Common themes emerged as several candidates for Crookston City Council shared the UMC Kiehle Auditorium stage during the Meet the Candidates Forum. What follows is a summary of each candidate’s various positions, and one notable quote for each.
Ward 2 incumbent Steve Erickson: He’s finished his first term and says it took that long to “start figuring things out” so he wants an opportunity to keep working for the community. His kids live here and he wants to make Crookston better for their generation, and generations to come. He thinks the City should probably take over ownership of the swimming pool from the school district, to ensure it doesn’t close. He wants to spend taxpayer dollars wisely, keep what the city already has, and try to grow and add things. He has a “calling tree” of people he consults with when various issues are being debated by the council. Sometimes they go against what he believes, but, Erickson added, he “represents them.” Crookston needs more small, unique businesses, and said more jobs will bring more people. He thinks better communication is needed across the board, saying, “It’s not near where it needs to be.” He’s leaning against reducing traffic lanes on Main and Broadway. It’s too costly and would negatively impact some downtown businesses. He doesn’t necessarily think council members should sign a code of conduct, because he questions what good it would do. Notable quote: “I feel like I’m far from done. I have high hopes. There’s a new council coming in; we just need to get on the same page.”
Ward 4 candidate Don Cavalier: He says he’s dedicated, hard-working, honest, a visionary, open-minded, and brings a team approach and common sense to the table. He wants to grow while preserving the past and unify the community. He thinks it’s probably a good idea for the city to take over ownership of the swimming pool, but says it’ll come down to “dollars and cents.” Cavalier thinks the council needs to work as a whole, without individual council members doing things on their own that could jeopardize the bigger picture. He doesn’t like the sound of a “road diet” on Main and Broadway, but said he wasn’t exactly sure what it entails. If he feels strongly about an issue, he said he’ll have no problem voting against it, even if he’s the lone vote against. Notable quote: “I’ll listen openly to concerns. My goal is a better Crookston. We need to thrive, while maintaining a small-town feel. We live in a great city; let’s work together to make it better to live, work and play.”
Ward 4 candidate Sharon Lewis: In her opening statement, Lewis acknowledged that she filed her candidacy when she feared that no one in Ward 4 would run after incumbent Dennis Regan decided against seeking another term. Fearing no one would represent the ward on the council, she said she filed, not knowing Cavalier had already filed. She then said she thinks Cavalier is more qualified to serve on the council than her. Notable quote: “Get out and vote. I don’t care who it’s for, but do your job.”
Ward 6 candidate Cindy Gjerswold: She says her work ethic as a one-time, longtime business owner in Crookston would serve her well on the council. She’s driven by common sense, and says she’s very conservative when it comes to spending any money, especially taxpayers’ money. She doesn’t want to spend money the city doesn’t have. She thinks the city is probably going to have to take over the swimming pool to assure its survival. She would approach the council with an “open-door policy.” She thinks Crookston, since it’s so close to Grand Forks, needs unique businesses that Grand Forks doesn’t have. Gjerswold thinks communication is lacking with the current council, and that it needs to work together toward common goals. She doesn’t see a budget that fits a lane reduction on Main and Broadway. Notable quote: “I’m honest and a hard worker. I’m very conservative and will spend taxpayer dollars wisely.”
At Large candidate Trent Brekken: He’s running to “make some changes” on the council, which he said has been “dysfunctional” over the past several months. He thinks the city should own the swimming pool. He said he’d stretch taxpayer dollars as much as possible when it comes to spending priorities. He thinks one-on-one private discussions would help resolve some council and council/mayor disagreements, instead of bringing the “garbage” to public meetings. He thinks the city should be aggressive in recruiting businesses to come here with a variety of incentives. Otherwise, Brekken said, they won’t come here. He wants to better inform the Crookston community, and thinks improved communication would get more people involved. He doesn’t think Main and Broadway should have their traffic lanes reduced. He thinks council members should sign a code of conduct because they’re “held to a higher standard.” Notable quote: “I’m a hard worker who will work hard for the citizens. My phone is always on.”
At Large candidate Dylane Klatt: He’s running because he wants to give back to the community that he says has given so much to him and his family. He’s “all for” the city taking a more active role in the swimming pool if it ensures that it remains open. He says council members answer to the taxpayers, so the council needs to know what their spending priorities are. When it comes to community growth, Klatt says the city should see what other communities are doing, like Perham, which he said seems to be constantly on the upswing. He thinks more transparency is needed with various decision-making entities in Crookston. He doesn’t think signing a code of conduct will “magically” make people behave better. As far as a Main and Broadway “road diet,” Klatt says input from downtown is needed before any decisions are made. Notable quote: “We’re either growing or we’re dying. We need to use all our tools to bring business here.”
At Large candidate Joe Kresl: Kresl was unable to attend, so the forum’s moderator, Steve Krueger, read a statement submitted by Kresl, who was hauling sugar beets. In the statement, Kresl said he has a “deep interest in Crookston’s success” and has a particular interest in downtown. He believes the “road diet” on Main and Broadway is a good idea. Kresl thinks the council needs to support the Downtown Crookston Development Partnership and other groups that “work hard for Crookston.” Listening to citizen concerns is the most important part of being a council member, he said. Respectful communications will build a “cohesive team” to move Crookston forward, he said.
At Large candidate Tom Vedbraaten: Vedbraaten, longtime Ward 6 council member, said he was leaning toward not seeking another council term, but then he said people encouraged him to run, so he’s seeking an at-large seat this time. He said the council and mayor have had disappointments and disagreements, but “as whole we’ve done awfully good.” He wants more information on the city owning the swimming pool, but agreed that if the pool goes away, it’s going to be very hard to bring it back. The council’s most important job, he said, is to listen to the citizens. Some things have to be done and paid for, like basic city services, he said, even if people don’t like it. He says the city and CHEDA are “doing what they can” with what they have to get new businesses here, but when it comes to incentives, “you can only do so much.” He is concerned about the impact of reducing traffic on Main and Broadway. Vedbraaten doesn’t think a code of conduct is needed because council members take an oath when they’re elected. Being respectful and nice to each other shouldn’t be that difficult, he said. Notable quote: “Sometimes things don’t go the way you want, but tomorrow is another day and another project to work on.”