Candidates lay out priorities for next two years
By Dale Mischke
Three long-time residents of Mendota Heights are running for mayor in the November 3 general election. Liz Petschel, Stephanie Levine and Patrick Watson all hope to succeed Neil Garlock, who will be stepping down as mayor at the end of the year.
Petschel, 71, has served on the Mendota Heights City Council for the past 10 years. A former chair of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport Noise Oversight Committee and of the city’s Airport Relations Commission, she believes she has the experience and knowledge to lead the city.
“My top priority as mayor would be balancing the city’s budget with all of the challenges of the current pandemic,” she said. “We’re hearing prognostications of record home foreclosures and whether or not property values will flatten out or dip. Foreclosed-on homes mean unpaid taxes, and levying against uncertain home values creates a challenging situation in creating a realistic city budget.
“Having joined the City Council following the economic downturn of 2008-2009, we had many budget challenges,” Petschel said. “We resolved to increase our cash reserves and earn a better bond rating, and that made the city far more resilient to face today’s challenging economic climate. Our strategy so far has been to fund what we’ve already committed to and defer those things that aren’t urgent. I think residents will see one of the smallest levies we’ve had in some time.”
Petschel graduated from Saint Catherine University with a B.S. in nursing. Married with three children and seven grandchildren, she is a former nursing instructor at Saint Luke’s School of Nursing in Duluth and Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount.
“The City Council has a host of objectives that need to be addressed,” she said, “including a complete environmental plan, addressing space and safety issues in City Hall and the Police Department, completing the comprehensive plan, long-term planning for Oheyawahe (historic Pilot Knob), and permanent funding for park improvements. I’d be able to step in seamlessly and see that these things are addressed.”
Levine, 55, has served on the District 197 School Board for the past seven years. A former chair of the Mendota Heights Parks and Recreation Commission and of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts, she is a former actuary who specialized in pensions and health care. She said that as mayor she would bring a fresh perspective to City Hall and financial expertise that is grounded in experience.
“If elected, I’ll join a City Council with 35 years of collective service and together we’ll make a great team,” Levine said. “We must be proactive as we face revenue shortages due to our current economic climate. I’ll leverage my community connections and ability to work collaboratively to advocate for our city. I’ll work to preserve the character of the city and improve services while remaining transparent and accessible to residents.”
Married and the mother of three children, Levine graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.S. in mathematics. She went on to earn a master’s degree in mathematics at the University of Minnesota.
“Mendota Heights has a unique character, beautiful trails and parks and wonderful schools and neighbors,” Levine said. “I love our city and have the skills and experience to lead during this challenging time. We must be good stewards of our environment, aging infrastructure and community in a way that’s sustainable and responsive.”
Watson, 44, a graduate of the University of Saint Thomas and a certified hazardous materials manager, serves as a principal dangerous goods analyst at Medtronic. A former safety consultant, transportation manager and compliance manager, he is married and the father of two children.
“Our family moved to Mendota Heights 14 years ago for the excellent public schools, access to outdoor recreation and, most important, the close-knit and supportive community,” Watson said. “It’s important that we sustain these aspects of the city while attracting the next generation of residents.
“I believe the city requires fresh perspectives on government and leadership to realize this vision,” he said. “As mayor, I’ll contribute to that vision by focusing on transparency in my communication with residents, listening to their concerns, supporting the maintenance and improvement of our infrastructure and fostering engagement with the environment through the preservation of natural resources and balancing smart development with green space.
“One theme I’ve heard continuously from people over the past decade is that they’d like to be better informed about city planning and projects, public services and the overall direction of Mendota Heights,” Watson said. “To that end, I’d set up regular listening sessions to meet people where they are, keep them informed and take their questions and ideas back to City Hall.
“My professional career has prepared me well for city leadership,” Watson said. “I have ample experience in project management, organizing and working with teams to solve problems. And my volunteer experiences with Scouting and in our schools have given me insight into the functions, needs and priorities of our community.”
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