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Candidates for Baxter City Council speak at public forum

Two incumbents and one new face who hope to represent the city of Baxter on the city council discussed their takes on issues the city is facing during a public forum on Monday, Sept. 12.

People seated at a table during a candidate forum
Baxter City Council candidates Amy Bogart, Connie Lyscio and Zach Tabatt speak during a candidate forum Monday, Sept. 12, 2022, in the Brainerd Police Department.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Two incumbents and one new face, who hope to represent the city of Baxter on the City Council, discussed their takes on issues the city is facing during a public forum Monday, Sept. 12.

Amy Bogart, Connie Lyscio and Zach Tabatt answered questions about their candidacy for City Council and their priorities regarding the city's current issues. Questions were posed by Tyler Glynn, moderator of the forum and executive director of the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp.

The night began with the candidates introducing themselves and why they are running before going into a series of questions.

Bogart, the first to speak, is the owner of two small businesses in the community and said she hopes to offer aid when financial issues arise. She mentioned she is not from here, but chose for her kids to be. As a business owner, she believes spending money in the right places is very important and she could provide a different insight on how the city budgets.

“It’s very important to me that we are wise on how we are approaching our spending as we are going into this and making sure we are being respectful of people's money,” Bogart said.

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She said she wants to be someone on the council who asks all of the questions and is looking for creative solutions to encourage economic growth.

Lyscio is looking to serve her second term on the council. During the past term, Lyscio said she learned what it is like to be a part of an organization of people who truly care and respect each other. She noted she is happy and proud to be serving her community and hopes she can continue to do so in the future.

She also said she lives a life of integrity and loves the sense of community in Baxter. She said she has been told she is very approachable and has a lot of empathy.

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The council set up an improvement hearing at 6 p.m. Dec. 1, at Baxter City Hall.

“Public office is public trust and I think I’m a trustworthy person,” Lyscio said. “I want to continue to prove that.”

Tabatt is also looking for reelection. He said he believes he provides a unique perspective to city government due to his background. Tabatt served as a police officer in a larger city and one the size of Baxter. He has also served as a financial adviser and currently helps provide business-related training to nonprofit organizations in the area. If reelected, he said he plans to “advocate for a more active economic authority and to encourage the city to be more creative in how we support development that can benefit the community.”

“I think that public service is an important part of my life,” Tabatt said. “I think it’s really important that people serve their communities where they live and I’m trying to continue to do that by running for reelection.”

He said his main priority would be getting more activity on the economic development front. There is room for growth, he said, and there are aspects of the city’s long range plans on which he would like to work.

The candidates seemed to agree there is room for economic development in the area and they said they hope to be a part of helping the city expand. Economic development will lead to population expansion and overall growth within the city, they said.

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They also agreed on the idea they want to keep the cost as low as possible for residents while still providing for them.

When asked about their thoughts on improving local parks, the candidates had some similar opinions. Bogart noted the renovations to Oscar Kristofferson Park were great, but more needs to be done for the community. She noted introducing more athletic parks could improve business and the hotel industry.

Lyscio said the usage of parks went up significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said she is a big advocate for a dog park in Baxter, as well as pickleball and other outdoor activities.

Tabatt spoke of the cost of creating new parks. He said he likes park development but every trail needs a purpose. He wants the city to become more diligent when planning the parks and trails to make the cost worthwhile. He also would like to get creative with encouraging the community to hunt.

The candidates also spoke about the police department and the council’s involvement with it. Lyscio and Tabatt both noted the biggest issue the police department faces is the lack of good, qualified recruits. They also both said they feel the council should limit its involvement in the police department’s decision-making.

“They know what they need,” Lyscio said.

Bogart used her time on the matter to mention the city needs to make itself more attractive to people who want to live and work in Baxter. It’s not just the police force struggling to find workers, but the whole economy.

Each candidate was also asked to highlight what makes them different from their opponents. Tabatt started with answering and the candidates joked about the obvious answer — his gender.

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“Well, despite the obvious,” Tabatt said with a laugh.

He went on to further discuss his background and how that experience made him well suited for city service.

Bogart reiterated she is a small business owner and thinks it's important for someone paying sales taxes every quarter to provide their perspective.

Lyscio highlighted she is retired and has more time to devote to her community. She said she cares about her community and wants to serve it. Despite differences in opinion, the candidates all expressed their desire to serve the community they live in.

The forum was sponsored by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Brainerd Lakes Area League of Women Voters and the Brainerd Dispatch.

SARA GUYMON, Brainerd Dispatch staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5851 or sara.guymon@brainerddispatch.com.

Sara Guymon recently joined the Brainerd Dispatch as a staff writer.
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