Paul Hager

Candidate for Mayor

hagerI believe the most important issue facing Northfield is leadership. Without effective leadership, Northfield will be unable to focus on the important issues of the day and plan for our future.
A mayor leads by listening to others and building a consensus to solve challenging issues. A mayor leads by being inclusive and proactive in setting the agenda for the City. A mayor leads by creating opportunities for others to lead. These are the qualities I brought to Northfield when I served as Mayor from 1995 to 1998 and when I served as First Ward Council Member from 1989 to 1995. I would like to bring my experience to work for Northfield again in 2009.

Return to Election 2008 page.


Responses to questions submitted by participants:

1. Have you had experience as a landlord of rental properties? What do you think about the current rental ordinance? Would you recommend changes? What enforcement mechanisms do you recommend?

I believe far too much time and money has been spent on this issue to re-open the discussion. I will support the ordinance and monitor its effectiveness in addressing the problems that were the basis for creating a new ordinance. If the ordinance fails to remedy some of the existing problems, then it needs to be amended, improved, fixed. As to the ordinance itself, there are parts I like and those I question, but let's try it, let the review board serve its purpose, and see if the ordinance is successful.

2. What will you do to help ensure the economic vitality of our downtown area? What vision do you have for what Northfield should be like in ten or twenty years?

The City has long promoted the downtown with funding for redevelopment and infrastructure improvement. That commitment will continue. Specifically, I favor expansion of the Library in the downtown location and the development of a parking ramp in the downtown.

I support funding non-government organizations, such as the NDDC, Chamber of Commerce, and the Key (the Union of Youth) to actively promote the cultural and social attractions of the downtown.

I want to explore new ideas for growth and development, public services, and public-private partnerships in the next ten years. I want to retain the elements of Northfield that make it an attractive place to live, work, raise a family, or retire. I want Northfield to be ahead of the curve of in its thinking of solutions to social, economic, and civil issues.

3. What are the particular skills you bring to the council? What are the most important personal attributes a council member can bring to the table?

In twelve years of service in public office I have learned how to work with people, define an agenda and accomplish common goals. I know that common sense is essential to the governing process. I listen to people and ask questions before I vote. The most important skills are honesty, listening to people and their concerns, and respect for the ideas and opinions of others.

4. Can you identify an area where you will need further information or experience before you can be an effective council member?

An effective council member is always learning, improving and applying new
knowledge to the decision making process.

5. What role does the city play in developing a sustainable energy supply for its citizens? What plans should be set in place?

I think the Energy Task force has done a remarkable job, as demonstrated in their recent report to the city council, of identifying issues and action steps for the council to consider in setting an action plan to make Northfield a more energy sustainable community. The report is a call for self-reliance and self-empowerment. We should commit to an energy action plan that is achievable and sustainable.

We should have a town hall meeting to share this plan with the greater community and invite citizens to participate in a community discussion of energy issues. Recently, the School Board committed to a two-year energy savings plan, but did so without consideration of working in coordination with other large energy users in the community. We should work together, as a community, if we really want change in the energy culture.

6. What is the state of relations between the city and its major employers, particularly the two colleges and Malt-o-Meal? How should these relationships be improved and sustained?

In my term as Mayor in the 1990’s, I had on-going contact with the colleges and the businesses in the community. Regular communication is essential to understand the trends, ideas and developments that affect those businesses and in turn, our community.

7. As a candidate, what are your top two or three priorities for the next two years?

Restore respect and trust in City government. With financial uncertainty, control (reduce) spending, learn to live within our means; build the commercial/industrial tax base through redevelopment.

8. What steps should be taken to ensure that the city employs talented and motivated public servants?

We can attract the best and the brightest if we have a council that is honest, forward thinking, and committed to a professional working relationship with its staff.

9. In 2009, the council will hire a permanent city administrator. How do you think the council should go about this important process?

When I was Mayor in 1996 we used a recruiter to find and hire Scott Neal. Using a recruiter is the tried and true method and it will get you the usual applicants- those individuals looking to move up the administration ladder. I would like the council to consider another option. Open the hiring process to include candidates with management experience in the public sector. This wouldn’t exclude candidates who are city administrators, but it may not require someone to have served as a city administrator.

Before we can start the recruitment process, we need to get new members of the council up to speed. I favor retaining Joel Welinski in the interim Administrator position until a new administrator is hired.

10. What will you do to try to recover the missing 2.3 million city dollars.

I have spoken with interim administrator Joel Welinski and it appears there is really no chance of recovering our money. The case is currently being investigated by the FBI and the IRS for criminal prosecution. Apparently, the investment company has no assets, so there is no point in pursuing a civil case to recover our investment. The criminal complaint may lead to punishment, but restitution, is unlikely.

11. Northfield and Dundas share a sewer plant that may be approaching its capacity. In an effort to not find out in 2012 that we "broke the plant" in 2010, the Dundas planning commission and city council have in place a simple worksheet that is used to evaluate every platting request to see if it would make us exceed the capacity. This should keep us from finding out after the fact that we have overpromised this growth-limiting resource to developers. This simple analysis will also let us not have to go to taxpayers and have them subsidize other people's profits in an unjust way. As mayor, are you willing to ask for and use this question of capacity BEFORE you consider and approve new growth?


12. Given the fatal traffic accident that occurred at Jefferson Parkway and Division Street, if elected how would you prioritize the concern over the safety of this intersection against the other infrastructure plans?

Yes. The portion of 246 from the High School to the intersection of County 1 and Gates Avenue is very congested and dangerous during school start and dismissal times- a danger to both pedestrians and vehicles. The intersection at Jefferson and Division can be  busy, chaotic, and as we experienced last Spring, fatal.

Another trouble spot is the Middle School. Inbound traffic to the Middle School can often back up onto the southbound turn lane making entrances and exits doubly dangerous. The Middle School driveway is too narrow to fully accommodate three lanes of traffic and as I’ve sat waiting in my car at that entrance, I’ve often thought that there has to be a better design.

Let’s look for a better design before another person gets injured or killed.

As a state highway, we need to work with MNDOT to address issues of safety, however a short-term fix could be as simple as having a traffic officer on duty during peak hours. I think there are issues about design, speed, and capacity. To address these larger, long-term issues, we need to work with the school district and MNDOT to find a solution.

As Mayor, I would make the safety of this roadway a priority issue.

13. What is your plan for integrating the working poor into the economic growth potential of our community?

(No response.)

14. Do you have plans or goals for the City of Northfield regarding the health, welfare, and wellbeing of children in the community?  Specifically, I see on the City of Northfield's website that the City Council has pledged its commitment to the 2001-2010 International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World.  I would like to know how you plan on supporting this effort.

(No response.)

15. What is your position on North Avenue?

(No response.)

16. What role should the mayor play in job and wealth creation, and what are your plans in this area, if elected?

(No response.)

17. How would you address the needs and concerns of Northfield’s college students? As mayor, how interested would you be in staying in direct contact with students?

(No response.)

18. What is your understanding of the role of the mayor in respect to the staff, the council and the public? What personal qualities does the mayor need in order to work successfully in the role of that office?

(No response.)

19. How will we know when Northfield city government has grown too large?

(No response.)