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Eleven apply for vacant council seat in Brainerd

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Eleven residents applied for the vacant at-large Brainerd City Council seat.

The deadline for applications was 4:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The council seat became vacant recently after Bonnie Cumberland died in her home.

The new city council member will finish out Cumberland’s term, which is over at the end of this year. They must then run again in the election if they want to hold the seat.

There will be a special city council meeting at 6 p.m. on March 10, where each applicant will give a short presentation, up to five minutes, to speak to why they should be chosen. The council will then use a majority vote on who to name for the spot.

Here are the applicants:

Name: Dolly Matten.

Age: 43.

Address: 1302 Ninth Ave. NE.

Years in Brainerd: 13.

Job: Real estate agent/broker.

Qualifications: Member of Planning Commission; active volunteer.

Why apply: “The city council makes decisions, while the committee can only make recommendations. It’s a follow-through to that.”

Goal if elected: Address concerns with Wausau Paper, riverfront development and the lack of growth in the city. “I want to see Brainerd grow as much as the surrounding communities.”

Name: Gabe Johnson.

Age: 31.

Address: 1403 Quince St.

Years in Brainerd: 31.

Job: Owner of a marketing consulting business.

Qualifications: Active Brainerd Jaycees member.

Why apply: “I can provide a good insight for the council. It’s an opportunity to serve the city of Brainerd.”

Goal if elected: Be a voice for local businesses.

Name: Keith Riedel.

Age: 56.

Address: 411 B St. NE.

Years in Brainerd: 56.

Job: Manages the air tanker base at the airport.

Other qualifications: Active church member; former manager to several local businesses.

Why apply: “I think that’s what we’re supposed to do. That’s what the founders intended politicians to be — just citizens willing to serve.”

Goal if elected: “I have no agenda. It’s just a service.”

Name: Howard Brewer.

Age: 69.

Address: 121 Third Ave. NE.

Job: Retired.

Years in Brainerd: Since 2000.

Qualifications: Extensive leadership management training in the Marine Corps and as a business owner.

Why did you apply?: He said he wants to complete the unfinished business started by Brainerd City Council President Bonnie Cumberland, make Brainerd a tourist destination and provide better park activities.

Goal if elected: He said he would work on getting riverfront activiites going at Lum Park and Kiwanis Park/Boom Lake and a railroad museum. “I would like the opportunity to fill out the last 10 months of Bonnie’s term.”

Name: Shane Meyer.

Age: 30.

Address: 701 N. Ninth St.

Job: Foreman/carpenter for Timberwood Construction owner of Eye Spy Home Inspections.

Years in Brainerd: About 10 years.

Qualifications: Has served on the Brainerd Jaycees Board of Directors and served on planning committees for Ice Fishing Extravaganza and the Camp Confidence Fishing Classic. Has served as chairperson of the Street Fest on 7th.

Why did you apply?: “I volunteer a lot with few different local nonprofits. This is next step to be more involved in the community and to learn more about the community’s government.”

Goals if elected: He said he had no specific goals. “No. 1, to do right by the position. I want to make sure I get in there and give it the time it deserves.”

Name: Matt Taylor.

Age: 41.

Address: 510 Seventh Ave. NE.

Years in Brainerd: 29.

Job: Co-owner of Sunshine Kitchen and Moonshine Lounge.

Qualifications: Involved with Region Five and FoxFire Festivals. “I’m open minded and listen to what people say. I use reasonable judgment when making decisions.”

Why apply: “I’ve been tossing around the idea of running. I was going to do it this fall. I was so sad with Bonnie (Cumberland)’s passing; I started thinking who might apply. I’m ready to serve.”

Goal if elected: “I don’t want to step in with an agenda. I want to see what’s on the table and make an informed and intelligent decision.”

Name: JD Berns.

Age: 25.

Address: 706 N. Eighth St.

Years in Brainerd: 25.

Job: Nurse staffing at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center.

Qualifications: Current member of the Charter Commission and Parks and Recreation Board. Served on Central Lakes College Student Senate as president, vice president and director of special projects. Served four years as police reserve officer for Pequot Lakes.

Why apply: “I love Brainerd and everything around it. Why not make it grow better? Brainerd’s highest population is the 25-34 age group and there is no representation of that on city council. They need more of a voice.”

Goal if elected: “I want to be a new voice to the council. I won’t change anything by myself; we need to work together. I’m another perspective, a bridge to the age gap.”

Name: Susan Hilgart.

Age: 54.

Address: 2536 Greenwood St. SW.

Years in Brainerd: 21.

Job: Team leader for the Rural Minnesota Concentrated Employment Program at the Brainerd Workforce Center and the Workforce Center site manager.

Qualifications: Current member of the Brainerd Police and Fire Civil Service Commission and Transportation Committee. Has a bachelor’s degree in organization management and communications; has worked in human resources for 20 years.

Why apply: “I would not have run against Bonnie (Cumberland). She embodied civil service. I got good support in the past when I ran in my ward. I feel strong about the city and wanting to do my best to help Brainerd be its best.”

Goal if elected: “I would like to be able to expand employment opportunities in Brainerd so people who live here can work here.”

Name: Amanda Monnier.

Age: 29.

Address: 914 S. 10th St.

Years in Brainerd: Seven.

Job: Barista at Coco Moon.

Other qualifications: Been involved with the parade, 4-H and roadside pick-up. Studied anthropology and sociology and has a business management degree.

Why apply: Cumberland encouraged Monnier to keep pushing for a spot in the city when Monnier ran in 2012. Monnier planned on running again for Ward 4 at the next election.

Goal if elected: Find a use for Whittier School and not tear it down. Look at the budget and make sure funds are going to where they should be, concentrating on needs first over wants.

Name: Jeff Czeczok.

Age: 50.

Address: 511 D St.

Years in Brainerd: About 40.

Job: Unemployed.

Other qualifications: Currently on the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Commission, Transportation Committee and the ad hoc Walkable Bikeable City Committee. Involved in local government for 15-plus years.

Why apply: “I can bring something to the council that’s needs improving.”

Goal if elected: “Make sure the people are well represented and citizen voices are heard. I’m not so sure that always happens right now.”

Name: Dirk VanDerwerker.

Age: 59

Address: 604 N. Fifth St.

Years in Brainerd: 10.

Job: Self-employed financial planner; part-time at Nisswa Tax Service.

Other qualifications: Served on a city zoning ordinance review task force in 2005; six-plus years on church council and stewardship committee; has lived across the country; master’s degree in journalism.

Why apply: “I feel I have something to contribute. I don’t really want the job; I feel it’s necessary though ... I do feel I have the ability to reason through arguments and make good judgments. We all have the responsibility to not just be observers but actually participate and contribute.”

Goal if elected: “To make sure Brainerd’s trajectory is upward. My fear is Brainerd is treading water or losing ground as a city. I’m concerned that Brainerd is slowly becoming a high tax rate, low-property value community.”

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at