Three say they'll run for Rochester Ward 5 council seat
The general election for Rochester City Council president is still four weeks away, and three people already say they plan to file for Randy Staver's Ward 5 seat.
Northeast Rochester residents Mark Hickey, Shaun Palmer and Tim Schmitt say they're ready to throw in their hats when the filing period begins, which is tentatively set for June 4-18, subject to city council approval. The tentative election date is July 30.
Jan Throndson, who ran for city council president in both the Nov. 6 general election and the March 19 special primary, said he is now thinking about running for Staver's Ward 5 seat. However, he said he wants to wait until after the May 7 election before deciding.
Staver, the council's interim president, is all but guaranteed to win the May 7 general election for council president, freeing up his seat. His opponent Michael Wojcik, who represents Ward 2, suspended his council president campaign last week and endorsed Staver. Wojcik and Staver were the two out of four candidates to emerge from the March 19 primary.
The council president seat opened up last June, when the former president Dennis Hanson died. That event started what has been an unusual race to fill the position, including the fact that Hanson — whose name could not be removed from the ballot, due to state law — won the Nov. 6 general election, forcing the special primary election in March.
Candidates ready to file
Hickey, 49, is an electrical engineer at IBM who recently retired as an Army Reserves colonel. He spent 32 years in the Army and Army Reserves, including deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2007.
He was born in Milwaukee and grew up in Menomonee Falls, Wis. He moved to Rochester in 1996 for the job at IBM.
Being retired from military life, Hickey said he now has time to devote to the city council — something he has wanted to do for a while.
"I just think there's a lot to be done at the local level, and I think I can contribute," he said.
For Palmer, this would be his third run at the Ward 5 seat. He ran in 2006 and 2010. Bob Nowicki and Randy Staver won those elections. But Palmer said he's enthusiastic about trying again because he wants to represent Ward 5, which is northeast Rochester.
"Basically, it's about serving your neighborhood. I knocked on 5,000 doors last time and we won the primary last time. And I got beat in the general election. I've talked with Randy Staver, I've talked with Bob Nowicki ... and I've got a lot of support. I've got a lot of people asking me to run," the Rochester native said.
Palmer, 53, is a building inspector for the city Rochester — a job from which he'd have to resign if elected, according to city charter. He said he's fine with that, as he was the last two times he ran for the council. He also works part time at Mayo Clinic's Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center, where he teaches swimming and water aerobics and works at the front desk.
Schmitt, 43, was a challenger for the District 1 seat on the Olmsted County Board of Commissioners in the Nov. 6 general election. He lost to incumbent Stephanie Podulke.
Schmitt is a Rochester native who earned an accounting degree, but decided to become an auto mechanic instead. He works at Automotive Recyclers in Rochester.
Whether it's the county board or city council, Schmitt said he's interested in getting involved in local government.
"I just think local politics is what really matters the most, and I'd like to make a contribution to the city," he said, adding that some of the issues that most interest him are infill development and public transit.