Editor’s note: The Journals will be profiling the self-declared candidates for mayor for the next several issues leading up to the DFL City Convention on June 15. We are kicking off our candidate profile series with a story on Mark Andrew. Stay tuned for future profiles on Jackie Cherryhomes, Don Samuels, Gary Schiff, Betsy Hodges, Jim Thomas and Cam Winton, an Independent candidate not seeking the DFL endorsement.
Mark Andrew believes he has a natural gift that is essential for a modern mayor.
“The single most important quality that I have is also the most important quality that a mayor has to have — I’m a natural uniter. I’m a collaborator. It’s my gift,” he said during a recent interview.
The next mayor of Minneapolis will have to be adept at bringing people together and working with different layers of government, whether it’s the county, School Board or Park Board, he said.
Andrew, a resident of the Lynnhurst neighborhood, has a diverse background in public service and the private sector. Most recently he’s been an environmental entrepreneur with GreenMark, a company he founded in 2007. GreenMark helps buildings and public venues become more environmentally sustainable.
One of Andrew’s most significant accomplishments with GreenMark has been helping Target Field secure LEED certification and create a partnership with Pentair to install a rainwater recycling system at the ballpark.
Twins President Dave St. Peter had high praise for Andrew for his work on Target Field.
“He played a significant role in helping the Minnesota Twins understand the opportunities and the responsibilities that go with environmental stewardship, and I was personally very appreciative of having Mark’s knowledge and talents and his vision that played an important role in making Target Field what we think is the greenest sports facility of its type in the country,” he said.
Before launching GreenMark, Andrew was a senior vice president at Tunheim Partners, a strategic communications firm — a job that followed a lengthy tenure on the Hennepin County Board. He served as a county commissioner for 16 years — from 1982-1999 — and was elected chair of the board four times.
As for his greatest accomplishments while a county commissioner, he points to his work launching the county’s recycling program, which was the biggest local recycling program in North America for over a decade. He also takes credit for spearheading the Midtown Greenway Corridor and playing a key role in negotiations for the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit and Central Corridor transit lines.
Andrew is a lifelong resident of Minneapolis and a graduate of Washburn High School and the University of Minnesota. He got his start in politics while in college when he become the co-founder and first president of MPIRG, a student-run environmental group.
Anita Tabb, a commissioner for the Park Board’s 4th District and Andrew’s campaign co-chair, agreed with the mayoral candidate that one of his best qualities is his ability to bring people together — an asset for a mayor working within Minneapolis’ system of government.
“I love the fact that he has such a robust and diverse background — private sector, public sector. He’s an entrepreneur,” she said. “I love that Mark has a vision for the whole city. We can’t be North Minneapolis versus South Minneapolis, or the east versus the west. We want to come together and be one whole city.”
Andrew has three overarching goals for the city: make Minneapolis the greenest city in America; reduce the achievement gap between high performing and low performing students; and launch an aggressive campaign to accelerate development throughout the city.
As for the first goal, Andrew said he’d like to see the city make more investments in green space and other environmental amenities — infrastructure improvements that could attract new businesses to the city.
“We want to do this because it’s smart business to be the greenest city in America,” he said. “It will attract all kinds of positives.”
Andrew’s other top priority is reducing the achievement gap among Minneapolis students.
He said he has had education experts tell him the problem has gotten substantially worse in the last decade.
“Now we need to have the mayor be the convener and collaborator to attack that problem because the achievement gap — if it persists — will drive higher taxes in the city and in the future drive more government services,” he said. “It’s a prescription for disaster.”
He said he would commission a blue ribbon task force made up of a wide group of community leaders to come up with a vision for tackling the achievement gap.
“It has to be the highest priority for the city,” he said at mayoral candidate forum April 3 at Solomon’s Porch in the Kingfield neighborhood.
Alberto Monserrate, chair of the Minneapolis School Board, is a supporter of Andrew’s campaign.
“There are a number of good candidates this year for mayor, but I believe Andrew will be the best at forming the types of collaborative agreements between the city, school district, Park Board and county needed to eliminate the learning gap in Minneapolis,” he said.
To accomplish the third goal, Andrew wants to see more high-density development in the city, particularly in North Minneapolis, along the riverfront and in the city’s commercial nodes.
“I want to do somewhat higher density development as a way to more quickly drive the tax base and create jobs,” he said. “It will generate more taxes and drive more employment, which is a critical need.”
He cited statistics indicating Minneapolis has 28,000 fewer jobs today than in 2001. (Note: the Southwest Journal fact checked that figure and found it's based on an outdated report.)
Improving conditions in North Minneapolis to make it more attractive for development would be a special focus area. He’d also work to recruit new companies to the area.
“For every nickel of tax base we create on the North Side, we take pressure off the tax base on the South Side,” he said.
As for the new Vikings stadium, Andrew said “any mayoral candidate who voted against the stadium was irresponsible.”
“I will not preside over a hole in the ground. That will not happen on my watch,” he said. “However, the funding mechanism for the stadium was fatally flawed from the start, and I was not a Johnny-come-lately on that issue. I’ve been critical of the financing plan throughout the legislative process.”
Andrew said he is opposed to using gambling revenue to finance public projects.
Still, despite his reservations about the financial framework for the Vikings stadium, he said: “You can’t be for jobs and against the stadium.”
When asked to weigh in on what should be done about property taxes — a perennial hot topic in Minneapolis — Andrew said he has both short-and long-term strategies to keep taxes down.
If elected, Andrew said in the short term, he’d have his team do a thorough review of city programs. “My guess is that we’re going to be able to find some regulatory functions that are redundant or unnecessary. … All of those savings are going to reduce property taxes.”
The long-term strategy involves Andrew’s economic development plans that call for more green amenities to attract more private investment in the city, which in turn would strengthen the tax base.
Andrew said his property taxes have doubled in recent years.
“They were already high, and here is the troubling realty: There is no game plan other than to let property taxes continue to rise,” he said. “That’s unacceptable.”
At a glance: Mark Andrew
Family: wife Connie and children Samantha and John
Resume snapshot: Founder of GreenMark, an environmental consulting firm. Before launching the company he worked at Tunheim Partners, a post he took after serving 16 years on the Hennepin County Board.
Education: bachelor’s of arts degree, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Fun fact: Andrew has owned the Real S’mores and World’s Greatest French Fries stand at the Minnesota State Fair since he was in college.