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Brainerd Ward 1: Skillings hopes to address road rules, rentals

Leonard Skillings is running against William "Jamie" Bieser and Kara Terry to represent Ward 1 on the Brainerd City Council.

Leonard Skillings sits at table
Leonard Skillings is one of three candidates running to represent Ward 1 on the Brainerd City Council.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Roads and rentals are two of the top issues Leonard Skillings would like to tackle as a Brainerd City Council representative.

Running for a Ward 1 seat, Skillings was born and raised in Brainerd and wanted to throw his hat in the ring to represent his community.

The first issue that comes to mind for him is educating the public on the rules of the road for bicycles, electric scooters and other similar vehicles, which are supposed to operate on the roads just like cars. It’s an issue he said is prevalent in Brainerd but does not ever seem to be addressed.

“They should ride on the right hand side of the road, not the left. They should signal and everything, just like a vehicle does. They should be respected like a vehicle,” he said. “And yet what I see consistently here is everybody rides on the left or they ride on the sidewalk, including those electric ones. … And my biggest fear is that I’m going to hit one.”

Rental housing is another area of interest, as Skillings said he has seen and heard of several people who have had issues getting things fixed in their rentals in a timely manner. Landlord response time, he said, is something that should be addressed.

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“I don’t think there’s really any accountability to the landlord,” he said.

And that’s not the only area where accountability could use some work.

“I think it’s true that in general, across the board in our society, there’s a lack of accountability, period,” he said.

Skillings said he would also like to learn more about animal control in Brainerd and how it works, as he feels there are issues in some areas with both stray animals and owners not taking care of their pets.

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Learning about constituents’ needs and concerns is a priority as well. Phone, email and Facebook are all means of communication Skillings is comfortable with using to hear from the public, but he would also like to see some sort of community meetings to get some face-to-face interaction with the public, as residents are typically only allowed a few minutes to address the council during the open forum portion of the meetings, and sometimes that allotment does not meet constituents’ needs.

“A council person could have a community meeting now and then, just invite people to come over and, you know, talk about whatever issues they may have personally,” he said. “... I’m certainly willing to listen, and if there’s something that I can do, I would certainly take up the cause and see what we can do.”

While Skillings said he isn’t one to make promises about taking action on issues, he will always be available to listen and try to find an answer if he can.

Skillings is a Marine Corps veteran who has lived in Ward 1 for 30 years. He spent three years in Florida before Minnesota reeled him back in. He enjoys all sorts of outdoors activities like camping, hunting and ice fishing.

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He is a management analyst at Brainerd Regional Human Services Center, where he has worked for the past 30 years. His work entails oversight of care treatment programs and working with patients on insurance claims and coverage.

Skillings and his wife have two grown children and enjoy spending time with their grandkids.

Outside of work, he is an active member of St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic Church, where he serves as Grand Knight for the Knights of Columbus, and is part of a team that provides monthly meals to Sharing Bread Soup Kitchen.

Skillings is coming up on his 39th year of sobriety and previously worked as a chemical dependency counselor.

Whether voters choose him or not, Skillings just hopes everyone gets out and votes and makes the best choice they can.

“Just take a look at the candidates and make the best informed decision you can make. I’m not a politician. I’ve never really cared for politics per se, but, you know, it’s just at a point in my life where I can give back. If that’s what the people are willing to do is put me in that spot to help the city of Brainerd, I’ll do that,” he said. “... Just whatever you do, get out and vote. Make your voice count.”

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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