Ward 6 candidates explain reasons for running

Published 9:02 am Sunday, August 10, 2014

3 candidates to be narrowed to 2

A list of three Albert Leans will be narrowed down to two Tuesday in the primary election for the 6th Ward Albert Lea City Council seat.

Running for the position are businessman Al “Minnow” Brooks, the incumbent, businessman Matt Maras and college student Sergio Salgado Jr.

Who are the candidates and what do they stand for?

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The Tribune sat down with each of the candidates this week, seeking to learn more about why they are running and what they stand for.

The following is information about each of the candidates, listed in alphabetical order:

Al “Minnow” Brooks

Brooks, 59, and his wife, Brenda, have three children and six grandchildren.

Al Brooks

Al Brooks

He owns and operates Brooks Safety Equipment, a fire extinguisher business.

Brooks said he moved to Albert Lea with his family in 1959 and was first elected to the council in 1998. He has served not only as a councilor but also as mayor pro tem, filling in for the mayor as needed.

He said he is running for office again because he enjoys being on the council.

“I think I represent the views of that ward well because a lot of decisions you make you have to take into account your constituents’ backgrounds and where they work,” Brooks said.

He considers himself to be a fiscal conservative and has often been seen on the council questioning projects he thinks might place an undue burden on residents or aise taxes. That’s what was the case with the downtown renovations.

“I still would question the amount of money we put into it at that time,” he said.

He said he thinks he is a good candidate for another term because of his experience.

“I don’t think there’s ever a time you’ve been there too long,” Brooks said. “I think the experience alone, and just the ability to work with people, makes me a good candidate.”

He compared the election to needing surgery. He said people would have more confidence going to a doctor who has performed a thousand surgeries than one who has only performed one — simply because of the experience. The same should be true for the elections.

He said he has learned about budget cycles and developed relationships.

One of the issues he thinks is of concern in the 6th Ward is infrastructure problems. He specifically noted Fifth Street.

To tackle all of the sewer and water problems, he said the city has to take a few projects at a time, though some people would like them fixed all at once.

“It will ultimately come, every road,” Brooks said. “They just take a section at a time, unfortunately.”

Regarding property taxes, Brooks said his ward has a variety of people, with a variety of income. He will try to keep the levy as low as possible.

If he is re-elected, Brooks said he wants to look into using a portion of the half-cent local option sales tax to go toward the possible development of the Blazing Star Landing once the tax extension is completed for the lakes cleanup.

He also wants to focus on improving the appearance of the south end of town starting at the intersection of U.S. Highway 65 and Interstate 35 north to Highway 65 and Main Street.

“It’s time when people come in off that interchange that they see Albert Lea is a beautiful city all over, not just when you’re driving around the lake,” he said.

Matt Maras

Maras, 54, and his wife, Daphne, have three grown children.

Matt Maras

Matt Maras

He said he has lived in Albert Lea since 1983 and has been the president of the United Employees Credit Union for 21 years.

He said he decided to run for City Council because he is interested in city government and now has more time to commit to the position.

“I would bring a fresh, new outlook,” he said, noting his background and financial experience.

Maras said he has had a lot of people come up to him in the last two months encouraging him in this endeavor.

“I’m well respected, not because I’m a business person, but I’m a common person too,” he said. “I think have good common sense and good business sense.”

He said he grew up with six brothers and sisters, paid for his own college education, got a good education and then started in the banking industry.

“There’s no silver spoons in my family,” Maras said. “I didn’t have people handing me a business. I had to work for it, and I think that relates to a lot of people in my ward.”

He said he is used to making decisions for his business, and he would not be afraid of making decisions on the council.

He described himself as fiscally responsible and said he would help manage the city’s money to the best of his ability. Though his ward is not the richest part of town, he said it still has the same needs as the rest of the city.

Maras said people have brought him concerns about street improvements, cleaning up nuisance properties and taking care of residents. He noted residents have also talked to him about city staff addressing their questions. He said he is not afraid to pick up the phone and get back to people who contact him.

Regarding the downtown renovation that took place last year, he said he probably would have supported it as well, but he might have been able to have been swayed.

Regarding the potential for development at the Blazing Star Landing, he said he thinks more might be able to be done once Albert Lea Lake is cleaned up. He noted he would like to see more data before moving ahead with something such as a convention center.

“I’m not here to change the city overnight, but I’m here to listen and get a fresh view on things,” Maras said.

Outside of work, he enjoys outdoor activities such s hunting, fishing, biking and snowmobiling.

Sergio Salgado Jr.

Salgado, 20, moved to Albert Lea his freshman year of high school and attends Bethany Lutheran in Mankato. He turns 21 on Jan. 1.

Sergio Salgado Jr.

Sergio Salgado Jr.

He said he decided to run for office not only as a way to give back to the community but also as a way to make a little money to pay for college.

He said if he is elected he would drive back each week to Albert Lea to attend meetings, and he could drive back at other times as needed to meet with constituents or communicate with them through email, Skype or phone.

“I’m going to try to bring light to our ward and say, ‘Hey we’re here, and we matter,’” he said.

Salgado said his goal would not be to be the “new young hot shot,” but to bring fresh ideas to the table and represent a ward that sometimes gets ignored.

“I can bring unorthodox ideas to the table and present them in a manner that’s still professional and still in respect to the people who’ve been on the council for a long time.”

He said he loves Albert Lea and the support the community has given him. He believes if he did not move to the city when he did, he would likely not be in college right now.

“I’d rather be here in Albert Lea where I’m a name than in a big city where I’m just a driver’s license number,” he said.

Some of the issues of concern in his ward are finding ways to keep children and teenagers engaged and living positive lives and infrastructure needs, to name a few.

He said he thinks the downtown renovations turned out “amazing.”

“It’s almost like a new facelift for Albert Lea,” he said, noting that it preserves the historical factor as well. “It looks real nice, and the street looks fantastic.”

He said he would have voted for it if he had been on the council.

Salgado is known for his theater and stage productions and his involvement in show choir and other choirs during his time at Albert Lea High School. He has also participated in several Albert Lea Community Theatre productions.

When in Albert lea, he lives with his mother, Maria Bueno.