Todd Mikkelson (DFL) is running against Jerry Hertaus (R) in a race for the Minnesota State House of Representatives District 33A seat.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Share something most people don’t know about you.
I used to be involved in music, earning my living on the road with bands, writing and producing records. Highlights include hanging out with Bo Diddley and The Fixx, recording at Prince’s Paisley Park, performing in front of huge crowds, but mostly meeting, recording and performing with my lovely wife and great singer Heidi. She and I were invited to tour England because of a CD we made together. I’m also a pretty good ice-skater.
What sorts of thoughts come to mind when you think of Lake Minnetonka?
My first thoughts are of my daughter Eve joining me in my little boat when she was a baby. At two years old she began to say hello to the buoys and I’d bring the boat near so she could touch them. I ended up writing a children’s book about that called, “Eve On The Lake.”
Other memories involve purposefully getting myself quite lost as a teenager in order to find my way back. I’ve avoided one of its 24 bays just so I can still feel there’s more to explore. All of these memories took place on my 16’ Starcraft that’s been in my family for 40 years.
Are invasive species a local, state or federal issue? Or is it a mix? Describe your views.
I have ideas on how to make some effective moves in preventing and even cutting back on existing invasive species, beginning at the local level. I think we can make this work locally so that it can be used as a template for further action in the state, and then across the country.
It will require some heavy lifting and certainly a lot more shoulder-to-shoulder cooperation between existing agencies, lakeshore homeowners, lake associations, boaters and anglers.
What is the most common issue people talk with you about while campaigning? What do you tell them?
I’m hearing that the standoff at the Capitol needs to stop. We can’t shut down the state every time we can’t agree on how to balance the budget. And the legislature needs to work to find ways of balancing the budget without borrowing from schools and elsewhere. This is clearly the most pressing issue. People no longer feel represented by this extremism.
I tell them that the legislature needs to work together, make some compromises and come to some agreements on how to get Minnesota moving again. This is one of the reasons I decided to run for this office. I feel the same problem-solving skills I’ve used to make my business successful can be used to help break the gridlock at the Capitol.
How do you feel about the current property tax levels? What about school district taxes (understanding the State Legislature has no control over them)?
The State Legislature can certainly AFFECT the need for property taxes to rise or fall. My opponent claims that LGA (local government aid) has been corrupted. In fact, it’s been cut to the bone over the last 12 or more years, causing property taxes to make up a larger portion of state revenues than income taxes for the first time in Minnesota’s history. This is unsustainable, and hits lower and middle-income households the hardest.
Also, too many kids in our state are being shortchanged because of school funding by referendum. The state’s lack of adequate funding of schools is unconstitutional, and was actually ruled as such in court at a time when we had similar problems to those we face now. Back then the Minnesota Legislature worked in a bipartisan fashion to solve those problems. I think we should learn from our past and do that again.
If the funding were available, what projects—either shovel ready or on the drawing board—would you advocate dedicating it to inside the district?
We have a need for senior centers and affordable assisted living facilities for our aging population in the more rural portions of district 33A.
We also have a need for infrastructure in places like Corcoran where development is hamstrung by the lack thereof.
As we look at addressing the needs of our district, we should be taking the long view and wrapping our heads around building infrastructure that addresses not only our current but also our future needs.
Are you satisfied with the public safety services being provided to residents inside the district?
I think that by and large residents are satisfied with public safety in our district. That being said, as cities try to do “more with less,” we need to make sure that services people depend on and value remain. There is a threat that we’ll do “less with less.”
In our neighboring city of Mound, residents have voiced that they would gladly have agreed to pay more taxes in order to prevent the outsourcing of their 89-year-old, award-winning police force.
How would you encourage the average citizen to become more engaged in state government?
The extreme rhetoric over the last decade has caused folks to be afraid to take part in our grand experiment of a democratic republic as it was designed.
Minnesotans agree more than we disagree. We’re all Minnesotans and we’re all Americans. Let’s turn off the TV and get out and speak with our neighbors. Let’s have reasonable discussions about what we as citizens want and need from our government. It is, after all, OUR government. Find ways to get involved. Run for city council. Get involved with helping schools. There’s plenty to do!
Open forum. Why should voters cast their ballot for you this November?
I grew up in this community, and I’ve been working hard to get around the district to speak with as many of you as I can. People in this district are independent-minded, and they’re sick of the extreme partisanship and the inability of our legislators to get anything done.
My opponent says gridlock may or may not be a bad thing. I see it as being a grave disservice to the people of our state. I want to approach our problems with creativity, an open mind and a spirit of compromise in order to serve our district and state effectively.