A new era to begin on Brainerd city council?
One more Brainerd City Council meeting on Dec. 17 is all that remains between what some may say is an old and new council. Elected to three of four open seats in November — current Council President Mary Koep retained her at-large seat — Chip Borkenhagen, Dave Pritschet and Gary Scheeler will bring new blood to a council that has seen relatively little turnover in past elections.
The new council members will replace 48 years and seven months of council terms, with Lucy Nesheim and Kevin Goedker not opting for re-election this year and Bob Olson defeated for his at-large seat by Borkenhagen.
And all of them said they couldn’t be more excited and ready to do their part.
“I can’t wait until the day I get sworn in,” said Scheeler, who is the only one of the three with prior city council experience, serving on the Brainerd council from 1998-2004. “We have a great new council coming together with Dave (Pritschet) and Chip (Borkenhagen) and I as the new members and with the existing council, it’s going to be a great mix ...new is always a breath of fresh air.
“You can see the excitement in the air. I am excited to see what happens in January.”
Garnering 540 votes to win the Ward 3 seat, Scheeler said he will continue to focus on his campaign promises of making sure the community grows and bringing the “positive energy the city needs.”
A business owner for 35 years, Scheeler has owned a Brainerd business since 1999. It’s some of that experience that Scheeler said he plans to pull from to make the right moves for a community he said he is so passionate about.
“A lot of people have the talk and can’t walk the walk,” said Scheeler currently the is the owner of Brainerd Country Power, a lawn and garden center. “And I have the walk and everybody knows that. I have the energy and I bring a commitment and passion.
“I feel that I run a good business and I run a good family and I can definitely run this city. I have been self-employed most of my life and I am not afraid to make a decision and not afraid to say when I am wrong and don’t gloat when I think I have done something right.
“Right now our job is to lift and carry and move the city forward.”
Echoing the sentiments of Scheeler was Borkenhagen, who led the at-large contests with 2,336 votes, ousting longtime council member Olson for the seat.
“The biggest thing I am looking forward to is a fresh perspective and a different way of looking at the city,” said Borkenhagen. “I think it is good once and awhile for a city to re-look at itself from a new perspective.
Named the 2008 Citizen of the Year, Borkenhagen said he is going start up community conversations once a month to hear directly from the people.
“I think it will be less intimidating to have these one on one conversations (between council members and Brainerd citizens) than people approaching the council in council chambers,” said Borkenhagen. “We can all share our ideas and concerns of our community.
Borkenhagen was the founder and publisher of the Lake Country Journal and was also involved in design, photography and writing. Other business experience includes time with Studio 2, Borkenhagen/Russell & Herder, Evergreen Press/Lake Country Journal and Riverplace Communication Arts/Riverplace Press. He has also worked for Universal Pensions/Printing, Bang Printing and Central Lakes College. He is currently working on a book of the history of the lake country with his wife of 32 years, Jean. He added that that experience and putting the city first will ultimately move the city ahead.
“I want us (council and community members) to say where our priorities are and ask what do we hope and dream this city can be and work toward making it that way,” Borkenhagen said.
A priority for Pritschet, who won the Ward 1 seat with 487 votes, as he gets ready to join council will be to encourage job growth and “improve the life of people in the Brainerd lakes area.”
“That’s why you elect officials,” said Pritschet. “To go in and make the decisions and make what’s best for the community.
“What I am going to focus on is supporting business and encouraging job growth.”
A teacher at Forestview Middle School, Pritschet is a debate, speech and Knowledge Bowl coach, too. He was a 2006 recipient of the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Recognition Award and the 2012 Brainerd Teacher of Year.
With decision-making a part of being a teacher as well, Pritschet said that he knows not everything he does or every decision he makes will make people happy but he is willing to talk and explain his decisions and be open to hearing from the people.
“I know being in city council, not every vote I make is going to be what everyone in Ward 1 wants,” he said. “But I have easy accessibility and am going to use that.”
And as for being a fresh face to council, he said that some turnover and new ideas once in awhile are necessary.
“I have no idea how long the voters of Brainerd will want me in office,” said Pritschet with a smile. “But I don’t see myself running when I am 60 (years-old). We will see how my term goes and hopefully they will want me longer than that.”
Pritschet, Borkenhagen and Scheeler will join Koep and rest of the council in January.