By Anne Holzman
Voters in Falcon Heights will select a mayor and two at-large council members on Nov. 7.
Randy Gustafson is running unopposed for a second term as mayor. Running for two council member seats, with no other candidates on the ballot, are Paula Mielke and incumbent James Wassenberg.
Mielke ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2017. She serves on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission and chairs the State Fair Task Force.
Wassenberg has served on the Environment and Planning commissions and was appointed to the council in November 2022. This is his first time running for office.
The Bugle asked each candidate about policing, racial justice and plans for Community Park.
Gustafson works for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office, which currently provides police services under a contract that expires at the end of 2023. He said there is “zero conflict of interest” and that his familiarity with law enforcement “could be considered an asset for our community.”
After an officer killed Philando Castile in 2016, Gustafson co-chaired the committee convened to respond. He cited the current effort with consultant Third Sphere “to bring our community together.”
Concerning the park, Gustafson said, “Our final plans will need to be affordable and realistic.”
Mielke expressed concern with the Sheriff’s Office “because of (what she contended is) the department’s rogue leadership, history of racism and use of dangerous high-speed chases.” She will seek a partner with “values of accountability and transparency.”
She has worked on the Mapping Prejudice project and noted the racial imbalance of home ownership in the city. She proposes a renter protection ordinance.
Concerning the park, she said, “Let’s build a modest building so we can ensure there is funding for outdoor amenities. We also need to add another playground structure to Curtiss Field next summer, the backyard for children who reside at Town Square and Amber Union.”
Wassenberg said he supports the current police search and also sees a longer-term need to establish trust between the police and the city’s residents.
He said that “environmental issues are often closely tied to issues of racial justice.” He views both as depending on education and “the practice of the principles of equity in our daily lives.”
Wassenberg said his intent for the park is to “listen to residents” and then “balance our community wish list … with a realistic budget.”
Anne Holzman is a Bugle freelance writer who covers Falcon Heights government news.