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Rick Esse, Candidate for 4th Ward City Council
Submitted by Rob Hardy on Sun, 10/13/2013 - 6:14pm
I have lived and worked in Northfield since 1981. I am a graduate of St. Olaf College and have studied at Luther Theological Seminary. My career path has led me from retail clothing (including Freeman’s the Hub in downtown Northfield while a college student) to the insurance and travel industries, and ultimately, advertising and communications. I currently work with a wide range of clients in agriculture, construction, financial services, manufacturing, health services and retail.
My wife Pam and I live in a two-story stucco home on North Orchard Street that we purchased in 1983 and have painted several times. We have one adult son, Alexander, and a barking Bichon named Churchill, who is too well known in the neighborhood.
- Northfield Area United Way – Board of Directors
- Northfield Community Action Center – Board of Directors
- Northfield Convention and Visitors Bureau – Board of Directors
- Northfield Retirement Community Foundation – Board of Directors
- Northfield Rotary Club – President and Board Member
- Rotary District 5960 – Assistant District Governor
- Northfield News – Director of Advertising – 1981-1993
- Esse Advertising – President and Owner – 1993 – 2008
- Neuger Communications Group – Vice President and Senior Communications Counselor – 2009 to Present
What issues or council actions have prompted you to run for council? What relevant experience do you bring to the job?
While I don’t have any “pet issues” that propelled me to run for the Fourth Ward Council seat, I sense that there is some dissatisfaction with the current council and I look forward to offering an alternative, independent voice. I am not afraid to ask difficult questions or listen to differing opinions.
I have broad business experience, have served on boards of multiple organizations, and routinely work with clients in a wide variety of businesses and professions. My ability to interact professionally and respectfully with people of all views is a trait that I value highly, and one that I strive to uphold in all of my interactions.
Zoning requirements in the city’s Land Development Code are being reexamined by the planning commission and council. What changes should be made and why?
I applaud the planning commission for taking on the task of reviewing our Land Development Code. It is important to work with contractors to address and clarify problem areas in the current code. I realize that there are some strong opinions about issues such as three-car garages, their appearance and whether they “fit” into our desired community. We have several differently styled neighborhoods, which contribute to the diversity of our city. A three-car garage might look peculiar on my 46-foot wide lot, but may well be appropriate in another area. I would caution against adopting a code that is so restrictive as to drive new residential development away from Northfield.
The city’s relationship with surrounding jurisdictions for fire protection is under consideration by a task force. How would you recommend that the operating and capital costs of fire protection be shared? What is your opinion about adopting a joint powers agreement among the jurisdictions to govern fire protection services?
A joint powers agreement between Northfield, Dundas and nearby townships presents an opportunity to operate our fire protection system more efficiently and effectively by combining resources. Operating and capital costs should be borne on a pro-rata basis for services rendered. I believe Northfield’s portion is approximately 75 percent. Currently being suggested is a nine-member governance structure with five members representing Northfield and one representing Dundas and three from the rural area. I look forward to hearing the details when the Fire Services Task Force presents it recommendations to the city council.
What are your economic development priorities for the city?
In my mind, economic development is the top priority for the city of Northfield. We need to increase our tax base in order to support and maintain our current lifestyle.
I appreciate the fact that the EDA is bringing forth ideas for identifying potential locations for business growth. But I would like to make sure we are in a position to capitalize on opportunities as they arise.
I would also like to see the city be more aggressive in marketing to potential businesses, leveraging our vast network of connections with Carleton and St. Olaf alumni, and creating a truly business friendly environment.
Northfield has a reputation as a great place to live and to go to college. It can also develop a reputation as great place to do business.
Parks, street maintenance, the fire hall and library are facility needs under consideration by the city. How would you propose to meet them?
The park board currently has a lot on its plate. Seeing the skateboard park through to completion, and evaluating options on the property recently ceded to the city on the southeast side of town, are two pressing items. Beyond that, maintaining the quality of our current park system should be a high priority for the city.
A five-year street maintenance plan is outlined in the capital improvement plan, with emphasis placed on timely reclamation and reconstruction in order to maximize the lifespan of our roadways.
Fire hall needs are dependent on the outcome of the joint power agreement discussions.
The library discussion is one that deserves special attention, because of the rapidly changing scope of information technology. Do we need more physical space for programming and storage capacity? Should the focus be on technology and computer access? A serious look at the library of the future is required in order to make a sound decision and determine the best investment for our community.
Comment on the value to the council decisions of the city’s advisory groups?
Input from advisory groups is extremely important, and we are fortunate to have a high level of citizen involvement in our community. The advisory groups should focus their attention on issues as directed by the council. Given that we no longer have a system of designated council representation on every board and commission, establishing and maintaining effective communication between these groups and the city council is vital.
What is your view of the Charter Commission’s proposal for a charter amendment to create an ethics board?
Elected city officials are already bound by an existing ethics code. An ordinance change of this type requires unanimous approval by the city council, yet the Charter Commission itself in not unanimous in its support of an amendment. I question whether or not we need additional level of oversight, and whether or not it will precipitate frivolous complaints that will create an unnecessary burden on city staff and council time.
If elected, what methods will you use to get input for your decisions?
As the saying goes, “my door is always open,” and I will welcome all comments and opportunities to discuss issues. I will make my personal phone number and email address available to all constituents, and will communicate regularly via social media. I also intend to hold scheduled ward meetings.
I am fully committed to being well informed and keeping up to date on all issues, participating in meetings and forums, and am willing to consult with outside sources as necessary to gain additional perspectives before making final decisions.