Thanks to Blue Sky Bookkeeping and Jameson’s Irish Bar for their support.
In the West St. Paul municipal election this year the mayor and three City Council members are on the ballot. We’ve asked the candidates a series of questions to see where they stand on the issues. We’ll share one question and the responses at a time leading up to the general election on November 8. See our 2022 voter’s guide for more.
Previously we asked about creating top priorities, housing, the budget, public safety, and the city manager. This time we’re asking about positive change.
How will you make West St. Paul better? What are your biggest, grandest, greatest ideas? What specific strategies or policies can you put in place to create positive change?
Here are the candidates’ responses:
Candidates for Mayor
This is an uncontested race.
We will, once again, meet early in the calendar year as new Council members get onboarded. This day-long retreat is an opportunity to review the past initiatives and set the course for the new year. Public safety is my top priority for the coming year.
I support the development of a Community Center. What that looks like, I am not sure. We need to continue to improve our public spaces. Our parks, roads and walkways need to be well maintained.
We will continue work as a team. My goal is to bring the Council and staff together to develop strategic goals.
Candidates for City Council Ward 1
Keep the city clean through enhanced volunteer efforts and by using sentenced to serve crews. Explore all options to reduce the number of stray shopping carts. Boost volunteer recognition through the city’s social media and periodic drawings for prizes for those who volunteer.
Partner with others to bring more public art to visible areas. Use cost-effective ways such as allowing sculptors to have their work viewed in public areas as a way to advertise. Cooperate with artists, such as graffiti artists, in need of community service.
When Marthaler Park is renovated, consider an observation tower at the top of the hill and partner with a private entity on a zip line, if feasible. We should also consider ways to improve community access to the city’s dome.
While the city works with Metro Transit on a rapid bus line, we should also work with them to enhance park and ride options and ensure that the routes most used are safe and have clean stops. Those who park and ride provide more customer opportunities for our businesses.
Promote partnerships and shared services. This will be the wave of the future as all units of government entertain ways to save taxpayer dollars.
As a community development professional with DEED, I can lend my skills and access my network of experts I know to assist with economic development. Create a group of business owners to keep the city updated on trends, including what is and is not working.
Kimetha “KaeJae” Johnson
I believe the community work that I’ve done through my nonprofit has already made West St. Paul better. We have delivered to the doorsteps of renters close to 200,000 lbs of food, collected and distributed over 200 coats to families in ISD 197 and recently gave 465 book bags with supplies to families of color struggling to meet the school needs of their students. I have been able to bring people from different cultures, political views and religious practices together on the common connection of community. I will bring that same level of passion to connect people and remove barriers to the city council.
I would love to see the Hy-Vee space become more than just a walk in the park or another expensive complex. My dream space would host a mini mall of resources for nonprofits and small businesses with shared space for entrepreneurs of color. Additionally, I would be excited to have a homeowners program spearheaded by the city for families of color, specifically Black families that takes them through every step from finance repair to homeownership.
I would continue the strategy work I’m doing with the WSP Equity team, which was established through a proposal presented by myself and another resident to bring people together to help guide the city in the direction of real diversity, equity and inclusion.
Candidates for City Council Ward 2
This is an uncontested race.
John Justen did not respond to our questionnaire.
Candidates for City Council Ward 3
I’m proud of the work we’ve done for the past four years, and I want us to keep heading in the strong direction we’ve set. I want a skatepark to happen. I want us to find grants to help secure funds for bigger and better park enhancements, more accessibility options, recreational programming, or anything else we haven’t been able to consider in the past, due to financial constraints. I want to make sure we, as a city, get what we want and need with the former YMCA property. I want to change our policies to allow public art and more murals without a full-on debate every time it gets brought up. I want us to recognize our businesses that have been in West St. Paul for years and years because those same businesses also consistently contribute to making our city a better place, whether it’s donating money or school supplies or their time to city events. I would love for us to engage our volunteers more in park cleanups, brainstorming sessions, or smaller-scale city events, and then I’d like for us to revisit the appreciation events we used to do for volunteers prior to the pandemic. We’re a unique and vibrant community, and our amenities and resources should fully reflect that.
Jake Nelson has dropped out of the race and did not participate in our questionnaire, but will still appear on the ballot.
Vote on November 8
The general election is on Tuesday, November 8. Learn more about where and how to vote. You can also vote early with an absentee ballot, either by mail or by stopping at the Dakota County offices.
See our 2022 voter’s guide for more on the candidates and other races.
Thank you to the candidates for taking the time to respond to our questions.
This local election coverage only happens thanks to the support of our members. Consider joining West St. Paul Reader to ensure local election coverage continues. Membership starts at just $3 per month.
Thank you for this service Kevin. It is very enlightening to learn the candidates priorities and the initiatives they are promoting.
I really appreciate these voter guides. One question I would ask candidates is how frequently they plan to respond to their constituents’ questions and comments. Overall, I think my city representatives do a decent job, but the few times I have contacted them about issues in our neighborhood I have received no response. It’s as if they don’t check their city of WSP email accounts. That has been disappointing. Not responding to the WSP Reader voter guide questions also seems to show a lack of interest in the job and makes me question why they bothering to run for election.