AT-LARGE CANDIDATES

AT-LARGE CANDIDATES (Please vote for two candidates)

At Large Ballot

 

Josh Braaten – At-Large

What is your connection to the Highland Park neighborhood? I’ve lived in the neighborhood most of my adult life. We bought our home on Pleasant Ave. in 2008 and ever since, my wife (Emily), dog (Gertrude) and I couldn’t imagine leaving. We also run our business from our home, which means we live, learn, work, and play in Highland Park. You can learn more about me at joshbraaten.com
What makes the Highland District Council mission meaningful to you? In these uncertain and divisive times, communities are more important than ever. HDC is meaningful to me because I want everyone in Highland Park to live in a more vibrant, welcoming, and safe neighborhood. If we want things to be great, then we have to make them that way ourselves.
What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community? Highland Park is both perfect the way it is and has more wide-ranging opportunities for positive change than any other neighborhood in the nation. If we’re smart about it, we can equally honor our historic heritage, preserve our beautiful natural settings, and create the most impressive urban center in the United States.
What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? Our biggest challenge will be to seize our greatest opportunities. The thought of taking a modern street car from my home to a newly constructed Ford Site is exciting, especially if these projects are as successful as they could be. But these are big changes and will require a lot of cooperation, engagement, and discussion to get the details right. If anyone can do it, it’s the Highland Park community.
What strengths would you bring to the Highland District Council? Experience, marketing, technology, and friendliness, to name a few things. I have 10+ years experience serving on non-profit boards and will get to work right away for HDC. My extensive professional experience in marketing and technology could help HDC engage and connect with the community even more so than it does today. And as far as friendliness goes, who couldn’t use more of that? :)Please check out joshbraaten.com or feel free to contact me directly to learn more about my experience, beliefs, and/or commitment to Highland Park.

 

Peter Butler – At-Large

What is your connection to the Highland Park neighborhood? I have lived on the 2100 block of Bayard Avenue since May 1995.
What makes the Highland District Council mission meaningful to you? I want to ensure that our neighborhood creates a positive experience and impression for all who come to Highland for whatever purpose. The mission inspires me to consider how we can live our values as a community for residents, students, workers or people coming to shop, recreate, dine or conduct business.
What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community? Improving pedestrian safety at major intersections around the Ford Site and along West Seventh in conjunction with redevelopment. Expanding transit service and building on an already strong bus & light rail network. Creating a Highland 4th of July celebration with music, games, food and fireworks. Re-purposing the Highland 9 Golf Course to provide significantly more outdoor and recreational opportunities for a diversity of people and age groups.
What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? The Ford Site build-out will likely generate significant changes along Ford Parkway from Woodlawn Ave. to Kenneth St.; many parcels are one-story structures or parking lots ripe for multi-use development. All these changes must ensure surrounding residential blocks are not negatively impacted through higher traffic, parking problems and noise. I will always be mindful that new development should enhance our community by taking into account the input of existing residents and businesses.
What strengths would you bring to the Highland District Council? I am very familiar with non-profit governance, financial management and operations through board and committee service. I have worked most of my professional career as an in-house management consultant for the State of Minnesota and as an analyst with the finance departments of the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. In the last two years, I have successfully transitioned to the private sector by working as a contractor for a major health care services company and a financial institution. My work experience has taught me to analyze an issue or problem before drawing conclusions and to be open to other perspectives and ideas. I have conducted focus groups and designed online surveys to collect people’s opinions and ideas on various issues and have extensively door knocked for various causes. I enjoy hearing and learning about people’s aspirations for our neighborhood and their views on specific issues affecting all of us. The sense of accomplishment from bettering our community is always rewarding and worth the effort

 

Jack Dobier – At- Large

What is your connection to the Highland Park neighborhood? Since purchasing our first home in Highland Park in 1987 we have continuously lived in the neighborhood excluding 5 years when we moved out of the area to return in 2006. My formal involvement in Highland Park began with my involvement in the Shepard/Davern Planning Commission for 2-3 years. Following that I was appointed to a vacancy by the HDC Board representing what was Grid 11. I was reelected to 2 full 2 year terms and was term limited last year For over six years I was actively involved in the affairs of the District Council serving on community programs across the entire range of the Council activities. From my focus on safety and development I served on the Transportation Committee, Walk to School Safety Programs, and Pedestrian Crosswalk safety (Yes, I even stood up for you in the most dangerous intersections in Highland). Mostly, I am proud to have been a voice of reason and for reaching consensus in all issues before the HDC Board not only for my former Grid but all of Highland Park. I would welcome an opportunity to return to the Board. And, I ask humbly for your support.
What makes the Highland District Council mission meaningful to you? The Mission is a reflection of what we seek to do. It is action put into words. The District Council exists solely to reflect the needs and desires, hopes, and fears of our Community at the lowest organizational level of government. Right here in the neighborhood. I’m not sure why I had to empathize that by throwing my hands out wide over my computer, but that’s what’s what I love about the Council and its mission. It takes me out of myself to focus on what is good for us all. It includes me, it includes you, your children, your neighbors on either side of you, our businesses, our opportunities and the future of what we, the Community would like it to be.
What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community? After having businesses closed down, schools empty, churches and all social activities unavailable. After learning about family time, home cooked meals around a table with everyone there or maybe just sitting in the front yard saying hello to neighbors — from my perspective working together in the Highland to reexamine what we do and how and why we do it gives us great opportunity to change. To be in COMMUNITY. My realization is that we have all learned from this shutdown. We have renewed respect for one another as individuals, for what we are grateful for and a renewed sense of us all being in this together. Channeling those opportunities is our greatest need. Then we are back to speeders, pot holes, sidewalks, development and how to get out of Highland with the road construction.
What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? The past several years have stressed our neighborhood. We have had significant division over the Ford Site and other issues. Over time things have become conflicted and divided within the District Council itself. Over politicalization and division will hurt everyone as far as Highland Park is concerned. With these new elections hopefully the new Board can coalesce and move forward.
What strengths would you bring to the Highland District Council? My entire work career was in labor relations. I have have extensive experience in negotiations, communications, consensus decision making, team building. I know the shortcomings of conflicted decision making. I excel at interest based, consensus problem solving. Basically, I am passionate about creating mutual good and shared understanding when solving issues. After retiring, I managed at Senior living facility in Highland making me an advocate for the interests and needs of senior citizens.Thank you for the opportunity to represent you if you choose. Finally, if you have any questions I can be reached at jdobierjr@gmail.com or by cell phone 651-470-5379. Be safe.

Andy Flamm – At-Large

What is your connection to the Highland Park neighborhood? I have lived in Grid 7 for over 30 years and worked downtown, where I served on the CapitolRiver Council board and chaired the Skyway Governance Advisory Committee. I am now retired and would like to serve in my home district council.
What makes the Highland District Council mission meaningful to you? Highland is a great neighborhood, largely due to the active involvement of its residents and businesses. The HDC is a key player in this effort.
What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community? We can preserve the best aspects of Highland while adapting to the changing needs of our residents and businesses. The Ford Plant redevelopment is probably the largest example of this, and we can help to make it the best it can be for our community.
What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? Transportation and public safety (and now public health) are some of the critical issues we face. There seems to be a fair amount of burglary and theft going on, making residents apprehensive about the future, and of course Covid-19 will change much about how we get around, shop, recreate, etc.
What strengths would you bring to the Highland District Council? I founded a successful small business which I recently sold after almost 37 years, so I’m well aware of the issues that such enterprises face. Serving on the CapitolRiver Council board and chairing the SGAC gave me a solid education in how volunteer organizations, and district councils in particular, function and thrive

 

Jay Mastrud – At-Large

What is your connection to the Highland Park neighborhood? We moved here over 6 years ago from South Minneapolis. Two of our kids attended pre-school before we even moved here, including one at the JCC. We’ve been active with our block club since arriving co-hosting last year’s get together with neighbors old and new. I’ve also served on the Highland District Council Community Development Committee and as the Highland Park and Edgcumbe Park flag football coach for multiple years. We’ve been members of the JCC for many years. I’ve also served in the MN Air Guard just across the river at the base next to Ft. Snelling and the Whipple Building.
What makes the Highland District Council mission meaningful to you? The ability of the the HDC to influence and help shape the Highland Park neighborhood culture with not just the city council but also county, district, and Mississippi watershed.
What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community? The proximity the Mississippi River, Ft. Snelling, Crosby Farm, Highland Park, and other parks makes Highland a vibrant place to enjoy nature in an urban setting. It’s also directly accessible to the airport and major Twin Cities arteries such as 35E, 494, 62, and 55 allowing residents to work in nearby cities and suburbs while still enjoying the sustainable urban core. The sense of community in many parts of Highland is terribly important in this age of social media and self-isolation. The availability of shopping, dining, and entertainment venues in Highland and neighboring areas like Mac-Groveland, South Minneapolis, Mendota, and Bloomington.
What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? The Ford Plant redevelopment is at the top of the list for many reasons. It has truly divided not just the neighborhood but the city and state taxpayers who are subsidizing a huge amount of this project in what many would term corporate welfare. It has polarized the neighbors of Highland in ways normally reserved for social media platforms. From transportation to architectural design to density (even more relevant given the current crisis), these several acres have created more intense acrimony than anything I have seen since moving to Highland Park.Another challenge, made even more difficult by this current pandemic, is the retention and addition of restaurants, stores, and other retail options in Highland Village, West 7th, and the Randolph corridors. From traffic concerns to parking and property taxes to proposed new ordinances, we the collective need to ensure these businesses, many mom & pop operations, are helped not hindered in their pursuit of serving people a product or service.Housing is also a serious challenge, the Ford site notwithstanding. There needs to be a balanced approach to housing, not a cookie cutter one size fits all approach from new construction to home expansion. Not all new construction is necessarily good nor is every home expansion on existing lots bad. Affordable housing (rent, mortgage, taxes, insurance) is a concern for many residents of Highland even with these historically low interest rates.
What strengths would you bring to the Highland District Council? The ability to listen, even to those with whom I may hold divergent views, without judgment. As a veteran, teamwork and resilience are traits I will bring to the HDC. I’m also the chapter president of our union and the shop steward where I deal with labor relations from the management, worker, and union perspective. Additional skills involve volunteer management and coordination with non-profit organizations.

 

Cory Reiman – At-Large

What is your connection to the Highland Park neighborhood? I have lived in the neighborhood for six years.
What makes the Highland District Council mission meaningful to you? If you want your neighborhood and quality of life to continue being one of high quality, you must be willing to participate in the process to help guide it and keep it on course so that this neighborhood can continue to thrive and keep that highly sought after quality of life that make this neighborhood so well known but there’s always room to make it better.
What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community? A well planned Ford Plant area could potentially turn this area into the most sought after neighborhood in the Twin Cities Metro Area.
What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? City Council irresponsibility, lack of economic foresight for the neighborhood, and unsustainable large tax increases.
What strengths would you bring to the Highland District Council? I own two businesses here, I am a Certified Real Property Appraiser, and understand how economies/small businesses actually run for long term neighborhood viability, sustainability, and superior amenity/quality of life. I base my decisions on facts, not feelings.

Brad Reinboldt – At Large

What is your connection to the Highland Park neighborhood? I have lived in the greater Highland Park area for more than 23 years. During this time, I have volunteered for numerous school and sporting activities in roles including fund raising and supporting locals teams. My objective in seeking an At Large Seat is to increase my contribution to the community.
What makes the Highland District Council mission meaningful to you? The interconnected nature of the themes called out culminating in the foundation on which Highland Park is built—vibrant, welcoming, and safe neighborhoods. For me, this means providing tangible, ongoing confirmation to each resident of their individual value as well as what their unique world view and talents can contribute to enhance the diversity of the entire community. Each of us must play our part in fostering this to ensure a robust and thriving environment for the greater good.
What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community? I see tremendous opportunities and am hopeful that we can take the awful health crisis we are currently experiencing and find many silver linings. This is based on the positive energy and actions I have witnessed as neighbors pull together to support one another. I see this manifested in how people interact with more patience and understanding; in the many wonderful yard signs offering encouragement to essential workers, and beyond. This amazing outpouring can serve us well, helping us overcome the near-term obstacles while accelerating the goal of building a more equitable and just community.
What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? 1) Ensuring all Highland Park neighbors, especially those who feel they are marginalized, have opportunity to have their voices heard on issues and topics that impact them right now and will shape the future of Highland Park.2) Aligning the day-to-day needs of today’s community (e.g. effective street maintenance, adequate snow plowing) while addressing strategic initiatives such as sustainability and livability to protect and nurture future generations.3) Creating an environment that enables Highland Park businesses to thrive and entrepreneurs to launch new ventures thereby allowing the continued growth of living and shopping locally.
What strengths would you bring to the Highland District Council? 1) A commitment to open dialogue.2) A willingness to hear out alternate perspectives.3) A varied academic history as both student and professor that enables me to speak to the important local and global issues that impact our neighborhoods and community.4) An understanding of the many technological forces that influence everyday life.

Kevin Vargas – At-Large

 Kevin Vargas - Headshot
What is your connection to the Highland Park neighborhood? After renting in the neighborhood for years, my soon-to-be-husband and I just bought our home on Cleveland Ave last year where we expect to be for the next 30 years. We love walking around our neighborhood from the beautiful Hidden Falls park and Mississippi River to the amazing local businesses and restaurants (well, before COVID, of course).
What makes the Highland District Council mission meaningful to you? I love the sense of community in Highland. I’m the first-born child of Mexican immigrants, so I want to extend the same hospitality my parents received when they came to this country. Our neighborhood is an incredibly welcoming place and I want to continue building our sense of community.
What do you see as the greatest opportunities for our community? Emerging from this pandemic will be tough for our entire community, but it will be particularly difficult for the small businesses that make Highland and Saint Paul such a wonderful place to live. We have a real opportunity to be intentional in our support of small businesses to get them up off the ground once this pandemic passes, but it will take all of us doing our part to make that happen.
What do you see as the primary challenges for our community? Highland is a place that is home to both residents who have called this neighborhood home for generations and new residents who are just starting their journey in Saint Paul. We have to chart a course as a neighborhood and as a District Council that both includes the voices and perspectives of those who know this neighborhood well and goes out of its way to be the kind of welcoming place my fiancé and I found when we first moved here several years ago.
What strengths would you bring to the Highland District Council? I’m a trained medical device engineer and current graduate student at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, so I’m uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between the needs of local businesses and community members. Not only do I hope to bring my finance and strategy skills from the classroom to the District Council, but also a unique perspective that serves communities of color and students.I’m a collaborator at heart and think we can do a better job being collaborative in a way that does not sow discord. With your support, I’m confident we can make progress in Highland Park while remaining true to the kind of neighborhood we have all grown to cherish.