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Four City Council races up for grabs

Clockwise from upper left: Randy Kusilek, David Cronk, Jim Nordgren, David Reese, Katie Chaffee, Eunice Beachman, Dave Ostness and Diane Odeen.

Editor's Note: Candidates were asked to provide basic biographical information and a word-limited answer to the question, "How will your knowledge, skills and/or experience benefit the city during your service as a City Council member?"

Alderperson at Large

Randy Kusilek, 49, Incumbent

Kusilek has lived in River Falls 49 years and works as a funeral director's assistant. He seeks a 3rd term.

He says,"I've seen River Falls grow from about 5,000 to 15,000 people and all the slow and sudden changes that have occurred in our city during that time. Being on the City Council for the last four years, I have had the chance to help with the growth of our city and make some changes that are benefiting the people of River Falls.

The many projects that the city has accomplished in the last few years, and the projects that are ongoing, and the ones that are in front of the council at the present time should show this. Examples include Cascade Avenue, Habitat for Humanity, finishing the path around Lake George, baseball field, Radio Road interchange and many others. Living here and raising my family here, I see and hear from residents their concerns and ideas about the needs of the city and take them into consideration when making decisions on the council. I have enjoyed being on the council and the many challenges it brings and hope to continue to represent the people of River Falls."

Diane Odeen, 53

Odeen has lived in River Falls for 21 years and works as an attorney.

She says: "My professional skills and personal experiences will help me work to solve problems that come before the City Council, while encouraging more residents to get involved in city government.

I am a lawyer and have experience analyzing tough issues and resolving conflicts. In my job, I listen to people, learn what they value, and help them find solutions. I'd like to do the same as an At-Large member of the City Council.

I've been involved in the community as a past president of the Rotary Club, the secretary of the board of the Forward Foundation for Public Education, and a co-founder of the River Falls Community Theatre. I'm also active in my church.

I grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, so I understand the rural heritage of towns like River Falls. There are a lot of teachers in my family and I value the fact that so many in our community are educators. I've raised a family here, and know what it's like to be a commuting parent. All of these experiences give me a great perspective on the culture and values of River Falls. Our city has a great future if we all work together."

Alderperson District 1 (Wards 1-4 in SCC; Ward 5 in PC)

Dave Cronk, 70, Incumbent

Cronk has lived in River Falls 48 years and is a retired RFSD teacher. He seeks a 5th term.

The first-born child of a baker's family, Cronk grew up in Durand, served in the U.S. Army and attended college at UW-River Falls before earning a master's degree in counseling. He taught 5th, 6th and 7th grades and worked as a substitute for a decade.

He says,"I can honestly say that it was an honor to have taught the children of River Falls for all those years.

I believe the city has come a long way since 2004 (first term). I like to think I have responded well to those who have contacted me and that I know the ins and outs of city government.

Even though we have made great strides in this city, there is room for improvement. We need to continue to improve our downtown business district, develop industrial parks to hold taxes down, keep a watchful eye on our beloved Kinnickinnic River, and support our city's infrastructure.

Most of all I hope we can provide services for people in all walks of life. If we can accomplish these things, we can make River Falls the city you would like it to be."

Dave Ostness, 62

Ostness has lived in River Falls 47 years and works as a certified emergency manager.

He says, "I have significant experience working with local/regional government entities. My current posts include serving on several boards: St. Croix County, St. Croix EDC, WESCAP, and the county's council on Aging and Disabilities.

Past membership on committees includes transportation, emergency management, Squaw Lake District Rehabilitation, Pubic Protection and local emergency management. I've also been a member of the Moose Lodge and Ezekiel Lutheran Church.

I bring first-hand knowledge of local government policy, procedure and practice. I spend substantial time seeking our accurate information and also listening to the concerns and opinions of the constituencies involved with any of my positions/assignments. I collaborate well in both the public and private sectors.

As an elected official, I take seriously the duty to represent the overall best interest of residents and the vitality and health of the entity which I'm serving. I have the capacity to acknowledge and consider opinions, while thoroughly and carefully studying issues as they impact the community's bigger picture. I would be pleased to serve as the councilperson for District 1."

Alderperson District 2 (Wards 9, 10 & 11 in PC)

Jim Nordgren, 74, Incumbent

Nordgren has lived in River Falls for 31 years and is retired from work in sales and technical and customer service at a combination of Oscar Meyer, 3M and CarQuest. He seeks a 4th term.

He says, "I believe as a common council member, I have a duty to serve all of the citizens of River Falls. My decisions should be made with the majority in mind and what will ultimately benefit River Falls.

I am committed to listen, use good common sense and be aware of the many challenges of the future. I encourage our staff to maintain tax levies as low as possible while maintaining needed services.

A number of successful projects are finished including a new City Hall, Cascade Avenue, and land acquisition to expand our tax base through commercial and industrial development. Future projects include the Radio Road interchange, Eco-Village, upgrading infrastructure and encouraging cooperative boundary agreements with adjacent townships.

River Falls is fortunate to have an excellent City Hall staff and the information to be well informed, question the alternatives and approve decisions that make the best better.

With experience and a strong desire to help River Falls develop and maintain its unique character, I can contribute visionary, practical, common sense leadership for the next two years."

Eunice Beauchman, 40

Beauchman has lived in River Falls 14 years and with husband Thomas, has three grown children, and owns Two Bears Painting.

She says giving back is important, "Over the years I have been active volunteering for local schools, Habitat for Humanity, locals in need and Native Americans. I also helped create the River Falls Cash Mob and am an avid supporter of the arts.

Our town has many assets that could be used to promote River Falls as a destination. The council should represent local business and vote in the best interests of both residents and business. It is vital to have a thriving downtown and a business district, but not at the expense of local property owners or small, struggling businesses.

Some goals, if elected, include harnessing local assets to become a destination and create jobs; promote tourism, festivals and special events that highlight local assets, foster new partnerships, host conferences and workshops and encourage investment into River Falls.

Why not try lowering property taxes incrementally for owners who maintain their property since the current system does not reward good maintenance? I would watch for tax money to be spent wisely and would vote against tax increases. People are struggling and do not need or want unjustified spending or increases.

Alderperson District 3 (Wards 6, 7 & 8 in PC)

David Reese, 70, Incumbent

Reese has lived in River Falls for 45 years and is retired from work as a private-sector accountant, accounting manager and legal administrator. He seeks a 3rd term.

He says, "I'm completing my second term representing District 3 on the City Council. During that time I've served on the Library Board, the Historic Preservation Commission and four years as City comptroller.

I am also an active member of the American Legion Post 121 and am proud to serve on the Honor Guard recognizing the military service of local veterans at their funerals.

I have a deep appreciation for the quality of life we enjoy in River Falls. I recognize that wise use of our limited resources is vital to maintaining that quality. I offer the expertise I've acquired throughout my years of employment to the citizens of the city.

I enjoy working with the city staff, and interacting with the other members on the Council. I feel I've been a positive influence and have made sound policy decisions while representing my constituents and the City.

I am committed to my position on the City Council, and would like to continue that service."

Katie (Haskins) Chaffee, 65

Chaffee has lived in River Falls for "almost half a century," where also her immediate and extended family and grandchildren live; she retired in 2010 from the library-event coordinator's job, now working at Whole Earth Grocery and Miller Law Office.

She says, "My many and varied work experiences, which include 13 years at the River Falls Journal, have helped me see the wide diversity of individuals that make up our community. A record of community service with a range of non-profit organizations and boards has taught me how to work effectively with others to achieve our common goals.

Serving a term as mayor 2000-2002 means I am no stranger to the workings of city government and the issues facing the city.

As a historian, I know the value of learning from the past, but not necessarily reliving it. I believe I would bring a unique outlook and creative thinking to problem solving in what is shaping up to be a decade of difficult challenges.

Since women make up more than half of the population, I think it would be a positive change to have more women serving on the council, representing viewpoints that are not always heard.