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Brainerd Ward 4: Johnathan Miller committed to safe roads, open dialogue

Johnathan Miller is running against incumbent Gabe Johnson and fellow challenger Emily LeClaire.

Johnathan Miller
Johnathan Miller is one of three candidates running to represent Ward 4 on the Brainerd City Council in the 2022 election.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Johnathan Miller wants to make an impact on his community through the Brainerd City Council.

“I have had a sense of community; I just did not know where to put it,” Miller said during an interview Thursday, June 23.

During his time at Brainerd High School, Miller recalls taking a government class and following the City Council, feeling even then a desire to serve the city when he had an opportunity.

Miller, 32, was born and raised in Brainerd and Baxter, growing up during his early years in a trailer park near Lum Park. He, along with wife Brittany and dog Zai, now rent a house near Harrison Elementary School in Ward 4, which he is running to represent in the upcoming election.

Miller spent the last four years working in digital marketing and also spent time working as a card dealer and tournament director at casinos in Onamia and Forest Lake, each time commuting from Brainerd so he could stay in the city he loves.

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“I would rather drive five hours round trip and deal cards in Forest Lake than move anywhere closer to the metro,” he said. “And that’s not a dig on those folks, but that’s just how I am. … I love it here. It’s been wonderful growing up here.”

An avid Minnesota Twins and Wild fan and outdoorsman, Miller loves making use of the Brainerd parks, especially Jaycees Park in Ward 4.

The issues

As someone who likes to be outside and walk through the city, Miller sees walkability as an issue he would like to address if elected.

“I don’t feel like — given the way that people drive inside of Brainerd — that it’s safe for folks to be on the road, in the bike lanes, on the shoulders,” he said, noting he often sees drivers using the shoulder of roads as turn lanes. “... I give folks the benefit of the doubt. I think people think they can actually do that, but when you’re going to make the community a walkable, bikeable scenario, it has to be first safe for the walkers and bikers.”

While infrastructure upgrades have helped in that capacity in recent years, Miller said there still needs to be an education component, such as safe driving leaflets for residents.

Communication is another key issue for Miller, who said he has experienced the frustrations of trying to contact elected officials and not feeling like his voice is heard.

“I’m not saying that I’m some sort of catalyst to the neighborhood or anything like that, but I feel like I’ve done a very good job speaking to the folks in my neighborhood,” he said. “... I intend to hit every door in my ward, if I can.”

While Miller has his own concerns in Ward 4, he knows his neighbors might see things differently. And with so many modes of communication available, he said he would like to learn from members of the public how best to interact with them so everyone can get the information they need.

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“The policymaker has to be someone who makes it easy for people to add their input,” he said, noting Ward 4 has a wide variety of people and residences.

With many rental properties and other homes in his area that could use updates, Miller said he would like to see a streamlined system for property owners to be able to address maintenance issues without having to jump through hoops.

Choosing a candidate

Miller said he is a listener and a problem solver who would work to find solutions to the issues people bring up whenever possible.

“When you have everybody’s perspective … there is usually a common theme. There is a common goal that folks in the community are trying to accomplish,” he said. “And that’s what we’re trying to find, and I think I’m the person that can do that, that can bring folks together.”

Primary election

Miller is running against incumbent Gabe Johnson and fellow challenger Emily LeClaire to represent Ward 4, which encompasses southeast Brainerd. The primary election is Aug. 9. The top two vote-getters from the primary will be on the ballot for the general election Nov. 8.

More Brainerd City Council coverage
Jeff Czeczok is one of two candidates for the open at-large seat on the Brainerd City Council.

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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