The Albertville city council voted unanimously to appoint former councilmember and current planning commissioner, Walter Hudson, to fill John Vetsch’s vacant seat after he resigned last month. He will be sworn in March 2.
Hudson served a four year council term from 2015-2018, and he has served on the planning commission since then after placing third in the 2018 election in a race with two open seats.
“It kind of feels like going back to high school, if that makes sense,” Hudson said, noting that he’s served with all current council members with the exception of one. “Familiar territory, familiar people.”
Hudson said he’s always had a general interest in government and public policy, and he decided to mount a write-in campaign for a council position when he discovered Albertville had an open seat in the 2014 election.
“It was the reverse of a normal situation where people develop an interest and then they pursue it,” he said. “In my case, an opportunity arose to volunteer, for all intents and purposes, and my interest developed through doing the job. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy the process of deliberating policy, of considering arguments, and trying to cut through the different interests to get at … an objective view of what the good of the community is.”
In regards to the Heuring Meadows development, which includes a commercial daycare center, townhomes and multifamily housing and which spurred Vetsch’s resignation, Hudson said the disagreement was a manifestation of a debate taking place amongst councilmembers and within the broader community for a long time.
“There’s a tension taking place between the two sides of our city motto, the small town living and the big city life,” he said. “There’s a conflict … between wanting to maintain things the way they have been and also recognizing the fact that we’re moving forward as a community, not only in Albertville and our sister city of St. Michael, but also the surrounding northwest metro area.”
Hudson gave several reasons for why he supported the Heuring Meadows development. For one, Hudson said many developers have told city leaders that the commercial development Albertville desires will not come until there’s enough housing geared toward the type of workforce required to maintain the businesses residents want.
“Having additional multifamily housing is really a prerequisite to the type of commercial development we’ve been holding out for over the past 10-15 years,” he said.
In addition to the workforce issue, Hudson said not everyone is looking to enter into a mortgage. He said the ability to be flexible is valuable to people in different stages of their lives, especially young people who grow up in STMA and want to stay in the community but aren’t ready for homeownership.
“It’s not a community that provides steps or rungs of the ladder, so to speak, to go from just starting out and remaining close to home if that’s something your kids want to do,” he said.
Hudson said he and his wife started out in the Albertville community as renters, subletting a relative’s townhome. They got to know the community and decided to make Albertville their home, and at that point they purchased a home. Hudson’s two children attend STMA schools in kindergarten and third grade.
“That never would have happened if we didn’t have that lower rung of being introduced to the community, having our kids here, and getting them in the school district,” he said. “Having that type of gateway into St. Michael-Albertville -there’s nothing better for getting people to want to be here and invest here. Starting as a renter and then ending up a homeowner and serving on the council is the type of path that, I think, should be normal.”
A Future Run?
Hudson’s appointed term ends at the end of 2020, and he says he doesn’t yet know whether he’ll run to remain on the council.
“I kind of felt this chapter of participation was behind me, but with that said, we’ll see how it goes,” he said.
Hudson said there’s a lot of development occurring along the I-94 corridor, and he said that development will occur either with or without Albertville. He feels the upcoming few years will be a crossroads for the city to determine its path going forward.