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Candidate Q&A: Red Wing mayor

Five Red Wing mayoral candidates will run for office during the primary for city elections Tuesday Aug. 9. Voters will select two candidates to proceed to the general election Tuesday Nov. 8.

Ahkeem Brown, a graduate of Red Wing High School, has been a regular participant at Red Wing Human Rights Commission meetings.

Sean Dowse, former director of the Sheldon Theater, has served on the board of directors for local organizations including Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce.

David Harris, a retired surgeon, served on the School Board and participated in extensive humanitarian work in Latin America.

Kevin Serres, who owns a pilot car company, is active in both the antiques and automotive communities, having organized the Cruzin’ Old Main Car Show in Red Wing.

We asked them to answer four questions.

Ahkeem Brown

What are the primary issues you hope to address as mayor and how will you respond to them?

Climate change, race equality, corruption in the legal system and preserving the beauty and history of Red Wing. These issues need to be addressed immediately.

I will respond by acting now before the problems are out of our reach.

How would you apply your experience, community involvement and qualifications to your duties as mayor?

I am a criminal justice, sociology and psychology student. I am an advocate/activist for human rights, civil rights and education, so my experience and qualifications will be a big role in my duties as mayor.

What opportunities will you provide Red Wing residents to reach out to you and voice their input?

I will encourage the community to voice their input by joining city meetings and reaching out to the city’s officials to get answers they seek.

What issues do you hope to bring more attention to as mayor?

The corruption in the legal system and climate change are a few of my main issues I would like to address as mayor.

Sean Dowse

What are the primary issues you hope to address as mayor and how will you respond to them?

There are four primary issues I see for Red Wing:

•Lack of housing for low and middle income families,

•Job growth and economic development,

•Continued revitalization of our downtown core,

•Ensuring an efficient, effective and sustainable city budget

No one person can solve these issues. As mayor I will bring together the people most affected by the issues, listen to their points of view and help reach creative, real solutions.

In housing there has been a significant decline in new housing built in Red Wing since 2008. Without housing, employers have a difficult time attracting new employees who will live here. I will bring together employers, realtors, City Council, the Housing and Redevelopment Authority and others in the community to define what the problems are. Together we will begin to develop multiple ways to make progress.

As mayor I would play a role bringing people together, providing direction for discussions and finding multiple creative solutions that build on the success we have already seen. I will take the same approach with economic development across the community. The mayor can assist and work with organizations and be an advocate for businesses.

Red Wing has a crucial opportunity in the next few years that few cities get. We have seen major upgrades in our downtown infrastructure. We will see even more as the new bridge is built in the next four years. We need to take advantage of this and bring together our local organizations to focus on common goals for business development. Each organization has an important role to play in attracting new businesses and strengthening existing enterprises.

I will lead a collaboration among government agencies, civic organizations, individuals and businesses to develop additional strategies for a strong future.

The city budget currently includes property taxes from the nuclear power plant. We know those taxes will not continue at the same level indefinitely. We need to plan for a future with lower revenues. I have worked with city staff on budgets in the past and I will continue to work to ensure that our budgets are effective, efficient and sustainable. At the same time, we need to ensure that we meet the needs of everyone living in Red Wing.

How would you apply your experience, community involvement and qualifications to your duties as mayor?

In my career I have experience managing organizations and budgets, negotiating contracts, producing marketing and public relations campaigns, and building collaborative partnerships. As mayor, I’m excited to bring those skills to my work for the residents of Red Wing and use those skills as I collaborate with City Council, city commissions and boards, civic organizations and advisory groups.

I have a solid understanding of the city budget and resources having worked with the city for 25 years. I know how to work with committees and volunteers. These are skills the mayor of Red Wing needs to bring diverse organizations and individuals together to accomplish the important challenges ahead of us.

As a community volunteer I have been on the board of Red Wing organizations that are committed to helping Red Wing grow and prosper. I have worked with the state legislature and am excited to see what opportunities there are for Red Wing to take advantage of funding programs the Legislature may offer.

Most importantly, I have a strong and dedicated commitment to our community— commitment to listen to the people who live here and the businesses and organizations to build a sustainable future for Red Wing.

What opportunities will you provide Red Wing residents to reach out to you and voice their input?

I’ll be available in as many ways as possible: Regular office hours, email communication, regular social media postings inviting input and comments.

My phone number is 651-388- 5935.

My email is seanmdowse@gmail.com

In addition I welcome the opportunity to attend neighborhood gatherings and meet with organizations and groups to check in and address specific issues.

What issues do you hope to bring more attention to as mayor?

One of the most important duties of the mayor is the appointment of qualified and motivated Red Wing residents to the city’s boards and commission. I will make it a priority to work with the city’s boards and commissions to recruit candidates who will bring diversity as well as the needed experience and commitment. I want to reach into the community to attract individuals who may not have thought that serving the city was for them.

Tourism is also an issue I want to spotlight because it’s a key component of Red Wing’s economic health. I will work with local tourism groups to advocate locally and throughout the region for our city, and I will be a visible presence at events welcoming tourists (and locals) to Red Wing.

Finally, I will continue to bring attention to Red Wing’s immense natural and cultural resources to make sure Red Wing continues to enjoy a high quality of life. We have a lot to be proud of and take care of — from our parks, bluffs and riverfront to our local organizations and community events that make our city a place where we hope all people feel welcome. I will be an advocate for these amenities so all residents and visitors can enjoy what Red Wing has to offer.

David Harris

What are the primary issues you hope to address as mayor and how will you respond to them?

My immediate concerns are the failure of Red Wing to grow and attract a diverse population, the lack of a college or school that provides advanced education in the broad sense (I’ve discussed this with people at the Minnesota State College Southeast and Red Wing High School. They understand this deficiency) and the great need, at the other end of this scale, for a preschool which reaches all economic levels (especially when so many families today are broken).

I see answers to these shortcomings in a town like Northfield, with two excellent colleges, where prosperity and a growing population contrast with our community over the last 30 years.

Red Wing is a beautiful place and a wonderful place to live, with a long history of some very outstanding people, but I think we are at some risk of stagnation. I think the very fact that we have a “weak mayor, strong council” form of government actually give the mayor the potential of being a strong inspiration if he/she speaks out clearly to the council and the community.

These are preliminary thoughts, and I am open to other ideas.

How would you apply your experience, community involvement and qualifications to your duties as mayor?

My previous experience has included serving on the School Board, participating in civic organizations: Dawnbreakers Kiwanis, U.S. Air Force, Veterans for Peace, Witness for Peace, Red Cross, Presbyterian Men’s Reading Group, Northfield Friends (Quaker) Meeting, teacher’s aide in both Goodhue and Red Wing Schools (Spanish language), playing in the adult YMCA basketball league, acting in a Sheldon Theater production, and canoeing with the Red Wing Paddlers and others.

I see the mayor as a person who listens well, one who both inspires and is inspired by the people and the organizations of the community. He/she must also attend gatherings of mayors and/or city managers from other communities and bring back ideas for our city. And on occasions where the concerns of our citizens can be supported, the mayor should accompany others to activities both here and outside Red Wing, e.g. a state basketball tournament, an important event involving Red Wing business or professional concerns, a Prairie Island powwow.

Of essential importance to Red Wing, the mayor must work intimately with the Police and Fire Departments during emergencies and drills.

What opportunities will you provide Red Wing residents to reach out to you and voice their input?

I promise to answer calls, emails, and personal visits as soon as humanly possible. If elected, I expect to schedule frequent (weekly, more or less as needed) open hearings where everyone is welcome to discuss his/her concerns.

What issues do you hope to bring more attention to as mayor?

I think I’ve addressed the fourth question in my answer to question 1. But I’m open to discussing other issues.

Kevin Serres

What are the primary issues you hope to address as mayor and how will you respond to them?

Since the mayor of Red Wing has no power, he’s an ambassador for the city. Every weekend, I go to different towns and I see how different towns operate. I’m going to bring events to this town like Goodhue has, Roberts, Wisconsin has a huge event that they do every year called Good Neighbor Days. Thousands of people go there, so there’s no reason that a tourist town like Red Wing should not have events all summer long.

With tourism, you have to have people come. If they don’t come, they won’t spend money. People in Rochester aren’t going to say, “let’s go to Red Wing and go shopping,” when there’s everything in Rochester. But, if there’s something to come here for, then they will go shopping.

How would you apply your experience, community involvement and qualifications to your duty as mayor?

First, the crazy spending in this town has to stop. Like I said, I go to events and travel all over the United States for my job. I see what different cities do, and I have ideas of how to get people to this town. So, it’s not really what I’ve learned in the town, it’s what I’ve learned from other towns and how they do events.

What opportunities will you provide Red Wing residents to reach out to you and voice their input?

I am going to have my email open, they can contact me any time they want. I think, since I’d be the ambassador of the city as Mayor, we should have a Facebook page and twitter account so people can tell you exactly what their problems are. People who can’t get ahold of the Mayor cannot tell them, ‘I have a hole in my front yard that I need fixed, it’s been there for five years, and people keep driving through the hole.’ This day and age in 2016 it shouldn’t be too hard to get contact somebody.

What issues do you hope to bring more attention to as mayor?

There’s a lot of them. Crazy spending in this town, the wages people get paid in this town to do nothing. People keep paying taxes and there’s nothing being done on their behalf. I don’t think that’s right. If somebody comes up with an idea and it’s a good idea that will bring people to this town, the city and the Chamber of Commerce should get behind these people to sit down and discuss it with them. For example, there’s no reason the Canadian-Pacific holiday train shouldn’t stop here at Christmastime. It stops at Wabasha, Winona, Lake City and Hastings, but drives right through the city of Red Wing. It’s supposed to raise money for the community, but every year I watch that train go by and I go to Hastings to take pictures of it.

We need to do something with the city besides worrying about how much money we can spend.

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