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City council candidates on the stump

Tuesday's election fills the four available council seats with unopposed candidates. The mayor, two at-large alderpersons and a new District Four alderperson take office after the city finalizes the process with votes.

Longtime municipal court judge June Cicero also runs unopposed in Tuesday's city election.

Unopposed races bring few surprises, but it's important to know who these officials are and where they stand on issues.

Don Richards

  • Position: Mayor

  • Age: 73

  • Term: second

  • Occupation: Mayor and retired high school teacher

    Joleen Larson

  • Position: At-large alderperson

  • Age: 48

  • Term: second

  • Occupation: insurance representative

    David Cronk

  • Position: At-large alderperson

  • Age: 63

  • Term: second

  • Occupation: retired school teacher

    Matt Fitzgerald

  • Position: District 4 alderperson

  • Age: 35

  • Term: first

  • Occupation: /IT-IS professional at UW-River Falls

    Name at least one thing you hope to accomplish while in office?

    Richards: "An improved spirit of cooperation between people in all the various entities playing a part in the potential improvement of the entire area - school district, UW-River Falls, townships, counties, city staff and council, developers, the River Falls Economic Development Corporation, Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, Chamber of Commerce, churches, boards, commissions, volunteer groups, citizens. I don't mean to imply there is a lack of cooperation now, but it could be better. Is that a measurable goal? Probably not."

    Cronk: "One thing I hope to accomplish is take the first steps in the process of getting a new city hall. Anyone that has been to a city council meeting or stopped in to do some business with one of our city staff can attest to the fact that we are in great need."

    Larson: "I would like to see some sort of boundary agreement come to fruition."

    Fitzgerald: "Help to keep focus on preserving the resources in this community that make River Falls unique and beautiful, like Lake George, the Kinni, and the many parks and trails. I think that growth should always be mindful of protecting and enhancing these natural and lasting resources."

    Name two issues you consider important to the city?

    Richards: "1) Controlled development; we're not going to stop it, but it needs to be as carefully considered and regulated as is possible. 2) The need to revitalize downtown River Falls, including the upgrading/rehabilitation of the Lake George area as a draw for people who could be shoppers on Main St. We need a new eatery, preferably downtown."

    Cronk: "Try to make River Falls more appealing to downtown retail business. Try to make the Lake George area a more environmentally healthy area."

    Larson: "It sounds cliché, but growth issues. This encompasses a huge amount of concerns. How to grow responsibly, how to grow without sacrificing our wonderful natural resources, how to grow and keep our small-town charm. The issues concerning growth are complex and are all intertwined with one another.

    My other concern is the economic viability of the core of our city. Consumers' expectations have changed and the way we do business has changed. Without any destination shopping it has really put our small retailers at a disadvantage."

    Fitzgerald: "A) Protecting the health and natural beauty of the Kinni and tributaries by addressing recent urban sprawl, runoff and groundwater issues. Knowing what is happening "upstream" is also an important part of this. B) Managing new and residential development in District Four, and managing increased traffic flow from it and residential developments that are appearing south and east of River Falls (i.e., stop light at Cemetery Road and South Main, redirecting the Wasson intersection, etc.)."

    What made you decide to run?

    Richards: "I was asked by a couple of people to do so, plus the fact that I see the job as an extension of my volunteer work. Even though it's not volunteer work, the job does give the opportunity to do something for others."

    Cronk: "I'm going to run because my first term was a huge learning experience. I believe I can be much more effective in my second term because of the experience and knowledge I gained in my previous term."

    Larson: "Several things... First, I think it is very important for citizens to be involved, whether it is in city government, chamber of commerce, girl scouts, etc. Part of being a member of a community is serving in some capacity in that community. River Falls happens to be my hometown and it has been very good to me and my family; it is home and this is my way of giving back. I was raised in a family where this was important, my father was the mayor, he was a county supervisor and a town board chairman. For me it seems to be a natural thing. After serving two terms on the Planning Commission it felt like a natural progression, so here I am."

    Fitzgerald: "I am a participant in the Chamber of Commerce Leadership River Falls program. During "Government Day," Bernie Van Osdale planted a seed in my brain when he asked if I would be interested in running for the ill-coveted and soon-to-be vacant District Four seat. I've been interested in learning more about - and becoming involved in - giving back to the River Falls community and thought that being active on the City Council would be an ideal way to do so."

    Wal-Mart, yes or no?

    Richards: "50.5% for it; 49.5% against it. I'm still learning as much as I can about the process and could change my position depending on what I learn."

    Cronk: "As far as Wal-Mart goes, I can say that I do not like them very well. Their environmental practices and the way they treat people worldwide, I believe, leaves something to be desired. I have not seen any proposals from them for River Falls, so what I just said is based only on what I've read or seen on television."

    Larson: "Several years ago, when I was on the planning commission, we drafted the Big Box ordinance (#2002-31 and #2003-08) and it was adopted by city council. For those readers who have concerns about large-scale retail development, I would suggest they read this ordinance. It is a great ordinance that is specific to size of building, type of building, zoning, design standards, building height, parking lot layout, landscaping, signage, etc. It requires the large retailer to set aside money in an escrow fund in case they ever abandon the site, close the business, etc. In my opinion it answers many of the concerns that people have expressed in regards to large retail development."

    Fitzgerald: "No. Disclaimer: For me to say 'Yes,' I could need to be convinced that Wal-Mart would be good for the River Falls community, where it has not been for many other small communities."

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