ELECTION 2020: Buckvold Challenges Incumbent St. Joseph Mayor Schultz
ST. JOSEPH – Rick Schultz is aiming to win his sixth term as mayor of St. Joseph amid competition from City Council member Anne Buckvold.
The winner of the election will serve a two-year term at the helm of the St. Joseph City Council.
A longtime St. Joseph resident and software engineer, Rick Schultz spent one year on the St. Joseph City Council before being elected mayor in 2010.
“The initial impetus was this kind of ‘analysis paralysis’ the city got into,” he explained, referring to his decision to run for mayor. “The city would pay for design or analysis, but would never really move any projects forward. We’re a little more growth-oriented now. People really want to be here, so we have to be more prepared instead of more reactive. If we’re going to grow, we need to be out in front of it.”
Schultz cites maintaining a balanced city budget, managing St. Joseph’s economic growth and development and supporting construction of a community center as several of his key mayoral priorities.
“(The community center) has been a need for over 20 years,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of community support, but the price tag has put it out of our reach. We finally got momentum behind it. We had a plan. We knew what the cost was. We were trying to get bonding money. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear we’re going to have a bonding bill, but we made all three lists – the house, the senate and the governor – for bonding money. So, there was a great chance we were going to get it but everything fizzled. Coronavirus, among other things, caused legislation to be put on hold.”
Schultz says expanding St. Joseph’s tax base and promoting industrial park development are critical concerns – and matters he believes city officials have handled well in recent years.
“About 35-percent of our parcels in the city are tax-exempt, so expanding our tax base is a big deal in order to lighten the load on residents,” he explained. “We need to keep managing our taxes because of our adjusted tax base. This is the first year I can recall where we’ve had zero impact – no tax increase. The staff has done an excellent job of knowing which projects to roll forward, and which purchases they didn’t have to make or could delay to keep taxes low. We’ve done a great job of understanding and controlling growth and knowing where to build, where to invest our money and where not to.”
Schultz says the city also needs to prioritize residential development.
“There are a lot of people that want to move here, but we don’t have a lot of land,” Schultz said. “The cost is high, so we have to find a way to incentivize builders and buyers. I know now is a bad time – we’ve had a couple projects delayed because of the high cost of construction materials. But, now is the time to look at this, so when construction costs go down, we have something in place that can be used.”
Schultz currently serves as president of the League of Minnesota Cities’ Mayors Association Executive Committee. He’s also a board member for the St. Cloud Area Planning Organization and Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, and the current president of the St. Joseph Lions Club. Past experience includes the St. Cloud Area School District 742 strategic planning committee and St. Joseph’s Economic Development Authority, park board, and planning commission.
“I’ve been on every board or committee across the city,” he said. “I really know how government operates. My background is broad and deep and includes a lot of connections and networks.”
Schultz considers St. Joseph “kind of a gem,” and says he aims to preserve the qualities that attract visitors – and business – from other central Minnesota communities.
“I don’t know that we need to change much of anything,” he said. “We have good, walkable downtown space. We’ve have additions not only to downtown living, but downtown dining. There’s a real attraction for people to come here and do things.”
After five terms as mayor, Schulz calls the experience “the best job I’ve ever had.”
“I love serving as mayor,” he said. “I profoundly enjoy this job. I tell people – you get my best at every meeting. I listen to people, I don’t turn anyone away. It’s not just me making decisions; it’s a community-based effort to get things done.”
Anne Buckvold is not a stranger to central Minnesota politics. Buckvold sought but lost her bid for the District 13A Minnesota House of Representatives seat in 2016 against current representative Jeff Howe. She was appointed to the St. Joseph City Council in 2018 following a resignation and was elected to the position that November.
Buckvold has lived in St. Joseph for about 15 years. A Minneapolis native, she received her undergraduate education in Denmark and earned a master's degree in social work from the University of Maine.
“My heart is in direct support and care work,” she said. “I’ve managed a group home. I’ve worked in crisis nursery care. I’ve worked supporting people across their life span.”
Buckvold says she would like to use her platform as St. Joseph's mayor to address topics of economic inequality and affordable housing.
“(Affordable housing is) not just to the family’s benefit,” she explained. “It’s to the community’s benefit. It builds safer communities, and neighborhoods that are not as transient as we’re seeing. We need to actually figure out how to build more affordable housing – between $150,000 and 200,000 – and more in the bracket of what the average person can afford. We need to think about reasonable, sustainable approaches to this. Things are changing right now because of COVID, and they will continue to change, but we will come out of this. And we want to be well-positioned when we do come out of this with a set of solutions about things like housing, jobs, and transportation.”
Buckvold says she’s interested in examining the city’s role in keeping the cost of living affordable for residents.
“We really need to build up a middle class that makes sense moving into the future – one that works for everybody,” she said. “Where are people at? Can they afford the basics? Do they have jobs that help them afford the basics? And I think quite frankly, it’s not working for enough people. That’s where our focus needs to be as elected officials."
In addition to her two years on the city council, Buckvold has served on the board for the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, the St. Cloud Metro Bus advisory committee, the Stearns County Human Services advisory committee and St. Joseph’s park board. She also has four years of community organizing experience with ISAIAH, a faith-based social justice coalition. She says connecting with residents is her favorite part of public service.
“I love it that people reach out to me with their thoughts, their ideas, their concerns,” she said. “I can’t tell you how lovely it is to hear from residents asking, ‘hey, can you tell me more about this or that?’ That truly to me is the best part, because the strength of the city comes from the relationship between the council and the residents. You really have to build strong relationships and help bring people to the middle.”
Buckvold says she sees local politics as a powerful means of affecting change and believes her skills and experience would be an asset to St. Joseph as it continues to grow.
“We have a great town,” she said. “There are a lot of great things happening, and as a city, we could be doing a much better job at building relationships with institutions, businesses and residents. That’s something I tend to be fairly good at, and I think that’s also why I was getting so much encouragement from all corners in the community to run for mayor.”
“We have a lot to work with in terms of resources, especially human resources,” she continued. “We shouldn’t be too discouraged about what is happening nationally. When you knock on doors, it doesn’t matter what lawn sign is in the yard. I’ve had success building relationships with whoever is behind the door, and that’s what matters.”
Should Schultz win re-election, Buckvold will retain her seat on the City Council.