considering new development, how would you balance the desires of the present community with those of future community members?

What got Highland to where it is now is likely not what will sustain it in years to come. A favorite quote of mine – “The natural state of the world is not maintenance, it’s decay or growth” (probably paraphrasing there). That is true of any city, especially urban areas experiencing significant population growth. Change is inevitable, so building change into economic development plans is core to maintaining a vibrant, prosperous community that attracts talent, active community members and investment. Highland should be intentional about what it is trying to attract, change and protect for future generations. It comes down to mission, vision, values, clear priorities and communication.

How would you prioritize transportation resources (such as space and funding) for people walking, biking, and driving?

I am a highly analytical person. I see a lot of cities making transportation decisions based off what larger cities are doing. St. Paul will never be New York or LA. We have cars and need cars to get to work and to the places that make us truly Minnesotan – green space, state parks, the river, our lakes, cabins and family farms. I feel we should look at our own data and consider creative ways to incent biking, public transport and as few energy-efficient cars per household as possible, while still keeping our communities livable and affordable for car owners.

How would you consider the needs and desires of members of the community who face obstacles to participation in the public process?

We should be mindful of these populations and ensure that we are going to them when possible to engage them in community and make their voices heard. I’ve heard stories about how the Highland Commission and broader St Paul City Council are working to do this and comment the extra effort it takes. It is critical work.

Tom Distad, Grid 8

Tell us about yourself and how you can best leverage your strengths to represent the Highland Park Community.

I have worked closely with the city to development small scale projects in Highland Park and I have sold real estate in the neighborhood for 15 years. I was born and raised in Highland Park and have been a frequent user of the services, parks and rec, walking trails, library and gold course. I want these amenities to remain accessible for everyone.

What makes the Highland District Council mission (below) meaningful to you?

HDC’s mission is very much my own personal and professional mission. I have many tenants and clients in Highland Park and want this community to be safe and prosperous for everyone.

When considering new development, how would you balance the desires of the present community with those of future community members? 

I think we need to do our best to understand the root of people’s current desires to understand why they have come to that position. Anti-development sentiment can be rooted in the fear of change. I want to have an open minded and balanced approach to all development before making a determination.

How would you prioritize transportation resources (such as space and funding) for people walking, biking, and driving?

I think it is important to be open minded and persuadable. Highland Park will have increased traffic due to the ford site. There is no one-size fits all approach to limiting the congestion. What works on street may not work on another.

How would you consider the needs and desires of members of the community who face obstacles to participation in the public process?

I think it’s important that we encourage maximum participation and points of view. I think it’s important that meetings are conducted virtually as well as in person so the process is transparent and accessible.

Lindsay Shimizu, Grid 7

Tell us about yourself and how you can best leverage your strengths to represent the Highland Park Community.

As a software consultant, I balance limited resources to streamline processes, analyze workflows for improvements, and coordinate projects to achieve mutual goals. I’ve spent the past year and a half volunteering for the HDC as a community representative, spearheading our community survey, updating language on the HDC website and handouts, leading a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Subcommittee, and helping plan and host events as a part of the Community Engagement Committee. I’d like the chance to continue to contribute my energy and skills as a recognized member of the board.

What makes the Highland District Council mission (below) meaningful to you?

I feel connected to the mission of improving the community for all of our residents, no matter where in the neighborhood they might live. I also think I bring a unique perspective to the table as an outspoken ally for racial and social justice. I hope to lend my passion and skills to make an impact for all our community members.

When considering new development, how would you balance the desires of the present community with those of future community members? 

As a resident who plans to be here for a long time to come, I definitely understand the desire to maintain the great community we’ve built, and that traffic, parking, useability, and beauty all have an important impact on the neighborhood. At the same time, one truth about life is that things will change. That’s why I think it’s vital to partner with the city on projects like the new Highland Bridge development, which present an incredible opportunity to envision a more equitable, environmentally friendly future.

How would you prioritize transportation resources (such as space and funding) for people walking, biking, and driving?

Safety for everyone regardless of their mode of transport is my first concern. After that, maintaining roads, parking considerations, and increasing charging stations has to be balanced with investing in more eco-friendly options such as walking, biking, and public transport. When you have limited resources, building the future we want to see will only come with compromise.

How would you consider the needs and desires of members of the community who face obstacles to participation in the public process?

Our survey this year revealed HDC has a long way to go in engaging many populations who historically have not been given the same place at the table–people of color, renters, students, and more–and I’d like to be a part of making the HDC more relevant and welcoming for all of our neighbors. As a community rep on the Community Engagement Council this past year, I helped develop specific recommendations to tackle some of the barriers to participation that I faced as a first-time participant in the Highland District Council. I’d like to continue that work to enable more diverse voices to get involved, as well as improve visibility and execution on the HDC’s Equity Plan.

Jeff Stolte, Grid 7

Tell us about yourself and how you can best leverage your strengths to represent the Highland Park Community.

I am a 31 year Saint Paul resident, living in Highland Park grid 7 for 16 years with my wife and two son’s, ages 16 and 11. Like others who have made their home in Saint Paul, I am a graduate from one of the many great colleges in the area, and live the values that we all hold so dear: family and friends, recreation, and sports. I bring to the council and the Highland Park Community 31 years of perspective and pragmatism, coming from personal growth and a sense of responsibility to the community, where I am willing to help fill the council’s current resource gap.

What makes the Highland District Council mission (below) meaningful to you?

Residents of Highland Park and the local businesses are entitled to safe spaces, where we are free to participate in the community without fear of crime. That being said, many of us have experienced or have seen how crime has changed how we participate in the community. More attention is needed here as I myself and one other were victims of an attempted carjacking and strong-arm robbery early June 2021 near Horace Mann School, which should be atypical.

When considering new development, how would you balance the desires of the present community with those of future community members? 

As many of you are painfully aware, our homes are getting older and are needing more repairs, and so it goes for our public streets and utilities or for the integration of new technologies. It is exciting for us as a community to be given new opportunities to shape our future, to fix past problems, or to make our community better. However when considering change, it should be measured, so to not harm how existing residents participate in the community without considering their voice.

How would you prioritize transportation resources (such as space and funding) for people walking, biking, and driving?

I’d balance the needs for all modes of transportation, however we live in Minnesota where it is cold and the roads can be bad 4 months of the year. Although Covid-19 has changed how many of us commute to our jobs, there still is a need to drive or take transportation all 12 months of the year, so maintaining our current throughput of public roads free and clear of ice and snow is important.

How would you consider the needs and desires of members of the community who face obstacles to participation in the public process?

It is important to be flexible to accommodate members of the community on varying work schedules, or for those members that have a disability so that their voices are heard and they can contribute. There are many ways to address such obstacles, but it is important to note that the variety of observations and ideas often leads to the best overall solution, and so everything should be done to capture these voices. I would keep a notebook to document their needs, and be an advocate for the neighborhood and Highland Park community.

John Krenik, Grid 9

Tell us about yourself and how you can best leverage your strengths to represent the Highland Park Community. 

I find Highland Park to be a very beautiful place to live and a wonderful place to raise a family. I have been involved in many different community committees focusing on public safety, school planning (St. Paul Public Schools), various education committees and I would like to employ these skills to make Highland Park a better place for the next generation.

What makes the Highland District Council mission (below) meaningful to you?

Highland Park is our community and it is only as good, as what we give back to our community. I have been on the HDC Transportation Committee this past year and it has been a very positive experience for me! I was very impressed with the HDC Director and the positive input of the HDC Transportation members and city staff giving various presentations. We are very lucky to have a strong and active District Council and I want contribute my skillset to make Highland Park better for the next generation that is inclusive and welcoming to all!

When considering new development, how would you balance the desires of the present community with those of future community members? 

I believe in strong communication between all parties is vital, so all areas of need are addressed. The best plans for any development, from my past experience in space planning for schools has been to listen to the needs of the community. As past chair of the St. Paul Public Schools Space Planning Committee for 13 years, it has been my experience that many voices produce a better product! The community needs to be involved in planning decisions and HDC does a fantastic job of bringing people together, listening and making recommendations, for a community centered approach to planning decisions for Highland Park.

How would you prioritize transportation resources (such as space and funding) for people walking, biking, and driving?

Listening to the needs of the community is key to making these decisions! Highland Park needs to be a safe place to live, work and play. As a member of the HDC Transportation committee I have learned a lot of the various needs of the community, from public safety, bike safety, pedestrian safety to street and sidewalk design issues. I have come away from these discussions learning something new.

How would you consider the needs and desires of members of the community who face obstacles to participation in the public process?

Highland Park needs to be an inclusive and a welcoming place for all. HDC needs to be a place where all feel welcome and have the opportunity to participate.

Robbie Grossman, Grid 9

Tell us about yourself and how you can best leverage your strengths to represent the Highland Park Community. 

I am a patriotic, 4th generation Highland Park resident who has a strong connection and understanding of our neighborhood’s history, past and present challenges, long established institutions, and my many fellow neighbors from over the last 40+ years.  I am a former 911 emergency telecommunicator that later became a Highland Park-based small business owner practicing real estate in an industry where I am a proven leader that serves on various boards and committees at trade associations such as the Saint Paul Area Association of REALTORS (SPAAR) and the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals (VAREP). I have unique perspectives, experiences and skill sets acquired from my past time working in the criminal justice system, being a business owner, and volunteer board service initiatives I have worked on which include: advocating for private property rights, promoting affordable and sustainable housing,  promoting  inclusive and diverse housing needs,  advocating for more inclusive fair housing laws, advancing strategic housing policies, working to eliminate veteran homelessness, creating more awareness about veteran suicide, advocating for education and access for veterans about their housing benefits and financial counseling, fundraising for veteran causes, as well as working to educate my fellow professionals and the community at large about of the importance of our veterans utilizing the home loan benefits they earned through service.

What makes the Highland District Council mission (below) meaningful to you?

I believe that a successful, inclusive, and sustainable community arises from strong engagement and participation from its residents. The HDC mission is a meaningful blueprint to better address our community member’s diverse needs, viewpoints, and experiences.  Dedicated adherence to this mission creates a potential for members of the community to feel heard and become educated about the community topics important to them, while inviting them to listen and learn about what is important to their neighbors.  

When considering new development, how would you balance the desires of the present community with those of future community members? 

Being heavily involved in the facilitation of homeownership, coupled with a strong understanding of private property rights,  I have unique insights about how new development serves as a necessary tool for communities to address issues like population growth, housing supply shortages (including the shortage of affordable housing), and the affects an aging infrastructure has on community needs and delivery of services. However, I also understand there can be valid concerns from community members about any potential negative impacts of development. Therefore, my priority would be to diligently examine any project research data, current and projected  community needs, and any historical context while actively listening to citizen concerns, fears, support and alternative ideas with the goal of facilitating consensual solutions as much as possible.

How would you prioritize transportation resources (such as space and funding) for people walking, biking, and driving?

Transportation infrastructure is a key component to the livability, workability, safety, development, and investment aspects of our community. I feel we have a good variety of transit options in the Twin Cities, however access to these resources remains a challenge for some members of our community. I would seriously weigh supporting any extra budgeting and/or the implementation of innovative ideas that address resource access inequities, quality of life issues and access to fitness activities, while also considering the positive, or negative impact to the existing infrastructure. 

How would you consider the needs and desires of members of the community who face obstacles to participation in the public process?

As a Gold Star family member I have a heightened desire and sense of duty to promote active community participation in the public process as it is a way to honor the sacrifices of our veterans while strengthening the foundation of our Republic that they fought for. Therefore, it is imperative that we work hard to facilitate all community members having an opportunity to participate and contribute. Obstacles to this can be logistical and/or as a result of historical events that created inequity and potential feelings of disenfranchisement that continues to affect BIPOC and other community members that feel left behind. I would take these factors and barriers into strong consideration to help encourage and promote innovative ways to create more inclusive, accessible and active participation.