Note: This story has been updates from an earlier version
For the first time since 2005, residents of Ward 13 in Southwest will vote in an open race for City Council. With incumbent Betsy Hodges running for mayor, two candidates are seeking the DFL endorsement at the May 11 convention: Linea Palmisano and Matt Perry.
Ward 13 includes the neighborhoods of Armatage, Kenny, Lynnhurst, Linden Hills, Fulton, West Calhoun and the southern half of East Harriet.
City elections no longer have a primary. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 5.
For a video of the recent Ward 13 candidate forum sponsored by the Journal and the League of Women Voters of Minneapolis, visit tinyurl.com/c9fss5e.
There are 71 neighborhood organizations in Minneapolis that generally meet once a month and countless other city commissions, committees and boards. If you’ve attended one of these meetings over the past decade, there’s a decent chance that you’ve run into Matt Perry.
Perry’s been involved in all kinds of city decisions and events, like finding a vendor for Lake Harriet, a site for a Southwest dog park, organizing Kite Fest on Lake Harriet, planning for Southwest Light Rail Transit and organizing small businesses south of Lake Street.
Perry, 53, said he was taught at a young age that public service would be part of his life. They were values instilled in him growing up in Rochester, N.Y. His father, Jack, was a teacher, state senator and the equivalent of a county commissioner. Jack later helped migrant youth get an education. His mom, Chris, at 77, is still the volunteer coordinator for Rochester’s public television station.
“People wonder why in the world I go to all the neighborhood and community meetings I go to,” Perry said. “It’s how I was brought up.”
After graduating from The State University of New York with computer science and math degrees, Perry went to work for Eastman Kodak in Rochester.
He moved to Minneapolis because of love. He met his future wife, Karen Heintz of Turtle Lake, Wis., at a wedding and after two years of a long-distance relationship, he moved to Minneapolis in 1991.
Perry worked for about ten years for three startup technology firms, and said by the end of that stretch he was managing 150 employees.
Perry said long hours and lots of travel inspired him to start his own technology consulting firm, which allowed him to spend more time with his wife and also get involved in the community.
Since then, Perry has created the Nicollet East Harriet Business Association, chaired the East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association, led the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment and created Experience Southwest, which markets the area’s small businesses.
West Calhoun resident Meg Forney watched Perry lead the citizen’s committee that chose Bread & Pickle as the food vendor at Lake Harriet a couple years ago. She said it was a difficult and contentious issue that Perry handled diplomatically and transparently.
“He’s innovative,” Forney said. “He’s a geek, but he’s a personable geek. He can communicate incredibly well.”
Perry got into politics in 2005, when he served as treasurer for Betsy Hodges campaign for City Council. Perry is now looking to replace Hodges, who is running for mayor. She has not endorsed a candidate in the race.
Perry conveyed his message to Ward 13 voters at a forum in April.
“I want to continue strong financial stewardship down at City Hall,” he told a crowd of about 100 at Washburn Library. “I want to build a more responsive, customer-focused city government through collaborative leadership and I want to promote smart growth to create a sustainable city while preserving the character of our neighborhoods.”
The city needs to do a better job working with the Met Council and Hennepin County to improve transit in Minneapolis, he said. The current model, with bus routes going mostly in and out of downtown, doesn’t service residents who work in the suburbs, Perry said. He’s proposed the idea of having an enhanced bus route that connects 35W to Southwest LRT via 50th Avenue.
Perry has the support of three City Council members, but he did criticize city for not working hard with enough with government partners on transit
“They may be working with them, but having transit to living wage jobs, we have a lot more work to do there,” Perry said. “We’ve got to think differently about transit.”
Perry has also raised the idea of increasing property taxes on downtown surface parking lots so as to promote development. He said surfacing parking is taxed at a low rate, which provides a cash cow for owners who charge for parking.
As for Southwest, Perry said he supports adding density south of 56th on Lyndale. He opposed the contentious Linden Corner project at 43rd and Upton when it was a five-level proposal.
Having knocked hundreds of doors and called 2,000 residents, Perry said the top issue in Southwest is property taxes, which have hit Ward 13 hard because homes have retained their value while other parts of the city lost value or suffered through foreclosures.
“We can’t just keeping increasing peoples’ property taxes,” Perry said. “It’s not economically sustainable.”
At a glance: Matt Perry
Neighborhood: East Harriet resident of 22 years
Profession: Small business owner
Community involvement: President of the Nicollet East Harriet Business Association; former board member and chair of East Harriet Farmstead Neighborhood Association; served on the Neighborhood & Community Engagement Commission; member and chair of city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment; Capital Long-Range Improvements Committee
Family: Wife Karen Heintz
Endorsements: City Council members Barb Johnson, Robert Lilligren and John Quincy; Hennepin County Commissioner Gail Dorfman; DFL Latino Caucus; Restaurateur Kim Bartmann; Fulton Neighborhood Association Board Member John Finlayson; Meg Forney; Thatcher Imboden; Linden Hills Neighborhood Council Co-Chair Constance Pepin; State Sen. Scott Dibble