by Joni Astrup
Three candidates running for the Elk River City Council were asked about downtown during a recent candidates forum sponsored by the Elk River Area Citizens League.
Here is what Council Member Matt Westgaard and candidates Michael McDonough and Barb Burandt had to say. Westgaard is running unopposed in Ward 2; Burandt and McDonough are running for an open seat in Ward 3.
Q. Why is the city always interested in the old downtown?
A: Westgaard said it’s important not to lose focus of where and how Elk River started. Understanding and appreciating the city’s history and maintaining its roots is part of that.
There is a balance, he said, in the costs of maintaining downtown to its original historic character versus just appreciating and understanding the city’s roots.
But there is an interest in maintaining the city’s core — the historic part of downtown, he said.
A. “I think it’s a pride and tradition thing,” McDonough said.
He said the community he grew up in had a seven-block historic downtown that people took great pride in.
Downtown Elk River is kind of the anchor of the community and the first thing people see coming into Elk River on Highway 10, he said.
It’s an important feature of Elk River and it holds a lot of tradition, he said.
A. Burandt said the initial impression of Elk River for many people is downtown.
“If it’s not well kept, it doesn’t convey the kind of image that we want to have for our city,” she said. “So maintaining our history is really important. It’s a beautiful area and we want to attract people to come there.”
Burandt said if downtown looks well-maintained, it impresses motorists as they drive by. “It says something about who Elk River is and what our belief systems are and that we appreciate our history and we have this vibrant, growing city…”