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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 positive change, top priorities, housing, the budget, and public safety. This time we’re asking about the city manager.
In West St. Paul the council and mayor don’t run the city—that task is delegated to the city manager. Since the 2021 hiring of Nate Burkett as city manager, what do you think of the changes he’s implemented and the direction of the city in general?
Here are the candidates’ responses:
Candidates for Mayor
This is an uncontested race.
I have confidence in our City staff. I am often proud of the “cutting edge” initiatives that come out of the work of our staffs leadership team.
Candidates for City Council Ward 1
When I heard about Nate’s hiring, I thought it was good for the city that he came from a county background. This should help the city as Nate would seem to have good ideas on how to best partner with Dakota County that we may have not previously known about.
I started to have some interaction with Nate when I re-joined the Park and Rec Advisory Committee this spring. I really appreciated his bold feelings that we need to think big and how he welcomed those ideas. That is a refreshing change from the prevailing attitude from city managers a while ago who seemed to acquiesce to small thinking and settling for the ordinary.
I agree with the city charter that the mayor and council should provide policy and then generally stay out of the way as the city manager implements that policy and runs the city. As a current outsider from the inner workings of city hall, Nate appears to be competent and seems to enjoy the support of the council.
With the exception of malfeasance, you will not see me siding with efforts to fire the city manager (as has happened all too often in the past) as these actions end up costing the taxpayers money and creates havoc at city hall.
Kimetha “KaeJae” Johnson
I think Nate has made a real effort to listen to those who have been ignored in the city for so long. His willingness to work with the Equity team has been one of the most positive changes for the city.
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
Yes, the task is technically delegated to the city manager, and our city manager runs the actions that we take past the council before they take place. We don’t have to agree with the proposed actions. That being said, I feel like Nate Burkett came to West St. Paul with the understanding of what our city council wanted to do for our community and has helped us take steps towards those goals. I’m very pleased with the changes he’s made when it comes to managing our money, being willing to take risks for the betterment of our residents, and the level of transparency he has with council members.
When Nate has changes or ideas in mind, he explains them, and makes himself very available for questions to clarify or input for change. I’ve been able to witness firsthand the relationships he has with the staff and council members in other cities and, to me, it’s because developing trusting partnerships is important to him. I value his expertise and his knowledge in his role. As part of the subcommittee that did the first round of interviews on city manager candidates, he rose to the top immediately for me, and I’m very glad the rest of the council was on the same page.
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.
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