General Election Candidates (Four-year Term)
There are four candidates to fill three regular, four-year terms on the Westonka School Board. The general election will be held Tuesday, November 7, 2017.
Brian Carlson lives in Minnetrista with his wife, Molly, a teacher at MWHS, and their two children, Maddie and Jack, who attend Shirley Hills. The family has lived in the district for two and a half years. Carlson graduated from Bloomington Jefferson High School, and received his Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Communications from Mankato State University and his Master of Business Communication from the University of St. Thomas. He is employed as a Director of Reimbursement and Health Economics at 3M. Carlson has volunteered for Westonka Community Education youth sports programs, including coaching pre-school level tennis and basketball. He has also participated in a number of United Way-sponsored community service activities including Feed My Starving Children, Bridging.org and Project Linus.
I want to serve on the Westonka School Board for two reasons. First, I love being a part of our small, growing community and I have a strong desire to be an active participant in continuing to build our crown jewel, the Westonka Schools.
We moved to Minnetrista from Maple Grove two years ago, primarily because of the advantages we felt the Westonka District offered our children. My wife, Molly, has been a teacher and coach at the high school for 17 years. Frequently she would come home and tell me about the wonderful programs, activities and opportunities available in the district. These advantages really became apparent when we started having children of our own and we saw how easy it was for our child to get “lost” in the vastness of a large school district. The tagline “small school advantages, big school opportunities” resonated with our family after experiencing a larger district. The school district has made our children feel a sense of pride and ownership in the community and the wonderful teachers and caregivers have been instrumental in that process.
I look forward to contributing to the success of Westonka schools by taking a more active role and joining the school board. Second, I believe my experiences as a business professional can provide a meaningful contribution to the school board. Throughout the course of my career I have experienced challenging business situations in the medical device and healthcare industry. The key to managing through these situations is the ability to think strategically, but also develop realistic plans to solve the issue or capitalize on the opportunity. I believe I can use my skills to help the school board think strategically about the long-term growth and health of the district, but also balance the needs of the short term.
Loren D. Davis
Loren D. Davis is a Westonka native who has lived in the community for a total of 42 years. A graduate of Mound Westonka High School, he received his Bachelor of Art’s degree from St. Olaf College and a Master of Divinity Degree from Luther Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Kristin, returned to the community in 1993 and raised three sons, Benjamin, Nathan and Aaron, all graduates of Mound Westonka High School. He is pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Navarre and is completing his first term on the Westonka School Board. He has volunteered in the school district as a member of the Shirley Hills Shared Decision Team; Shirley Hills Wolf Ridge chaperone; coordinator of the Shirley Hills Wolf Ridge Fundraiser; assisting with GMS bathroom remodeling; 7th and 8th grade baseball coach; senior high boys soccer, baseball and hockey volunteer; participant and coordinator of the Mound Westonka High School Baccalaureate Service for many years; and a member of the Westonka School District Athletic Task Force. He is currently a varsity baseball assistant coach and has been a member of the school board since 2014. Involvement in the broader community has included coaching, board member, officer or equipment manager positions for the Upper Tonka Little League Baseball League; the Mound Westonka Hockey Association; the White Hawks Youth Baseball Association; American Legion baseball; Westonka Community Education soccer; Westonka Community Education Basketball Association, and VFW/American Legion Summer baseball. He is a 24-year member of the Mound Westonka Ministerial Association, serving as president for six years; and is the current volunteer chaplain for the Orono and Minnetrista Police Departments and a member of the Westonka Food Shelf Board of Directors.
The Westonka district has a slogan that declares “Small School Advantages, Big School Opportunities, Real-Life Success Stories.” This has been true for myself and for my family.
I grew up in the Westonka School system, attending Shirley Hills Elementary School and Grandview Middle School and graduating from the new Mound Westonka Senior High School in 1975. I returned to the Westonka area with my wife in 1993, and our three sons were able to attend these same Westonka schools, and to have the same quality educational and extracurricular experiences that I had. I have a long history in the Westonka community, a deep pride in the Westonka schools, and a great appreciation for the strong educational foundation I was given in the Westonka schools.
With my long history here, I am willing to continue serving on the Westonka School Board, to give my best effort to help advance the district philosophy, and to insure that all current and upcoming students have the same high quality educational and extracurricular opportunities that I and my three sons have experienced.
Having worked the past 24 years as the pastor in a small congregation in our community, with many larger congregations nearby, I understand the need to be competitive with larger neighboring districts while having fewer resources available. Also, because I grew up here, and because, over the last 24 years, I have served in a wide variety of ways in our school district and in our community, I believe many people, from senior citizens to young families and youth, know me and are comfortable sharing their perspectives, ideas, and concerns about the school district with me. So I would work hard not only to be a strong advocate for the schools, but also to be a strong, accessible representative for the community.
Jake Mazurek of Mound is a life-long resident of the Westonka community. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Crown College with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies and a minor in Social Science. He is currently in his final semester at the University of Minnesota finishing a Master’s degree in the Biological Sciences focusing on Conservation Biology. He is a Biology professor at Bethel College in St. Paul. Mazurek played various sports for Mound Westonka (soccer, football, and basketball) in middle school and continued playing soccer through high school. From 2008 to 2012 he also worked for the Westonka bus garage driving students with special needs. While living in Indonesia, he volunteered at local orphanages giving English lessons and playing soccer and other games with the children. In Central America (Mexico, Honduras, and Costa Rica) he volunteered for several projects including helping to build a medical clinic and distributing food and supplies to impoverished areas. In the Westonka School district, he has volunteered at various local nursing homes visiting and playing games with residents and also working concession stands at various Westonka sporting events.
I am immensely passionate about education and my professional life has consistently reflected this. Before teaching at Bethel University, I taught ACT prep courses at Huntington Learning Center and worked with college students to meet their academic goals as a tutor at Hennepin Technical College. Following that, I spent two years as a high school English teacher in Indonesia.
One of the most rewarding aspects of being an educator is seeing students realize their fullest academic potential. This means that as a board member, I would fight to ensure that every student is equipped with the proper tools, resources, and opportunities to maximize their academic success. Functionally, this manifests in several ways.
First, in order to build upon Westonka’s impressive academic reputation, it is vital that as our district grows, Westonka doubles down on its efforts to maintain small class sizes, which facilitate teachers in meeting the unique needs of each individual student. As a teacher, I have personally experienced the benefits of manageable class sizes on student learning outcomes and teacher morale.
Secondly, according to the 2017 U.S. News and World Report, only 55 percent of our graduating seniors have ever taken an AP examination. This is low by comparison to some other districts in the area and is an issue that needs to be addressed to ensure that we are efficaciously preparing all our students for the rigorous demands of college.
I believe my experiences as an educator give me a unique perspective for this position and have not only enabled me to acquire the necessary insights and understanding to effectively serve, but also have demonstrated the indispensable passion and determination to do so.
I therefore believe that the Westonka School District would be well served by affording me the privilege of serving them.
Gary W. Wollner
Gary W. Wollner has been a resident of the community for 27 years. He and his wife, Lori, have four daughters, Jessica, Hallie and Molly who graduated from Mound Westonka High School and Briana, a graduate of Shakopee High School. Wollner graduated from UW Madison with a retailing major and is the owner of GW Enterprises and Sunrise Tackle Co. He is an eight-year member of the Westonka School Board. Volunteer activities in the Westonka School District have included 21 years of coaching experience in basketball, soccer and cross country; 10 years on the Community Education Advisory Council; and serving as a mentor in the MWHS Interact (junior Rotary) program. He was a WYBBA board member for eight years – five as president. He is also a site supervisor for high school athletic events. He is an active member at Our Lady of the Lake Church and is a member of the Mound Westonka Rotary.
Having lived in Mound for the past 27 years, it has been my priority to take an active role in our schools and community.
As I run for my third term as a school board member, I will continue to represent the interests of our community and do what is right for education. As our schools continue to perform at a high level, I feel my efforts in updating our facilities, curriculum and finances have taken our schools to a new level of high performance. As enrollment grows, we have many major decisions to make – this is where my eight years of experience and dedication to the community is critical. With the building and opening of our new Phase I Early Learning Center, we are going to be able to better serve the needs of families and young students.
The new Performing Arts Center and Activity Center are now under construction and will open in the fall of 2018. It has been an honor to serve on a board that has supported the development of these new facilities that will not only serve our students but the community as well.
I am not running for this third term with any preconceived notions, but rather I bring my experience as vice chair, Policy Committee member, Facilities Committee member and Teacher Negotiations Committee member to continue to help Mound/Westonka to be one of the best schools in Minnesota.
I feel very fortunate to live in this community. It has been generous and supportive to the needs of the schools.
I want to say “thank you” to this community for your support and the trust you have placed in me and in the School Board. Given the opportunity, I look forward to giving another four years to continue our growth and positive momentum.
Special Election Candidates (Two-year Term)
There are two candidates to fill the remaining two years of one term on the Westonka School Board. The special election will be held Tuesday, November 7, 2017.
Chris Carlson, a resident of Mound, has lived in the community for 53 years. He graduated from Mound Westonka High School and attended the University of MN Duluth. His son, Mark, is currently a student at Mound Westonka High School. He is employed at Modified Enclosures in Spring Park.
Carlson has served as a coach and assistant coach for youth football, baseball and hockey, and is a past member of the Early Childhood Advisory Council. He has also served in the community as an election judge. He is a candidate to fill the remaining two years of the school board term of the late Ann Bremer.
Hello and thanks for taking the time to learn about the candidates for school board. I would welcome the opportunity to help keep Westonka the great schools they are, as well as the chance to work hard keeping costs down wherever possible. Being a life-long resident of the district and father of a Westonka student, I feel I have a vested interest in finding and/or continuing what is best for our schools, children and community as a whole. And I am excited as the prospect of being able to work with the Board and district to keep our schools all that they are and more.
Heidi Marty, Mound, has lived in the Westonka School District for 15 years. She and her husband, Todd Mikkelson, have a daughter, Eve, a student at Mound Westonka High School. Marty received her BA from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with a history major and economics minor and owns her own business. She has been actively involved in the school district in successful referendum efforts since 2011 and is currently filling a vacancy on the board created by the death of Ann Bremer last February. She is running to fill the remaining two years of that term. In the Westonka community she has participated in back-to-school drives with WeCAN and food drives through Jubilee Foods.
After attending Westonka School Board meetings, working hard to pass referendums and actively advocating for the district for the past six years, I applied and was chosen to fill Ann Bremer’s term on the school board. I am asking that the voters allow me to continue serving out her term for the next two years.
We have something really special here at Westonka. We have exceptional teachers and staff who are truly invested in helping all of our students succeed. We have a community that supports our district’s efforts to improve and flourish. And we have visionary leadership that has put us on a pathway toward continued success. I’m excited to do my part to help guide our district into the future.
Ann Bremer was a tireless advocate for our kids and for our district, and she was also a friend. I pledge to do my best to honor her legacy by being an active, engaged school board member working in the best interests of our children, our district and our community.