Alexandria Mayor Candidate: Sara CarlsonRunning for Alexandria Mayor
Q: Please list your background and specific qualifications for this position.
A: I have been on the Alexandria City Council for nine years. During that time, I regularly attended two council meetings per month. I’ve served on numerous committees that relate to specific city business and attended those meetings regularly as well. I have made sure that during the time I was on the council, I served on, attended or was informed of what was taking place on all committees in the city. I have worked on special committees such as the police station build, hiring of various firms for that and the park building and keeping these projects with local contractors as much as possible. I have served as the mayor pro tempore for the last couple years and have attended all the workshops the council has had on the budget.
It is my belief that it takes a lot of time and effort to run city government and be apprised of the issues. There are tough decisions to make and they have to be made with an informed mind, looking at all sides of each issue and always keeping in mind what is best for the taxpayers.
Alexandria is a wonderful place to live, work and retire. I have been here for 32 years with my husband, Ron, and our four children, Matt, Tina, Katie and Casey. I did my graduate and undergraduate work in education at St. Cloud State University, working primarily in special education. I left teaching about 10 years ago and have been doing the books at our business, Carlson Music Center. I was born and raised on a farm and know the meaning of hard work and long hours.
Q: What do you view as the biggest challenge facing Alexandria right now and how would you deal with it?
A: With today’s economy, the biggest challenge the city faces is to keep taxes down and still provide quality services. This is something we must work at continually. Prioritizing needs is very important and with tight budgets, we need to make sure that what we do is a need, not a want.
Our streets, for example, must be taken care of or they deteriorate to a point that is not repairable with an overlay and must have a total reconstruct. So for us to neglect them is not wise. It is however, a balancing act of how much and when we work on them and other projects.
We have just finished our final annexation phase and must extend sewer and water to those areas. While this is a good thing as it adds to our tax base and decreases property taxes, there will be some long term costs.
Also, the recent expansion of the Alexandria Lakes Area Sanitary District (ALASD) has been a large increase to our budget. This is an obligation set by a joint powers agreement that we must honor.
We want our city to grow and prosper and need to watch vigilantly over and encourage controlled economic growth and development with good planning. Along with that, as Alexandria grows, so do many other concerns and we need to be adequately protected by police and fire.
Q: What are your feelings about having an event center in the city? How much involvement should the city have in such a project?
A: Again, with the economy the way it is, I do not believe that now is the time to look at building an event center with city money. We have or will be building several buildings in the community with bonding out on them (police station, county public works building, county sheriff’s office, county jail and new high school). We need to pay them off and not start other projects. We, as taxpayers, just cannot afford it.
Q: Is Alexandria doing enough to keep local property taxes low? What are some specific cost saving ideas you have for the budget?
A: As a council, we have worked hard at keeping taxes down and are continually looking for ways to do a better job and still provide vital services effectively. Currently, we are looking at cross training staff in various departments to improve and streamline efficiencies. This could result in staff being available and able to cross-over when needs arise.
As part of the budgetary process, as a member of the council, I support looking at all aspects of expenditures and seeing where cuts and cost savings can be made. We will be meeting in work session to complete the budget for next year. For 2013, we have thus far reduced equipment and capital improvement budgets as a way to reduce the overall budget.
Q: Considering the fact that the mayor does not vote or make motions at council meetings, how will you accomplish your goals? Describe your style of leadership.
A: The mayor brings the voice of the citizens to the Alexandria City Council. The mayor sits on many committees and provides input, keeping track of what is going on in the community.
Although the mayor does not vote at council meetings (except in the case of a tie), he/she is responsible to bring input to the council or to council members.
The mayor represents the total city and may have a different perspective than each individual ward representative and shares that with council members. The mayor runs all meetings and has the power of veto for funding resolutions.
A good leader makes decisions based on strength, experience and respect, not on titles, having the ability to convince people to work together in a cohesive manner.
My leadership style would encourage cooperation and would support each council member and staff to use their expertise and experience to be more competent and productive for the city of Alexandria.
As mayor or leader of the city, tough decisions will have to be made. I know that I have the ability to make those decisions focusing on our goals and city vision.