St. Anthony ballot to feature familiar faces, but no Faust


Jerry Faust

Nancy Robinett

Randy Stille

Hal Gray

Thomas Randle

Bernard Walker

Bridget Kranz
staff writer

Candidate filing for the St. Anthony City Council elections closed Aug. 13, leaving voters with two choices for mayor and three options to fill a pair of seats on the city council in the Nov. 5 election.

Residents can expect to see familiar names on the ballot, but longtime Mayor Jerry Faust’s will not be among them. Having served as St. Anthony mayor since 2004, Faust decided not to seek re-election. 

He declined to comment on his decision. 

Faust’s final term as mayor was a tumultuous time in the suburb. He presided over the city during the fallout of the 2016 killing of Philando Castile by a former St. Anthony police officer, and the closing of the city’s only mobile home park at Lowry Grove. During a June 2017 council meeting, just prior to the park’s closure, attendees called for his resignation. 

Longtime council member Randy Stille is hoping to replace Faust as mayor, as is resident Nancy Robinett, a founding member of the social justice-minded group St. Anthony Villagers for Community Action.

Two seats on the city council are also up for grabs, with three candidates vying for a spot. Incumbent council member Hal Gray is seeking re-election, while council member Thomas Randle is seeking to hold his seat. A third candidate, Bernard Walker, has thrown his hat in the ring for the first time. 

Four out of the five names on the ballot should be familiar to voters, having all run in previous elections.

Robinett and Stille were both contenders in the 2017 city council race alongside Randle, who was not chosen in the election but was appointed by the council to fill a vacancy later that year.

Incumbents Jan Jenson and Stille were both able to hold onto their seats. Stille led after election day with 1,211 votes and Jenson came in second with 1,007 votes. Robinett came in third, trailing Jenson by only 18 votes, a margin so slim that she requested a recount.

After the recount confirmed the initial tally, Robinett joined Randle in applying for a vacant seat left behind following council member Bonnie Brever’s resignation.  

The council selected Randle as Brever’s replacement following public interviews in December 2017. 

In appointing Randle, the council cited his ability to build relationships and form consensus. Meanwhile, a few residents present for the appointment expressed surprise that Robinett was not chosen, given her share of votes in the election.

 

Mayoral race
In deciding to run for mayor, Robinett cited the leadership skills she’s gained from organizing St. Anthony Villagers for Community Action, as well as from engaging with city government frequently since moving to the area in 2014.  

“I realized [my leadership skills] when I asked the mayor and council to not violate open meeting laws,” said Robinett, referring to a January 2018 planning session the council held at a Brooklyn Park Marriott hotel.

Robinett, an immigration attorney, criticized the meeting, given the cost and lack of accessibility for St. Anthony residents. 

After she brought it to the attention of the Minnesota Department of Administration, state officials issued an advisory opinion saying the out-of-town session violated the intent of the state’s open meeting laws. 

Looking ahead to what she would prioritize as mayor, Robinett emphasized transparency and critical thinking, especially when it comes to the city budget. 

“I don’t want it to be a rubber stamp,” she said. “It is really critical for elected officials to look critically at all that information. I don’t mean with a mean spirit, but I mean with a very analytical eye.”

Robinett said she would also push for more opportunities for public input at council meetings and work sessions.

She said she’s excited by the prospective residential redevelopment of the vacant Walmart off Silver Lake Road, given its ability to expand the tax base. However, she also noted her commitment to providing more affordable housing and said she would shop prospective city-owned sites with multiple developers. 

Stille, a vice president of commercial real estate at Associated Bank, also emphasized his support for new development in the city. 

“You’re going to have to let the free market run a little bit, in conjunction with your goals and objectives,” said Stille, noting that his professional life has helped him understand and troubleshoot the redevelopment process in his time on the city council. 

He cited the Walmart redevelopment as the biggest issue currently facing St. Anthony. “If that gets done, you’ll see a value added to our asset base of more than $100 million.”

Although he noted there’s always room to grow, he said he believes St. Anthony already has a lot of things going right. “With regards to our full-service community, we have an excellent police staff, we have an excellent fire department.”

Both Stille and Robinett mentioned sustainability as a top priority. 

Stille’s seat on the council is not up for election this year. If he were elected mayor, the council would again have the option to hold a special election or fill the seat by appointment. 

Stille was first elected to the city council in 2003 and served on the city Planning Commission prior to that. For the majority of his time in city government, he has worked alongside his fellow council member Gray, who is running this year to remain in his seat.  

 

City council race
Gray has served on the council since 2005, when he was appointed to fill a vacancy. He said he’s seeking re-election primarily because, “I’m really concerned with the city staying as it is. It doesn’t mean that we don’t have things to improve on, but it’s a great city.”

“Particularly, I’m interested in making sure that the police force stays strong,” he continued. “There are some people in the community ... that would like to take over the police force, or at least have more influence, and I don’t think that’s necessary.”

Gray, a senior manager with FedEx, said he’s also excited by the prospect of the Walmart development and said he recognizes the need for more affordable housing.

Of his time on the council, Gray said, “The biggest thing I’ve learned is that we always want to let people have a voice and we always want to encourage people to come up and talk.”

Randle is a newcomer compared his council colleagues, all of whom have served for more than a decade. 

He said he initially ran and then applied to fill the vacancy because he felt he could bring a different perspective. In addition to being the only black person on the council, Randle said, “Sometimes you need a perspective from just a common, hardworking person, who can speak for the common people.”

Randle, who has worked in property management for over a decade, said there are a lot of issues he would like to continue to work on, including potentially raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21, a measure he said the council will discuss this fall.

Randle said his other priorities include housing development with as little tax increment financing as possible, community safety, sustainability and keeping local government non-partisan.

He noted that this election cycle feels different from 2017. 

“Last time was kind of sad, to be honest ... all the drama and the infighting turned neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend. It was terrible,” he said. “This time, I don’t sense that.”

Walker is the only absolute newcomer this election cycle, but according to his campaign website, he has been involved with the city since Castile’s death in 2016. 

Through conversations with the police department, as well as the U.S. Department of Justice, Walker said he helped give feedback on strategic goals and objectives for the police force in the wake of Castile’s death. 

While Walker could not be reached for comment, his website lists his priorities. They include public works improvements, commercial development, transparency, safety and support for St. Anthony’s diverse communities. 

According to his website, Walker currently works as an adjunct professor of philosophy at multiple Twin Cities colleges. 

– Bridget Kranz can be reached at bkranz@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.


How to vote:
Although Election Day is not until Nov. 5, absentee voting for the St. Anthony mayor and city council elections begins Sept. 20. Those wishing to vote early can complete an absentee ballot in person at the Ramsey County Elections Office, 90 Plato Blvd. W., #160, in St. Paul. The office is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Residents wanting to vote by mail can download an absentee ballot request form, return it via email, mail or fax, and then get an absentee ballot mailed to their home. Absentee ballots can be returned via email, mail or fax to the elections office.

For more information and to download a request form, visit www.ramseycounty.us/residents/elections-voting/voters/vote-election-day.

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here