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Election 2012: Alex Plechash, Wayzata City Council

Patch will highlight candidates from communities throughout Lake Minnetonka in the coming days. Look for your comprehensive election guide coming soon!

Alex Plechash is running against Andrew Mullin and Bridget Anderson for one of two Wayzata City Council seats.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Share something most people don’t know about you.

In addition to being an Annapolis graduate and Marine Corps TOPGUN fighter pilot and former quarterback on a state championship Class 6A high school football team (larger than Wayzata) I also have an art background which most people don’t know. 

I received a scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago between grade school and high school, and I was second chair viola in a symphony orchestra which toured Europe for a full month in the summer of 1969. So, it makes sense that I am on the board of the Perpich Center for Arts Education in Minnesota.

What sorts of thoughts come to mind when you think of Lake Minnetonka?

When I think of Lake Minnetonka, I think of how wonderful it is for the residents of Wayzata and its many other lakefront communities. I also think of the rich history that the lake has been witness to from the time when only native Americans, inhabited its shores through its era of logging and the dramatic impact railroads had in bringing visitors to its shores from many parts of the country. 

I think of what it must have been like when it was essentially a weekend haven for people who made treks to their lakeside cabins in season, or the fish houses that sprout up during the winter months—and the Chilly Open.

Sadly, I also think of the lake as being too crowded and the challenges we face in trying to reverse the environmental damage the lake has experienced with things like milfoil weeds and zebra mussels.

Are invasive species a local, state or federal issue? Or is it a mix? Describe your views.

I assume the question relates to invasive species in Lake Minnetonka. If so, the issue is clearly a local and a regional one; if not a state issue since the lake is a destination for many people from around the state. 

I do not view this as a federal issue, however. I do not feel federal agencies or federal tax dollars should be used to address this problem. As nice as it might be to receive federal aid for combating invasive species, I simply don’t believe it is something we should demand or expect. Just as I would not expect the federal government to use our tax dollars to remedy local situations in some other state or locale that is not on federal land.

What is the most common issue people talk with you about while campaigning? What do you tell them?

The most common issue is development; past, current and future. Although the Wayzata Bay Redevelopment and the other ancillary projects around it, such as turning part of Wayzata Blvd. into an actual boulevard with median plantings and such, come up in conversation there is a general concern about where the city might be heading. 

People generally do not want the city to be overly developed or for an acceleration of projects and zoning changes that would fundamentally change the small town charm and family-oriented character of this community. 

What I tell people is that their concerns are mine as well. For those who want the city to revert back to its 1950’s nature, that simply won’t and can’t occur. The city has undergone changes throughout its history and will continue to change. The challenge is to manage that change well so as to keep the city’s small town charm.

How do you feel about the current property tax levels? What about school district taxes (understanding the city council has no control over them)?

Property tax levels are simply way too high, and a majority of it comes from having to fund the county’s general tax levy which is currently set at a whopping $675 million. Hennepin County is one of the largest spending counties in the nation. Although much of the county’s spending is proper, the waste is also outrageous at times and we all suffer because of it. 

An example is a recent $1 million expenditure to retrofit the county’s public works building with solar panels because it will “save” the taxpayers about $15,000 a year. Really? $15,000? 

To put that into perspective, it would be like a homeowner spending $100,000 on a new furnace to save himself $1,500 a year—a 67 year payback—without taking inflation or opportunity cost into account. School district taxes, although needing to be reviewed for saving opportunities, are about right I believe.

If the funding were available, what projects—either shovel ready or on the drawing board—would you advocate dedicating it to? 

If funds were available, Wayzata’s lakeshore redevelopment project should be a top priority. Although I am not in favor of increasing residential or business tax burdens further, an interesting idea would be to see if the city could tap into the Legacy Funds that the state collects every year. 

Given the environmental aspects of lakeshore development and this historical significance of The Depot, it seems to me that Legacy Funding would be a perfect source. The funds are distributed into four funds, three of which have to do with the environment and the fourth being arts and cultural heritage.

Are you satisfied with the public safety services being provided to city residents?

Absolutely. The police, fire and public works departments do an outstanding job of protecting its citizens and helping to make it the great community that it is. There is a great deal of dedicated and thoughtful work that these departments do that is unseen and unheralded for the most part. 

Wayzata’s public safety services must rank at the very top among small towns around the state. We should be proud of the work they do. So, the next time you see a cop on duty or a public service employee out and about, take a moment to thank them.

How would you encourage the average citizen to become more engaged in local government?

Show up. Go to city council meetings. Attend pubic open houses. Go to the annual Fireman’s Dance. Arrange to take a ride-along in a police vehicle. Get to know the city staff, cops and firefighters. Attend the precinct caucuses during election years. Just do it. You’ll find it’s more fun and interesting than you might think.

Open forum. Why should voters cast their ballot for you this November?

What sets me apart is the breadth and depth of my organizational experience and my proven lifetime of service and leadership. Whether it was my military career as a Marine officer; church service as a lead deacon; national non-profit service on a number of boards as a director and President of three at different times; public service as a volunteer firefighter; or agency service at the Perpich Center for the Arts—I have a history of service. In addition, there is the business and financial acumen I developed over many years since earning my MBA from the University of Chicago.

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