Candidate profile | Charlie O'Connell
What do you see as the greatest challenge facing Rochester at this moment? If elected, what specific position(s) would you take to address the issue?
Rochester residents have responded to this question in a recent survey. Specifically, they were asked “What do you think is the most serious issue facing Rochester today?” Fifteen percent responded with “Too Much Growth." If elected, I would address this issue in two ways. First, I would increase the cities communication efforts. The city needs to ensure neighborhoods and businesses are aware of future projects and how the project may impact their daily lives or business operations. Next, I would work with the city staff and the fire and police chiefs to establish metrics of when additional personnel and infrastructure would be needed as we continue to grow.
Tell us one decision made by the city over the past two years that you disagree with. What would you like to see done differently?
I believe it would be irresponsible to comment on past decisions the city has made without having been part of key conversations that pertain to those decisions. Going forward, I would ensure projects are properly prioritized, are fiscally responsible and have been effectively communicated to the public. I would like to see a better process for how council members request information from the staff. I have observed several occasions when council members have tasked the city staff to gather and provide additional information to a question, but are developing the tasking during the meeting. We need to improve this process.
The city is experiencing an economic boom. Still, many residents and business owners remain concerned about affordability. How would you work to ensure the city's growth is managed responsibly?
In order to ensure the city’s growth is managed responsibly, the city needs to follow developed and approved plans, but also needs to ensure projects within the plan remain feasible and acceptable to Rochester residents and business owners. Our current comprehensive plan takes projects out to 2040. Plans only remain relevant if the external environment does not change, and we know this is rarely the case. We must develop metrics at the beginning of each project that will keep us on budget, on time and ensure the goals and objectives of the project are accomplished.
Some cities have decided to take the lead on issues such as minimum wage and paid leave. Do you feel Rochester should be doing the same, or are these issues best left to the state and federal levels?
Wage issues and paid leave need to remain at the federal and state levels. If it were done at the city level, we would have to increase the size of our city government to monitor and enforce these policies which would be extremely costly to everyone. We need to focus on increasing our efficiencies on what we do as a city not to expand the size of our local government. Businesses of all sizes have always been the economic backbone of communities and I will always fight to protect their interests which in turn will protect the interests of our citizens.
Destination Medical Center is focused on a relatively small chunk of the city. What initiatives or policies could be adopted to strengthen our neighborhoods outside the downtown?
Destination Medical Center may start with the downtown area of the city and its six sub-districts but does not end there. This is a very big project that will have many opportunities for areas outside the downtown. There will be opportunities to improve our existing parks and trails and to create new clean, green and sustainable areas for neighborhoods. There will be opportunities to diversify our economy through manufacturing, technology and the trades and for entrepreneurs in the service and entertainment industry. We will see growth and opportunity across our entire city.
One key responsibility of mayor is serving on the Destination Medical Center Corporation Board. As the voice of Rochester residents, what would you bring to the position?
I will bring thirty years of practical leadership experience to the position. I believe my planning and consensus building skills will be extremely beneficial while serving as the voice of Rochester. I have had the opportunity to work with all levels of government and with businesses both domestically and internationally during my military and civilian careers. I will always protect the interests of our community first.
There has been much discussion about the role of mayor; specifically, whether the mayor should be more involved in matters of city policy. If elected, how would you manage the office of mayor?
If I am fortunate enough to be elected as mayor, I will manage the office of mayor with the core values I first learned 30 years ago. Loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. I fully understand the office has limitations. I also understand the office is the face of Rochester. This is something I will not take lightly. I will continue to be the top ambassador of Rochester. I will continue to build upon Mayor Brede’s desire to make Rochester a better place for all citizens and I will lead by example.
What else should voters know about you?
I am running for mayor because I love our city. I love the values my children are learning in school, church and in their extracurricular activities. I want to ensure that as we grow we do not lose these values.
I deeply respect Mayor Brede’s service to the city and what he has done. I want to bring his passion and persistence to make Rochester a better city as the next mayor.
I’m not a career politician, but I do have concerns about a number of issues we are facing as a community and I know I can make a difference. I have life and work experience in leadership, consensus building and teamwork that will serve the community well as the next mayor. I will use my 30 years of practical military experience to help guide the city over the next four years.
Primary elections are on Tuesday, August 14. You can use your address to view a sample ballot on the Minnesota Secretary of State's website.