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Dolly Matten voted to Brainerd City Council

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news Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

Dolly Matten is the new Brainerd City Council member.

Matten was voted into the position Monday during a special council meeting.

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“I’m a little surprised,” she said after the vote. “They were all good candidates.”

Eleven residents applied for open at-large council seat, which became vacant recently after the death of Council President Bonnie Cumberland.

At the meeting Monday, each applicant was given up to five minutes to speak to why they should be chosen.

City council member Dave Pritschet joined the meeting via Skype from Boston.

After each candidate spoke, the council voted using the following procedure: each council member cast a vote using a single ballot. The candidate receiving the fewest votes in that round was eliminated (As well as any candidates receiving zero votes). The council then voted for the remaining candidates.

Here is who received votes:

First round: Gabe Johnson, Susan Hilgart, Matt Taylor, two for Matten, Dirk VanDerwerker. None were eliminated from those listed.

Second round: Two for Hilgart, Johnson, Taylor, two for Matten. Johnson and Taylor were eliminated.

Third round: Three for Hilgart; three for Matten

Fourth round: Three for Hilgart; three for Matten

Fifth round: Three for Hilgart; three for Matten

After the third tie, Mayor James Wallin chose between the two candidates.

Wallin said the decision was not easy, adding that he gave both the same numerical value based on his own weighting system.

After a several moment pause, Wallin named Matten as the new city council member.

Matten, 43, has lived in Brainerd for 13 years. She lives on Ninth Avenue Northeast and is a real estate agent/broker, is a member of the Planning Commission and is an active volunteer.

Matten will finish out Cumberland’s term, which is over at the end of this year. She must then run again in the election if she wants to hold the seat.

Matten says she’s looking forward to bringing the city’s strategic plan to life.

“I feel it’s a good fit,” she said. “It’s about knowing what’s going on and wanting to have a voice. A voice not just for few, but for many.”

Here’s what the other candidates had to say:

■ 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.

Johnson said he has the knowledge to handle the budget and the ability to make decisions, as well as the ability to “establish and maintain lasting partnerships.”

■ NAME: KEITH RIEDEL

Age: 56

Address: 411 B St. NE.

Years in Brainerd: 56

Job: Manages the air tanker base at the airport.

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

“I’m not here to fix or necessarily change anything. I bring something special to the table: I’m a regular guy.”

Riedel said he wants to give a voice to everyone.

■ 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.

Brewer said he wanted to finish Cumberland’s term in order to pursue some ideas he and the late council president talked about. Then, he said, he would let the “younger generation” take over the seat.

■ 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

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.

Meyer said he was looking forward to learning more about the council, and adding a “fresh, unrepresented perspective to the council.”

■ 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.”

“I don’t come with an agenda. I don’t think I have any great, original ideas that will fix things. I don’t know that there are any. I do have open mind, open ears and I’m willing to listen.”

■ 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.

Berns said the issues before the council don’t need to be complicated. “... Many of the topics that are dealt with are not even earth-shattering topics, but they are important topics.”

But the current council lacks representation from the 24-35 age group, he said.

■ 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.

Hilgart said her vision for Brainerd fits in the named strategic goals.

“To provide ample opportunity for all residents to thrive,” she said.

■ 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.

Monnier said the city faces three major challenges: The future of Whittier school, the hydro dam purchase and the need for housing.

“I can ask questions, listen to answers and then problem solve,” she said.

■ 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.

Czeczok said he’s running because of the recent movement with the hydro dam purchase.

“I’m very concerned that the vacant seat doesn’t have representation for the people as the seat is suppose to. ... It seems like there’s no representation for the people when (the council) doesn’t speak up and say something’s not right.”

■ 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.

VanDerwerker said the city should move forward on two areas: Public participation and having and active, open and respectable debate.

“The council needs to welcome diverse public input. Residents want to know they have been heard,” he said.

JESSICA LARSEN may be reached at jessica.larsen@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews.

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