Faribault Y-Pro's pizza and politics event introduces candidates to voters

By Gunnar Olson, Faribault Daily News -

Faribault Young Professionals (Y-Pro) hosted a candidate forum event at lunchtime on Thursday, which was attended by 18 candidates seeking a variety of elected seats.

With the promise of lunch, the pizza and politics event was designed to allow candidates some time to meet and greet with their constituents, hear a program from South Central College and Y-Pro and take a few minutes to describe themselves and their reasons for seeking office.

The U.S. Congress and local state candidates were each allotted three minutes, while all others were given two minutes.

Jim Hagedorn, the First Congressional District candidate running against incumbent Tim Walz, was the first to speak. Walz was not in attendance.

Hagedorn trumpeted his major points of emphasis regarding national security. He voiced his commitment to stopping Islamic terrorism, refugees and prisoners from Guantanamo Bay from entering the United States.

“Minnesota has a terrorist recruiting problem,” he said, before calling for a refugee timeout.

Next, the two candidates for Senate District 24, Sen. Vicki Jensen and John Jasinski, took their three minutes, as well as House District 24B candidates, Rep. Brian Daniels and Patti Fritz. All four candidates also appeared in another candidate forum Thursday evening at Faribault City Hall.

Faribault’s mayoral candidates took their turns next, as city councilors Janna Viscomi and Kevin Voracek spoke about their intentions.

Viscomi led off by talking about her “business values” as a downtown restaurant owner. She also spoke about her aversion to complacency as a councilor.

She went on to explain that outreach to the Somali community would be a focus, along with the elderly and youth of Faribault.

She closed with her intention to be proactive on economic development issues and being “aggressive” when it comes to creating a good climate for businesses and families.

With his turn, Voracek spoke about his unfavorable opinion when it comes to micromanaging city staff and “letting the staff do what we pay them to do.”

He also explained that adding entertainment options in Faribault is important to attract people of all ages.

“We need more things to do to bring our people together,” he said.

Next, five of the seven City Council candidates spoke. Elizabeth Cap and Adam Gibbons were the only two not in attendance.

Councilor John Rowan talked about his ability to ask the tough questions on the council and added that he thinks technology is the key to developing Faribault.

Another current councilor, Steve Underdahl, talked about his experience balancing what the city can afford and what’s in its best interest during his time on the council and on other committees. He called himself, “a solid voice on the council for controlling costs.”

Tom Spooner took the stand next and saw his experience on the city’s Planning Commission as his best asset. He explained that he thinks land use will be a major issue in Faribault in the coming years due to a flurry of redevelopment in town and sees his work on the commission as qualifying for a seat on the council.

Another candidate, Royal Ross, pointed to his experiences working on the Main Street Committee as well as his work with South Central College, the United Way and other volunteer work as what qualifies him. He noted that his passion for the community would also make him a strong candidate.

George Wickstrom noted his experience working with city government in Illinois and also said that the national debt was an issue he hoped to spread awareness about at the local level.

The Rice County Commissioner candidates took their turn next. Jake Gillen and Tom Hallet both spoke about their hopes for District 1, while Jeff Docken and Kim Halvorson did the same for District 5.

To close, two Faribault School Board candidates, Jason Engbrecht and Yvette Marthaler, spoke and endorsed each other as they are not competing for the same seat, but rather, could both be re-elected.

Overall, Y-Pro’s pizza and politics event gave candidates the chance to make themselves known to the voters of Faribault.