Tell us about yourself.
I serve as the worship and music director at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Hutchinson. My wife, Charlotte, and I live in Hutchinson and are blessed every day by our four children: Leo, Willmer, Heywood and Evelyn. I love opportunities to bless and serve others. My involvement in our community includes co-leading Common Cup’s “Coming Together In Song” fundraisers, playing piano for various community events such as Hutchinson Theatre Company musicals and productions, the Crow River Singers, and accompanying the Jaycee’s Water Carnival Miss Hutchinson pageants and coronations, just to name a few.
Why are you running for Hutchinson City Council Seat 3?
I am applying to be on the City Council to be your advocate and voice. I am focused on moving our city forward in ways that benefit everyone in our community. Our City Council has a shared constituency, and we should serve the people, not specific agendas. Hutchinson must be a city that respects each individual, honors hard work, supports justice, and protects liberty. I will work hard to make that happen. My pledge to you is, to the best of my ability, to make Hutchinson the best it can be. This is for you, and I am for you.
In your opinion, what is the biggest issue facing the Hutchinson City Council today?
Recovering from the pandemic virus is the overriding issue. We need to work with our Minnesota representatives, senator and governor to help reopen our small businesses and get residents back to work safely. Big box stores are surviving, but the city depends on our locally owned businesses to stay alive. City services need to help by also being open; we cannot afford any more closings like Zellas. Our economy also needs schools to reopen so that parents can return to work. When I submitted this, Hutchinson Leader’s poll had over 73 percent agreement that schools should reopen to in-person learning.
What should the role of the Hutchinson government be in growing the city’s tax base?
Hutchinson needs to be a welcoming community for new businesses. I learned Hutchinson was welcoming when Jon Geiss and Jeffrey Green came to Hutchinson to start Hutchinson Industrial Corporation. They began in an abandoned chicken coop (yes, Hutchinson had chickens) and depended largely on private investors and paid rent and other bills with company stock. No EDA required. The wealth created from that company (HTI) provided 3,000 jobs and fueled the growth of Hutchinson for over 50 years. Today’s city regulations and zoning codes would prevent this from starting today. We need minimized taxes and regulations to encourage new businesses.
If elected, how would you gather input from constituents, and how would that input play a role in your decision-making on the council?
During this campaign, I have been honored to meet, connect with and listen to many groups and individuals. Should I win election, I plan to communicate through Facebook (facebook.com/Begnaud2020), and to gather input from constituents there, as well as in person, on the phone and through email. The last few years, the City Council seems more focused on what St. Cloud, Chaska, and Edina are doing, and not listening to the Hutchinson business owners and residents. I think our City Council must listen to, work with and make decisions that are supported by the people of Hutchinson.
The city’s five-year general fund budget forecast predicts tax levy increases of 4.6 to 6.1 percent may be needed to balance future budgets, and those estimates have been called conservative. What do you think should be done to balance future budgets?
No one really knows how soon the national and state economies will recover. The responsible course is to focus on providing the basic services that are at the core of local government while helping our local businesses to recover. I believe we should review regulations for effectiveness and cost to identify ones that should be revised or eliminated. Maybe some should be suspended until our economy recovers. I have been asked to verify that the transfers from Hutchinson Utilities and Liquor Hutch are truly going towards reducing our property taxes and are being spent wisely.
To what issues should Hutchinson City Council pay more attention?
We need to be thankful for living in a safe community, and to stand with our Hutchinson police force for the outstanding services they provide for us. We have watched on TV what can happen, just one hour away, when the police are not made available when they are needed. We also need to be aware of, and promote, Hutchinson as an attractive destination for the mass migration out of big cities, because working remotely has become a new normal. Hutchinson offers an attractive alternative with more affordable single-family housing, and we should promote this widely.