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Brainerd candidates Skillings, Terry talk future growth of city

With Brainerd's population growth, economic development, taxes, recreation and the police department at the forefront of residents' minds this election season, Leonard Skillings and Kara Terry

Candidate Forum
The candidates for Ward 1, Leonard Skillings, left, and Kara Terry, discuss their plans Monday, Sept. 12, 2022, for managing the growth of the city at Brainerd's City Council forum.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — The two candidates vying for the Ward 1 seat on the Brainerd City Council fielded questions on their plans for managing the city’s growth with the needs surrounding that growth during a candidate forum Monday, Sept. 12, at the Brainerd Police Department.

The candidates for Ward 1 are Leonard Skillings , a Marine Corps veteran who has lived in Ward 1 for 30 years and has worked as a management analyst at Brainerd Regional Human Services Center for the past 30 years, and Kara Terry , a member of the Champlin City Council before her work brought her to Brainerd in 2013, where she currently works for the county and is involved with the Brainerd Lakes Area Drug Education program and on the Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Foundation Board of Trustees and the PORT Group Homes Board.

With Brainerd's population growth, economic development, taxes, recreation and the police department at the forefront of residents' minds this election season, Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce President Matt Kilian served as the moderator, asking both pre-written questions and those from online and in-person participants.

Kilian asked the candidates to explain their reason for running in the election and what their top priorities are if elected.

Skillings said he is running for the Ward 1 seat because of the people in the ward who stepped up and supported him being elected to the city council. His top priorities would be improving city streets and roadways to make them safer for those on the road and the pedestrians crossing them.

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Also seeing bicycle safety and proper use as something that needs to be addressed with the increasing popularity of peddling bicycles with motors, Skillings said he sees them as skirting the rules and regulations of a bicycle and motorcycle, falling into a “gray area.”

Terry said she is running for the Ward 1 seat because she has always found herself drawn to the public services sector and is not one to sit idle when there are issues that need to be taken care of. She said she wants to take part in the process of repairing or resolving the issues facing her constituents.

Seeing the need for more workers as the Brainerd area continues its economic growth, Terry said she sees affordable housing and child care as something which needs to be addressed in order to facilitate that growth.

Kilian then asked the candidates about their philosophy on balancing the quality of city service with managing taxes, fees and assessments.

Skillings said he would attempt to look at the big picture of everything that is going on in the city, research what is going on and get information on the issues at hand in an attempt to make a decision on the needs of the city.

“Things need attention and the council needs to sit down and work toward accomplishing its priorities,” Skillings said.

Terry said she would like to keep taxes as low as possible while finding a balance between the needs of the people of Brainerd and the needs of the city.

“It's really about understanding what the constituents in the community believe should be our top priorities, getting a feel for that, as well as understanding the services that we need to keep our community running,” Terry said.

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Six candidates for Brainerd City Council sit together at a long table during a candidate forum
Brainerd City Council candidates Jeff Czeczok, left, Justin Grecula, Leonard Skillings, Kara Terry, Gabe Johnson and Emily LeClaire participate in a candidate forum Monday, Sept. 12, 2022.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

With the issue of policing being at the forefront nowadays, Kilian asked what the top issue facing the Brainerd Police Department is and how they would go about fixing it.

Skillings sees the lack of respect and support the department receives as one of its top priorities. He would like to see more done to educate the community and repair the trust between the police department and the community they are sworn to protect.

Terry said she sees recruitment and retention as being a top priority for the department, with burnout being a contributing factor. Along with those concerts, she would like to encourage them to partner with other county resources to assist them as needed and provide the support they need as they respond to a variety of calls.

Pointing out the city is not just here for business, Kilian asked how the candidates would balance the needs of their constituents and the needs of area businesses.

Skillings said one of the more important things he would do is listen carefully to their needs and work to balance as many needs as possible.

Surprised this was the first question on the needs of the people over the needs of business in Brainerd, Terry said she would like to work toward creating more engaging programs for area kids but would talk to the people to see what their needs are.

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TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email tim.speier@brainerddispatch.com .

Related Topics: BRAINERDELECTION 2022
Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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