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Candidate Q&A: Red Wing Ward 4

Editor’s note: Today marks the start of the R-E’s candidate profiles for local races in the Aug. 12 primary election. Candidates’ responses were limited to 150 words.

Red Wing City Council’s Ward 4 seat is open this year, and Daniel Johnson, Kent Laugen, Ernest Stone and current council member Peggy Rehder are seeking the spot.

Their names are on the ballot for the Aug. 12 primary, which will narrow the field to two for the November election.

The City Council also has another primary race, with three candidates for the at-large seat, and two other spots that will be on the November ballot.

Read on to learn about the Ward 4 candidates’ plans, priorities and backgrounds.

Name: Daniel Johnson

Age: 49

Address: 1421 Bush St.

Occupation: Pressroom foreman, RiverTown Multimedia

Education: DCAVTI Graphic Communications Program

Family: Wife: Wanda Hayes; two teenage children at home

Civic involvement: Current member of the St. Paul's Lutheran Church Council

 What sets you apart from the other Ward 4 City Council candidates?

My goal is to be the voice for the citizens of the 4th Ward.  I'm available to listen to the concerns of the people and to bring those concerns to the council. I believe that we need to keep a balance between being a hometown community and a tourist destination.

I feel we need to keep our public safety departments fully staffed and trained with the most up-to-date equipment and techniques available. This includes the construction of the new fire station in Burnside.

The residents of Red Wing also cherish the parks and recreation areas; these need to be preserved and kept available to all residents, now and in the future.

What are some specific needs and issues in Ward 4 and how would you address them?

Ward 4 is rather unique in the fact that it includes the historic downtown district. We need to attract viable businesses to this area and fill up the empty storefronts. This will ease the tax burden for homeowners. Red Wing needs to keep the local economy strong for the citizens.

We need to continue to upgrade the infrastructure in the East End. We have to be proactive on this instead of reactive. It costs less to do repairs and maintenance on infrastructure when it is planned ahead of time than it does to do emergency repairs when it fails. 

What would be your top priority if you were elected and why?

The downtown is going to have a rough few years with the Highway 61 reconstruction, then followed shortly after with the bridge reconstruction. I will work to help the downtown district survive the Highway 61 reconstruction and try to make the area a strong retail and tourist destination.

We also need to generate more interest in the land that we have for commercial development. Some of this land has been on the market for almost a decade.

Empty storefronts and undeveloped commercial property generate far less tax revenue than successful and thriving businesses.

Name: Kent D. Laugen

Age: 61

Address: 445 E. Seventh St.

Occupation: Attorney

Education: U.S. Army, Computer Technician; University of Minnesota - BA; William Mitchell College of Law - JD

Family: Daughter Carly

Civic involvement: --

What sets you apart from the other Ward 4 City Council candidates?

My ability and willingness to ask the tough questions.

What are some specific needs and issues in Ward 4 and how would you address them?

We must do more to help our kids that may not be college-bound. The city and port could be instrumental in helping to bridge the gap between high school and the workforce. We need to help reduce the dropout rate; the reasons should be obvious. We should start by having a liaison from the City Council to the school district, we should start talking to employers about what skills they need in employees. We have a stake in the success of all our students.

We absolutely need to address the long-term spending of the city. Residents of the Fourth Ward are especially sensitive to property tax increases and rising utility bills. The city is making commitments that may be difficult to fulfill due to our changing demographics. Our population is getting older which is going to affect housing needs, how much money circulates in the local economy, etc.

What would be your top priority if you were elected and why?

The people of Red Wing want to have a better understanding of the issues that confront the City Council. I don’t accept the premise that residents are apathetic about their city government. Instead, many are disengaged. They’re disengaged because it’s often too difficult and time consuming to follow the issues. We can better engage citizens by ensuring that issues are presented to the public in plain English, not government-speak.

Our city does a great job in providing transparency through documents online and in streaming and archiving videos from council meetings. But transparency without understanding is of little value.


Name: Peggy Rehder

Age: --

Address: --

Occupation: Retired

Education: Macalester College

Family: brother, sister, niece, nephew, dog named Closie, cat named Tinka

Civic involvement: HRA Board, United Way Funding Committee, Chair of Goodhue County Solid Waste Advisory Committee.

Church: Sunday school teacher, choir member and Church Council; Friends of the Sheldon and Friends of Downtown Main Street.

What sets you apart from the other Ward 4 City Council candidates?

For many years I have been involved in government and civic affairs as both a volunteer and professional. My experience is wide-ranging, including at the federal state and local levels. As a result, my understanding of how government works and how to get things done is extensive. Doing the best job I can for the city of Red Wing is my top priority and I believe my time in office has demonstrated that.

What are some specific needs and issues in Ward 4 and how would you address them?

Most of the issues the city faces and the City Council deals with are issues that similarly affect the different wards. However, the Fourth Ward is most heavily impacted by:

Absentee landlords: The Fourth Ward has a high number of rental units with many of them owned by absentee landlords. We need a much higher number of these landlords to participate in the Crime Free Housing Program. Also, these properties are disproportionate violators of our junk ordinance.

Public safety: The Red Wing Police Department is stepping up proactive community policing. Individual officers will be assigned to spend more time in specific neighborhoods getting to know residents and building stronger trust relationships.

A new program is starting in the middle school which will be a significant step forward in building trust and understanding with young people. While important to the entire community, this has the potential to have the most impact in the Fourth Ward.

What would be your top priority if you were elected and why?

The Red Wing City Council and staff have put a great deal of time and effort into developing a Strategic Plan for the city. Like any plan, this plan is only important if followed through on. So far, the city has made excellent progress doing this, making necessary adjustments along the way. My top priority is continuing to work with staff to meet the goals of this plan, all of which move us towards a more vibrant and successful community.

Name: Ernest W. Stone, but please, call me Ernie

Age: 54

Address: 647 21st St.

Occupation: Maintenance lead, Gemini Inc.

Education: High school ’78, Davenport, Iowa; some college, many industry-related courses, mostly in electronic troubleshooting and control circuits; licensed to teach the theory and operation of Doppler radar  

Family: Wife Anne Stone; children Andrew and Eric

Civic involvement: • Toastmasters, advanced leadership training club. I am a member of five clubs including Southern Minnesota Mentors. Last year I held the Area 83 Governor post and this year I have been promoted to Southern Division Governor. My home club, Hiawatha Valley Toastmasters, is here in Red Wing. Supporting Red Wing High School speech classes, Speech Crafters and annual Great American Speech Contest.

• Club secretary for the Red Wing Sportsmen’s Club.

What sets you apart from the other Ward 4 City Council candidates?

A practical answer can only be the evaluation from readers who compare the answers of these three questions. Ward 4 residents are fortunate having four candidates willing to invest a very large amount of time, energy and sacrifice much not-yet-gray hair.

My goals are to evaluate, in an effort to reduce, cut and rescind regulations and restrictions where possible and practical. Exploring alternatives to the current tax-and-spend mentality is no longer an option, but a necessity.

Red Wing is a city of its own. Enhancing the elegance that is uniquely Red Wing and underscoring her history must be the focus. Changing and reshuffling will only create another cookie-cutter neighborhood.

Civic center, local tax referendum, I say no. Cut down decade-old trees and move utilities to add sidewalks? Not with my vote.

Our pride runs as deep as our history. With your vote, I will drive a new sense of checks and balances.

What are some specific needs and issues in Ward 4 and how would you address them?

The most common concern Ward 4 residents report is taxes are out of control and administration is out of touch with this reality. If a project is not essential, I will simply vote no. I define essential needs as quality infrastructures with a well-funded police, fire and paramedic force.

City administration is vast and overpaid. Is this administration merely crafting new projects that require bonding, borrowing and taxing done to justify their existence?

Another Ward 4 concern is Mississippi Links. Are the Links a worthwhile expenditure for people, many of whom are on assistance or limited incomes? Should the city own and subsidize business in direct competition to another taxpaying facility? 

The plan to recover the course will cost millions. I am convinced there is a better way. Eliminating closed council sessions would be a start. I will do my best to address these issues and make your government transparent.

What would be your top priority if you were elected and why?

Since I can remember, the biggest gripe has been lack of transparency in government. People say, “You can’t fight city hall.” If you are tired of hearing this, if you are tired of adjusting your budget because your taxes are going up, please give me your vote.

I cannot promise that I can change this. What I can promise that I will do my very best to make it so. More importantly, I trust you will watch me and shame me if I fall short of this promise. Elected officials are your servants for truth and prosperity.

It is up to the people to establish a better city, not the government. As it is my goal to be a better person every day, it will be my goal to make Red Wing a better place to live, grow and raise our children. Please visit I will honor your vote.

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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